MATTHEW 26:26-30; and 1 CORINTHIANS 11:20-34.
We will read, first, Matthew's account of the institution of the Lord's supper.
Matthew xxvi. 26. And as they were eating,
In the middle of the Paschal Feast our Lord instituted the sacred festival which was ever afterwards to be known as "the Lord's supper." The one ordinance was made to melt gradually into the other: "as they were eating."
26. Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and
brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take eat; this is my body.
"This represents my body." He could not possibly have meant that the bread was his body; for there was his body sitting at the table, whole and entire. They would have been astonished beyond measure if they had understood him literally; but they did not do so, any more than when Christ said, "I am the door," or "I am the Good Shepherd."
27. And he took the cup, and gave thanks,
and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
"Every one of you." Was this the Lord's supper? Yes. What say the Romanists about it? Why, that the people may not drink the cup! Yet our Saviour says to his disciples, "Drink ye all of it."
28. For this is my blood of the new
testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
They had had sin brought to their minds; they had had a personal reminder of their own liability to sin; now they were to have a perpetual pledge of the pardon of sin, in the cup, which was the emblem of Christ's blood, "shed for many for the remission of sins."
29. But I say unto you, I will not drink
henceforth of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my
Jesus took the Nazarite vow to drink no more, to partake no more of the fruit of the vine, till he should meet us again in his Father's kingdom. He has pledged us once for all in that cup, and now he abstains until he meets us again. Thus he looks forward to a glorious meeting; but he bids us take the cup, and thus remember him until he comes.
30. And when they had sung an hymn, they
went out into the mount of Olives.
To his last great battle the Champion goes singing, attended by feeble followers, who could not protect him; but who could sing with him. I think he must have led the tune; his disciples were too sorrowful to sing until his clear voice started the Hallelujah Psalms; but they joined him in the holy exercise, for "they" as well as their Lord sang the hymn. When you are about to face a trial, offer a prayer; but, if you can, also sing a hymn. It will show great faith if, before you enter into the burning fiery furnace, you can sing psalms unto the Lord who redeemeth his people.
Now let us read Paul's version of this same matter.
1 Corinthians xi. 20, 21. When ye come
together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating
every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
These Corinthians had fallen into a very queer state. I do not think that any Baptist Church that I have ever known of has acted in this fashion; but when churches have no ministers, when there is an open ministry where everybody talketh and nobody listeneth, they fall into a queer condition, especially into divisions and heart-breaking strifes. It was so in the case of this church at Corinth. Here everybody brought his own provision, and some ate to the full, and others had not enough; and they thought that they were observing "the Lord's supper."
22. What? have ye not houses to eat and to
There is your proper place if you want a meal. Go home, and eat and drink; do not come to the sanctuary for such a purpose: "Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?"
22, 23. Or despise ye the church of God,
and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I
praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which I delivered unto you,
He had received it by a special revelation, Poor Paul was brought in late, and he was like one born out of due time. He had not been present in the upper room with Christ at the first famous breaking of bread; so the Lord came and gave him a special revelation concerning this sacred feast, so that, whenever he spoke or wrote to any of the churches about the Lord's supper, he could say, "I have received of the Lord that which I delivered unto you."
23, 24. That the Lord Jesus the same night
in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said,
Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
The Lord's supper is a simple service of remembrance. Nothing is said about an altar, or a priest, or a sacrifice. Our Lord took bread, gave thanks for it, brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take, eat: this is my body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me." Mark that "this do"; it will not be right to do something else instead of this; and we must not do this for any other purpose than the one he mentions, "This do in remembrance of me." This command raises a previous question, "Do we know him?" we cannot remember Christ if we do not know him.
25, 26. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drinketh it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
"By Christ redeemed, in Christ restored,
We keep the memory adored,
And show the death of our dear Lord,
Until he come!
"And thus that dark betrayal-night,
With the last advent we unite;
By one blest chain of loving rite
Until he come!"
27. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
If such a man has treated "this bread" and "this cup" with contempt, he has treated "the body and blood of the Lord" with contempt; it shall be so reckoned to him. Many have been trouble by this verse. They have said, "We are unworthy." You are, this is quite true; but the text does not say anything about your being unworthy. Paul uses an adverb, not an adjective. His words are, "Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily," that is, in an unfit way, to gain something by it, as men used to take what they called "the sacrament" to get into certain offices, or as some come to the communion-table for the sake of the charitable gifts that are for the poor of the church; this is to eat and drink "unworthily." To come carelessly, to come contemptuously, to say, "I do not care whether I am a Christian, or not; but I shall come to the communion," this is to eat and drink "unworthily." Notice the ly; we are all unworthy of this sacred feast, and if unworthiness could shut us out, who would dare to be here?
28. But let a man examine himself,
Let a man look himself up and down, as a lawyer cross-questions a witness, as a man examines money to see whether it has the true ring of gold about it; or not: "Let a man examine himself."
28. And so let him eat of that bread, and
drink of that cup.
Let him come as a true believer, as sincere; if not perfect, yet true; if not all he ought to be, yet in Christ; if not all he wants to be, yet still on the way to it, by being in Christ, who is "the way, the truth and the life."
29. For he that eateth, and drinketh
unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
He does not see the meaning of the emblem of Christ's death. He degrades the symbol by making it take the place of the thing signified. He sees the bread, but not the body; and he damnifies himself, condemns himself, by such eating. He is a loser rather than a gainer by eating and drinking unworthily.
30. For this cause many are weak and
sickly among you, and many sleep.
Persons coming to the Lord's table in an improper spirit are very apt to come under God's discipline; some will be taken ill; and some will die. This discipline is being carried on in every true church of God. God's providence will work in this way if many treat the table of the Lord as the Corinthians did, acting as if it were a common place for eating and drinking. Many of them were weak and sickly, and many died.
31. For if we would judge ourselves, we
should not be judged.
If we are God's people, we shall be judged by him here for our wrongdoing. We shall not be like the world that is justify to the day of judgment; but we shall be judged now. God will visit with temporal judgments those of his children who sin against him.
32. But when we are judged, we are
chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
You know that a man will see a great deal that is wrong in children in the street, and say nothing about it; but if it is his own who is up to mischief, he will give him a sweet taste of the rod. So, if you belong to God, you cannot sin deeply without having a present judgment, a present discipline; and you ought to be thankful for it, painful though it may seem to be for the time, for "when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world."
33. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come
together to eat, tarry one for another.
How gently Paul talks to these Corinthians! They deserve to be scolded; but he is very tender with them. He says, "If you must come together in this way, at least have the good manners to stop for one another; and if you do come to the communion of the Lord, treat it with that respect and reverence which it deserves.
34. And if any man hunger, let him eat at
home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I
May we to-night keep this feast in due order under the power of the Holy Spirit, and may we find a blessing in it to God's praise! Amen.
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