Worshipping God His Way
As one can tell by the reading of the Scripture, we are not moving forward in our study of Acts today but looking back to what has been previously covered in this historical narrative depicting a thriving church worshipping the Living God in Spirit and in truth.
There are a couple of things that are critical for us to understand about worship:
- First, we are beings who were created to worship.
Worship meaning to ascribe worthiness to a being. Our chief calling in life is to acknowledge the worth of God and glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
- The second thing we must grasp is that given our sinful nature, the object of our worship is usually not God, but self.
Our default setting is not to seek His glory and find enjoyment in Him, it is to seek our own glory and to enjoy ourselves. We are idolators by nature, and the greatest idol we love to serve is self.
The problem is that we are not worthy to be served. We are not even worthy of life itself. Yes, we have intrinsic value by virtue of the fact we are made in the Imago Dei, the Image of God, but Adam’s sin brought a curse upon us, thus marring the image in which we are made and thrusting the creation into death and damnation.
In Adam we all die. Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, so death has spread to all people. In sin our mothers conceived us. We are by nature children of wrath, as well as by choice. There is none righteous, not even one.
According to the holy standard, which is God Himself who not only dwells in unapproachable light, but is light in whom there is no darkness at all; when we are held up to Him, there is none who does good, there is not even one. We are left wanting. We are left spiritually bankrupt and in need of another’s righteousness, because we have all sinned and fallen short of His glory. Our sin, therefore, deservers our death for all of eternity under the just wrath of the good, loving, and Holy God.
Again, we are not worthy of worship. We are not even worthy of life itself. This is what makes the gospel so astounding. We are but small and insignificant, cursed, and worthy of divine wrath for our sin against a Being of eternal worth:
“4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
Jesus Christ, God the Son eternal:
“Gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.”
Although He had always been God by nature, He did not cling to His prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped Himself of all privilege by willingly becoming a Man; and having become a Man, He humbled Himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death He died was the death of a common criminal upon a cross. For the joy set before Him, He endured this cross, for upon it He became a curse for us by becoming our sin and bearing it on His body upon it so that He might suffer and die under the wrath we are worthy of to ensure that we may never taste of it. He satisfied upon Himself the just wrath we rightly deserve for our sin and shed His precious blood to atone for it. Christ died for our sins, the just for the unjust so that He might bring us to God. He was delivered over for our transgressions, and He was raised back to life on the third day never to die again for of our justification. God is, therefore, just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. He became what we are so that we might become what He is. He became our sin so that by faith in Him we would become the righteousness of God in Him.
All, therefore, who turn from themselves and to Christ through faith, understanding who He is and what He has done in their place, will be freely forgiven their sins and given the hope of life forever in Him. As Romans 4:5 says:
“To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.”
In Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
We do not gather to be served, for the very Being we gather to worship did not come to be served, but to serve by giving His life as a ransom for many. Our gatherings are to have nothing to do with us, and everything to do with Him. We, therefore, do not get to determine how we worship this God who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. He does! He wants it, and desires it, and defines it, and demands that His wants and desires be met according to what He defines; and He deserves to be worshipped in accordance with what He defines and demands. He is worthy of it because of who He is, and because of what He has done!
It is our duty, therefore, to discover the ways in which God has determined to be worshipped and to continually devote ourselves to those very things. Remember God’s words through Jeremiah:
“Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you will find rest for your souls.”
The worship of the living God is not something that is subjective and fluid. This means that it does not change over time or transform depending on the culture. It is objective and constant. It is not influenced by personal feelings or opinion. There are concrete ways by which God is worshipped that transcend all time, language, and culture. It was R.C. Sproul who said:
“Pleasing God is at the heart of worship. Therefore, our worship must be informed at every point by the Word of God as we seek God’s own instructions for worship that is pleasing to Him.”
The Feast of the Cross
The good news is that the objective and unchanging ways in which God wants to be worshipped as revealed in His Word, are simple and they are all seen within this brief portion of Acts:
“41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
The elements of worship that God has regulated to take place on the Lord’s Day among His church are:
- The reading, preaching, hearing, and singing of the truths of Scripture.
- The observance of the baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
- The Prayer of His people to Him in Christ by the Spirit.
All of these are to take place within the context of corporate fellowship of believers. The marks of a healthy church are not vibrant programs or energetic personalities, but sincere devotion to worshipping God the way He wants to be worshipped, which is simple worship that is centered around Word and sacrament.
The element of worship we want to remind ourselves of and focus on today is the churches continual devotion to the breaking of bread. This is talking about communion. It is the Lord’s Supper. It is the Table of the Lord. It is the Thanksgiving and Blessing. It is the second, and final, sacrament that Jesus Christ has given to His body of people whom He has purchased for Himself with His own blood to observe until His coming. It is what some have deemed to be “The feast of the cross.”
Our fallen nature renders us not only frail, fickle, and fiendish, but forgetful as well. We are prone to stop thinking about that which is important. This is an element of worship we must never lose sight of or think little of, for it is not only a means by which we ascribe worth to the Living God, but a means by which we grow in His grace and knowledge as well. It is something we should long for and look forward to.
The Lord’s Supper
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.”
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.
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. As the Scripture says, He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the Lamb that was slain before its foundation was even laid. He did not come for the righteous, but sinners; for those shrouded in shame, and burdened with guilt. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came to serve by giving His life as a ransom for us. He came to lay down His life for His lost sheep. He did not deserve to die, but He had the authority to lay down His life, and He did. He was cut off from the land of the living in place of those who deserved death. He bore our sin and rendered Himself as a guilt offering to be crushed in our stead. He poured out Himself to death and interceded on our behalf. We were redeemed by God “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” 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.”
“6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 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. He made an actual atonement for the sin of His people upon the cross. 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.”
The Sign and Seal of His Supper
Now, it is important for us to understand what is meant by sacrament. A sacrament is not a means of salvation. It is an ordinance that has been instituted by Christ to by observed in His church, to signify, seal, and show to those that are within the covenant of grace: 
- The benefits of Christ’s mediation.
- To strengthen and increase their faith, and all other graces.
- To compel them to obedience.
- To testify and cherish their love and communion one with another.
- To distinguish them from them world.
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. This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29:
“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.”
The second thing we want to focus on is that the Lord’s Supper is more than just a commemoration of Christ crucified. It was the Puritan Thomas Watson that said:
“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.”
Because the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, it is, therefore, a sign, seal, and exhibit to the believer. A sacrament has a visible outward sign signifying the reality of the sign. Just as Baptism is an outer 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 to us through these elements:
- The Jesus’ 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. Before it preaches to us peace, it first gives us a sight of our sin upon the sinless Son of God. It reminds us of how unworthy we are, and how worthy He is. He vicariously died for us.
- The believer’s sharing 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. 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 recognizing that it signifies our being joined to Him in His death, burial, and resurrection.
- 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. He said in John 6:53-58:
“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.”
- 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…”
They all drank from one cup. 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 things signified.
Ultimately, 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.”
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.” He loves us because He loves us.  Christ’s Supper signifies this and pledges it to us. Just as we actually indulge in the bread and wine so we will certainly taste of His salvation.
Lastly, 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.”
Worship Him Worthily
Considering all this, may we partake of His Supper not only to have a site of Christ, but a taste of Him. His Supper is given for the confirmation of our faith in all the benefits of His death, our spiritual nourishment and growth in Him, our further engagement in and to all the duties we owe Him, and a bond and pledge of our communion with Him and each other. May we come and worship Him, and may we do so worthily. “We ought carefully,” as Jonathan Edwards said:
“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.”
 1 Corinthians 15:22a
 Romans 5:12
 Psalm 51:5
 Ephesians 2:1-3
 Romans 3:10
 1 Timothy 6:16; 1 John 1:5
 Romans 3:12
 Romans 3:23
 Exodus 34:6-7; Romans 6:23
 Galatians 4:4-5
 1 Timothy 2:6
 Philippians 2:6-8
 Hebrews 12:2
 Romans 3:25; 5:9; 1 Peter 1:18-19
 1 Peter 3:18
 Romans 4:25
 Romans 3:26
 2 Corinthians 5:21
 1 Corinthians 15:22
 Mark 10:45
 1 Peter 2:9
 Jeremiah 6:16
 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16
 Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:26
 Colossians 4:2
 1 Corinthians 11:21
 1 Corinthians 10:21
 1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:24
 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.
 Luke 22:15
 1 Corinthians 5:7
 John 1:29
 Revelation 13:8; Ephesians 1:4
 Mark 2:17
 Luke 19:10
 Mark 10:45
 John 10:15
 John 10:18
 Isaiah 53:8
 Isaiah 53:10-11
 Isaiah 53:12
 1 Peter 1:19
 Hebrews 9:11-12
 Colossians 2:16
 John 19:30
 Westminster Larger Catechism; Question 162
 The Lord’s Supper, Thomas Watson; Page 18-19
 John 6:48
 John 6:51-58
 Romans 8:35,38-39
 Deuteronomy 7:7-8
 2 Corinthians 5:15