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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:The Lord's Meal!
Text:BC 35 (View)
Occasion:Lord's Supper
Topic:Lord's Supper
 
Preached:2008-09-28
Added:2009-05-28
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


BELGIC CONFESSION OF FAITH XXXV

(Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34)

 

The Lord’s Meal!

 

 

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ...

 

     This is quite a long Article.

          While we may have thought the previous Article regarding ‘Holy Baptism’ was quite long, this is longer still!

              In fact, this 35th Article is the longest in the whole Belgic Confession of Faith!

 

     Mind you, considering the differences amongst churches about this sacrament, it’s no wonder it’s as long as it is.

          And as this is our Confession of Faith we must be clear on what Scripture teaches about the Lord’s Supper, especially in the light of all those differences.

             

     But let’s not become too overwhelmed by its length and technicality.

          We will take it section by section.

              That way we will see four distinct parts to this Article.

                  

     The first of these concerns THE INSTITUTION OF THE LORD’S SUPPER.

          This is what we see in the first paragraph of Article XXXV and in the last paragraph of Article XXXV.

    

     We see it in the first paragraph because that is a simple statement as to our Lord’s inaugurating of this sacrament.

          There are four passages in Scripture which clearly tell us this.

              Three of these are in the Gospels – Matthew 26 verses 26 till 28; Mark 17 verses 22 till 24, and Luke 22 verses 19 and 20.

     And the fourth was found in our reading from 1st Corinthians chapter 11.

          There the verses 23 till 26 described the same.

 

     In all these passages there is a command from the Lord.

          The command is to commune together in Christ’s name and in that gathering together read out these words spoken by Christ over the particular elements symbolising His body and blood.

 

     So an ordinary meal where the Bible is read is not the Lord’s Supper.

          Nor is some other Christian assembly gathered together in Christ’s name.

              The Lord’s Supper is conducted when it is the Lord’s Supper, as set up by the Lord Himself.

 

     All the four passages agree that there are four parts to this.

          The first part is about the Lord Jesus giving His disciples broken bread and wine poured into a cup.

              The second part is that concerning the bread He declared, “This is my body,” and concerning the wine poured out He pronounced, “This is the new covenant in my blood.”

     In the third part Christ said His body would be broken and His blood poured out for the sake of those who are His for the forgiveness of sins.

          And, fourthly, we read that the Lord’s Supper hasn’t only been instituted so that Christ would speak through it to those who are His, but that they would also confess Him as the One sacrificed for them.

              This is what the expression “proclaim the Lord’s death” in 1st Corinthians 11:26 means.

 

     Added to this essential structure in the Lord’s Supper, we also note that there can only be a blessing for those partaking if there is faith and the power of the Holy Spirit.

          The Confession states in its first paragraph here that this is “to nourish and support those whom He [Christ] has already regenerated and incorporated into His family, which is His Church.”

              This will be something developed further on in Article XXXV.

 

     For this first aspect, though, we see THE INSTITUTION OF THE LORD’S SUPPER.

          It is what is explicitly outlined in God’s Word.

              Which is why the last paragraph of Article XXXV fit in here.

     Because that dismisses anything which is not in God’s Word.

          Thus “we reject all mixtures and damnable invention which men have added unto and blended with the sacraments, as profanations of them.”

              And so Article XXXV ends by stating we “affirm that we ought to rest satisfied with the ordinance which Christ and His apostles have taught us, and that we must speak of them in the same manner as they have spoken.” 

 

     Now, this Article does not mention any of the errors specifically.

          There is no mention of transubstantiation, withholding the cup, adoration of the host, and so on.

              There is only the simple warning “to rest satisfied with the ordinance which Christ and His apostles have taught us.”

 

     Still, for the time when Guido de Bres wrote this, it sent out a very definite message.

          This Article is an unmistakeable protest against the Roman Catholic corruption of the Lord’s Supper.

 

     The second paragraph in Article XXXV then goes into THE SYMBOLISM BEHIND THE LORD’S SUPPER.

          Our second aspect this afternoon.

         

     You see, at the time of the Reformation there were a range of views as to the Lord’s Supper.

          There was, of course, the Roman Catholic view.

              That taught the sacrament to be a way in which people received saving grace.

     So they believed that the reference to Christ’s body and blood was an actually physical thing.

          They understand those words literally.

              That’s why, when you go to an altar in a Roman Catholic church, and you go to the part of that altar from which the priest dispenses the elements, you will find a little draw there which they say holds the actual body of the Christ.

                   For that is where they keep the communion wafers.

                       

     The opposite extreme to this view was the memorialism of Ulrich Zwingli.

          They said that eating is the same as believing.

              They denied altogether the reality of a special communion with Christ in the Supper.

                   So, at best, the Supper was a reaffirmation of your faith in Christ.

 

     It’s interesting how both of these views actually come down to what man does.

          Whether that was through the special place given to the priesthood or the special place given to the individual believer.

              Both relate to a physical level – whether the physical element or the response shown physically.

 

     It was John Calvin who brought back the Church to Scripture’s teaching here.

          He declared what our Confession says here.

              Because he spoke of the signs of bread and wine signifying the body and blood of the Lord.

                   He taught that the bread broken and the wine poured out symbolises that the body of the Lord was broken and that His blood was shed.

 

     J. van Bruggen addresses these signs of bread and wine.

          He says that by being distributed and shared out it shows that the sacrifice of Christ was for us.

              It was made to pay for the debt of our sin.

     Then he speaks of the accepting and receiving with the hand and the mouth as showing our heartfelt acceptance in faith of the promised Christ who was sent and crucified.

          And the eating and drinking points to our faith being inextricably tied up with Christ.

              The payment of the debt by His suffering and the renewal by His Spirit have become ours.

                   Just like bread and wine become united with us through eating and drinking.

 

     As bread and wine nourish us physically so He nourishes us spiritually.

          After all, doesn’t the eating and drinking with your mouth prove your genuine trust in Christ alone?

 

     Dear friend, you cannot get away from it.

          The signs of the Lord’s Super are all absolutely clear about Christ’s work for you.

              It’s about His sacrifice on the cross.

                   And it’s about what he does in us by His Spirit, feeding and refreshing us, strengthening and renewing us to eternal life.

 

     This is where we note the fundamental difference between the two sacraments.

          For baptism is the sacrament of engrafting.

              That brings us into the Church.

     And the Lord’s Supper keeps us within the congregation.

          That’s what “nourishes and strengthens the spiritual life of believers.”

 

     You can now see why you are only ever baptised once.

          But you must celebrate the Lord’s Supper constantly!

 

     I mean, you have to eat and drink!

          Of course we need that physically.

              Without it we would surely die.

     This is something we share with all humanity.

          But there is something which is quite unique to us who believe – something spiritual.

    

     Article XXXV describes this clearly.

          This is where it speaks of two levels.    

              For from the bodily and earthly life it moves to “the spiritual and heavenly life.”

 

     It is on this level that we as believers have a bread from heaven.

          You see, we have the Lord Jesus Christ.

              In the words of Jesus in John 6 verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.

     “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.

          “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”  

 

     This is not the bread of the Lord’s Supper, but you can see where this is going.

          For it is as we participate in faith at the Lord’s Supper that we receive in a special way what Christ has done for us.

              Something which is not separate from His Word, but something which confirms His Word.

 

     You see, when you come to Christ, obeying His Word as He told us in instituting the Supper, you’re going to be blessed.

          Indeed, that’s why the Lord instituted this Supper.

              In a reoccurring way which appeals to all our senses, we are feed.

 

     And so we come to the third aspect in connection with Article XXXV this afternoon.

          For now we see THE FEEDING THROUGH THE LORD’S SUPPER.

 

     Here we come to a large part of Article XXXV.

          For this covers the third, fourth and fifth paragraphs.  

 

     While these three paragraphs are covered under the one aspect, it helps us to break each of these paragraphs up into separate sub-points.

          In this way the third paragraph describes for us the way we eat.

 

     You see, having spoken of a special spiritual feeding, the Article now goes on to tell of how we take it in.

          Because we do that at a meal.

              A simple meal.

                   That’s how it was done in the ancient Christian Church.

 

     By the time of the Reformation, though, the saints were no longer sitting at a table.

          The sacrament of the Lord was being celebrated at an altar.

              There had developed a return to what the Lord’s institution of this sacrament had completely replaced.

                   For the sacrament had again become a sacrifice.

 

     Now, there was a difference.

          For Rome said that it was about Christ’s sacrifice, but they also said it was a constant repeating of that sacrifice.

              No wonder they kept Christ’s body in a drawer in the altar!

                   They worship Christ in the form of the bread.

 

     Of course worshipping something which is a physical object is idolatry.

          Something the Reformers had to point out as they went back to Scripture.

             

     So for all its pomp the Roman Catholic mass is very poor.

          And for all its simplicity the Lord’s Supper is very rich.

              Because in the Lord’s Supper we have the gospel visibly proclaimed.

                   A simple celebration of the Lord’s Supper in a barn is richer than a pontifical high mass in a cathedral.

 

     To continue the analogy in the way we eat we note that as we physically take in food through our mouths so spiritually we receive it by faith.

          The Confession calls this “the hand and mouth of our soul.”

              And, indeed, faith is the channel whereby all the benefits of Christ’s doing and dying is made ours.

 

     Here’s a helpful way to picture this: Imagine our hearts as a container which holds liquid.

          But if that container isn’t open at it’s opening any liquid poured over it would only flow away and disappear.

              Or, at most, make a mess on the floor!

     And, so, in the same way, our hearts must be opened by the Holy Spirit so that we can receive in faith the blessings God gives.

          The sacraments are of no use to us unless the Holy Spirit opens us up to them.

                  

     Then there is, in the fourth paragraph, what we take in.

          This is what we mean when we speak of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper.

             

     Congregation, we commune in a very special way with Christ at His Table.

          This is why we read that Christ “works in us all that He represents to us by these holy signs, though the manner surpasses our understanding and cannot be comprehended by us, as the operations of the Holy Spirit are hidden and incomprehensible.”

 

     So, while we don’t know exactly how God does it, we do know that He does.

          This is similar to what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3.

              For there in verse 8 He compared the Spirit’s work with the wind.

                   You hear its sound, but you cannot know where it comes from or where it’s going.

 

     And what we take in is Christ.

          Now, it cannot be the Lord Himself physically.

              He Himself is bodily present in heaven.

     That’s why the Article goes on to say this isn’t through our actual mouth but by the spirit through faith.

          It’s a spiritual table.

              And so what we receive is also spiritual.

                   Because you’re enjoying Christ and what He’s done for you.

 

     We see this, further, through those who don’t properly eat in this way.

          Paragraph 5 mentions two examples – Judas and Simon the sorcerer.

              Two examples of those who seemed to be part of God’s people but weren’t truly part of it.

                   Just like Ananias and Sapphira.

 

     Then, we come to our fourth aspect.

          Here we realise THE COMMUNION WITH THE LORD’S SUPPER.

 

     You see, Judas and Simon the sorcerer didn’t believe.

          But there are those in 1st Corinthians 11 verse 29 who eat and drink judgment upon themselves.

 

     And they’re Christians!

          Well, at least most of them, we would understand.

              They don’t look to the Lord in faith.

                   They do it out of tradition or selfish gain or because they at that point are not right with God.

 

     Those believers were failing to look to the Lord.

          They had become wrapped up in their own sinful lifestyles.

              And they were just like us!

 

     It can even get to the stage where we also take it for granted.

          It’s that Sunday we have our fellowship meal afterwards.

              That’s when everyone is likely to be there.

 

     But do we actually think about it?

          In the words of the Confession do we “with humility and reverence” remember the Saviour’s death.

              When we join around the table is it a sincere confession of our faith?

    

     I mean, we get a bit concerned if someone doesn’t come to the front.

          But are we even more concerned that we do come to the front when we shouldn’t?

             

     Congregation, we can’t receive something out of this sacrament unless we have first given ourselves to the Lord.

          You aren’t blessed unless you have been a blessing.

              So it’s no use coming if you know you’ve gone against God or your fellow man in any way.

 

     That’s why we read out the preparatory form this morning.

          It’s for each of us personally – not that other person you’ve got doubts about.

    

     This is why we have a supervised table.

          The warning must be clear it’s the Lord’s Table.

              It’s not our table.

 

     That was the sin the Corinthians committed, us we read in 1st Corinthians 11.

          Because it became such a selfish thing for them, verse 21 says they even left some of their members without anything to eat or drink.

             

     We wouldn’t want that, would we?

          But we do exactly that when we come unprepared.

              We dishonour the Lord’s Supper when we haven’t been living with Him the rest of the week.

 

     This was shown by the attitude of some of Oliver Cromwell’s officers who were stationed in Glasgow.

          They had been irregular in their church attendance and had not asked the minister if they could come to the Lord’s Supper.

              They showed no evidence that they were prepared for Holy Communion.

     On the Sunday the Lord’s Supper was being conducted a William Guthrie was the minister assisting.

          As those soldiers got up to come to receive the sacrament, he challenged them.

 

     In fact, he addressed them with such seriousness, determination, and zeal, they were quite caught out.

          They then sat down in their pews and didn’t cause any further disturbance.

 

     You see, dear believer, it’s not about you.

          How could it be?

              It’s all about what God has done in His Son.

     So let’s make these next six days all about Him.

          Then when we do come together next Lord’s Day we are one with Him and with each other.

              Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray…

     O Loving Heavenly Father, how much don’t we thank and praise You for the Son of Your love?

          In Him You have brought us, who were once far away, into Your blessed presence.

              Indeed, we may eat and drink the bread and wine knowing You are blessing us in our faith in You.

     Lord, please make next Sunday such an occasion.

          Stir us to look towards it and everyday to work at it.

              In Jesus’ saving Name we pray, Amen.

 

 

 

             




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.rcnz.org.nz

(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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