Chapter 30 The Proclamation In The Supper

Ye do shew [proclaim] the Lord’s death (1 Corinthians 11:26).

The Lord’s Supper is central to the Christian faith. It is very close to the spiritual affections of believers, and greatly treasured by those who know its value. It is one of the two ordinances which the Lord intended for the Church during His absence.

The first is baptism, which is an individual responsibility—a once-for-all act. The New Testament never contemplates an unbaptized believer. It is good to be a believer, but it is better to be a baptized believer.

The second ordinance is the Lord’s Supper, and this is a corporate act, which should be observed with constant regularity. The remembrance feast must not be relegated to a secondary or inconspicuous place in the life of the assembly, much less set aside completely.

In this feast, believers look backward to the cross and remember the Lord’s sufferings in their room and stead. They look upward to Heaven and remember that the Lord is risen, and that He is meat and drink for the sustenance of their present life in Him. They look forward and remember that He is coming again to receive them unto Himself.

The observance of this feast is something which the Lord has commanded us to keep: “This do!” Rarely did the Lord ask His people to do anything by way of commandment, but this He did, for very important purposes. His wisdom is clearly seen in such an assignment. We should of course, obey without the injunction, and without perceiving such wisdom. Ours is not to question the Lord’s commands, but to trust and obey.

But then, the Lord does not treat us as infants, to be commanded without understanding. Rather does He treat us as adults with whom He shares His sovereign counsels, and to whom He explains His ways so that believers may more wholeheartedly cooperate with Him in carrying out His instructions.

The Historical Institution

This institution is given us in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22. The prime emphasis is to remember Him in His death. Had it been left to His people to choose a memorial, some might have chosen a mighty miracle, a favorite parable, a song, a notable discourse. But no! The emphasis is placed by our Lord upon His death, on the offering up of Himself unto death on our behalf. The Lord thus imprinted His sacrificial death as central to the whole system of divine truth. This was the wisdom of God, for we, alas, are prone to forget that very thing.

In the course of church history there have been dark ages, days of spiritual declension, when our Lord’s death was not the church’s main emphasis. That sometimes shifted to a lust for temporal power, by means of which the church could raise up or depose kings of the realm, or to social reform, or to the making of creeds and credentials.

These things are never central if, indeed, some should ever have been present. That which is central is that which is unique—the substitutional and sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus. Happy the fellowship of believers who maintain that emphasis! The Lord did not come to earth primarily to relieve poverty by providing a bread ticket. Nor did He come primarily to instruct our ignorance. He came to deal with the fact and issues of sin, and make possible—through His sacrifice—the removal of our sins, reconciliation to God, restoration to His favor.

The course of church history has produced ministers, so-called, who deny the deity of Christ, His Godhood, His atoning death, and His bodily resurrection; who suggest that these ideas were invented by the Apostle Paul, that the Lord never claimed to be God, that His death was merely a noble example of self-sacrifice, that His body of flesh and bones never did come out of the tomb.

The institution of this feast confounds all these unholy breathings. It gives the lie to all such suppositions. His deity is evident in what He Himself said at the feast—in what His death would accomplish. Not even Moses, in his greatest flights of illumination, ever dared suppose that his death could remit sin. “This is My blood,” said our Lord, “which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). No other blood but His blood could avail to take away sins.

The Divine Insistence

Matthew seems to go out of his way to show that this memorial feast did not originate with the church, or with any apostle. He tells us that when the feast of the passover was nigh, Jewry’s rulers said, when plotting His death, “Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people” (Matthew 26:5). But our Lord said, in effect, “on the feast day” (verse 2)—so that the type of the slain paschal lamb should have its fulfillment in Him on that God-appointed day. These things of God, you see, are never in the hands of men.

Then, again, the wisdom of our Lord in placing the emphasis upon His death is seen in what took place in the house of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6-13). Simon’s house would be shunned by the supposedly clean, but the undefilable Lord went to eat with Simon—for Him no infection could touch, and all diseases must obey. While in Simon’s house, “There came unto Him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on His head, as He sat at meat.”

When one complained: “To what purpose is this waste?” the Lord defended the woman, saying, “She did it for My burial.” She knew what the disciples were so slow to believe: that He must die. To emphasize again the primary importance of remembering His death, He shifts the emphasis from “the poor … for ye have the poor always with you; but Me ye have not always.” Poverty is no barrier to being saved, or to entering Heaven—but sin is. Therefore, far more important than social reform and the relief of poverty is our Lord’s death on the cross, without which no man can be saved and enter Heaven.

“Verily I say unto you,” said the Lord Jesus, “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her”—that is, here was a woman with the right emphasis, as in the words of dying Jacob in Genesis 49:18, “I have waited for Thy salvation, O LORD.” O wondrous, glorious cross! O wondrous death of Thine, Lord Jesus! Help us ever to remember it, and hold it in the primary place.

I am not worthy: cold and bare
The lodging of my soul;
How canst Thou deign to enter there?
Lord, speak, and make me whole.

I am not worthy; yet, my God,
How can I say Thee nay,
Thee, who didst give Thy flesh and blood
My ransom-price to pay?

O come, in this sweet hallowed hour,
Feed me with food divine;
And fill with all Thy love and power
This worthless heart of mine.

H. W. Baker