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The necessity For Holy Communion

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The Necessity for Holy Communion

Holy Communion

Morning Worship 7th December 2008, 9.30am

© Rev D Rudi Schwartz[1]

Bible Readings

New Testament:                   Luke 22:14-23

Hymns/Songs

                1.  Approach:                        “Come now Almighty King”

                2.  Forgiveness of sins:        “Sing them over again to me”

                3.  Thanksgiving:                   “We give You but your own”

                4.  The Table of the Lord:   “Here now O Lord I see You face to face” (verses 1-3)

                4.  Response:                        “Here now O Lord I see You face to face” (verse 5-6)

Main Points

1.       Introduction

2.       We are not sacramentalists!

3.       Sacraments and its use

a.        They represent Christ and His benefits

b.       They confirm our benefit in Him

c.        They make a visible difference between the people that belong to the Church and the rest of the world

d.       The difference between baptism and Communion

4.       Redemption provided in Christ

5.       Communion calls for fresh commitment

a.        It calls me to holiness

b.       It calls me to God’s family

6.       Conclusion

 

1.     Introduction

My dear brother and sister in the Lord,

There is with some Christians the idea that the sacraments are not important.  Some parents would withhold the sacrament of baptism from their children for reasons pure human and not in accordance with the Word of God. Communion Sundays come and go and some church members would not regard the sacrament important to set aside this special day apart and to not accept any other appointment on this day.

The question is, “Is it important to observe the sacraments?”  Or, “Is there a need for Holy Communion?”  Can’t we go without it?

To this I would put the counter statement, “There is the absolute need for Communion.”  Why?  Because we are commanded by the Lord, “Do this in my remembrance!”

2.     We are not sacramentalists!

Let we first just say this:  The Roman Church believe of the sacraments that they are a necessity because through the sacraments, which would act as a funnel of God’s grace, we would receive God’s grace.  Without the sacraments we would not be able to receive this grace.

Reformed theology does not subscribe to this under-standing of the sacraments.   In other words, the administration of the sacraments will never save anyone.  The murderer on the cross next to Jesus never ever received any sacrament and yet he was promised to be in paradise with Jesus.

The Roman Church believe that a baby must be baptized as soon as possible after its birth in case it dies without being baptised.  A person needs to receive the last rites before his death in order to enter eternity blessed by the priest with a sacrament as a means of receiving God’s grace.  The number of sacraments in the Roman Church is also extended to seven, compared by the two we as reformed churches believe the Lord commanded his church to observe.

We are not sacramentalists!  Sacraments are signs of God’s grace, and are not to be confused with the grace it represents. 

3.     Sacraments and its use

Looking at the Westminster Confession of Faith, our sub-ordinate standard of doctrine in the Presbyterian Church, we find the following in Chapter 27:

Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace personally instituted by God to represent Christ and His benefits; and to confirm our benefit in Him.  It also, make a visible difference between the people that belong to the Church and the rest of the world.  We observe them to the service of God in Christ, according to His Word.

3.1  Sacraments represent Christ and his benefits

There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation or sacramental union between the sign and the thing signified.  To eat the bread and drink the wine in the Lord's Supper is to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ; that is, to participate in the sacrificial virtue of his death. And whatever is true at Baptism with the Holy Spirit is attributed to Baptism with water. 

They are as signs or pictures of the truths they represent, and therefore present those truths to the eyes and other senses of those who receive them in a way similar to that in which they are presented to the ears in the preaching of the Word.

Salvation and all the benefits of Christ's redemption are offered upon the condition of faith. In the sacraments God sensibly and authoritatively pledges himself to invest us with this grace if we believe and obey. In receiving the sacrament we actively assume all the obligations implied in the gospel, and bind ourselves to fulfil them.

3.2  Sacraments confirm our benefits in Him

The sacraments were designed to "apply "-- i.e., actually to convey -- to believers the benefits of the new covenant. If they are "seals" of the covenant, they must of course, as a legal form of installation, actually convey the grace represented to those to whom it belongs. Consequently a deed conveys an estate, or the key handed over in the presence of witnesses the possession of a house from the owner to the renter.

3.3  make a visible difference between the people that belong to the Church and the rest of the world

AA Hodge writes:

The sacraments being seals of the covenant of grace -- at once pledges of God's faithfulness to us and of our obligation to him -- they of course (1.) Mark us as the divine property, and bind, us to the performance of our duty; and hence are (2.) Badges of our profession, and, putting a visible difference between those who belong to the Church and the rest of the world, give visibility to the Church, and separate its members from the world.

3.4 The difference between Baptism and Communion

The main difference between the two sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion lies in its frequency of use.  We are baptised only once to be engrafted in the covenant of grace.  We are not baptised over and over again as if the water used, and the amount of water used, would bring us closer to God or would reaffirm our relationship with God.  People would have them baptised more than once would do so not in accordance with the Word of God.  As baptism is the successor to circumcision, which was only performed once and to which there was not command to repeat at any time after the initial ritual, so it is also with baptism.  The only reference to people baptised a second time is in Acts 19.  Here the apostle Paul baptised people a second time because when they were first baptised, they were not baptised in the Name of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  At that point in time they had not heard of the Holy Spirit.  Their baptism at that point in time was therefore not the baptism commanded by Christ.

It is different with Holy Communion.  Holy Communion is the New Testament sign of the Old Testament sacrament of the Passover.  Here we here the expressed command:

Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. (Exodus 12:24-25)

And when the Lord instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion He also said, “Do this in remembrance of Me”.  Further the apostle Paul records the words of our Saviour saying:

In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25)

The earlier translations of the Scriptures translate the “whenever” with “as often as you drink it”. 

We conclude from this that we need to on a regular basis, periodically, celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Why?  Let’s go back to the Old Testament.  In Exodus 12:26-27 we find the reason:

And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:26-27)

4.     Redemption provided in Christ

When I come to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, I once again am reminded that God provided redemption.  Very visibly we see the signs of wine and bread.

4.1  Communion calls me to holiness

More than that:  It calls me to holiness.  I cannot eat and drink of the wine and bread and go away untouched.  At the table am I faced with the horror of sin and its consequences.  At the table I am called to once again see myself as God sees me.  I am called to once again take stock of my life and confess my sins.  If it is my intention to eat and drink of the elements and go away untouched I eat and drink condemnation upon myself. 

About a year ago some members of this congregation and members of the society of Kerang were hit by a terrible tragedy.  Not far outside of town, at the level crossing, there was a train crash.  11 people died as a truck drove into the side of the train, causing it to derail.  That scene even today brings back bad memories for those affected.  Every time you pass the scene the loss of a loved one is fresh in the mind. 

With Communion it is almost if the Lord takes us back to the scene of horror of His judgement upon us, as laid on the Person of his Son Jesus Christ, so we don’t forget how He paid for our transgressions.  We see the blood shed for us, and we see the broken body of Him who took the full brunt of God wrath upon sin.

But Communion also take us to the scene of redemption.  There is no blood on the altar, there is no fire and no purification vessels anymore.  There are all gone.  The altar is not needed anymore, and there is no High Priest.  The price is paid, once for all.  Our Saviour was the last High Priest, He was the last Sacrifice, and He was the end of the altar.  God’s righteousness is met.  It is finished.  To this scene we need to return every now and then.  Holy Communion helps us to see how the preached Gospel is applied in the visible signs which we accept by faith – and receive the benefit.

Here I face God, his love, his holiness, his judgement and his mercy.  Here I cringe and fall prostrate.  Here I repent.  I cannot take the cup and drink without repentance.  In short, I need Communion, not because the wine and bread would save me, but because it would point me to the Cross where the ultimate sacrifice was made. I cannot participate in the idols of the world and also the table of the Lord.

Communion is a command.  Because it is a command I am called to the Table, in the presence of God.  Here I accept the grace given to me.  Here I repent.  Here I recommit myself in ongoing repentance of sanctification.  Here I commit to my neighbour and accept him or her as my brother in the Lord.  Listen to the Word:

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

Here I stand before God. And the words of Hebrews 10:28-31 are loud and clear, as a wall to which I come:

Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:28-31)

And I fall down begging for grace.  On my face before God, begging for grace, I here his forgiving word:  “This cup is the New Testament in my blood.”  This cup it the cup of salvation.”  Here the wrath of God and the grace of our Lord meat.  Here I receive grace.

4.2  Communion calls me to God’s family

Further, I cannot sit at this table and commune with God without looking at those sitting with me to enjoy God’s grace.  I have to make restitution; I have to make right.  I have to live with the others in forgiveness and reconciliation.  Without all these elements Holy Communion means nothing.

Communion unites me with God through Jesus Christ.  And communion unites me with the rest of God’s family.

5.     Conclusion

My dear brother and sister, we are about to sit at the table of the Lord.  Let us prepare ourselves to do so in a worthy manner.  Let us remind ourselves why the Lord commanded that we celebrate this sacrament.  Face God’s wrath, but accept his salvation in Christ.  Come to the Lord.  With Him is grace.  AMEN.


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[1]  Feel free to duplicate this file or quote from it.  The Name of the Lord be glorified!

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