Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Proclaim the Lord's Death" Sermon: I Corinthians 11:23-26

“Proclaim the Lord’s Death”
[I Corinthians 11:23-26]
April 13, 2017, Second Reformed Church
            We intend to receive the Lord’s Supper this evening.  Is that a big deal?  Is the Lord’s Supper something that requires extra thought and preparation?  Or doesn’t it really matter how you receive it or what you think of it, so long as you “remember” Jesus?
            Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth and explains to them that they are receiving the Lord’s Supper in an inappropriate way – some people are getting to the worship service early and drinking all the wine and eating all the bread – some people are getting drunk during worship and not leaving any bread or wine to be received by others.  Paul tells them that God is punishing some of these people who are receiving the Lord’s Supper inappropriately by causing them to become sick – and causing some to die.
            The Lord’s Supper is a big deal – for a number of reasons – we will look at some of those reasons in tonight’s text.
            First, the Lord’s Supper is given to us by Jesus.
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you,”
We will remember that Paul begins his career as a persecutor of the Church.  He goes from place to place arresting people that believe savingly in Jesus and even had some put to death.  There is great fear when Paul first begins to preach the Gospel – people think he might be a mole – still searching out Christians to betray and persecute.
There is also the question of where Paul gets his authority:  Paul is not one of the original apostle’s – and biblically, an apostle is someone who was taught by Jesus and saw Him after His Resurrection. 
Paul understands this and as he addresses the issue of the Lord’s Supper and the inappropriate reception of it, Paul tells the Corinthians that Jesus taught Paul – after Jesus confronts him on the road to Damascus, Jesus takes him out into the wilderness and teaches him – causing him to become an apostle.
As Paul explains to the Galatians:
“For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (Galatians 1:11-17, ESV).
In this evening’s text, Paul explains that Jesus taught him what happened that first Maundy Thursday – the Thursday after the Triumphal Entry – the day before Jesus’crucifixion and death – that night that Jesus gave the Upper Room discourse that we have been looking at.
And Paul has the authority of Jesus is correcting the Corinthians, because Jesus taught Paul exactly what happened that night.  The instruction and correction that Paul gives the Corinthians is the same instruction that Jesus gave as He first shared the Lord’s Supper with the Eleven in the Upper Room.
As our God and Savior, what Jesus said and what Jesus told them to do matters, because, as we have seen repeatedly in recent weeks, if we love Jesus we will obey Him.  If we obey Jesus’ commands – about the Lord’s Supper, for example – we prove our love for Him.
Second, the bread and the cup symbolize Jesus’ flesh and blood.
“that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”
Jesus takes the elements from the Passover meal.
First, He takes the bread, He gives thanks to the Father – blesses the bread to their bodies and to the purpose Jesus is instituting that night, and He brakes it to symbolize how His body is to be broken.  And then they pass the bread around, breaking pieces off. 
Jesus tells them they are to do this, and when they do it, they are to remember Him.
How are they to remember Him?
Merely as a good rabbi – a good teacher?  No.
As their benefactor?  No.
They – and we – are called to remember Jesus as our Sacrifice.  Jesus took our place before the Father – living a holy and sinless life – a righteous life – on our behalf, and then willingly received all the Wrath of God for all of the sins of everyone who will ever believe. 
We are to receive the elements of the Lord’s Supper and remember that Jesus is our Substitutionary Sacrifice.
After they finish the meal, Jesus takes the cup full of wine, gives thanks to the Father – blesses the wine to their bodies and to the purpose Jesus is instituting that night, and He passes it around, symbolizing the blood that He would shed to ratify – to seal – the New Covenant.
The Old Covenant is the Covenant of Moses – in short hand, the Ten Commandments – which is a covenant no sinful human can ever keep – by the Convenient of Moses – every human being is a failure – a sinner – worthily damned.  And that is the point – the Mosaic Covenant was given to show the need for the Promised Savior.
The Old Covenant was sealed with the blood of animals that Israel sacrificed in the    desert.  The New Covenant was sealed with the blood of Jesus that the world sacrificed outside of Jerusalem.
The New Covenant – the Covenant of the body and blood of Jesus – featured Jesus transferring His Righteousness to us and our sin being transferred to Him, so He was damned for our sake, yet proven innocent.
The Westminster Confession of Faith explains this:
“This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law and in the time of the gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all fore-signifying Christ to come, which were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament.
“Under the gospel, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. There are not, therefore, two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations” (7.5-6).
What this is saying in that the Old Testament and the Mosaic Covenant foreshadowed what Jesus would do, and anyone who believed in what the Savior would do was saved through that faith, not through the works of the Law.
In the New Testament, the same Covenant is fulfilled in Jesus, and we believe in Jesus, the Savior we know from the New Testament – still saved through faith in Him, not in our own works.
So, what we remember in the bread and the cup of the Lord’s Supper:
Jesus is God the Son and Savior – He was promised in the Old Testament.
Jesus’ broken body and shed blood secure benefits for us through His death.
Those benefits Jesus’ secured are conveyed to those who receive the elements.
As we explain each worship service, we remember Jesus’ work of salvation through the reception of the Sacrament, but we also commune with Jesus spiritually and receive the grace we need to be able to do all that God has commanded us to do – if we believe in Jesus and received Him through faith.
Third, as we receive the elements, we proclaim Jesus’ death until He comes.
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.”
We receive the bread and the cup, not to assuage our hunger.
We receive the bread and the cup, not to make us feel better socially.
We receive the bread and the cup, not to make people think well of us.
Or, at least, we should not.
The Corinthians sinned in believing the Sacrament was all about them, but Paul explains that as we receive the bread and the cup, we proclaim something to ourselves, and to each other, and to the world, and to anyone who knows or sees us receive the Sacrament:
We proclaim that we believe that God came to earth in the person of Jesus.
We proclaim that we believe that Jesus lived a perfect, sinless, and holy, life under God’s Law.
We proclaim that we believe that Jesus died under the Wrath of God bearing the sins of all we who ever believe.
We proclaim that Jesus physically rose from the death, ascended back to the Right Hand of the Father, and is coming again to establish the fullness of His kingdom with His people.
Some of the Corinthians were treating the Sacrament as snack time and indulging in gluttony and drunkenness – neglecting the fact of what they proclaimed in receiving the bread and the cup.
When we receive the bread and the cup, it is a serious thing.  We are proclaiming to all the world what we believe about God and salvation and our future.
If we proclaim the Truth of the Gospel, that should give us joy; if we proclaim that we are fools and children, we ought to be ashamed and afraid.
Come to the Sacrament understand what you are proclaiming in receiving it, and be filled with joy, with the whole Church on earth and all the beings of Heaven:  Salvation is through Jesus Christ Alone, and He is returning for us.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, help us to recognize the seriousness of the Lord’s Supper and may we receive it, truly believing what the elements proclaim.  And as we remember the night Your Son was betrayed, we rejoice in His sacrifice and pray, Come, Lord Jesus.  For it is in His Name we pray, Amen.

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