Ye do show the Lordís death till He comes
Scripture: I Corinthians 11:17-34
Text: I Corinthians 11:26, Lord’s Day 28
Sermon by Rev. Maurice Luimes
Orthodox Christian Reformed Church of Lynden, Washington, 1990
© Burlington United Reformed Church; The Preacher, Vol. 7, No. 5
This sermon may be used in worship services for free; please state the author and church above.
Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Following the system of doctrine confessed by us as the church of Jesus Christ in the Heidelberg Catechism, we have come now to the doctrine of the Lordís Supper, the second of the two sacraments.
We need to remember what sacrament means. The word sacrament is not found in the Bible. It comes from a Latin word which refers to an unchangeable oath. The early church saw that in the signs and seals of baptism and the Lordís Supper, God had made an oath that He would be faithful to the covenant which He had made with man. As we read in Hebrews 6, ďFor when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He swore by Himself, saying, ĎSurely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.íĒ
So the sacraments are signs and seals by which God promises to the church the blessings that belong to them through the response of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are instituted by God, not by man!
There are other signs and symbols in the Bible. But what is unique about the sacraments is that they are visible signs and seals of Godís grace to us personally, in Jesus Christ.
We personally receive those visible signs and seals already in this life (unlike the other signs in the Bible such as the cross, or the crown, or a yoke). . We receive them in order that our faith in Godís Word and promises may be assured and strengthened. They also point us to see the necessity of a response of faith and obedience, which is the covenant demand which God places upon us. Of that covenant demand, God reminds us in the sacraments of baptism and the Lordís Supper.
It is then of the sacrament of the Lordís Supper that our scripture passage and Lordís Day 28 of the Heidelberg Catechism speaks of to us today.
We will see four things concerning this sacrament which was instituted by our beloved Savior and Lord at the Passover meal just before His passion and death. We will see first of all, that what the Lordís Supper proclaims is despised and hated by the world. At the same time, it is that which is the Christianís greatest source of joy, comfort and life, namely, the Lordís death. Secondly, we will see that the elements themselves so appropriately show forth the Lordís death, and thirdly, that we are to have part in showing ¾
in proclaiming ¾
the Lordís death. Finally, we will see that the sacrament points us to His coming. It has an eschatological meaning ¾
it is to be done until He comes.
The sacrament of the Lordís Supper proclaims the Lordís death. Why, people of God? Why did the Lord institute a sacrament which proclaims the Lordís death until He comes? Why not a sacrament that proclaimed the Lordís birth, or His life, His baptism, His temptation and victory in the wilderness, His miracles, His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His resurrection, or His glorious ascension into heaven?
Certainly we do celebrate and proclaim these things. We even set aside a particular day to celebrate our Lordís birth and His ascension, though we are not required by Godís word to do that.
Perhaps you are thinking that Godís Word does set aside Sunday each week in which the church celebrates Christís resurrection. Some say, ďIsnít that a sacrament too?Ē Sometimes it is argued that it is, even in Reformed circles. But it is not, for it is not strictly a visible sign and seal. Neither is it administered personally, only to believers or their seed.
There is also no barring of men from observing the Sabbath because they are not yet believers. This is because the significance and meaning of the Sabbath goes beyond redemption, with which the sacraments are primarily concerned. Though the Sabbath has taken on redemptive significance in Jesus Christ, it goes beyond, to the structure of creation itself which God instituted in the beginning. So the Sabbath cannot be considered a sacrament.
Therefore, we see that none of these other important and significant events in the life of our Savior Jesus Christ are commemorated by a sign and seal that God Himself has instituted, though they were all part of His work for us.
Only the Lordís death is commemorated and proclaimed in such a way, for the strengthening of our faith. Why is this, church of Jesus Christ?
It is because that which is most despised by man, by the world, that which the world cannot and refuses to comprehend, that which they most hold in ridicule, is that which gloriously is most to be proclaimed by the believer. It is most to be valued and highly honored by those who have found their redemption, their salvation in Him. The bitter, shameful death of the cross is our glory and our comfort!
There at the cross of Calvary is the heart, the touchstone, the center of the gospel. There is the supreme, the greatest and most terrible manifestation of Godís fury and wrath against sin. And, at the same time, the most wonderful display of His infinite, holy, and incomprehensible love for an unworthy people!
Yes, the gospel is good news, isnít it? That is literally what it is ó ďgospelí ó good news. But for whom? For those who turn from their sin, from their hatred and rebellion against God and their selfish lust and pride, to the mercy, grace and sovereign gift of God in His son Jesus Christ!
But for those who donít ó what is it? It is a message of their total lost-ness, their total depravity. It is a message of everlasting curse and anger against sin which will be consummated in the eternal fires of hell. It is a message which devastates the pride of man.
This is why the gospel, with the central theme of the atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ, with its good news, is an offense to the ear and heart of sinful and unregenerate man. Yes, it is a rock of offence. And the central offence is the death of Christ. The death of Christ in its true color and nature is despised by man.
Of course, the world paints its own picture of Christís death, with unreal and clashing colors. It is a picture of a mere mortal man suffering ó not because of Godís wrath against manís sin, but suffering merely for the moral ideals for which he stood: those of peace, love, prosperity, equality, distribution of wealth, etc. They are moral ideals understood only on the horizontal level, between man and man, not vertically between God and man.
They say He is a man who died in striving to bring out the goodness that every man possesses in his own heart. Who knew that man only needs to be taught about the goodness and potential that is in him and that he just needs the right environment to draw it out!
In their eyes, His death was merely that of a great teacher and prophet, among the many teachers and prophets of various religions such as Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius and others. That is the picture they paint of the death of Christ. But it is like modern art; it bears no resemblance to reality.
They want nothing to do with reality! They hate the reality. It is a rock of offence and a stumbling block to them.
What is an offence to them? It is the fact that we preach ďChrist crucified,Ē that we preach the death of Christ in all the true and stark significance of the cross. It is an offence that we preach a portraying of the curse of God resting upon His body and soul.
Yes, the natural man despises the fact that ďwe do show the Lordís death till He come.Ē He does not want to hear about the sinfulness of manís depraved and hopeless state. He does not want to hear that man is worthy of eternal punishment. He does not want to hear of the necessity of an atoning, ransoming death on his behalf as the only way of salvation. These truths are a devastating blow to his own pride!
But that which is so hated and despised by the world, that which makes them stumble and curse, is the same thing that is most precious and highly-valued in the Christian believer. It is that which lifts up our hearts and souls, and fills our spirit with victory ó victory over death and sin, victory over hell and Satan! It is that which nourishes and waters our souls. His broken body and shed blood is our spiritual bread and wine, satisfying every pang of spiritual hunger, every parched and thirsty soul. It is the sustenance of our life, strengthening us day by day in our battle against the sins of our flesh that still cling to us. Through His atoning death, I can rejoicingly confess, as Paul does to the Galatians, chapter 3, ďChrist hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, ĎCursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.íĒ
It is through His death that the blessing of assurance and the sure and only comfort are ours. As we hear in Ephesians 1, ďHe hath made us accepted in the beloved, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.Ē
And in chapter 2, ďNow in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us: Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace: And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.Ē
He has blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross! (Col. 2:14)
We can see why God took this one glorious central event of salvation, the death of Jesus Christ on the cross? It is so despised and hated by unregenerate man, but it is the source of all the strength and faith of Godís children! God therefore ordained a sign and symbol to testify to the sustaining and strengthening grace that is ours only through the blessed, atoning, sacrificial death of our great high priest, who now ever lives, making intercession for us.
How appropriate the symbols are, arenít they? How fitting, for they were fitted by Jesus Himself! They are the symbols by which He signifies and seals to me that as certainly as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me, and the cup communicated to me, so certainly was His body offered and broken on the cross for me and His blood shed for me.
ďAnd further, that with His crucified body and shed blood He Himself feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life as assuredly as I receive from the hand of the minister, and taste with my mouth, the bread and cup of the Lord as sure signs of the body and blood of Christ.Ē
There is such a beautiful simplicity to these symbols of bread and wine. The sacraments of the church of Jesus Christ are not meant to be displays of pomp and style, nor of intricate and complicated ritual, nor of earthly grandeur. They are only to be simple but eloquent reminders of Godís grace to us in Jesus Christ. They are eloquent in their simplicity.
They are so clear! The broken bread symbolizes with clarity the nourishment of Christís body, broken for our sakes. The wine clearly sets forth the refreshing, rejuvenating work of the blood of Christ. Together, the two elements symbolize the complete and necessary nourishment needed, which is ours in Christ for life eternal.
The elements also display the purpose of the death of our Savior. Just as bread is broken and wine is poured in order that it might be freely given and taken, so Christís death has a purpose. It was not to be in vain.
Bread is broken and wine is poured only if there are those who are intended ó destined ó to receive it. In the same way, God knew that there were those who would receive the broken body and the poured-out blood of His son Jesus Christ. Christís death did not occur without purpose. His purpose was to save sinners by feeding them with His own body and blood, to save and feed those the Lord had called unto Himself by His sovereign grace and mercy.
There are those who would say that God had to wait and see whether or not some would believe. He had to wait to see perchance some people might on their own decide to believe in His Son, whose life had been laid down, and against whom God caused his fury and wrath against sin to be unleashed.
According to their reasoning, where manís heart is beyond the control of God, God could not possibly have been sure whether any would believe. ďAfter all,Ē they say, ďHe is not sovereign. He cannot change manís heart; man must do it himself.Ē
Tell me, who goes and breaks the bread, in order to pass it out, before they have any idea whether someone is coming to eat of it? Or who pours out the wine before they know that there will be someone who will refresh themselves by it?
Congregation, it is in the very breaking of the bread and pouring out of the wine that God reminds us that He broke the body of His Son and poured out His blood for those whom He knew would come to partake of His Son, whom He knew would come to partake of that which was provided specifically for them, through the sovereign will and mercy of God.
The Lordís Supper demonstrates that Godís intention was not merely to sacrifice His Son and see what would happen, but through it to surely accomplish salvation for His elect people, laying out before them the body and blood of His own son.
But it would be provided only for a people who would actively respond, a people actively participating by faith! There must be an active involvement on our part in the Lordís Supper. You and I must consciously take, eat, drink, remember and believe.
It is not merely the elements, or the sacrament in itself, that proclaim the Lordís atoning death. It must be proclaimed by you! You must be the one proclaiming, through your active participation. ďFor as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lordís death till He come.Ē Always, church of Jesus Christ, you must be the one who, by your active participation, are showing the Lordís death till He come. Of us, each and every one, it must be able to be said, ďFor we must preach Christ crucified.Ēí
The Lordís Supper is a sacrament that tells what our entire Christian life is about. By our participation in His death, we receive nourishment for our life. Our new life, our faith, our love, our hope and our obedience must naturally show where its source lies ó in the nourishment received from the sacrifice and death of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God.
Finally congregation, we preach it and show it in this way, ďtill He comes.Ē For what is the purpose of the sacrament? It is the strengthening of our faith. And to what is that faith directed? It is directed to our Lord Jesus Christ. The sacrament is not a static one, focusing only on the cross as an isolated event. It cannot be, because for the believer, the cross is the sign of victory over sin. It cannot stand alone, or it would not be the cross of Christ.
Its meaning points forward to and encompasses the glorious truths of Christís resurrection, His ascension to the right hand of glory, and His coming again. ďTill He comes.Ē It points us forward!
When He comes, what will happen? Our faith will be turned into sight! It will no longer need to be strengthened, for it will be complete, perfect! Then the signs and symbols will fall away, for we will have the full reality!
Our crucified and resurrected Lord will stand before us with the imprints in His body, the prints of the nails in His hands and feet, and the scar of the sword in His side. And we will sit with Him at a new table which will ever be set before us, the table of the everlasting wedding feast of the Lamb!
Congregation, as we grow in understanding and appreciation of the truths it signifies and seals, may the sacrament of the Lordís Supper always nourish and direct our hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ, until He comes again, and until our faith be turned to sight! Amen.