Book Review: Understanding the Lord’s Supper

It’s a pastoral task that happens fairly frequently – I was asked about another local church. I wasn’t familiar with them, so the inter webs I went I listened to a few sermons.  Most of it was the garden variety false teaching = mega-church/prosperity gospel/word-of-faith man centered pop-psychology motivational feelings-fest, with a few out of context verses scattered about. [Too harsh?  Just wait…]

But they also posted their Easter worship set.  I skipped thru most of it, but then saw on screen what appeared to be the Pastor coming up literally in the middle of the bands set, to lead the Lord’s Table.  He indicated that the audience should grab their “communion kit” that they all received on the way in.  He summarized/paraphrased Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, and said that the bread and juice represent that “healing is ours today.”   They “receive healing into their bodies” with the elements.  That it is “God’s will that they live healthy and whole lives.”  If they “believed by faith” they would be healed through the receiving of the elements. As for the cup, he did say the “blood of Christ paid the price for our sins so that we can have a relationship with God.”  But also that was our “ticket” to eternal life with God. He prayed and they took the elements.  The whole thing lasted literally 2 minutes and 46 seconds.  Then they got back to the concert…er…I mean the corporate musical worship.

My mouth could not have been open wider.  Maybe I was a little more sensitive to it because we just recently celebrated Good Friday and the reverence and palpability of the depth of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  I don’t get offended by much, but I felt offense as I watched how poorly they handled Communion.  I’ve seen plenty of false teaching, but I’ve never seen such a disrespect, and complete lack of Biblical understanding of something so profound as the Lord’s Supper.

This is why I was immediately thankful for a 9Marks mini-book in their Church Basics series titled “Understanding the Lord’s Supper” by Bobby Jamieson.

9Marks exists to help build healthy churches and perhaps no other organization I’m familiar with has a higher view of the local church.  With that simple foundation in mind, they skillfully and biblically address this vital topic.

Jamieson starts by reviewing the significance of Israel, and how the Passover meal marked their birth as a nation, as they were rescued from slavery in Egypt.  Marked by the blood of the lamb.

Fast forward to Jesus, the fulfillment of Israel…the Messiah.  “When Jesus made good on God’s greatest promise to his people, he sealed it in his blood.” [9].   “The bread and wine are visible words of promise…and because we keep company with Christ in the Lord’s Supper, we also keep company with each other.  As a local church, we are one body because we share in the one bread and all it represents.” [15]

That points to the Scriptural reality that the Lord’s Supper is for the church…meaning believers, and only believers.  Not just anyone who walks through the door and gets handed a communion kit.

With that in mind, Jamieson offers a solid definition for us “the Lord’s Supper is a church’s act of communion with Christ and each other and commemorating Christ’s death by partaking of bread and wine, and a believer’s act of receiving Christ’s benefits and renewing his or her commitment to Christ and his people, thereby making the church one body and marking it off from the world.” [25]

The author rightly points to 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul says several times that it is the body “coming together” for this – meaning the church is gathered for regular worship. Not “families and small groups”, it is “not detachable from the church.” [26]

This creates the unity of the church, quoting from 1 Corinthians 3:17 – “because there is one bread, we who are many are one body…”  In it, we are receiving from God but we are also renewing our covenant with God and with each other.

One cannot talk about the Lords Supper without talking about Baptism – as “baptism binds one to many, and the Lord’s Supper binds many into one.” [40].  Thus it is for “baptized” believers only.  Baptism being the public proclamation of your faith and your identification with Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s your profession of faith in the covenant in Christ’s blood, which is being renewed in the Lord’s Supper.  You cannot renew something you never proclaimed and covenanted publicly.

Understandably, Jamieson also goes as far as to say that the “Lord’s Supper is for baptized believers who belong a church.”  This is sound, as church membership is grounded in Scripture as well, there was no such thing as a non-baptized believer who was not a member in the early church.  This isn’t closed communion, but rather the magnification of a biblical view on church membership.

This book provides very practical guidance. Churches should celebrate the table when they are all together, typically during a worship service.  The meaning should be made clear and it should be clarified who should participate.  Everyone should eat the bread and drink the cup together and it should be celebrated regularly.

Jamieson also provided a helpful chapter on how individuals should approach the table. They should look to the cross, look around at their brothers and sisters, look ahead to the coming kingdom, and look inward in examination of our own soul…with a subsequent look back to the cross in what Christ won for us there.

He didn’t win for us a “communion kit” or “healing” that we can apply by faith to any ailment we want or our “ticket” to eternal life or something awkwardly and hurriedly jammed into a worship set for 2 minutes and 46 seconds.

It is so. much. more. than. that.

I remain thankful for men like Jamieson and organizations for 9Marks that provide ways for us to think biblically about things of such importance.









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