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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:Communion with Christ
Text:LD 28 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Lord's Supper

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 92:1,2                                                                                

Hy 1

Reading – 1 Corinthians 10:1-22

Ps 23:1,2,3

Sermon – Q&As 76,77,79

Ps 63:2,3

Hy 35:1,2,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in Christ, sometimes you have a conversation where you know that you’re really connecting with someone. You’re both speaking openly, you’re talking about something meaningful, and between you there’s trust and affection. For those few minutes it’s like you’re one in spirit and mind. Those conversations don’t happen every day, but when they do, they’re a special gift. You walk away, grateful for fellowship—for communion in the truest sense of the word, when you’ve spent time with a person you care about.

What we sometimes experience in our relationships with each other is something that we’re allowed to experience every day with the Lord God, the Creator and King of heaven and earth. Imagine that—fellowship with God! Wherever we are, whatever our circumstance, we can have a lasting bond of friendship with the LORD.

This is what God has given us, says Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:9, “God… has called [you] into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Called into fellowship with Christ, the Son of God—invited into communion with him!

Such a connection is possible through faith, when we put our trust in God and in his Son. Faith links us to Christ and creates an unbreakable union. This is how the Spirit puts it in 1 Corinthians 6:17, “The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with him.” When you’re truly joined to him, you’re one spirit with Jesus Christ, because you have the same goals, the same loves, the same purpose.

And then whenever we celebrate the Holy Supper, we get a powerful experience of this unity, for the Supper is a meal of communion. It’s called communion, because at this meal we have fellowship with Jesus Christ, our Saviour. By faith we’re participating in him and with him. Let’s consider how through Lord’s Supper, you and I may enjoy fellowship with our Saviour,


At the Lord’s Supper, we have communion with Christ:

  1. by believing in him,
  2. we are united to him


1) by believing in him: Back in Lord’s Day 25 we learned that holy baptism and holy Supper are both sacraments that point us to Jesus Christ. They have that similar focus, yet there’s an important difference between the two.

Baptism, we know, is for believers and their children. Baptism is the special mark of God’s covenant with us—his relationship—it’s a sign and a seal of all the good things that God has in store for his people. Baptism is usually something that we undergo right at the beginning of our lives, so that as we grow up, thinking about the sign and seal on our forehead, we can always have the confidence that we belong to the Triune God.

But God desires—God expects—that as we get older, year by year, we also become more engaged in this relationship, that we get more involved in it. You could say that He wants the covenant to become our “own.” We do that by receiving all his promises with a true faith, and by carrying out our Christian calling wherever He puts us.

And when we’ve answered our baptism with an “Amen” and “I do,” God then gives the Lord’s Supper. After holding out that promise of his mercy (in the sprinkled water), God keeps reminding us of his promise, through the bread and wine. But here’s the core difference that I mentioned: Lord’s Supper is for those who believe.

Those who participate must have given a good account of their faith. Those who participate should be able to examine themselves. That is to say, we need to have the wisdom for taking an honest look within, a true self-appraisal, when we consider our whole life in a spirit of repentance and resolve. At the same time, we must be able understand what’s going on at the table, looking beyond the bread and wine in front of us, and focusing on their meaning in Christ.

That is why there’s the opportunity in our church for a public profession of faith, a pledge of allegiance, a vow of loyalty. Those young people who have professed their faith can celebrate the Lord’s Supper. They can, because they believe. Because, by God’s sovereign grace and the working of his Spirit, they have responded to his claim on their lives. They’re still maturing, of course, but they’ve reached a place where they’re ready to commit themselves to living in covenant with God, from here on in.

This is also the teaching of the Catechism. In Q&A 76, it speaks of what takes place at Lord’s Supper. It asks the question in terms that are almost graphic: “What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his shed blood?” And then the answer: To participate in the Lord’s Supper is not to be a cannibal, but it is “to accept with a believing heart all the suffering and death of Christ and so receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.”

Notice those two key words: to accept, and to do so with a believing heart. That second phrase adds something important. For there’s a difference between accepting something, and really believing it—affirming it and standing behind it.

For instance, someone could say, “I can accept that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person. He was a Jewish peasant born into the Roman Empire in the first century. He had a brief career of saying wise things and helping the poor. I also accept that this fellow was killed by his enemies on the cross. I can even accept there are rumors that this Jesus came back to life.”

You could accept this—and accept every Christian teaching—yet you must do so, in the words of the Catechism, “with a believing heart.” Which means that anyone who comes to the table needs to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ with a heart that finds its one security and confidence in the cross. Deep within, we must see ourselves as desperately sinful, yet also as completely forgiven, only for the sake of the suffering and death of the Lord.

That is how God wants us to “accept” the message: with faith. And so the Form for Holy Supper says, “Let everyone search his heart whether he also believes the sure promise of God that all his sins are forgiven him only for the sake of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.” For it is faith alone that connects us to the Saviour.

Think of the words spoken by Jesus when He first instituted this meal. He commanded his disciples, “Take and eat; this is my body” (Matt 26:26). Jesus wasn’t just telling them to reach out their hands and break off a chunk of bread from the loaf. Rather, He was telling them to take into themselves the very gift of salvation.

“Eat my flesh and drink my blood,” Christ ordered his disciples: “Receive by faith all the benefits of my death, and receive them as your very own. Accept this bread; accept this cup—and accept me, as your Saviour.” Already on the night He was betrayed, Jesus wanted his followers to have a part in what was about to happen. And so He said: “Take and eat, take and drink; remember and believe.”

We hear the same command whenever we come to the Lord’s table. It’s the call to believe, the call to accept it for ourselves by true faith. We should come to the table, feeling in our hearts: “This is something that I need. Without it, my life is missing out on something vital. Without it, I’m lost. I need this bread and this wine—I need to be nourished by Christ—so that’s why I’m here.”

And then whenever we come to the table, we need to know within our hearts that this is something we can be sure of. I believe that the death of Christ brings me joy and hope. I believe that in him, I am forgiven, and I will live forever. I believe that Christ is present in this simple bread and wine—He is present through his Spirit, so that He can always sustain me. I believe it, so that’s why I’ve come.

With God’s gift of faith, we go to the table. By faith alone, we receive his gift of salvation. Now, it’s true that our faith is such a changeable thing. One day it’s strong and confident—or rather, one hour it’s strong and confident—and all too soon it’s struggling and weak. Our faith is so inconsistent; it’s so often tied to our variable circumstances our wavering moods, instead of being based on God’s Word, fixed and firm and always dependable. Even so, God grants salvation to all who believe. Because by faith,


2) we are united to Christ: So what happens when you believe in Christ? You are forgiven, you could say. You’re saved. But how does this happen? How does salvation work? It happens through our being united to Christ. Remember the text we heard before, “God… has called you into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This teaching is something we found throughout the New Testament. It’s expressed in a small phrase that packs a mighty punch. We skim over it, because it’s too common-sounding to really get our attention. Yet this little phrase sums up one of the Bible’s essential teachings about our salvation. The phrase is this: “in Christ.” Just those two words: “in Christ.” Do you remember how in Ephesians 1 we came across it repeatedly? It’s in places like Romans 8:1 as well, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”

So how does that phrase capture the fact of our redemption? When we believe, God says, we’re joined to Christ. We’re grafted to him, like branches to vine. We’re united to him, like a bride to her groom. We share in who He is, like a body with its head. By faith we’re completely united to Christ, intimately one. We are “in Christ,” and Christ is in us.

This means that God looks at everything that Jesus Christ has done—his obedience, his suffering, his hellish agony—God looks at it, and He considers that it was we who did it all! He credits it to our account. Compare it to writing a test. The students will all know what that’s like. You write a test, and it’s a really hard one: English maybe, or perhaps Year 12 Math. There’s a lot riding on this test. And you’re sure that you’ve failed it miserably! So along with your failure comes the end of your plans to get into a particular program at university.

But then the unexpected happens: there’s a paper swap. Your teacher announces that she wants everyone to trade test papers with someone else—trade papers, and then sign your own name at the top. The school board approved it, so it’s OK. And it’s your good fortune to end up with the test written by the smartest kid in the class! Just like that, your failure disappears. Now it’s your test: your name at the top means all the credit goes to you. You’ve gone from an F to an A, just like that! University, here we come!

This is what Christ did for his people. Christ was perfectly righteous. He satisfied all of God’s just requirements and He bore all his holy wrath. He wrote the test flawlessly, while on the other hand, we had failed it in every way—and we would always fail it. Yet our name is signed to his perfect record. To us God gives all his merit, while Christ has to deal with our failures himself! That means we are rescued from an eternity of misery and granted everlasting glory. This is being in Christ—united to him. The life He lived, and the death He died, this He did for all who believe.

This is the gospel that we celebrate in the Lord’s Supper. For at Holy Supper we have communion with Christ—we celebrate that precious bond. By faith, we share in his life, death, and resurrection. Our fellowship with Christ is so close that all his riches, and all his benefits, and all his heavenly glory, actually belong to us.

When Paul writes about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10, he draws attention to this amazing truth. In Corinth, the believers were abusing the Lord’s table and the Holy Supper was treated as very un-holy. For some of them were thinking that they could have communion with Satan during the week and still go to church on Sunday. Writes Paul, “I do not want you to have fellowship with demons” (v 20).

Fellowship with demons: what does that look like? It’s not so ugly or blatant as devil-worship or satanic ritual. But fellowship with demons is going along with whatever Satan suggests to you. It’s giving in to his temptations and doing whatever you want in private. Indulging in any pleasure, breaking any of God’s commandments, and still expecting to have fellowship with Christ, even going to his table and sharing in his bread and wine.

If you think that’s possible, Paul reminds us of what actually takes place at the Supper. He asks the powerful question: “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (v 16). Yes, it is! By eating the bread in faith, we’re doing nothing less than participating in Jesus Christ. We’re taking him into our very lives.

The same is true for the wine. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” (v 16). By drinking the wine in faith, we are celebrating that inseparable unity of Christ with his believers: “Christ in us, and we in him.”

Paul wants us to realize that at the Holy Supper we’re showing our unity with Christ, and it’s a close, powerful, real and living union. It’s a union so strong that God looks at us in Christ as “flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones” (Q&A 76). To put it plainly, it was as if our body was tormented there on the cross. It was as if our blood was splashed onto the ground. It’s as if we wrote the test, and we aced it ourselves. But Christ perfectly did all of it for us, and in our place. So we get all the blessing, the life, the glory.

Listen again to the words of Q&A 79, “We share in [Christ’s] true body and blood… [so] that all his suffering and obedience are as certainly ours as if we personally had suffered and paid for our sins.” By faith we participate fully and completely in him and what He did. When we stand before the throne of God, we don’t stand alone and helpless, but Christ stands with us.

Think about what a gift we have in this communion. Fellowship with Christ isn’t only for our appearance at the last judgment, but it’s for today, because Christ is with us always. Perhaps you have felt lonely at times—probably everyone has. Or rejected. Maybe you’ve been abandoned by people you were counting on. Or maybe your wife or husband has passed away. Maybe the Lord hasn’t granted a life partner. There are times when we all wish for someone to help and support and understand and love us—and this is what we have when we’re united to Christ, joined in the most intimate of bonds. He loves us with a love greater than any other.

It’s a great comfort, with a serious consequence. You can’t participate in Christ at his Supper, and then live your own life, whatever way you please. What did Paul say? “You cannot partake of the Lord’s table and the table of demons” (v 21). It’s one or the other. It means one kind of life, or another.

By participating in his meal, the Catechism says that we are “to be united more and more to [Christ’s] sacred body” (Q&A 76). Whenever we hear that refrain “more and more,” we know we’re being called to growth, called to progress, to ongoing maturity in the faith: “united more and more to Christ.”

So if you look at the pattern and direction of your faith and life over the last year or two or three, is that how you’d describe it? Is there really a “more and more,” a “closer and closer?” Or is it perhaps “weaker and weaker,” “less and less?”

It won’t happen automatically, but we must dedicate ourselves to drawing ever closer to Christ. In fact, the Lord’s Supper is just one moment of our life-long communion with him. So we should want to live in this communion, more and more. We want to strengthen and deepen our bond with Christ and draw closer to the Saviour every day.

Beloved, how can we do that? How do we live in a more intimate fellowship with Christ? How do you and I show—from Monday morning on, right through the week—that we’re really united to our Lord?

In the first place, if we want to commune with Christ, then we have to dedicate ourselves to that simple but profound activity of prayer. You know that any fellowship or friendship between two people is kept alive by staying in touch: emails and texts and phone calls and “face-to-face.” When the communication stops, the connection begins to die.

This is why Scripture speaks of prayer as something continual and persistent. It means we stop and turn to the Lord, and ask his blessing, and praise his goodness, seek his guidance, and plead for his forgiveness. For Christ’s sake the Father is ready to listen and to answer: “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry” (Ps 34:14).

Second, if we have this living communion with Christ, we’ll also know his words. When you spend a lot of time with someone, you come to know pretty well what they’ll say in a given situation: “I just knew you were going to say that!” That’s also true for our relationship with Christ. The more we commune with him, the better we’ll know his will! Like it says in Psalm 25:14, “The LORD confides in those who fear him; He makes his covenant known to them.”

That means we should often ask ourselves, “What does the LORD say about how I ought to work? What does He say about my marriage? What does He say about the kinds of friends I have, or the kind of things I should watch?” Christ says in John 15, “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you” (v 14).

Third, when you’re with someone for a long time, you start to act like that person. Family members will often have that. People will say, “I can tell that you’re his brother.” Or they might say, “You’re so much like your mother.” That’s also true when we have a living communion with Christ. If you walk with him every day, you start to resemble him in your speaking and doing. Someone might even say to us, “I can tell that you know the Lord. I just knew you were a Christian.” This shouldn’t be unusual; it’s something that God commands: “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6). Walk like Christ: in his kind of humility, his kind of love and self-control and kindness.

And if we really know Jesus Christ, then we’ll also give him our devoted praise. We’ll seek to worship him alone. Instead of continuing in rebellion, making excuses for our sin, we lay aside everything that harms our connection to Christ. We want to eat at his table, and only at his table!

Beloved, Jesus Christ shouldn’t be a stranger to you—Jesus shouldn’t be just a distant figure from ancient history, an article of faith from an old confession. But it’s my prayer, beloved, that you may know him and love him, truly and deeply. From day to day, be connected to Christ, one in spirit with Christ—have the same goals, the same loves, the same purpose. Work daily at having a living communion with Christ, a strong fellowship, a steadfast bond! May Christ live in you, and may you live in him.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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