This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
Tonight I’m going to speak to you about the table of the Lord. I’m going to present some simple, basic truths from the Bible about the table of the Lord.
There are various different names used amongst Christians: the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, the Communion, the Table of the Lord. I think they’re all beautiful names, I wouldn’t want to give up any of them. And no matter which one I may happen to use I want you to understand that if in your tradition you use a different name, we’re still speaking about the same thing.
I want to begin by reading from Genesis 14, beginning at verse 17 and reading through verse 24. This describes an encounter between Abram, whose name had not yet been changed to Abraham, and one of the most exciting and mysterious characters of the Old Testament, Melchizedek. Let me say right now that the name Melchizedek, or Melchizedek, means King of Righteousness. We’re also told that he was King of Salem, which is the original name of Jerusalem. The first part was added later and the word Salem is directly associated with the Hebrew word shalom. How many of you know what shalom means? Peace. So this man by his name was King of Righteousness, by his location he was King of Peace. There’s a good deal said about him in the epistle to the Hebrews and he still remains at the end of it all a somewhat mysterious figure. Some believe that this was a Christophany; that is, a pre-incarnation manifestation of Jesus. Others believe differently. Somebody said once, “Some of my friends are for it and some are against it, and I’m for my friends.” In other words, I’m not quite sure who’s right.
This passage in verse 18 contains the first use of the word priest in the Bible. The word priest, the concept of priesthood, is one of the great themes that run through the whole scripture. And as a general principle, the first time a concept is introduced in the Bible it’s presented in a way which makes it the seed of all subsequent truth that will come out of that concept. I believe this is particularly true of the first use here of the word priest. You might ask why are you introducing a communion service with this passage? I want to point out to you in case you miss it, in this encounter between Melchizedek and Abram, Melchizedek presented to Abram the very same emblems that our communion service will center around, the bread and the wine.
Now I’m going to read, beginning at verse 17:
Then after Abram’s return from the defeat at Kador Eloma and the kings who were with him, the King of Sodom went out to meet him [that’s Abraham] at the Valley of Sharve, that is, the King’s Valley. Melchizedek, King of Salem, brought out bread and wine. He was a priest of God Most High.
I want you to notice that at this crucial moment of success, Abraham was met by two kings, the King of Salem, Melchizedek, and the King of Sodom. Two cities with very different associations and very different destinies. In some sense, we find that Abraham was confronted with a choice. In a certain sense, he had to choose between these two kings.
Going on from verse 18:
Melchizedek, King of Salem, brought out bread and wine. He was a priest of God Most High. He [Melchizedek] blessed him [Abraham] and said, ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be God Most High who has delivered your enemies into your hands.’ He [Abram] gave him [Melchizedek] a tenth [or a tithe] of all. And the King of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.’
In other words, the King of Sodom was saying, “You’ve rescued me and all my people and all my possessions. Obviously you want something for it. I’ll be content if you just let me keep my people and I’ll give you all the spoil that you’ve taken.”
And Abram said to the King of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong, or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten. And the share of the men who went with me, Anar, Eshkol and Mamre, let them take their share.”
So Abram, in a very firm way, said to the King of Sodom, “I don’t want anything from you at all.” So he took what Melchizedek offered and refused what the King of Sodom offered. This is a principle that I’m going to develop later.
Now, I am not going to turn to the seventh chapter of Hebrews tonight because this is really not a Bible study but if you’re interested, you can turn there for yourself at leisure and you’ll find that the greater part of the seventh chapter of Hebrews expounds the nature of Melchizedek’s priesthood and affirms that Jesus is a priest not after the order of Levi but after the order of Melchizedek. It draws a number of distinctions, points out a number of differences between the priesthood of Melchizedek and the priesthood of Levi. What I want to point out to you tonight is that the priesthood of Melchizedek was the initial priesthood, the archetype of all priesthoods. It was a superior priesthood. The priesthood of Levi was introduced later under the law of Moses, was an inferior priesthood.
Interestingly enough, if you study the regulations of the Levitical priesthood, you’ll find that the Levitical priests never had anything to offer to God’s people which God’s people had not first offered to them. But Melchizedek offered to Abram that which Abram had never offered to Melchizedek.
We find that there’s a contrast in this sense that the Levitical priests only continued for the human lifetime and there were many of them because they had to go on and on offering the same sacrifices which never finally dealt with the issue of sin. But then speaking about Jesus as the high priest after the order of Melchizedek, the writer of Hebrews says this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sin forever, sat down at the right hand of the Most High. The Levitical priest always stood, they never sat. Jesus as a priest after the order of Melchizedek, after He had offered the sacrifice of Himself on the cross, sat down. You see the contrast. They stood, He sat. What is the meaning? They stood because their task was never complete, they had never offered the last sacrifice. He sat because He offered one sacrifice for sin forever, He was never going to have to offer it again. So His is an eternal priesthood, theirs was a temporary priesthood. They offered many sacrifices for sin which never finally dealt with the sin issue. He offered one sacrifice for sin which dealt with sin forever and never had to be repeated. They stood, He sat. And He offered that which they had never offered to Him.
Now, having said that let’s go on to Matthew 26 to the description of the Lord’s Supper. I hope in the light of what I’ve said that something will immediately become obvious to you. Matthew 26, reading verses 26–29. This describes the scene at the last supper in which Jesus instituted the Eucharist, the Communion, the Lord’s Supper, whatever you wish to call it.
And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread and after a blessing [or having blessed it, or having given thanks] He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat, this is my body.” And He took a cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant which it to be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
What was the meaning of Jesus taking the bread and then the wine and offering them to His disciples? What was He saying to them. He was saying, “In me you see the priesthood of Melchizedek reappearing.” It has been in abeyance during the period when the Law was the covenant. Now in the New Covenant the priesthood of Melchizedek is being restored.
Interestingly enough, as I’ve pointed out, Melchizedek was both king and priest. But, under the Law of Moses kingship and priesthood were separated and they could not be united because the priests had to come from the tribe of Levi, the king was appointed to come from the tribe of Judah. A king could never be a priest and a priest could never be a king. That’s another indication of the inferiority of the Levitical priesthood. But when Jesus stood up at the Last Supper and brought forth the bread and the wine, He was saying by that act, “Here is the priesthood of Melchizedek which has been, as it were, in abeyance during the period of the Law of Moses, reinstated in me. I am a priest not after the order of Levi but after the order of Melchizedek.” And through that act He instituted the New Covenant in His blood. He said, “This is my blood of the covenant which is to be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”
So that’s the background from scripture of the Lord’s Supper. It’s a reinstitution of the priesthood of Melchizedek, the highest priesthood, the original priesthood and the emblems that He offered to His disciples were the same that Melchizedek had offered to Abram.
Now, let’s see in brief what the New Testament teaches about the participation in this communion. I want to point out to you seven aspects of this communion; three that speak of our relationship to Christ, three that speak of our relationship to Christ’s body and one that speaks of our relationship to the world. But before I do that I want to read two passages from 1Corinthians, which will be the basis of what I’m going to say. 1Corinthians 10 and then chapter 11. 1Corinthians 10, beginning at verse 14. Bear in mind that the issue that Paul is here discussing is whether the Christians at Corinth could permit themselves to eat food sold in the shambles which had initially been offered in sacrifice to pagan idols. This is the issue. And in connection with this issue Paul brings out some lessons about the Lord’s Supper. 1Corinthians 10, beginning at verse 14:
Therefore my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men. You judge what I say. Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?
The word that’s translated sharing is the Greek word koinoniawhich is normally translated fellowship. In the King James it’s translated communion. It means having something together in common. So when we partake of the bread and the cup, we are affirming that we have this together in common with all other believers.
Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of that one bread.
There’s another aspect, we all partake, we all have a personal share in, we have a share in, we also share with.
Look at the nation Israel. Are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?
Paul is saying the people who fed upon the sacrifices of the Israelites under the Old Covenant were the same priests who’d offered the sacrifices on the altar. So there’s a direct connection with eating of the sacrifice and the altar on which it was sacrificed.
What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything or that an idol is anything? No. But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrificed they sacrificed to demons and not to God.
In other words, it was a form of demon worship. They were demon idols.
I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.
See, in a certain sense that’s the same issue that confronted Abram. When Melchizedek met him he had to choose between Melchizedek and the King of Sodom. But his conscience told him he couldn’t partake from both.
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons. Or, do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?
All right, that’s the first passage. The second is in the next chapter, 1Corinthians 11:23 and following:
For I received from the Lord that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread. And when He had given thanks He broke it and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
The word that’s translated guilty I would prefer to translated responsible for or answerable for. Once we have partaken of this communion service we have made it very clear that we know the teaching of the New Testament that Jesus on the cross died for our sins, shed His blood for our redemption. We are answerable from that moment onwards for what we know.
But let a man examine himself and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.
The King James uses the word discern, the New International Version used the word recognize. I prefer both of those to the word judge. I want to read it again.
For he who eats and drinks eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not discern [or does not recognize] the body rightly.
The same root word is used in the gift of discerning of spirits. As I understand it in its New Testament use, it means to see below the surface and see the inner spiritual reality. Perhaps discern remains the best word.
I’m going to read it again because it’s an important verse.
He who eats and drinks eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not discern the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.
That means a number have died prematurely. You realize that it is possible to die before your time. I think this shows us the seriousness, the sanctity and the solemnity of the Lord’s Table. That if we partake wrongly it can be a cause of sickness and even of premature death.
By background I’m an Anglican and in a certain sense some of the teaching of the Anglican church would almost make salvation hinge on the communion. But that’s not the complete truth. It depends on how you partake of the communion. So far from being the means of salvation it can be the very opposite. It can be the means of judgment. So, we must be careful that we do not base our concept of our relationship with God merely on partaking of the communion. It depends whether we partake of it rightly or wrongly. It’s a very serious issue.
But if we judged ourselves rightly we should not be judged. But when we are judged we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world.
See, the Lord’s doing everything He can for us in this situation. First of all, He says, “If you will judge yourself and so partake in a worthy manner, I won’t have to discipline you. If you fail to judge yourself then I’ll have to discipline you. But even if I discipline you, that’s better than being judged with the world.” That’s the ultimate disaster that we need to avoid.
All right. Having read those passages let me now try to bring out briefly what I see as seven main aspects of the communion. I’m going to take them in this order: in relation to Christ, in relation to Christ’s body and in relation to the world.
In relation to Christ I see that for us partaking of the communion has three aspects. First, proclamation; second, remembrance; and third, anticipation.
Let’s look at the first aspect, proclamation. 1Corinthians 11:26:
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
So in partaking of the communion we are proclaiming the death of the Lord. We’re proclaiming it not merely to our fellow believers—in fact, I think that’s not the most important aspect. We’re proclaiming it to the world and I think even more important we’re proclaiming it to the whole unseen world. We’re proclaiming to angels, both good and evil; to spirits, good and evil. We’re proclaiming to the whole universe the death of Jesus Christ. It’s an act of proclamation. You may not be a preacher by ministry or calling but when you partake of these emblems you’re making a proclamation of tremendous significance. You’re proclaiming to the whole universe that Jesus Christ the Son of God died and shed His blood on your behalf to redeem you. You’re proclaiming your faith in Him as Savior. You’re proclaiming your faith in His atoning death on your behalf. It’s primarily an act of proclamation.
As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death.
That’s then first aspect, proclamation.
The second aspect is remembrance. We look back to His death. Jesus Himself said, and this is found in 1Corinthians 11:25:
This cup is the new covenant of my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.
There are things in the Christian life which are called sacraments or ordinances, depending on what your particular denominational background is. In essence, a sacrament or an ordinance is a presentation of the most important truths of the gospel, so important that God has in His sovereign wisdom arranged that we do not merely present them in words but we present them in symbolical acts.
For five years of my life I was a trainer of teachers for schools in East Africa. One of the things that we used to inculcate in our trainee teachers was this principle. You can change the percentages but basically we said children remember forty percent of what they hear, sixty percent of what they hear and see, eighty percent of what they hear, see and do. In other words, if you want to make the maximum impact on the child’s mind, don’t let the child merely hear it, let the child hear it and see it and do it. Let the child translate what it learns into an action that the child itself performs.
As I understand sacraments or ordinances, the same principle is there. The great basic truths of the New Testament are so important that God has ordained that we not merely hear them, we not merely hear and see them but we hear them, see them and do them. The first of these, as I understand, is baptism. The initiatory sacrament or ordinance by which we become publicly identified with Christ and His body. It’s an act. And no matter what way it may be carried out, whether by sprinkling or by immersion, the basic teaching of all main churches is the same, it’s a public act of identification with the Lord Jesus Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. As I understand it, without that act of identification a believer has no right to claim a place in the body of Christ. There is no instance in the New Testament of anybody who claims salvation without being baptized. You cannot find one. Jesus said, “Whosoever believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” This is of such importance, our identification with Jesus in death, burial and resurrection, that God ordained that every time a person is admitted to the body of Christ he shall perform this in action. And not merely that, but all the others who see him perform it are reminded of it themselves.
Another ordinance which I understand, or a sacrament, is the anointing of the sick with oil. This truth is so important that God doesn’t let us merely hear it or hear it and see it, but He enables us to act it out. What is the significance of anointing the sick with oil? The oil, as always, throughout the scripture typifies the Holy Spirit. So when we anoint the sick with oil we are declaring to the whole universe that we believe the Holy Spirit will do what the scripture says He will do, He will quicken, He will give life, He will restore health to the body of the sick believer.
The third sacrament or ordinance is the ordinance of the Communion, the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper. Here we are showing forth that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died and shed His blood on the cross for us. And every time we do it we do it in remembrance of Him. God never wants us to forget the fact that Jesus died for us as sinners.
I’m convinced a lot of Christians go through much spiritual trouble because their minds are not focused on the death of Jesus. They say, “I wonder if God loves me. Has God forgotten me?” You couldn’t talk like that if you remembered the cross. The cross is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for each of us. Romans 8:32:
He that spared not his own son but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?
This is the guarantee that the total inheritance is ours. God says, “It’s so important, especially in the hours of darkness and testing and pressure that I set in my body this sacrament, this ordinance, by which you will continually remember this fact. I never want you to forget it. I want you to be continually reminded of it.”
In the Old King James Version it says “do this as often as you do it.” And some critics of some sections of the Protestant church have said, “We’ve changed that to as seldom as you do it.” I have become a convinced believer in regularly remembering the Lord’s death. And because some of the churches I associate with don’t do it often enough—this may either shock you or bless you—but basically Ruth and I take the Lord’s Supper together every morning. I don’t want to forget it.
It’s said of Smith Wigglesworth, who probably you’ve heard of, one of the great pioneer evangelists of the Pentecostal movement, he wanted to take communion wherever he could get it. He went around looking for any church where they were having communion and he went in and shared it. I believe really, many of our problems—spiritual, emotional, psychological— are due to the fact we don’t remember the Lord’s death often enough.
And then the third aspect very closely connected is anticipation. Going back to 1Corinthians 11:26:
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death [but not forever] until he comes.
So not merely do we look back to His death but what do we look forward to? His coming. And every time we go through this ordinance together we are reminding ourselves, first of all, that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and, second, praise God, that He’s coming again!
Now, if you could really live in the consciousness that Jesus died for you in the past and He’s coming for you in the future, a lot of your fits of depression and your ugly moods would never arise.
I heard this beautifully expressed in a book that I read by an old saint of the past generations. He said when we partake of the communion, everything else drops out of sight. For a time being we focus only on the things that really matter. He said it this way, “No past but the cross, no future but the coming.” How good it is when we let all the other incidental minor things that trouble us and perplex us and confuse us just fade out of sight for a little while and we look back to the cross and then we look forward to the coming.
There’ve been periods in the Pentecostal and the Charismatic movement when Christians have been very, very conscious of the coming of the Lord. They’ve kind of talked and acted as if the Lord was coming within the next five years. And then, He didn’t come. There’s been some kind of a reaction, “Well, it’s foolish to talk about the Lord’s coming.” As far as I’m concerned it is not foolish to talk about the Lord’s coming. I believe the Lord is coming, I believe He’s coming quickly, I believe He’s coming suddenly, and I find that the New Testament ends with a prayer, “Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” I think there’s something wrong with your spiritual condition if you can’t pray that prayer. That was written about nineteen centuries ago. Was it silly to pray that then? Not as far as I’m concerned. I am personally convinced that no matter what we do as the body of Christ, and we have great responsibilities on earth which we have not discharged, I am nevertheless personally convinced the only ultimate solution to earth’s problems is the personal return of Jesus. If He doesn’t come back we’re in a mess we’ll never get out of.
Let me just repeat those three aspects in our relationship to Christ. First, proclamation; second, remembrance, looking back to the past; third, anticipation, looking forward to the future. Let me say those words that I’ve just uttered once and then I’d like you to say them with me the second time.
No past but the cross, no future but the coming.
Can you remember that? Now let’s say it together.
No past but the cross, no future but the coming.
Now I want to point out to you three aspects of this communion in relationship to Christ’s body. The three words that I have chosen to sum them up are recognition, participation and sharing. I’ll say those once more. Recognition, participation and sharing.
Going to 1Corinthians 11:29:
For he who eats and drinks eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not recognize [or discern] the body rightly.
Now I believe that has two applications. I believe perhaps the word discern brings out the meaning best. In the ministry of deliverance from time to time the Lord gives me discerning of spirits. When this gift operates I see below the surface. I see something in the inner spiritual condition which is not revealed to the senses. I see, in a sense, the inner reality. Many, many times I’ve discerned in people the spirit of death. I can’t exactly tell you how but I know when I’m looking at it, And, I’m looking below the surface.
I believe that’s how we should see the body. First of all we look at the bread and it is just plain bread. Some people like to take Passover matzo. I do. Other people in certain traditions take wafers. I remember in the Anglican church we used to partake of wafers. But whether it’s a wafer or a piece of matzo, unleavened bread which is obviously what Jesus and His disciples partook of because it was the Passover and they were not allowed to eat anything with leaven, or whether it’s just a piece of ordinary baked bread; when we discern it we see below the surface. What do we see? We see the body of the Lord.
Now, I personally believe that when I partake, having met God’s conditions, of that piece of bread I am feeding on the body of the Lord. I’m not doing something symbolic, I’m doing something real. It is not just a symbol, it is the Lord’s body. That’s discerning.
However, Paul says this and we’ll look at this a little later on, because it’s one loaf we are one body. So, not merely does the loaf represent and become for me the body of the Lord that I partake of and feed upon but it represents to me the collective body of the Lord, the church which is His body. And once again, friends, we need discernment.
My friend Bob Mumford says the Lord has got a lot of strange kids! You could look at the person next to you in a communion service in the natural and say, “I don’t see much to get excited about.” You could look in the mirror and perhaps say the same about yourself. But, in this communion service we see below the surface and when I look at my brother or my sister on the pew beside me or in front of me, I don’t see just a person, I see a member of the body of Christ; someone for whom Jesus died and shed His blood. I have to realize that if I don’t appreciate and honor that person I am grieving the heart of the Lord because the Lord loves that person next to you enough to die for that person. It cannot but grieve the Lord bitterly if you have a wrong depreciatory attitude towards a member of His body. I believe that was really the problem of the Corinthians. There were many wrong relationships between them. They didn’t discern the Lord’s body in one another and Paul said, “For this reason a lot of you are sick and some of you have even died.” I suppose this could well be the major cause of sickness among Christians today. I’m not making an assertion but I could easily believe it because I have to say with deep regret many Christians do not treat one another the least bit like members of Christ’s body.
Sometimes I’ve had to say—I don’t think I’ve had to say, maybe I shouldn’t have said—but I felt like saying in the light of some of the things that have happened to me from my fellow believers with friends like that we don’t need enemies. I don’t think that I’ve suffered worst than others. In fact, on the whole I think many others have suffered worse than I have.
So, we’re talking about recognition, about discerning, about looking below the outward and seeing the inner reality, the permanent, the spiritual, the eternal. First of all, in that little piece of bread is the very body of the Lord if you partake rightly. Secondly, in the people around about you who partake of the same bread is the living body of the Lord, the members of His body. Let’s pray tonight that we discern one another aright. Paul says in this connection, “Let a man examine himself, so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.” I’m so glad I don’t have to examine other people. I’ll tell you one thing, I have a full time job examining myself. As a young preacher I used to be pretty confident I knew who was going to heaven and who was going to hell. The longer I live the less sure I am. I couldn’t conceive years ago that Roman Catholics would go to heaven. I sorry, I mean, that’s the way it was. Now I have some difficulties about Protestants.
The second aspect in relationship to Christ’s body is participation. Now we’ll turn back to 1Corinthians 10:17:
Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
Partake verb, participation the noun. We are partakers. In that connection I always like to read from the 6th chapter of John’s gospel. John 6:53–58:
Jesus therefore said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you have no life in yourselves.”
There’s only one source of life, it’s in the flesh and the blood of the Lord.
At one time I lived in an Arab community in what was then Palestine, what is now Israel, the town that’s known as Ramallah. I discovered that in Arabic when they take the Lord’s supper they say actually, “We want to drink the blood of Jesus.” That’s actually the phrase that they use. I think it’s right. There’s always something in every human being, I think, that recoils from the thought upon feeding upon the flesh and drinking the blood of the Lord. There was with the disciples. At this point some of His disciples left him and said, “We can’t take that kind of talk.” But I’ve always thought for years to humble myself before the Word of God, not to argue with it. Jesus said, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life.” That’s true. That’s it. When Jesus said it He said the last word.
Let’s go on reading. Verse 54:
“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Now I don’t know whether you can receive this but I’ve spent a lot of time meditating on the resurrection of the body. In fact, I have a book called The Resurrection of the Dead. Like, I think, all Orthodox Christians of all ages, I believe in the resurrection of the body as part of the creed. I don’t believe God’s going to give us a different body or another body. He’s going to give us back the same body glorified. Do you believe that? If you don’t think you need to read your Bible.
Now, how is the Lord going to gather together all the scattered remnants of a body that’s been dead for nineteen centuries? Well, I think you have to direct that question to the Lord. But I do believe He’s going to do it. And it seems to me what the Lord is saying, if I’m right, is when you partake of the bread and of the cup in faith, meeting the conditions, something happens to your physical body that guarantees that I’ll resurrect it. And your body is different from then on from the body of a person who’s never partaken of the body and blood of the Lord. And when the Lord causes the archangel Gabriel to sound the trumpet and He gives the shout that will arouse the dead in Christ, all those little parts of your body, no matter when they’ve been scattered, will jump together and form themselves into one and you’ll come forth with a new, glorified body. New in the sense of glorified but the same in the sense of having the same constituent parts that it had when it was buried. The guarantee of resurrection as I see it is partaking of the body and the blood of the Lord. Let’s read that verse again:
“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life...”
Not will have, dear friends, but have.
“...and I will raise him up on the last day.”
There spoke a man who never told a lie, that’s a guarantee.
When my first wife Lydia was called home by the Lord five years ago it was the hardest and bitterest thing that has ever happened in my Christian experience. I want to tell you, dear brothers and sisters, death is very real. It is not pretty, it is cruel. Any religion that doesn’t have an answer to death does not meet the needs of humanity. The only religion that has such an answer is this religion. I had preached for thirty years probably but when my wife was called home I had to sit down and say to myself, “Do I believe what I’ve been preaching? I’ve preached that there will be a resurrection, that there will be a reunion, do I believe it?” I thought it over somberly and carefully and I said to myself, “Yes, I believe it.” If I didn’t believe it I would ultimately be a hopeless person.
When those who are near and dear to us, believers in Christ die, we sorrow but not as the world sorrows because the world sorrows without hope. But we have hope. The righteous have hope in his death. Losing a mate is different from anything else. It’s like having your own flesh and blood torn from you. There’s nothing that can take us through that experience but this message. The more often we partake of this communion the deeper our peace will be when life’s crises come.
Going on in verse 55:
“For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.”
That could be translated a continuous present. He who goes on eating my flesh and drinking my blood goes on abiding in me and I in him.
“As the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me he also shall live because of me.”
The King James Version which I’m sure many of you are familiar with says:
“As the living Father sent me and I live by the Father.. .”
In a way, I prefer that. Jesus lived a life of total dependence on the life of the Father. The Father was His life source. And incidentally, when because of His being identified with our sin He was cut off from that life source, He died. And, just as God the Father is the life source of Jesus the Son, Jesus is the life source of every true believer. As Jesus lived by the Father so we live by Him. Our life is dependent on Him. It’s dependent on our continuing relationship with Him. And so He says:
“As the living Father sent me and I live by the Father, so he who eats me, he also shall live by me.”
When we partake of these emblems we are partaking of the life source.
“This is the bread which came down out of heaven. Not as the fathers ate and died, he who eats this bread shall live forever.”
You know the most exciting part about those words? They’re true. What always blesses me about the Bible is most of the really important things are said in words of one syllable. He who eats this bread shall live forever. That’s it, it’s true.
Let’s go back to the third aspect in relationship to Christ’s body, sharing or communion. Going to 1Corinthians 10:16:
“Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?”
So when we partake of the loaf, the bread, when we partake of the cup, we’re sharing in the body of Christ, we’re sharing with all our fellow believers. We are reminded that we are part of a vast company. We may be just a tiny little group, insignificant in our own eyes and a given situation, but when we do this with the recognition of spiritual reality we see we’re part of a continuing group of people who started in the New Testament and have gone on ever since and are still going on.
It’s a strange thing since how I’ve been here these last two nights I’ve been reminded of my Anglican heritage. But I remember that in the Anglican church we used to celebrate something which was called All Saints Day. When I became a Pentecostal I forgot all about All Saints Day, I’m sorry to say. And then when the Lord called my wife home, for the first time except one occasion right here when I was not able to preach because I was sick, that’s the only other occasion in which I’ve ever reneged on a preaching commitment. For two or three weeks after Lydia’s death I just told people, “I’m sorry but I’m not ready to preach.” And then I thought that wouldn’t please her the least bit so why should I sit at home? If she were here she’d want me out. So, the next commitment I had I went to and it was the Southeast Charismatic Catholic Fellowship which was held in Augusta. And, of course, it was primarily a Catholic gathering. And do you know what I discovered? It was All Saints Day. And do you know what I found they were celebrating? Communion with the whole body of Christ. Not just with those on earth but with those who had gone before them. That was the first public meeting that I participated in after Lydia’s death. Nothing could have been more appropriate. I suddenly got a glimpse of something which I ought to have known all along. What I saw was this, the real heavy veil that separates is not between this world and the next. That’s a very fine gauzy veil. The dark heavy veil is in this world between those who believe and those who don’t.
I’ll tell you something else that happened because it’s really relevant. Quite a number of you here undoubtedly knew Lydia personally. I’d have to say she is the bravest person I have ever met in my life. But, she was a very forthright person. She never said anything she didn’t mean. In all the years we lived together I never heard her say something she didn’t mean. She was Danish. If you know European culture the most outspoken race in Europe are the Danes. And the most outspoken Dane was Lydia! I tell you, it took some adjusting getting used to living with a person so outspoken. She used to say to me, “You British, you’re a nation of diplomats. Nobody ever knows when you really mean what you say.” I took a little while to digest that but it was all right.
Now I have to be careful how I say this but Lydia came out of the Lutheran church in Denmark. She was one of the pioneers of the Pentecostal movement. She came into the baptism in the Holy Spirit without knowing what had happened to her and then accepted the challenge of being baptized as a believer by immersion. And, literally scandalized the whole Danish nation which is not a large nation. The story, incidentally, is in that book about her, Appointment in Jerusalem. Her case literally went before the Danish Parliament as to whether she could remain as a teacher in a Danish state school after doing something so heretical as being baptized as a believer. Americans can hardly understand that culture but it’s very real in Europe. And so, for about fifty years Lydia had a running war with the Lutheran church. To introduce her to a Lutheran pastor was like dangling a red rag in front of a bull.
About two years before she died a dear brother in the Lord who is known to many of you, Tom Hodgins, phoned me and said he wanted to come and meet me. He wanted some counsel. So he came and we spoke together for a while and at that time Lydia was having real deep spiritual problems. She was even doubting her own salvation. I had read about this happening to men and women of God but I didn’t know it could happen to someone so close to me. And so I said to Tom Hodgins—well, let me say this, he has a particular ministry which is the word of knowledge. When he’s counseling and praying with people he gets a very vivid mental picture of the person’s particular need, problem or situation. I’ve known this happen in various cases which I will not seek to relate. So I said to him, “Before you leave I’d like you to talk with Lydia and see if you can help her find the source of her problem.” I said, “Don’t be frightened. If God shows you anything come out and say it. Don’t be too respectful.” So, the three of us prayed together for a while in our living room and I said to Tom, “Do you see anything?” He said, “Well, yes, I do. I see a large church building. It’s rather empty, it’s got stained glass windows, it’s got a choir stall.” He said to Lydia, “Would that have anything to do with you?” She said, “Absolutely nothing.” So, I said, “Wait a minute.” I said to Tom, “Do you think it could be a Lutheran church?” He said, “Yes, that’s the kind of church.” So I said to Lydia, “What do you think about the Lutheran church?” She said, “I hate them.” I said, “You cannot hate anybody. That’s not permitted. You have to repent.” And repent she did. And that was the turning point. After that she came out of the darkness into the light. God arranged that because within two years He’d taken her home.
Let me say today if you’re in darkness, check on your attitude, your relationships. Is there anybody you hate, anybody you’ve not forgiven?
Well, after she died about one year I was invited to speak at the Lutheran Charismatic Conference that is held every summer in Minneapolis. We had a glorious time. I had the privilege of giving Bible classes to about nine thousand persons for three days in succession. And then they closed with the Eucharist, the w hole congregation, maybe fourteen thousand persons celebrating the Eucharist. I was no longer on the platform, I was very, very happy to take my place in the body of the auditorium just in a pew with the other people. As a matter of fact, I said to Jim Jackson, “I’m willing to lead the Eucharist or the Communion tonight but if you give me my choice I’d rather just be a member of the congregation. I like to kind of fade away and get lost and have my communion with the Lord and His body in a very intimate and private way.
But anyhow, this was the situation. I don’t know whether this will disturb your theology or not but as I sat there partaking of the communion in a Lutheran Eucharist, the first time I’d ever done so, in a way that I had never in my life experienced before, I knew that I was partaking of the body and the blood of the Lord. I didn’t just believe it, I knew it. And, and now this is what I have to say and I hope you’ll receive it, while I was sitting there in that Lutheran congregation partaking of a Lutheran Eucharist I had a communication from Lydia in glory. I don’t know whether you believe in it or not. If you don’t you better check your Bible. And this is what was communicated to me. I won’t say she spoke to me, she said, “I’m glad you’re here for my sake.” I saw how tremendously appropriate it was that representing both her and me I took that act of love, communion and reconciliation with my Lutheran brothers and sisters not merely on my behalf but on her behalf. And so, for me sharing in the body of Christ has become very real. When we partake tonight in my spirit I’m going to see all the saints that have gone before sharing together with us in this commemoration of the Lord’s death. The one thing that unites all believers from all ages and races and denominations and backgrounds, the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So those are the three aspects in relationship to Christ’s body. Recognition or discernment, participation and sharing or communion.
Now, to close, to wrap it up, let me just speak about one aspect of this communion in relationship to the world, to the unbelievers. The word I would use here is separation. I’ll read one passage in 1Corinthians 10, verses 20 and 21:
No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
To me that means that in partaking of the communion we are drawing a line of separation between us and everything that’s satanic in any shape or form. Every kind of occult involvement, every kind of entertainment that is not Christ honoring, we cannot have a foot in both camps. I endeavor in my home to make sure that we never retain any publication that dishonors Jesus Christ. Moses said to the children of Israel at the end of the 7th chapter of Deuteronomy, “If you take a cursed thing into your home you’ll become accursed like the thing.” Brothers and sisters, I suggest to some of you that when you go home after partaking in this Eucharist or communion here tonight that you have a housecleaning. Don’t retain any little images of Buddha. Don’t retain any signs of the horoscope, of the zodiac. All right? Those things are demonic and you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. You cannot share the things of Satan and the things of the Lord.
Just to kind of bring this to a conclusion, I want to read a passage from the book of Ezra, particularly to emphasize this last point. Ezra 4, this describes the rebuilding of the temple by the exiles who had returned from Babylon. I’m only going to read the first three verses because it brings out to me so clearly this issue of separation between those who are God’s people and those who are not God’s people. Ezra 4:1–3:
Now when the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people of the exile were building a temple to the Lord God of Israel...
Please note it was a temple to the one true God. It was His temple.
...they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers households and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we like you seek your God. We’ve been sacrificing to him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us up here.”
But if you know the historical background, they had a very mixed worship. They had elements of the Mosaic law and covenant and they had elements of heathenism and demonism. It was a mixed form of worship. But when they saw God’s people building God’s house they said, “Come and let us join you. We’d like to be in one this thing.” And this is the answer that the leaders of the Jews gave them:
But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the fathers households of Israel said to them, “You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God.”
Don’t you try to cross that line of separation. Your God and our God are not the same even if you use some of the same language that we use.
“But we ourselves will together build to the Lord God of Israel.”
I just want to take three words there. We ourselves together. To me that sums up this message. We speaks of plurality, all of God’s people together. Ourselves speaks of separation. Only us and not you. And together speaks of unity. That’s where we are. Plurality, a body made up of many, many members; separation, no compromise with satanic elements; and unity, we’ll do it together.
Let me just briefly recapitulate these seven aspects of this communion service. First in relation to Christ, three aspects. Proclamation, remembrance, anticipation. Second in relation to Christ’s body, three aspects. Recognition or discerning, participation, sharing or communion. And finally in relation to the Christ rejecting world, separation. You have no part, we ourselves together will build. Amen.