Fri, Oct 13th - 4:12PM
The Lord’s Supper – Ritual or Affirmation?
I’ve been think a lot lately about the Lord’s Supper. This began when a church goer I know recently told me she doesn’t believe in it. Now, that’s a First, in my book, so I started pondering the significance of the Lord’s Supper. Ever have that feeling you understand something but don’t know exactly how you do? This was one of those times for me. So I dug around a little in the Bible and ended up in the under-taught topic of Covenants.
I’ve always been intrigued by foreshadowing in the Bible. Usually I find the shadowing in the Old Testament and the substance in the New Testament. During our daily reading of the One Year Bible (NLT), my wife recently read Jeremiah 11:4. It isn’t as eye-popping in my New King James, but the prophet quotes the Spirit of God as saying, “If you obey all that I command you....” . That’s an important “If”, don’t you think? I think the prophet is referring to the covenant mentioned in Exodus 19:5.
One of the reasons covenants are under-taught is because the topic is too dry for most of us, and too “heavy” for our chronic, short attention spans. There were many different kinds of covenants mentioned in the Bible, but the most important and binding seems to have been the Blood Covenant. We would be more familiar with the concept of blood brothers – same thing. In effect, if you and I are in a blood covenant together, I bind myself and my resources completely to you, and vice versa. Each blood covenant was first instituted, then ratified in blood. The covenant in Exodus 19:5 was ratified in Exodus 24:6+. In the Old Testament, something had to die to ratify a blood covenant. Which also may help explain the prior treatment of Cain’s unacceptable sacrifice and give us a clue to how much they understood – probably explained to them by their father.
In this world it’s pretty difficult to even believe a simple promise, and the integrity of the blood covenant has all but disappeared into history. After the foreshadowing in Exodus 19:5, Jesus proclaimed Himself the fulfillment, ratifying the New Testament (Covenant) in Mark 14:24, again mentioned in Hebrews 9:11+.
Pretty dry already, isn't it? Well, some dull things are very vital. We miss a lot by constantly being conditioned to entertainment.
The covenant God had with Israel in the Old Testament was instituted and ratified in blood. It was conditional, and in Jeremiah, the prophet spoke for God when he proclaimed Israel had broken the covenant.
The covenant we have with God as believers is instituted at the new birth and ratified in the blood of Jesus Christ. Faith is required on the part of the believer because He only had to shed the blood once, over 2000 years ago, but the Bible clearly teaches He shed it for each believer individually. I personally believe this covenant is also conditional, just like the one with Israel. If I’m right, it would behoove me to know the conditions. And it might help explain the warning in 1 Corinthians 11 pertaining to taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. It would appear that some have actually died by being ignorant of this.
Jesus said his yoke would be easy and His burden light. Now that must be good – easier and lighter…notice He did not say there was no yoke and no burden! He was only making a comparison with the yoke and burdens of the Old Testament. He was alluding to God meeting us more than halfway under the New Covenant.
I think the conditions under which we are to remain in a covenant position with the Lord are spelled out in Matthew 22:37-40. Now that sure beats all the laws the Jews tried to follow, but why would we think we now have no conditions? How convenient. Lighter, easier and with no conditions. Now who wouldn’t want to hear that message?!
From where I sit it looks like this: if Israel could be destroyed by being a nation of (foreshadowed) covenant-breakers, couldn’t we do the same thing? Might help explain the story of the foolish virgins...
When I was growing up I spent Sundays in a Presbyterian church. The communion table was a beautiful thing, and on stage it was right on eye level. It was engraved with the words, “Do this in remembrance of Me”. Even then I didn’t understand the necessity of participating in the Lord’s Supper just to keep from forgetting Him! That just doesn’t make sense.
But if we look on the ritual as an affirmation of a covenant relationship with Him, it becomes more than a ritual. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need any more meaningless rituals in my life, but I could sure use the reminder that I am in a living, covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. And so, by taking the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner, I am affirming and proclaiming that I am in a blood covenant relationship with Him, and He will return for me someday. In doing this I also proclaim He is alive right now and forever - I don’t need to wait for a dead man.
So I’m left with a choice – empty ritual or affirmation of a living relationship?
Now there’s a no-brainer!