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The Lord's Supper

Edward Dennett

Twelve Letters To Young Believers

My Dear _______

It must never be forgotten that it is possible to be at the Lord's Table, and yet to fail altogether in participating in the Lord's Supper. Thus the Corinthians were gathered out to the name of Christ; they were assembled week after week at the Lord's Table, and yet St. Paul, writing to them, says, "When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's Supper" (1 Cor. 11: 20). They had fallen into such disorder, through selfishness, and forgetfulness of the import of the supper, that they had made this solemn occasion a time of feasting. What they were eating therefore was their own, and not the Lord's Supper; for they had dissociated the bread and wine from almost all connection with the body and blood of Christ. Hence the solemn admonition, "What! have ye not houses to eat and drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not" (v. 22).

Thereon, the apostle proceeds to explain the true character of the supper, and tells us that he had received a special communication concerning it from the Lord. It is of importance to mark this, because, as the apostle received this in connection with his ministry of the body of Christ (Col. 1: 24, 25), and since this is the final communication on the subject, it is to this scripture rather than to the gospels (which, however, relate the institution of the super on the passover night) that we turn for the exposition of its meaning.

And who can fail to be struck with the wondrous grace displayed in the opening words of this account, :That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed , took bread," etc.? (v. 23). What a contrast between the heart of man, and the heart of Christ! About to be betrayed by one of His Disciples, "He took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me" (vv23, 24).

The bread therefore is a symbol of the body of the Lord Jesus which was given for His own--given up to death for them , for us, for all believers--on the cross; and when we eat it, we are to remember Him. Attention to the word "remember" would save from many mistakes. We remember a thing that is past; i.e., we recall to mind. So when we eat the bread at the Lord's Supper, we recall the fact that the Lord was once dead; we remember Him in that condition--the condition of death--down into which he went, when He bore our sins on His own body in the tree-- when He endured all the wrath that was due to us, and so glorified God even about our sin. It is therefore not Christ as He now is, but Christ as He then was, whom we remember in the breaking of bread.

The cup also sets forth the same thing. "After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament [covenant] in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till He come" (vv.25, 26). The wine, then, of which we partake is an emblem of the blood of Christ; and this in itself speaks also of death, for we cannot think of blood, as apart from the body, except in connection with death. Indeed, verse 26 emphasizes the truth that, both in eating the bread and drinking the cup, we show, announce, or proclaim, the death of the Lord. We cannot too earnestly insist upon this, that in the Lord's Supper we look back to a dead Christ; that we take it in remembrance of the fact that He once was lying dead--dead on the cross, and dead in the sepulchre; because He not only bore our sins, but was made sin--He who knew no sin--that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Note well that it is not even a dying, but a dead Christ--not a dying Christ, a continual repetition of His sacrifice, as so many erroneously teach, but a dead Christ; "for by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10: 14).

This, then, is the one thought which should be before our souls at the Lord's table. What simplicity; but how calculated to touch and bow our hearts in adoration before Him, as, seated around His table, we thus commemorate His death! For "the apostle shows us, if it is a dead Christ, who it is that died. Impossible to find two words, the bringing together of which has so important a meaning, the death of the Lord. How many things are comprised in that He who is called the Lord had died! What love! what purposes! what efficacy! what results! The Lord gave Himself up for us. We celebrate His death."

And observe, it is "until He come." While therefore we look back to the cross, we are reminded of His coming in glory to receive us unto Himself, the fruit surely of His travail and death; and thus we can never forget that our complete redemption, being "conformed to the image of His Son," is the result of the death of Christ. For the two things, the cross and the glory, are here bound indissolubly together.

Such then is the meaning of the supper; and, as you will perceive, the apostle gives us very solemn warnings against forgetfulness of its import. "Whosoever shall eat the bread, and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation [judgment] to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (vv. 27-29). There is no question here of being ourselves worthy to partake of the Lord's Supper; but what the apostle deprecates is "partaking in an unworthy manner. Every Christian, unless some sin had excluded him, was worthy to partake, because he was a Christian. But a Christian might come to it without judging himself, or appreciating as he ought, that which the supper brought to his mind, and which Christ had connected with it. He did not discern the Lord's body; and he did not discern, did not judge, the evil in himself." And if he thus ate and drank, he would eat judgment to himself; i.e., he would bring down discipline upon himself; for the Lord judges His people, chastens them, that they should not be condemned with the world (v. 32). He had thus chastened the Corinthians for their careless ways-some with weakness, some with sickness, and some even with bodily death (v. 30). Hence the necessity of examining ourselves as to the manner in which we partake of the Lord's Supper, and of judging every thing which is thus discovered that is unsuited to the presence of the Lord; "for if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged" (v. 31) ; i.e., exercising self-judgment, we should not then be chastened of the Lord.

From all that has been said, it is clear that we are not qualified for the Lord's table until the question of our relationship with God is settled--until, in a word, we have peace with God. For if I am occupied with self, with my own state of soul, with doubts, anxieties, or fears, I cannot be occupied with the death of Christ. Much injury is thus often done in bringing souls too soon to the table; for, coming before they have peace with God, they look upon the table as a means of grace; and inasmuch as the death of Christ is brought before them, they are made, not knowing the value of that death for themselves, wretched and miserable. Until there is peace of conscience through the blood, to say the least, the soul is not free, not at leisure to contemplate the death of Christ.

Once more. When we are at the table, it is not to be occupied with the benefits which we have received through the death of Christ. It is rather to enter, by the power of the Spirit, into God's thoughts concerning the death of His beloved Son. For we are there as worshippers, and as such inside the rent veil, and there we are engrossed with the fact that God Himself was glorified in the death of Christ; and as in fellowship with Himself, we think of what Christ was to Him, how that He was never more precious to Him than in that awful moment when He was made sin, that it was for God's glory He endured all, was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, then it is with overflowing hearts we are enabled by the Spirit to poor forth our adoration and praise. Wondrous thought, that we should thus be admitted to behold with God His Christ brought down into the dust of death, with all God's waves and billows passing over Him! And as we behold we cannnot but cry, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and fever. Amen" (Rev. 1: 5-6).

We are thus at the table as givers, not as receivers; thought surely we do receive when there according to God. But the object of out assembling is to worship, to render the homage of our hearts to God, because we have been redeemed through the death of His Son. And who could describe the blessedness of the privilege of showing in this way the Lord's death? Gathered around Himself, with the touching emblems of His body and blood before our eyes, thus claiming the affections of of out hearts, His love, which the many waters could not drown, nor the floods quench, penetrates and possesses our souls, and constrains us to bow in willing adoration at His feet, and makes us long for the time when we shall see Him face to face, and beholding His glory, be with Him, and worship Him throughout the ages of eternity.

Praying that you may be taught more and more of the meaning of His death as set forth in the supper,

Believe me, dear ______,

Yours affectionately in Christ,


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