Simply Devoted to His Supper (Acts 2:41-42) | Jared Betts

Devotion to the Feast of the Cross

We are nearing the end of our study through the devotions of the church. If remember our desire is to understand the content of what God has regulated to occur in the worship of Himself. So far, we have discussed the churches continual devotion to the Word of the Living God. The people of God are to corporately worship Him through the reading, preaching, hearing, and daily practicing of His word.

We also discussed how the church is to continually devote themselves to loving one another through sincere fellowship, which is expressed through obedience to the “one another” texts of the Scripture.

Last week, we discussed how God’s people worship Him through simple devotion to Christ’s ordinance of baptism. As was said last week, baptism is the external evidence of the inner regeneration of the heart. It is a token of the regenerated soul’s union with Christ. It is the believer’s demonstration to the world that they have indeed counted the cost of discipleship and embraced the consequences of being Christ’s. It is showing to all that they have died so that they might live. They have unashamedly denied themselves. Self is no more, Christ is everything, and they have picked up their cross, and followed Him. Christian baptism is when a person shows solidarity and unity with Christ.

Our attention today will now be directed to the church’s devotion to the breaking of bread. Though this in all probability included what were known as “love feasts” among the church,[1] which were meals shared among the body of believers, it undoubtably refers to the taking of communion together which was always celebrated at the end of their congregational meals. In other words, the devotion before us is the Lord’s Supper.[2] It is the Table of the Lord.[3] It is the Thanksgiving and Blessing.[4] It is the second, and final, ordinance that Jesus Christ has given to His body of people whom He was purchased for Himself with His own blood to observe until His coming.

We, therefore, want to consider its institution and significance, as well as its being a sign and seal for the believer thus confirming all our benefits in Him. In the end, we will find that partaking of His supper is a means of grace that draws us into closer fellowship with Him, and provides nourishment for our souls, and assurance of our salvation. With that said, we want to do our utmost to begin to consider and understand what some have deemed to be “The feast of the cross.”[5]

The Origin and Significance of Communion

The apostle Paul begins to answer the question of communion’s origin and significance when he says 1 Corinthians 11:23-29:

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 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.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.”

Paul takes us back to the night when Christ was delivered into the hands of His enemies by one of His own, Judas Iscariot. It was on this night that Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples, a meal He earnestly desired to eat with them before He suffered.[6]

As we recall, the Passover was one of Israel’s three major feasts, which was instituted by God to commemorate the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt and the sparing of their firstborn from the death angle He sent through the land. He promised to Passover every house that took an unblemished, male lamb, a year-old; killed it and spread its blood upon the two door posts and the lintel of the houses in which it was eaten. The Israelites were to remember the day when the blood of a perfect and innocent male lamb that was slain, covered them, and saved them from the judgment of almighty God.

The Passover ultimately pointed to the Person and work of Jesus Christ. It foreshadowed Him as our Passover Lamb.[7] As the Scripture says, He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.[8] He is the Lamb that was slain before its foundation was even laid.[9] He did not come for the righteous, but sinners; for those shrouded in shame, and burdened with guilt.[10] He came to seek and to save that which was lost.[11] He came to serve by giving His life as a ransom for us.[12] He came to lay down His life for His lost sheep.[13] He did not deserve to die, but He had the authority to lay down His life, and He did.[14] He was cut off from the land of the living in place of those who deserved death.[15] He bore our sin and rendered Himself as a guilt offering to be crushed in our stead.[16] He poured out Himself to death and interceded on our behalf.[17] We were redeemed by God “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”[18] As the author of Hebrews says:

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”[19]

Romans 5:6-9:

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

There is no longer a need for a bloody sacrifice for sin. Christ’s sacrifice was enough. The sacrificial system of the Old Testament was merely a shadow of what was to come, and Christ was its substance.[20] He made an actual atonement for the sin of His people upon the cross.[21] He sufficiently laid down His life for His sheep to save them from His wrath. It was His body that was broken. It was His blood that was spilled. From a complex ceremony that finds it culmination in Him, He gives His people, whom He has purchased for Himself, a simple sacrament to devote themselves to. Luke 22:19-20 says this:

19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”

Communion Confusion

There are at least four different views that seek to explain the Lord’s Supper:

  • Transubstantiation – This is the view held by the Roman Catholic Church. Rome insists that after the bread and wine is consecrated it is “truly, really, and substantially in the sacrament of the most holy eucharist.”[22] This means that they believe the bread and wine cease to be those things, and truly and mysteriously become the flesh and blood of Christ every time people partake of it. The consequence of this view is that they believe an actual sacrifice is always offered at the celebration of the Eucharist and they are adamant that any person who rejects this view should be anathematized, which is to be condemned.

This position should be rejected for several reasons:

  • It fails to see the symbolism in Christ’s statements about His body and blood, which are not meant to be interpreted literally, but metaphorically to convey gospel truth.
  • It ascribes omniscience to something incapable of having it; Jesus’ body, which is seated in heaven at the right hand of God. In other words, transubstantiation distorts the mystery of the dual natures of Christ brought about by the hypostatic union.

Jesus is one Person who possess two natures. He is truly God, and truly Man. His divine nature does not possess any human qualities, for He would cease to be divine if He did; and His human nature does not possess and divine qualities, for He would cease to be human if He did. He would not be qualified as our Mediator if He were not truly God and truly Man.

To suggest that the Lord’s physical body literally takes the place of bread and wine all throughout the world is to teach a doctrinal impossibility, for humans cannot possess the divine quality of omnipresence. Jesus Christ is omnipresent because He is God the Son eternal. As a Man, however, Jesus does not possess omnipresence, because mankind does not have the quality of being all present.

Welcome to the mystery of the hypostatic union of Christ. He posses two whole, perfect, and distinct natures that are inseparably joined together in His Person, without converting His divinity into humanity, or mixing the two together, or contradicting one another. Jesus is truly God and truly Man, yet one Christ who can mediate for His people.

  • It thrusts people into idolatry because it treats bread and wine as if it were the Living God. People literally treat the creation as their Creator.
  • It takes the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ and makes it a continual one. Romans 6:10:

10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all…”

Hebrews 9:28:

28 Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many…”

Hebrews 10:10 refers to Christ carrying out the will of God by the sacrifice of Himself saying:

10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

1 Peter 3:18:

18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.”

As the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith rightly states of Rome’s teaching of transubstantiation:

“This doctrine is hostile not only to Scripture, but also to common sense and reason. It destroys the nature of the ordinance and has been and is the cause of many kinds of superstitions and of gross idolatries.”[23]

  • Consubstantiation – This is the view held by the Lutheran Church. Though it rejects the abhorrent view of transubstantiation and the idea of the Lord’s Supper being a sacrifice, it offers a softer position to Rome by saying that Christ’s body and blood “are so mysteriously and supernaturally united with the bread and wine, so that they are received when the latter are.”[24]In other words, they believe that the body and blood of Jesus Christ are actually present “in, with, and under” the actual bread and wine. The elements never cease to be what they are, but Christ’s body and blood somehow become mingled with them.

This view should be rejected because, like Rome, it fails to see the symbolism in Jesus’ words, and it confounds the humanness of Jesus.

There are two other views that somewhat differ but are still compatible with one another.

  • The Zwinglian View – This position rightly points out that partaking of the Lord’s Supper is a matter of remembrance. It is a celebration which commemorates the sacrificial work of Christ on behalf of His people. Matthew 26:26-28 says:

26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”

As we have already seen Him say in Luke 22:19, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”[25] The Lord’s Supper is clearly a commemoration of Christ and His cross.

  • The Reformed View – Like the Zwinglian view, this position correctly understands the Lord’s Supper to signify Christ’s substitutionary work upon the cross in the place of repentant sinners. The Reformed view, however, takes it a step further by asserting that since the Lord’s Supper serves as a sign it must naturally serve also as a seal that conveys the believers benefits in Christ and nourishment in Him because He is spiritually present in the sacrament. As Louis Berkhof said:

“This is lost sight of by a good many in our day, who have a very superficial view of this sacrament, and regard it merely as a memorial of Christ and as a badge of Christian profession. These two aspects of the sacrament, namely, as a sign and as a seal, are not independent of each other…the sacrament with all that it signifies, constitutes a seal.”[26]

As Thomas Watson said many years ago in his work entitled The Lord’s Supper:

“Surely this glorious ordinance is more than an effigy or representation of Christ. Why is the Lord’s Supper called ‘the communion of the body of Christ’, but because, in the right celebration of it, we have sweet communion with Christ? In this gospel ordinance. Christ does not only show forth his beauty but sends forth His virtue. The sacrament is not only a picture drawn, but breast drawn; it gives us a taste of Christ, as well as a sight. Such as make the sacrament only a representation of Christ do aim short of the mystery, and come short of the comfort.”[27]

A Sign and Seal, A Means of Grace

The Reformed view comes to this conclusion because the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament. Now, we do not typically use this word because of its association with Roman Catholicism, which not only adds to the sacraments, but erroneously and despicably treats them as salvific. According to question 162 of the Westminster Larger Catechism, however, a sacrament is not a means of salvation, but a:

“Holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his church, to signify, seal, and exhibit unto those that are within the covenant of grace, the benefits of his mediation; to strengthen and increase their faith, and all other graces; to oblige them to obedience; to testify and cherish their love and communion one with another; and to distinguish them from those that are without.”

            There are several things to walk away with when we consider this definition. First, a sacrament is for those who already believe, it is for “those who are in the covenant of grace” and already benefiting from the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ. This is to say that a sacrament is not a means of salvation, but a means of grace to grow in respect to salvation. This also means that since it is for the believer, non-believers are not to partake of it. It is not for them, and such who do partake of it will not only be eating and drinking unworthily, but they will also be eating and drinking condemnation upon themselves. They will be partaking in a rite that signifies everything they deny, and they will be partaking in a rite they have no right to partake in.

            The second thing we want to focus on is that, because the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament it is, therefore, a sign, seal, and exhibit to the believer. What does this mean? A sacrament has a visible outward sign signifying the reality of the sign. Just as Baptism is an out sign of an inner reality, so is the Lord’s Supper. The giving and receiving of the bread and wine serve as the visible sign. The bread being His body and the wine His blood. There are several things the Lord’s Supper signifies:

  • The Lord’s sacrificial death in the place of His people. 1 Corinthians 11:26:

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

He was broken for us, because of us. He bled for us, because of us. As Isaiah says:

“He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.

All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.”

Christ was broken for our benefit, and His Supper signifies this.

  • The believer’s participation in the Lamb who was slain. We do not just look at the bread and wine, we receive it, and eat and drink it. We feed on that which signifies Christ and His substitutionary work. Jesus Christ is the bread of life.[28] He said:

51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh…53 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”[29]

It is true that we cannot live on bread alone, but on every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. It is equally true that we cannot not live on bread alone, but on the Word Incarnate begotten by the Father. All our spiritual benefits are bound up in Him: Justification (Our being made right with God), Redemption (Our being freed from slavery to sin), Reconciliation (Our begin brought near to God), Adoption (Our being made children of God), Sanctification (Our being formed into the image of Christ), and Glorification (Our being freed one day from the presence of sin). Jesus says:

“Take, eat; this is My body…This is My blood…for forgiveness of sins.”

“For forgiveness of sins” represents every blessing the believer receives in Him. We feast upon the work He accomplished on our behalf upon the cross.

  • Jesus is the source of the believer’s life, strength, and joy. In life we do not only eat and drink to remember the taste of food, but to experience its nourishment. The fact that we eat bread and drink wine signifies that Christ is not merely the source of our life; He is its sustenance.
  • The believer’s union with other believers. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17:

16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.”

1 Corinthians 12:13:

13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

Consider what Jesus did with His disciples in Luke 22:17:

17 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves…”

The Lord’s Supper signifies our unity with one another, and the source of our unity is Him.

Since communion signifies these things, it serves as a seal to the believer. A seal confirms the reality of the thing signified.

The sign of the Lord’s Supper pledges to the faithful participant God’s great love for them. When we recall the significance of communion, we are reminded that nothing can separate us from His love:

35 Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?38 …Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[30]

The significance of His Supper assures us that we are His and He is ours, and He will never leave us nor forsake us. It reminds us that we were the object of His passion upon the cross. Augustine referred to the cross as “a pulpit in which Christ preached His love to the world.” To draw to light the wonderful love of Christ that was displayed upon it, Thomas Watson said:

“That He who hated sin, should be ‘made sin’; that He who is numbered among the Persons of the Trinity should be ‘numbered with the transgressors.’”[31]

He loves us because He loves us. [32]

We have died, and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. When Christ is revealed, we will be revealed with Him in glory.[33] Christ supper signifies this and pledges it to us.

Not only does God assure us of His love for us in His Supper, but by virtue of us taking it we are pledging ourselves to Him. After all, our lives are His:

“He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”[34]

Remember Him who Died and Lives

It was Jonathan Edwards that said:

“We ought carefully and with the utmost seriousness and consideration attend the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper: this was appointed for this end, to draw forth longings of our souls toward Jesus Christ. Here are the glorious objects of spiritual desire by visible signs represented to our view. We have Christ evidently set forth crucified…. Here we have that spiritual meat and drink represented and offered to excite our hunger and thirst; here we have all that spiritual feast represented which God has provided for poor souls; and here we may hope in some measure to have our longing souls satisfied in this world by the gracious communications of the Spirit of God.”

Christ commands us to come to His table and may we do so often. May we do it not only to have a site of Christ, but a taste of Him as well. Let us, therefore, examine ourselves and come worthily to partake of His Supper.

[1] 1 Corinthians 11:18-22, 33-34; Jude 12

[2] 1 Corinthians 11:21

[3] 1 Corinthians 10:21

[4] 1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:24

[5] The early church father, John Chrysostom, is the one who coined this term, though he held a more literal understanding of the sacrament then the Scripture would seem to warrant.

[6] Luke 22:15

[7] 1 Corinthians 5:7

[8] John 1:29

[9] Revelation 13:8; Ephesians 1:4

[10] Mark 2:17

[11] Luke 19:10

[12] Mark 10:45

[13] John 10:15

[14] John 10:18

[15] Isaiah 53:8

[16] Isaiah 53:10-11

[17] Isaiah 53:12

[18] 1 Peter 1:19

[19] Hebrews 9:11-12

[20] Colossians 2:16

[21] John 19:30

[22] Thirteenth Council of Trent, Chapter 1

[23] The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689; Article 30, Section 6

[24] Unger’s Bible Dictionary; Page 667

[25] Luke 22:19

[26] Systematic Theology, Lois Berkhof; Page 650-51

[27] The Lord’s Supper, Thomas Watson; Page 18-19

[28] John 6:48

[29] John 6:51-58

[30] Romans 8:35,38-39

[31] The Lord’s Supper, Thomas Watson; Page 23

[32] Deuteronomy 7:7-8

[33] Colossians 3:3-4

[34] 2 Corinthians 5:15

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