The Lord’s Supper and the Competing Agendas of Luke 22Related Media
It has often been said, and I believe rightfully so, that Christianity is not simply a way of life, but a life to be lived, the life of the risen Christ Himself who dwells in the heart and life of every believer. Christianity is a supernatural way of life, but such supernatural life never happens naturally or automatically. It is always and only the product of intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus sometimes called “the abiding life.” It is in this intimacy of fellowship that the believer must learn to walk in conscious dependence on the principles and promises of God’s Holy Word as it reveals the person and life of Christ in all His sufficiency. Of course, the experience of His life never does away with our God-given personalities, but it does bring them under the control and influence of the Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit who desires to reproduce Christ’s character within us—transforming our lives into His.
Our Lord sought to impress this truth upon His followers and His disciples throughout His ministry and one such time was the last Passover when He also instituted the Lord’s Supper. In essence, the Lord’s Supper through its symbols that represent His person and work becomes a reminder that His life is to be the very source of our life.
It is highly significant that the discourse on the vine and branches occurred almost immediately after the institution of the Lord’s Supper and this time of fellowship with the Savior. By the symbolic acts and elements of the Supper, Jesus sought to establish a symbolic act of worship that would be a perpetual reminder that His life alone must be the very source of ours. He wanted to remind His disciples that without Him they could do nothing. When properly grasped, the Lord’s Supper, in symbolic fashion, teaches us the truth of John 15:1-7. The institution of the Supper and the discourses that followed in John 14-17 were designed to portray and teach the need of faith in God’s activity in the person of His Son who is the Bread of Life and the Lamb of God.
However, the importance and meaning of the Lord’s Supper as a time of worship and fellowship was highlighted or intensified by the events and many competing agendas that surrounded it. The events recorded for us both before and after the Lord instituted the Supper are important vehicles of instruction, challenge, and rebuke for these events revealed a series of agendas that were competing with the Lord’s agenda through the teachings of the Passover and the Lord’s Supper.
First, the events described in Luke 22 verses 1-7 and verse 31 remind us of the treacherous work and agenda of Satan to hinder the plan of God. Just in this passage alone, we see some of the typical actions of the Devil that reveal his agenda.
- Satan’s Agenda is to Dominate: As we see in the life of Judas, Satan works to dominate the lives of men to keep them from coming under the saving power, authority, and control of the life of the Lord Jesus.
- Satan’s Agenda is to Delude: As seen in the life of Judas, Satan works overtime to delude people into the pursuit of life by means of the substitutes of the world. The delusion is that they can find happiness and security in things like wealth, position, and power. Judas was seeking his security in material wealth.
- Satan’s Agenda is to Destroy: As seen in his control of the religious leaders who were seeking a means to put Christ to death, Satan’s agenda is to destroy the truth regarding the person of Christ.
- Satan’s Agenda is to Distract and Divide: This is evident later on in this chapter in the attitudes of the disciples who were arguing over who was the greatest. Clearly, Satan’s agenda is to distract and divide our allegiance and focus on the person of Christ.
- Satan’s Agenda is ALWAYS to Distort the plan of God: Christ’s plan or agenda, as so clearly seen in His own example, is that we might live as servants (Luke 22:24-27).
Second, these events, those before and after, also serve as a warning and a reminder of what mankind and the world system that lies under Satan’s control are really like. They warn us that the very nature of man and life in all of its hustle and bustle, its agitations and aspirations, its events and activities, all tend to distract, distort, and disorient us from the Lord Jesus as the means of our life. Even in the midst of acts of worship they illustrate how we can be completely distracted and drawn away from Christ into pettiness and preoccupation with mundane and secondary things like our desire to be first, or to live for the praise men.
Third, they serve to emphasize the absolute necessity of that which the Lord’s Supper stands for, namely, life by virtue of Christ’s marvelous person, liberating death, resurrection, and life. It reminds us of the sufficiency of Christ as the very source, force, and course of life. Indeed, as the Apostle Paul would later teach the church, we are in Him complete (Col. 2:10) and blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) but we are constantly faced with the threat to try and live apart from Him.
Fourth and finally, these events surrounding the institution of the Lord’s Supper warn us that when we come together for worship we can actually come together not for the better, but for the worse as Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 11:17, “But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse.” We can be outwardly full of religiosity, but inwardly full of carnality, acting in ways that are totally inconsistent with the truth of the Lord’s Supper and our new life in Christ Jesus (cf. Isa. 29:13).
In recording the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Luke purposefully included the fact of the betrayal and the events which led to it (22:1-6, 21). This is not without purpose. Paul likewise mentions the betrayal in his teaching on the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23.
So what can we learn from Luke 22:1-6 concerning our walk with Christ and how this relates to the Lord’s Supper, its significance, and our worship in general? In these six verses we will see a number of things that not only reveal Satan’s agenda, but how his influence can often affect our corporate and individual worship and walk with the Savior.
The Ever Present Agenda of the Enemy
Satan’s Investigation (22:2)
In verse one Luke calls our attention to the fact that a very important time of worship, the Passover, was approaching. This was a time that spoke of God’s saving grace in the Messiah. The Passover as with the Lord’s Supper was to be a time of reflection, a time to count on the promises and blessings of God along with the responsibilities that come to believers. Above all, as the Passover had pointed to the coming Messiah, so the Lord’s Supper would point men to Jesus as the Christ as the long expected Savior of the Old Testament Scripture.
But before moving on to the Passover meal, as if to remind us of the ever present work of the enemy to oppose the worship of Christ and our ability to trust in the resources of His life, Luke describes how the chief priests and scribes were seeking to put Christ to death and in such a way that this activity is clearly related to the work of Satan (vs. 2). “Were seeking” is an imperfect of continual action in the Greek text. It means they were constantly seeking some means and opportunity to hinder the ministry and work of Christ.
But just what does that mean to us? What can we learn from this brief account of this nefarious activity mentioned in the context of these two events, the Passover and the institution of the Lord’s Supper?
The scribes and chief priests represent the world and religion under Satan’s control and direction (cf. John 8:43-47). In this we see a clear illustration of Satan’s constant activity who, as a roaring lion, is on the prowl to seek and destroy, and pervert and counterfeit the work of God and His plan for men in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ. From this we can see a couple of principles.
Principle # 1: Satan is our ever present adversary who tempts, lies, suggests, perverts, distracts, blinds, deceives, schemes, and does everything he can to negatively influence or control the hearts of men and keep them from truly resting in and relating their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 22:31).
Principle # 2: Satan never sleeps. He is always seeking opportunities to carry out his schemes. He looks for a foothold or a beachhead to launch his attacks (2 Cor. 2:11: “in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes”). Satan is ever investigating us in order to entice us away from our Lord and he uses every conceivable bait available (2 Tim. 2:26).
Illustrations: For some people, Satan’s snares include money and the things people think money can buy like financial security and possessions. This was Judas’ downfall. For others his snares would include pleasure, fun and games, and the physical appetites of the body. Still for others it may be mental and emotional appetites, the desire for position, power, prestige, recognition, and the praise of men. This was one of the problems of the disciples which hindered their ability that evening to truly respond to what the Lord was teaching in the Passover meal and the Lord’s Supper (cf. vss. 24f with John 13:1-4). Or it may be a combination of the above (cf. 2 Cor. 2:11). So Satan, through his demonic forces, is watching and investigating us.
Of course, the objective of Satan’s investigation is infiltration.
Satan’s Infiltration (22:3-5)
In verse 3 we are told, “Satan entered into Judas.” Here we see how Satan infiltrates the lives of men to defeat, distract, control, and ruin. Note the following four points about infiltration or Satan’s activity to neutralize us.
(1) Satan can make inroads into anyone’s life. Whether believer or unbeliever you are the object of Satan’s schemes and strategies. Judas was an unbeliever, but being a believer does not exempt us from his attacks. Bible students disagree about the depths of his inroads, but to be sure, they can occur to the point of neutralizing our impact for Christ and Christ’s impact on us. We see this in the life of Peter on that very night and the Lord even called this to Peter’s attention later on that evening (cf. vs. 31).
(2) Satan’s infiltration is seldom sudden. It is usually gradual, digging deeper, inch by inch, to make his inroads into our lives. But nearly always his success is related to our lack of watchfulness, faith, and real commitment to Jesus Christ. Judas had failed to truly believe and commit himself to the Lord. Though he was with the Lord every day, seeing His works and hearing His words, still, he kept himself from the Lord because of avarice, his lust for money, and his unwillingness to rest in the Lord’s care and love. This was the beachhead by which Satan gained control of Judas—the deceitfulness of riches (1 Tim. 6:9f). But it can be the deceitfulness of any kind of sin (Heb. 3:13) which hardens the soul and keeps it from commitment to Christ and resting in the resources of His life (1 Pet. 2:11).
(3) Everyone of us has his or her own weaknesses—and Satan both investigates each of us to locate just where those weaknesses are, and then seeks ways to capitalize on those weaknesses to get a foothold or to establish a beachhead to distract us from the Savior and what His life means to us (again, cf. 2 Cor. 2:11).
What is Satan seeking to do? He wants:
to distract us from Christ as the source of life,
to get us to act independently of the Lord to satisfy our wants and even our legitimate needs,
to get us to come up with some kind of strategy by which we seek to maintain control while at the same time acting religious and thus deceiving ourselves,
and to deceive us into thinking that happiness comes in the fulfillment of our desires by our methods rather than through knowing, trusting, and serving the living Christ whereby we learn to live in total dependence upon Him.
(4) Infiltration (Satan’s deceptions and inroads into one’s life), if not arrested, will lead to spiritual disaster. In other words, in some way or another, we end up betraying our Lord by the way we live. No, we may not out and out deny Christ, but there are many ways we can begin to ignore His call and purpose.
Remember, before that night was over, even after these men had this wonderful time with our Lord with the Passover, the institution of the Supper, and the discourses of John 14, 15, 16, and 17, He was left all alone, all had forsaken Him.
This logically leads us to our next point.
Judas’ Deception (22:3b, 6a, 21)
Verse 3b calls our attention to the fact Judas “belonged to the number of the twelve.” He was sitting with the Savior with his hand on the table of fellowship. But Judas was living a lie. He appeared to be “one of the twelve,” one of the faithful followers of Christ, but this was a deception. He was acting religiously, but without real faith in Christ. He said the right things, went through the right motions, put on the right face, engaged in religious activity, and even acted concerned for the poor, but he was as phony as a lead nickel—he was living a masquerade, a sham.
Note verse 6a. Here we see Judas consenting to betray the Lord. “And he consented” is a tense (aorist tense) in the Greek which looks at an act as a simple event. But it often, as here, may also express the culmination of a series of events (culminative aorist). This was the culmination of the process of Satan’s infiltration. Inch by inch, bit by bit, Satan continued to gain more and more ground into the thinking and aspirations of Judas.
Man’s deception usually means a double deception: First, Judas’ was deceived by Satan via the deceitfulness of riches, and then he began to live a life of deception himself. It was Paul who reminded us that, “… evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (cf. 2 Tim. 3:13, NIV).
“Consented” is the Greek word, exomologeo, which means, “to agree with, to confess, acknowledge” or it may even mean, “to promise or praise.” It is used here of Judas’ agreement and promise to betray the Lord, but does not the choice of this particular word also, in a very striking way, point out a principle—a very important principle?
The Principle: When we fail to acknowledge and act on the worth of Christ as our Savior and Lord, indeed, as the source of our security and life, and when we fail to honestly acknowledge the sin in our lives, it will inevitably lead to this double deception: being deceived and deceiving—hypocritical behavior that will lead to defection and betrayal. And by sin we are talking about not just the obvious and overt kind of sin, but the root causes like a spirit of independence, or our man-made strategies by which we seek to control and solve our problems.
In other words, such failure to acknowledge and count on the worth of Christ inevitably leads to agreement with the activities and inroads of the Devil himself. There is simply no middle ground or position of neutrality.
And there is another principle here: We can get by with our deception for a while, but eventually the truth comes to the surface and we act according to those lusts or evil desires that are really controlling us. Eventually we act according to our selfish desires and we end up, if this is not arrested, in defection and in some way, we betray our Lord. The flesh simply cannot produce true godliness or faithfulness.
Judas’ Defection (22:4-6)
The natural outworking of this double deception and phony Christian living is some form of defection.
In verse 6 we read, “he began seeking a good opportunity to betray Him.” Judas was now totally under the control of Satan operating according to that which had come to fill his heart.
Let me state the principle this way. Spurious Christianity, that which is not truly authentic, will seek and find opportunities, consciously or unconsciously, to betray the Lord. And this can apply even to the true believer if he is not truly walking with the Lord and depending on Christ as the source of his Christian life.
Why? How can this be, especially for the true believer like Peter and the disciples? When any individual, no matter how overtly religious, is really operating from the resources of his own life, when he has not really taken his spiritual life seriously, when he is living on the fringes of commitment, when he is failing to honestly deal with his inner life and the root causes of sin like a spirit of independence, then, he will eventually act from the source of his own weakness and from the true nature of what fills his heart, from the fleshly desires and independent strategies that control and motivate him (see Matt. 12:34-35).
Why? Because the flesh cannot overcome Satan or self!
What are some of the more subtle ways we may defect or betray our Lord? Every time we seek our own good or desires or will or wants at the expense of our Lord and His character, His reputation, and His purposes or will, we are in one sense and to some degree defecting and betraying the Savior.
When Christ is not allowed to be the Lord of one’s life by commitment and by daily fellowship with Him, feeding and living by faith in what His life means to us, we will invariable act on our own behalf and against the desires and best interest of the Lord.
How then does all this relate to the Lord’s Supper? Scripture strongly stresses that the Lord’s Supper was instituted on the very night the Lord was betrayed. This is not without significance or purpose. Paul declares to us, “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 …” (1 Cor. 11:23).
The same emphasis is seen in the gospels. The betrayal is an important part of the events recorded in connection with the Lord’s Supper. In addition, Matthew, Mark, and Luke also stress the defection or squabble of the other disciples after the Supper and the arrest of the Lord as He Himself predicted (Matt. 26:31).
As believers meet around the Lord’s Table, they should think about these concepts in relation to their own personal lives, the concepts of investigation, infiltration, deception and defection. How real am I? In what ways could I be betraying Christ and the trusts He has committed to my charge?
First Corinthians 11:28 teaches us we are to examine ourselves, and then we are to partake of the bread and the cup. Why? So that as we partake, having confessed all known sin and having earnestly reflected and counted on the meaning of the bread and the cup, we might also count on Christ as our life, the hope of glory, and as our defense against the inroads of Satan.
(1) Know that Satan is investigating your life and mine. He is looking for chinks in our armor, places where he can get a foothold to deter us from resting and counting on the Savior as our life.
(2) Honestly examine yourself—your attitudes, sources of security and happiness, your values and priorities. Has he made any headway? Is there anything we are clinging to that is keeping us from full commitment to Christ? Let us also ask ourselves, do I really mean business with the Lord, or am I simply religious, caught up in the desires of my own flesh like the disciples. How do we stand toward materialism, prestige, pleasure, power, position, and praise from people? Am I looking to these things for my security and happiness rather than resting in my new life in Christ?
(3) We might ask ourselves questions such as:
- Am I seeking my security in a job, or in my bank account, or even in another human being?
- Am I seeking a sense of personal worth and value from a job, or from a position in the church, or from the praise I receive from others?
- Or, am I feeding on the Lord and what He is to me, and as a result, finding all of these things, security, value, strength, and approval from Him.
Friends, that’s what the Lord’s Supper is all about. Let’s be real with the Savior. Christ told the disciples that night that He intensely desired to eat the Passover with them. This was a declaration of His commitment to the Father’s plan and to our salvation.
The Lord’s Supper as a remembrance should be a reminder to each of us of a double sacrifice and a double commitment—His sacrifice for us and commitment to us, and ours to Him that we might become committed to each other and the needs of the world.
Position in the kingdom is based on losing ourselves in Christ and servant-like behavior. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of our responsibility to share our lives as servants.
Preparation for the Passover
and the Institution of the Lord’s Supper
The key events in this chapter are the celebration of the Passover and the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Since both were acts of worship and fellowship which visualized (1) God’s activity and provision for man in the person and work of Christ and (2) man’s need of faith and commitment to live through fellowship with God’s Son, we can learn some important lessons here that pertain to worship.
Verses 7-13 form part of the background and scenario to that special night with the Lord and drive home two key responsibilities, preparation and submission. The simple thrust of these verses is that for all genuine, bonafide, and meaningful worship, indeed, for true spiritual living, we need careful preparation that leads to resting in the Savior and out of that, to submission and obedience to the person of Christ.
The concept of preparation and its necessity for a truly worshipful observance of the Passover is found in at least six places in this passage.
First, it is found in the anticipation of verse 1. It was time for the celebration of the Pascal lamb. If it was to be celebrated and with meaning, obviously certain things had to be done. In fact, “it seems that since the days of the Dispersion, the Jews had added an extra day at the beginning of the eight days of this festival season and called it the Day of Preparation.”1 This, then, was the day of preparation.
Second, the idea of preparation is seen four more times in the repetition of the word “prepare” in verses 8, 9, 12, and 13.
Finally, the idea of preparation is seen a sixth time in the provision of the large, furnished, upper room, a special place to meet where the disciples could privately, like a family, observe the Passover with Jesus.
Note two things about this time of preparation:
(1) There was the Command of the Lord (vs. 8): The preparations were done at the Lord’s command. What was done here was a result of His directions and the obedience or submission of the disciples.
(2) There was the Provision of the Lord (vss. 10-12): There may be an element of the miraculous in this. Some think that previous arrangements had been made. The text does not say they had been made and the manner in which they were to find the furnished room seems a little at odds with a prearranged set up. At any rate, the point is the Lord provided that which was necessary for this time of fellowship and worship.
Application: Does this not remind us of how the Lord provides all that we need to both know and relate our lives to His glorious life? Our need is to respond in faith, and then, through dependence on His life, to be obedient and prepare for worship that we might appropriate what He has provided.
Let’s note some of the effort that was involved in preparation for the Passover.
(1) A site had to be selected. This was no small thing for thousands of pilgrims were in Jerusalem looking for a suitable place to celebrate the Passover. Point: the Lord will provide a place and a means to get to know Him and what His person, death, and life mean to us if we are available.
(2) The site had to be made ready. It had to be cleansed or purified.
(3) A lamb had to be selected, taken to the temple, examined, sacrificed, and roasted.
(4) The other food items had to be provided, the bitter herbs, the bread, the sauce, and the wine.
(5) And above all of this, there was the need of spiritual preparation. For effective and meaningful worship to occur, worship that is not merely lip service, there must be, by the very nature of worship, the proper preparation both physically and spiritually. The Lord and Scripture demand this. As the Lord told the woman at the well, “God is spirit, and those that worship Him, must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
Like the disciples, we tend to readily take care of the physical preparation, but oh, how we need care in the spiritual realm of preparing our hearts so we can truly relate our lives to the living God.
This the disciples failed to do. Satan had made inroads into their lives, and their hearts and minds were not in the least prepared for what they were doing. As the verses that follow show us, though they all appeared to have the same agenda, each of the disciples had agendas that were very different from Christ’s. Through the symbols of the Passover and the communion He would institute, His agenda was to teach them truth that would always remind them of the nature and value of His life to theirs. Because of this, later that evening, the Lord, taking the position of a slave which none of them were willing to do, addressed the need of preparation both directly and symbolically in His actions and instruction in John 13.
While the Lord selflessly anticipated the blessings to come through His sacrifice (cf. 22:15), the disciples were selfishly striving for positions of honor at the table and in the kingdom (22:24f). Rather than resting in their significance through their relationship and union in Him, they were vying for position.
On the basis of this emphasis in these verses, I would like to suggest some concepts of preparation that I believe are essential for the proper worship of God, for worship that has an electric impact on our lives.
You can’t lay hold of a million volts of electricity without a corresponding effect. Likewise, we can’t worship the living God in Spirit and in truth without a corresponding effect. The issue is, are we doing that? Worship in spirit and truth demands biblical preparation!
Essentials Aspects of Preparation
At Home: a good night’s rest, setting out clothes for the kids the night before, arising early enough to get to church without being in a rush and without being half mad at each other or the kids, etc.
At Church: A lot of work goes in to preparation for an effective worship service, the cleaning of the building, preparing and setting up of visual aids, the preparation of a bulletin and the elements when the Lord’s Supper is observed, and on the list goes. This is all needful, helpful, and makes our worship time more enjoyable and meaningful. But this is not the crucial part.
(1) Modulation and Mobilization:
Modulation: This is the process of changing from one tone to another; to modulate means to tune, to adjust to another key. It’s equivalent to getting in tune, adjusting to pitch with God.
Mobilization: This means putting into movement, making ready; to mobilize means to release resources for use, to mobilize for action.
The Means: Restoration—modulation and mobilization requires restoration to fellowship: seeking to maintain a conscience void of offense according to the standards of God’s Word, His Truth (2 Cor 11:27-30; 1 John 1:9; John 13:8f).
So what exactly does this mean? It means humble and contrite openness before God as is seen in the response of Isaiah when he saw the Lord high and lifted up. If that is not there, then we haven’t really seen the Lord. I am reminded of the statement of Augustine. Erwin Lutzer writes, “Augustine spoke of those who have tried unsuccessfully to find God. ‘They were probably inflated by their pride of learning and so were misled into seeking Him by throwing out their chests rather than beating upon their breasts.’”2
Modulation and mobilization demands that I refocus; it calls to mind the principle of refocusing our hearts on God. To worship means to expose the life to the who and what of God. “To worship,” William Temple said, “is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
Very Important Principle: The form of our worship is not nearly so important as the spiritual condition of the heart. The disciples followed the directions the Lord gave for setting up the room for the right form of worship, but their hearts were not in tune with Christ.
By harmonization I mean getting in harmony not only with God, but with other members of the body of Christ. We are a body, a spiritual organism. Each is a separate member with his or her own part to play, but we must be in harmony with one another or we will look and sound horrible. We will be a strident, discordant noise that will turn people away from God and God from us.
Now what does harmonization involve?
First, harmonization involves the principle and responsibility we all have to be like-minded, to have the mind of Christ, to think with the Word, to bring every thought into obedience and captivity of Christ, to have biblical values, goals, priorities, and attitudes toward others: being understanding, loving, patient, forgiving (Phil. 1:27; 2:1-5).
Here is where Modulation forms the foundation for Harmonization. David said, “Unite my heart to fear Thy name” (Psalm 86:11). What does he mean by “unite my heart to fear Thy name”? It means to have a heart that is one with the will and purposes of God. It means “Lord, may it no longer be divided among a multiplicity of objects so it is drawn here and there by a multitude of different aims and aspirations that distract our heart and our attention from God.” To worship as a congregation we must come to God single-mindedly in full commitment to the purposes of God.
Second, harmonization involves the responsibility for reconciliation and restitution with other members of the body of Christ with whom we may be out of harmony (1 Cor 11:17-18; Luke 22:24; Matt. 5:23-24; 1 Pet 3:7).
In his book, The Ultimate Priority, John Mac Arthur wrote: “… if our corporate worship isn’t the expression of our individual worshipping lives, it is unacceptable. If you think you can live any way you want and then go to church on Sunday morning and turn on worship with the saints, you’re wrong.”
By contemplation I mean reflective meditation and research or revue in preparation for the services. This is important for teachers, singers, musicians, music directors, those who read the Scriptures and pray. Every aspect of the service should be thoughtfully researched and thought out. This means we need to do away with the last minute or Saturday night scramble. This is also important for the audience because it is important that they be very much involved in what is going on. How can the audience prepare? By meditation before hand, by reading a Psalm of worship or praise, by reading the passage to be studied as announced in the bulletin or the previous week or by reviewing last week’s lesson when the one doing the teaching is teaching in a series.
This pertains to all of us as we participate in worship in all aspects of the service. We must gather for worship so that through prayer and reliance on the Spirit of God, we come anticipating fellowship with the living God. This means seeing God in truth, beholding wondrous things from His Word (Ps. 119:12-18).
As Christians who have access to God through Jesus Christ, we should long to draw closer to God in truth. Lutzer writes, “If we are quenching our thirst at forbidden fountains, we have no reason to expect God to be satisfying. If we are not nourished by the bread from heaven, we will satiate ourselves with crumbs from the world. Once we have become addicted to the world’s nourishment, our appetite for God is spoiled.”3
“We must worship in truth. Worship is not just an emotional exercise, but a response of the heart built on truth about God. ‘The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth’ (Psalm 145:18). Worship not based on God’s truth is but an emotional encounter with oneself.” To speak of worship without obedience to truth and surrender of one’s life, values, etc., is like asking a man to walk naturally with one leg.
(5) Familiarization or Rehearsal:
By this I am speaking about the pursuit of excellence, not to please men, or to receive praise and applause, the approbation of men, but to bring glory to God and to be an instrument for the blessing of men. As I am writing this, my wife and I are visiting friends who have a lovely beach house on Whidbey Island overlooking the water. Whidbey is one of the Islands on the Puget Sound across from Seattle. The scenery is beautiful and in front of me is a large, clean picture window that gives a clear view of the water and more of the island across the harbor. If the window was either stained glass (calling attention to itself) or coated with grime and dirt, it would hinder or certainly mar the view, but as it is it allows a full and unhindered view of the beauty of God’s creation. Proper preparation for worship is needed by all if the worship service is to honor the Lord and reflect His glory, but it is particularly important for those who have a part in leading the service not so they can be a stained glass window that calls attention to itself, but that they may clearly point people to the Lord Jesus.
We need to work and practice on what we are doing in the worship service or in a Sunday School class or whatever. Musicians should know their music, song leaders should know their hymns, teachers should know their material, ushers should be versed in their responsibilities, and preachers, of course should know their subject and be ready to proclaim the message God has given them from His Holy Word.
Indeed, the absence of proper preparation can often hinder and detract from our worship. On the other hand, one can rehearse until the cows come home, but if the heart is not right with the Lord, it will be just cold religious externalism (Isa. 29:13).
(6) Submission or Obedience:
This simply means that we should all be obedient and submissive to the biblical principles laid out for us in the Word that pertain to our worship or our times when we meet together. The disciples, Peter and John, followed the Lord’s directives as to the physical arrangements, but they all had much to learn in the realm of spiritual preparation without which there is no worship in spirit and truth.
No matter how eloquent the physical presentation or the setting, without the proper preparation, both physical and the spiritual preparation of the heart, worship loses its power and potential for God’s glory and our edification. We assemble, as Paul warns us, “not for the better, but for the worse” (1 Cor. 11:17).
The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
The setting for the institution of the Lord’s Supper was the feast of Passover. This had reminded Israel of God’s mighty redemption of His people from Egypt, but it had also been a redemptive type of the coming Savior.
Now the Savior had not only come, but it was time for Him to go to the cross where He would die as the Lamb of God. So during this meal of what actually became the last Passover, the Lord turned to the future and His imminent death and instituted the Lord’s Supper. In connection with this He said, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Why? Well, think about why the Lord had come and about that which characterized His life—LOVE. He earnestly desired to eat that last Passover not only because of what it meant as a foreshadow of His person and work, but because on this night He would also institute what we have come to call communion or the Lord’s Supper which would come to have great meaning to all believers if properly understood and practiced.
What then does the Lord’s Supper mean to us? In this part of this study we will cover two biblical descriptions of this ordinance.
Descriptions of the Lord’s Supper
A Remembrance (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25)
That evening, after the breaking and sharing of the bread, and again in connection with sharing the cup, Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” This act of worship is to be done in remembrance of Christ, but why? Because in His absence, Christ desires all believers to continually remember Him in the fullness of the benefits of His death and life because He and He alone is to be the source of our spiritual lives. It is His desire that we regularly partake of these elements as they speak of His offer of His life, of sharing in the fruits of His sacrifice for us, and in the reality of His spiritual presence and life in our midst as the dynamic of the Christian life.
The Lord’s Supper is not just a religious exercise, and certainly not a religious work by which we keep ourselves in God’s grace, a totally contradictory idea. Nor is it to be a religious experience through which we obtain a rosy glow and have a religious encounter with ourselves. Rather it is to be a time in which we remember Him so that we personally relate to the Savior with the goal of living in greater dependence on Him for every aspect of life.
A. W. Tozer has written something which is certainly applicable here:
Many of us Christians have become extremely skillful in arranging our lives so as to admit the truth of Christianity without being embarrassed by its implications. We arrange things so that we can get on well enough without divine aid, while at the same time ostensibly seeking it. We boast in the Lord but watch carefully that we never get caught depending on Him. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
Pseudo faith always arranges a way out to serve in case God fails it. Real faith knows only one way and gladly allows itself to be stripped of any second way or makeshift substitutes. For true faith, it is either God or total collapse … 4
In other words, we want to be religious, but we want to maintain control so we never get into the predicament of having to trust the living Christ as the only source of our daily experience.
Then just what does doing this in remembrance of Him entail? It is not simply a recalling of a past event, but a dynamic and personal recalling of and reflection on certain spiritual truths, past, present and future, so that those truths become a present and vivid reality in which one may share and from which one may draw strength.
No longer were His disciples to look back to redemptive shadows and types, or depend on themselves as the source of their spiritual lives.
(1) From now on they were to remember Him as the perfect and final sacrifice for sin.
(2) From now on they were to remember Him as the means of their life both for the present and the future. But why is that?
(3) Because from now on they were to remember Him as the greatest manifestation in history of the power and kingdom of God, greater than even creation itself. Jesus Christ becomes the new standard for the power of God in human history both for the present and for the future.
(4) The reason is because in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone does man find God’s solution to sin and death, to an abundant life, a life that pleases God, and to life eternal.
Life is to be found not in religion, nor science, nor psychology, nor humanism, nor materialism, nor the great American dream, and certainly not in the eastern mystery religions of the new age or of any other age.
Application: So whenever we partake of the Lord’s Supper, let us partake together in a very reflective way that we may truly recall who Jesus Christ is, what He has done, will do, and how essential it is that we live in dependence on Him.
A Fellowship (see also 1 Cor. 10:15-17)
The Lord’s Supper is a sharing or partaking, or to use the Greek words of the New Testament, a koinonia and a metochos. It is an act of worship in which we, in a very real way, can share, have fellowship with our Lord and with one another as we share and think together on the person and work of Christ, past, present, and future as portrayed in (1) the meaning of the elements and (2) the acts or worship connected with them.
1 Cor. 10:15-17 I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. 16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing (koinonia) in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing (koinonia) in the body of Christ?
Luke 22:14—At the appointed time, the Apostles gathered together and met with the Lord for this celebration of worship and fellowship. Please note the order. “He reclined,” He took the lead, “and the apostles with Him,” that is, they followed His lead and reclined together around the table to share in the events of the evening. As it was then, so it should be now. The Lord Jesus is just as much with us, though unseen, as He was present with them. He said, “where two or three are gathered together in My Name there am I in the midst of them.”
In John’s vision of the glorified Savior in Revelation 1:13, the Lord is portrayed as standing in the middle of the seven golden lampstands which were the seven churches of Asia Minor and which many believe are also representative of the church throughout history. In Revelation 2:1 we read that the Lord Jesus is the one who “walks among the seven golden lampstands.” Here is a beautiful picture of the continuing ministry of the Savior in the midst of His church.
(1) His position in the center of the seven lampstands highlights the centrality of Jesus Christ to the life and worship of the church.
(2) His action of walking in the midst of the lampstands highlights His activity in our midst to minister, observe, direct, protect, supply, and even discipline His church as is needed.
The Lord, as the living and glorified Savior, though physically unseen, is nevertheless very much in our midst to lead us in our fellowship and worship of Him. How we need to be ever mindful of His presence and ministry.
The Lord, though physically unseen, is in our presence to minister to our needs through His Spirit, His Word, and through the truths of the Lord’s Supper. And by faith, we are responsible to respond to His ministry and presence.
Application: The irony of all this is that though the disciples were with the Lord physically, they were not with it spiritually, they were not sharing with Him and relating to what He was doing because they were occupied with their position in the kingdom, rather than with the Lord Jesus and who He was, what He meant to them, and was attempting to teach them.
Though reclining at the table was the custom of the day, it clearly portrayed the concept of fellowship, rest, and spiritual sustenance that our worship and fellowship with Jesus Christ in the Word and around the Lord’s table should bring into our lives. Reclining at the table pictures (1) feeding and drawing sustenance and strength from the Lord and (2) having fellowship with one another as we share together in the things of Christ.
Our time around the Lord’s table should never be just a religious experience, or a ritual, or a ho-hum habit, but a very significant time where believers together earnestly reflect on His person, work, and life.
Nature and Meaning of the Lord’s Supper
It is a visualized act of worship which symbolically visualizes spiritual truth for our edification using two symbolic elements: the bread and the cup, and four symbolic actions: (1) breaking the bread and sharing it, (2) eating the bread, (3) pouring and passing the cup, and (4) drinking the fruit of the vine from the cup.
The Meaning of the Elements and Symbolic Acts
(1) The Bread: The bread symbolically speaks of the body or the person of Christ as the God-man Savior, the one who was and is the bread of life come down from heaven as God’s solution to man’s sinful state (Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24). The bread remains bread, but it symbolizes the concept of the incarnation. God the Son in the person of Jesus Christ took upon Himself true and sinless humanity that He might die for us, and now lives on in His glorified state to be our life and to be in our midst as the head of the body of Christ, His church (John 6:32-33, 38, 48-58).
(2) The Cup: The cup was filled with the fruit of the vine which was red like blood. This, as Christ taught, is symbolic of the blood of the covenant which was shed on behalf of many.
The cup with its blood red wine calls to mind the cross and the death Christ died as our sinless substitute. It proclaims the Lord’s death as accomplished, but it is not a reenactment of His death; it simply reminds us salvation has been accomplished and our sins put away as far as the east is from the west. It portrays His life given in death as God’s Lamb.
It also stands for the new covenant, the concept that the Old Testament or old covenant in types and shadows has been fulfilled and put away, and that we have God’s guarantee of the forgiveness of our sins based on the finished work and death of Christ (Heb. 10:14-18).
The Four Symbolic Acts:
(1) The breaking of the bread: Portrays God’s provision and offer of life. According to the custom of ancient times, bread was broken, not cut, and it was broken to share with others. It was a preliminary to eating, partaking, and sharing in the meal. Scripturally, the same emphasis is seen. In fact, the Lord’s Supper is called “the breaking of bread” because it was a time of communion, of fellowship with the Lord and with others (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11; 1 Cor. 10:16b).
Sometimes we have viewed the breaking of the bread as symbolic of the death of Christ. Some later MSS of 1 Corinthians 11:24 read, “this is my body which is broken for you.” So we have often taught and heard that the breaking of the bread is symbolic of the death of Christ. But the earlier and what many believe are the more reliable Greek MSS do not have this reading. Is this the emphasis of the breaking of the bread?
The emphasis on the breaking of the bread as symbolic of Christ’s death is probably wrong, or at least it is not primary. In fact, this focus could actually cause us to miss what our Lord intended for us to see according the cultural significance of breaking bread and passing of the cup.
His death is certainly portrayed in the bread and the cup which together portray a sinless life given in death as our substitute for sin’s penalty. But the breaking of the bread stands for the concept of sharing and partaking of the Lord in fellowship. It speaks of His offer of His life to us and of our need to share Him with others (see Luke 22:17; 24:30-31). Paul focuses our attention on this very thing in 1 Corinthians 10:16b which reads, “is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?”
(2) Eating the bread that is given and shared: Portrays our human responsibility and response. This part of the celebration portrays faith in the person and presence of Jesus Christ. It indicates our faith in the life He offers us, both spiritual life (abundant life), and eternal life.
It further should remind us of our need to feed, or live daily by virtue of who Christ is, and what He did for us, and is to us. It should indicate our desire to continue to have fellowship with Him and to enjoy His presence and His ministry in our lives through the Word and through prayer.
(3) Pouring of the cup that is given and shared: Portrays God’s divine provision and offer. This portrays Christ’s offer of the fruits of His death for us as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Robert Saucy writes, “The elements signify something which is done toward man. For this reason, the actions of breaking the bread and pouring the wine do not represent the dying of Christ, but are only involved in the giving of the fruit of His death to the disciples.”5
These actions of breaking and pouring represent the offering of Himself to us as the Victorious Savior and are an expression of His desire for fellowship with us through that which He accomplished and is to us. The breaking and pouring stand for the offer and provision of salvation, the assurance of forgiveness, the assurance of His divine presence to be our life, and of His desire for us to live by His life (cf. Luke 22:15). It portrays offering, sharing, and partaking in the fruits of Christ’s death.
(4) Drinking of the cup: Portrays human responsibility and response. As with eating the bread, drinking of the cup portrays our faith in the Lord and our desire to continue to live by virtue of the finished work of Christ as the means of our deliverance from sin’s penalty and power.
Meaning of the Lord’s Supper in Its Time Element
In Relation to the Past
The Supper is first and foremost a remembrance of Christ’s death as that climatic event which brought about the promise of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to God. It deals with the past and with the fact of the removal of the penalty of sin. This is why Paul said “for as often as you eat the bread and drink the cup, you proclaim His death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).
The separate bread and wine signify his body and blood, and together speak of His sacrificial death as the Lamb of God. It took a perfect and sinless person, the Lord Jesus, dying for us to pay for our sins. But there is more, and this is so important!
In Relation to the Present
The Supper is a reminder of our present fellowship with Christ and of His presence with us.
It is not the recalling of a figure of history who has long passed away, but the proclamation of the death of the risen Lord who is present in the church. He who invited the disciples to share the last Supper continues to be the real Host at each communion service.6
As such He continues to be the very source of our spiritual life, without whom we cannot live the Christian life. Our Lord is present spiritually, and eating and drinking of the elements which speak of His Person and work, not only signifies faith in Him and trust in His death, but also the necessity to partake in the riches of His life in continued fellowship with Him in the Word and in prayer. As 1 Corinthians 10:16 states, the Supper is a sharing in the Person and work of Christ.
The outward action of eating and drinking, then, are to be an expression of an inner communion and an inward faith of one who is counting on the worth of the Savior as the source of his or her own spiritual life. It is a reminder of our need and His ever present availability to be the source of our daily life.
The real presence of Christ in the Supper is thus no different than His real presence in the Word. In the one He encounters His people in visible elements and in the other (the Word) in the words of Scripture.7
In Relation to the Future
With the words of verse 16, our attention is directed to the future and our eventual reunion with the Lord through the rapture (the catching up of the body of Christ to be with Christ, 1 Thess. 4:13-18) and our time with Him in the joys and blessings of the millennial kingdom.
The Lord’s Supper not only looks back to the first advent of Christ and the cross, but it looks forward with joy and expectation to the future and our partnership with Him in the future kingdom when all our enemies (sin, Satan, the world system, and death) will be put under His feet and He will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. As believers in Christ, we will be there with Him in that glorious place, and if we have lived by virtue of His life through faith, we will know the joys of rewards, reigning with Him in His glory.
So sharing together in the Lord’s Supper not only looks to the past and reminds us of the accomplishments of the Savior’s death, but it should also be an anticipation of the future and should remind us of the need to live as sojourners, as those who live for eternal treasures rather than for the passing pleasures of this life (see Heb. 11:25; 1 Pet. 1:17-19; 2:11).
With this anticipation of the glory of the future for those who have put their faith in Christ, there is the immediate reference (vss. 21-23) to the judgment that would fall on Judas. The betrayal of the Savior by Judas, as one who had rejected His saving life, is brought to the forefront. While a glorious future awaits those who put their trust in the Savior, only divine judgment, eternal separation from God, awaits those who reject Jesus Christ and put their trust in other things like materialism or the religions of the world.
While this is not the prominent focus, the reference to the woe awaiting Judas teaches us the Lord’s Supper is also a testimony or a declaration of the doom that awaits those who, like Judas, have failed to put their trust in the person and work of Christ. Remember, Judas’ betrayal was but the product of his rejection of Christ as his personal Savior.
If you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior through faith in (1) His person as God’s Son, the God-Man Savior, and (2) in His work on the cross where He died for your sin, may we encourage you to acknowledge your sinfulness, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and believe, trust, in Jesus Christ alone as your personal Savior.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
John 1:11 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.