HIS COMFORTING PRESENCE
27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor. 11:27-32 NIV).▬
As Lutherans, we believe in the REAL PRESENCE. This means that we believe Jesus’ body and blood are REALLY THERE with the bread and the wine when we receive the Lord’s Supper. We don’t call it the PHYSICAL PRESENCE because we can’t get out a microscope and see the cells of Jesus’ body and blood in the bread and wine. But we believe that His body and blood are REALLY there because He said, “This IS my body, This IS my blood”.
There are other reasons for believing the Real Presence besides the word “is”. Paul tell us that the Lord’s body and blood can be SINNED AGAINST in the Lord’s Supper. This happens when unbelievers take the Lord’s Supper .
Paul tells us that CHRISTIANS can sin against the body of Christ also, if they eat it “without recognizing the body of the Lord”. If we treated the Lord’s Supper like just any other meal, we would be sinning against Christ’s body and blood.
Paul also tells us that the Lord’s Supper is a SHARING in the body and blood of Christ. A “coming together with” or a “communion” with our Savior. This too, moves us to believe in the Real Presence.
The truth that Jesus is really present in His Supper causes us to approach this meal with reverence and awe. We must do as Paul says, and examine our hearts before we take the Lord’s Supper.
To receive the Lord’s Supper properly, a repentant and believing heart is required. A heart that says, “I’m a sinner Lord. I do not defend my sins, but renounce them. Forgive me Lord!”
Through the story of His perfect life, suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus TELLS us what He did so that our sins are forgiven. Through the Lord’s Supper, He also SHOWS us.
After Jesus sacrificed Himself on the Cross of Calvary, He rose from the dead and appeared to His followers. When He did, He SHOWED them His hands and His feet. He could have made His wounds be gone, but He didn’t. He offers those holes in His hands and feet as proof that it was really Him.
In the Lord’s Supper He does the same thing. He says, here is My body that was broken, so that your sins stand forgiven. Here is My blood that was spilt, so that your sins are washed away forever.
When I receive the Lord’s Supper, I pray, “Thank You Lord, for coming TO ME.” I can’t make the Son of God come to me. I can’t make this bread and wine be His body and blood. I can’t make my own sins be gone. There’s a lot of things I just can’t do. But He can.
The Son of God comes to me in bread and wine. His body and blood which earned my release from Hell are here, for me to share in. Because of Him, my sins are forgiven.
This is the kind of God that we have. One who SEEKS us out. One who comes TO US like the dedicated Shepherd tending His beloved sheep.
A NEW COVENANT
“31“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—32not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord... …For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-32, 34 NKJV).
“20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:20 NIV).
“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6 NIV).▬
When Jesus gave His Supper to His followers, He declared it part of the “New Covenant”. The Old Covenant was the Law of God. It shows us our sin. The New Covenant is the Good News of Jesus. It shows us our Savior.
Some think that the Lord’s Supper MUST be done simply because Jesus COMMANDED it. But the Lord’s Supper isn’t just another Law that Jesus added to the Ten Commandments. NO! The Lord’s Supper is part of the NEW COVENANT. It’s all about forgiveness, not Law.
A covenant is simply an agreement. The Old Covenant of the Law was a two sided agreement. God said He’d bless the Israelites if they kept His Laws. They had to hold up their end of the bargain. But they couldn’t. They were sinners just like you and me. Really, this was EXACTLY what God intended the Old Covenant to reveal, that they were sinners who needed the Savior that God was going to send.
The New Covenant is different than the Old. It isn’t part of the “letter of the Law”. The Law only kills and damns. The Law of God is good and perfect, but it can only tell you what you need to do and then point it out when you fail to do so. There is no comfort in the Law.
The New Covenant is a different agreement. It is a ONE SIDED covenant. An agreement where God says, “Here’s the deal, I’ve forgiven you your sins because of my Son’s cross.”
The Lord’s Supper isn’t about what WE do, it’s about what God has done. Through Jesus’ body given and blood poured out, our wickedness is forgiven, and our sins are remembered no more.
STATE OF GRACE, EXPRESSION OF FAITH
“24“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV).
“13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13 NIV).
“26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26 NIV).▬
I’d like to correct a false idea about the Lord’s Supper that is sometimes held by Christians. Some Christians view the Lord’s Supper like it’s an eraser that wipes away all the sins that a person has done TO THAT POINT in their life.
Imagine it like this. Each of us has our own “spiritual chalkboard”. As we live our lives, our sins are recorded on that chalkboard up on the board. When we come to the Lord’s Supper, that list of sins get erased. Then the sins start to pile up again on the board until we take the Lord’s Supper again.
This flawed thinking has led Christians in the past to try and receive the Lord’s Supper RIGHT BEFORE they die. That way they’ll get the most sins taken care of right before the end. This isn’t how the Lord’s Supper works.
Jesus says that whoever hears His message and believes it, will not be condemned, but has eternal life. The faithful are in what we call the STATE OF GRACE. We might imagine this “state of grace” like an umbrella. By faith we stand under the umbrella of Jesus’ forgiveness.
When Christians hear the Good News of Jesus, it’s like the preacher is nudging our chin up to see the umbrella that we’re standing under. When Christians receive the Lord’s Supper, God Himself is nudging our chin up so that we see that we are under the forgiving umbrella of Christ’s Sacrifice.
When we understand the Lord’s Supper like this, we begin to see that we could celebrate the Lord’s Supper ten times a day if we wanted to and that would be totally proper. But if we don’t receive the Lord’s Supper until next month, by faith we’re still standing under Christ’s umbrella. Those who follow Christ live in a state of grace.
Let me leave you with one final thought about the Lord’s Supper. While it is primarily about our Savior coming to us to, it’s also a unique opportunity to express our faith. As Paul says, “Whenever we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He come.”
As we come before the Lord’s Table today, let’s remember that this is really our Savior COMING TO US. This is Christ reminding us that we have been brought into the NEW COVENANT, the one sided covenant of Christ’s blood poured out for our forgiveness. And let us also sing out to God with a heart of joy, receiving Him with praise. Proclaiming His death, that death that set us free once and for all.