Baptism and the Lord’s Supper constitute the two main ordinances in the Baptist Church. This is to say that, contrary to other views that see Baptism and The Lords Supper as Sacraments, Baptists see them as ordinances thus placing much emphasis on their obedience and symbolic significance.
What is the meaning of the Lord’s Supper?
The early church remembered that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night of the Passover meal (Luke 22:13 –20). Just as Passover celebrated deliverance from slavery in Egypt, so the Lord’s Supper celebrates deliverance from sin by the Messiah’s death.
In verse 24, when Jesus said, “This is my body,” we believe that the bread and the wine symbolize the Messiah’s body and blood.
In verse 25, what is this new covenant? In the old covenant, people could approach God only through the priest and the sacrificial system. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, resulted in the new covenant or agreement between God and us. Now all people can personally approach God and communicate with Him. The people of Israel first entered into this agreement after their exodus from Egypt (Exodus 24). It was designed to point to the day when Jesus the Messiah would come. The new covenant completes, rather than replaces, the old covenant. It fulfilled everything the old covenant looked forward to (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Eating the bread and drinking the cup shows that we are remembering the Messiah’s death for us and renewing our commitment to serve Him.
How do we remember the Messiah in the Lord’s Supper? By thinking about what he did and why he did it. If the Lord’s Supper becomes just a ritual or a pious habit, it no longer remembers Jesus, and it loses its significance.
The Corinthian believers were not observing the Lord’s Supper in a right way. The following gives instances of the disorder:
a. Disorder at the Lord’s Supper (11:1-22)
In verses 17 – 19, when there are divisions and factions (heresies) in the church, even though they seem hidden, they will show up in the public meetings. The Lord’s Supper speaks of the unity of believers. The divisions in the church would negate this wonderful message.
Verses 20-23 speak of selfish motives. The early church often held a “love feast,” a fellowship meal, in conjunction with the Lord’s Supper. But at Corinth, the rich came with their large amounts of food while the poor sat on the side with a piece of bread. “Eat at home!” Paul commands them. “Your gluttony and drunkenness are a disgrace to the Lord!” (verse 22). If believers do not love one another, they can never partake of the Lord’s Supper and be blessed.
b. The Consequences of This Disorder (11:23-30)
They were judged instead of blessed (verses 23-29).
Apparently, the Messiah had given Paul instructions about the Lord’s Supper personally, for the apostle was not in the Upper Room when the ordinance was instituted. Paul’s words speak of the broken body and shed blood of the Messiah for His church, which are a constant reminder of His love and His coming again. We look back to the cross and forward to His coming. But the Supper had ceased to be a blessing to the church at Corinth, for the way they abused it was a cause of judgment. Their meetings were “for the worse, not the better” (verse 17)! This is the way spiritual matters always work: if our hearts are not right, whatever should be a blessing becomes a curse.
They were chastened (verse 30).
God allowed sickness and even death to come to the Corinthian church because it was partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. Paul never tells us we must be “worthy” to eat at the Lord’s Table; for if that were the case no one would be able to partake. Though we are not worthy, we can partake in a worthy manner by understanding what the Supper means. It means having a heart free from sin, being filled with love for Jesus and His people and being willing to obey His Word. Believers often think they can “get away” with carelessness in church, but this is impossible. If our hearts are not right, God has to discipline us to bring us to the place of blessing.
c. The Correction of This Disorder (11:31-34)
Self-judgment (verses 31-32)
When we face our sins honestly and judge them and confess them, then God will not discipline us. “Let a man examine himself” is Paul’s command in verse 28. At the Lord’s Supper, we take three “looks”: we look within and confess our sins. We look back and remember Calvary. We look ahead and eagerly anticipate His return. The principle is clear: if we do not judge our sins, God will have to judge us.
Mutual love (verse 33)
“Don’t think only of yourself!” Paul wrote; “think of others.” This is love of the believer: putting others ahead of ourselves. How few believers obey this principle when it comes to worship. Often, we come to church asking, “Will I get anything out of the service today?” We should be asking, “What can I say or do that will give somebody else a blessing?”
Spiritual discernment (verse 34)
While there is nothing wrong with church fellowship meals, the place to eat is at home. However, if for fellowship purposes we are to eat together, let us eat to the glory of God. For the church primarily purposes to build one another spiritually that all might be able to go out to win others.
The Significance of the Lord’s Supper
The Significance of Baptist could be deduced from the various names used to describe the event. These include:
1. The Last Supper – remembering us of Christ’s historic celebration with his disciples. It seems also to have a reflection of the future last supper with the Lord
2. The Lord’s Supper – Drawing our attention to the fact that it is Jesus who instituted it. The drink and bread respectfully symbolize his shared blood and body broken for us.
3. The Communion – Emphasizing the fellowship aspect of the celebration and so reminds us of love for one another since we are all in one body of Christ.
4. Euchariste – From the Greek verb indicating our appreciation to God and so our thanksgiving to God for giving us his life.
To sum all these up with some suggestions for taking the Lord’s Supper:
1. We should take the Lord’s Supper thoughtfully because we are proclaiming that Jesus died for our sins (11:26).
2. We should take it worthily, with due reverence and respect (11:27).
3. We should examine ourselves for any unconfessed sin or resentful attitude (11:28).
4. We should be considerate of others (11:33), waiting until everyone is there and then eating in an orderly and unified manner.
As Christians, the Lord Jesus invites us to dine with him through the celebration of the Lord’s supper. As an ordinance, the Lord’s Supper is significant to us by reason of its past or historic, present and futuristic meaning. We are therefore encouraged to celebrate the Lord’s supper even as we have responded to faith in the Lord as our saviour.