Collection and Lord's Supper Explained
Various Passages

One member told me about “monotony curves” in the roads in West, Texas.  The roads there are so straight for miles and miles that the Highway Department purposely puts in a few curves every so often to break the monotony.  The idea is to keep the driver alert and thinking safety.  Maybe you can think of our changes in the worship service order on the third Sundays as our “monotony curves”.

Have you ever had this experience while driving?  A storm cloud comes up, and it begins rain moderately.  Immediately, you turn on your windshield wipers.  As you drive, your mind is attracted suddenly to those wipers; their rhythmic steady motion causes you to concentrate on them—back and forth, back and forth, back and forth—for a few seconds rather than concentrating what’s on the road ahead?  Then you catch yourself and scold yourself for such a dangerous action.  You vow that you won't let that happen again!

Now that little story is a modern parable, isn't it?  You see, so often our order of worship is sort of like those windshield wipers.  The worship service gets started, and before we know it, we're attracted suddenly to the rhythmic practices of the service—now the song, and now the reading, and now the prayer, and now the song—and before you know it, we're not really concentrating and focusing on God, or Christ, or edification, or fellowship!  This is the reasoning behind the changes that are made during our third Sunday worship services.  In order for our minds not to become attracted by the order, to the point that we actually lose concentration on what truly important, the order is purposely changed so that we are somewhat forced to think anew about what's really important.  Sometimes such diversity can be a little unsettling, but we really need to think about something here: Does the New Testament prescribe for us a definite and fixed order for the acts of worship so that whenever we worship together, we must do so in that specific manner in order to be pleasing to God?  Decently and in order for the purpose of edification?  No, there are no passages to support such a practice!  How wonderful that sometimes God allows us the privilege of choice in those matters where there is liberty!  The purpose of our worship service should be to make us think a little more about God and Christ and to appreciate a little more the edification and fellowship that we enjoy as their children!

In just a moment, we will be participating in our weekly collection.  We do this primarily to be a blessing to others.  In doing so, we imitate God, Christ, and the early church in their concern for helping the needy.  Let's look at these motives a little closer.

The Hebrew Old Testament is divided into three parts—the law, the prophets, and the writings—and in all three parts God's special concern for the poor, the needy, and the fatherless can be seen.  Let's look quickly at three passages, one from each part.  Deuteronomy 15:10 in the law states: “And you shall give to him [i.e. to your poor brother], and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing, the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand.  For the poor will never cease from the land: therefore, I command you saying, 'You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’”  God commands the Jews and us not to neglect our poor and needy brethren.  Now let’s look at a passage from the prophets.  Isaiah 10:1-3 warns: “Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees, who write misfortune, which they have prescribed to rob the needy of justice, and to take what is right from the poor of My people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless.  What will you do in the day of punishment and in the desolation which will come from afar?  To whom will you flee for help?  And where will you leave your glory?”  God is concerned that the poor, the needy, and fatherless be treated with fairness and justice.  If they are treated with injustice, doesn’t it sound like God will mistreat their oppressors?  Now let’s look at a passage from the writings found in Psalm 41:1-2: “Blessed is he who considers the poor; the Lord will deliver Him in time of trouble.  The Lord will preserve and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on the earth.”  We must be a blessing to the poor, and then God will be a blessing to us.  So one reason we give is because God was concerned for the needy.

We see that Jesus was concerned for the needy.  Now let’s look at three passages which support this point.  First of all, when John the Baptizer was in prison doubting and wondering if Jesus really was the Messiah, Jesus sent his disciples back to him to assure him with these words in Luke 7:22: “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see; the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed; the deaf hear, the dead are raised; the poor have the gospel [or good news] preached to them.”  In others words, Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1-2 by serving those who were very needy.  Secondly, Jesus once told the host of a dinner in Luke 14:13: “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  When was the last time we had a potluck to feed the needy, and especially the handicapped, of our city?  The last passage is found in John 13:27ff: “Then Jesus said to him [to Judas], ‘What you do, do quickly.’  But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him.  For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, ‘Buy those things we need for the feast’ or that he should give something to the poor.”  Jesus gave Judas some instructions, and some of the disciples thought that Jesus was telling Judas to give something to the poor.  Don’t you just expect that Jesus had done that so many times that this thought just sort of naturally popped into their heads?  So, we see that Jesus was concerned for the needy.

Lastly, we see that the early church was concerned for the needy.  Let’s look quickly at three examples here as well.  Acts 4:33ff gives us a great example at the church in Jerusalem: “And great grace was upon them all.  Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.”  How well do we measure up to such a noble example?  Rare is a congregation these day who would share as generously as these first Christians did!  The next passage is Acts 11:27ff: “And in these days, prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.  Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a famine throughout all the world, which also
happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.  Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.”  These brethren said in essence: “Look, there’s a great need according to Bro. Agabus!  Let’s dig into out pocketbooks so that we can help our brothers survive!”  And they did so!  The next passage is found in Philippians 4:14ff where Paul praises the brethren at Philippi for helping him financially: “Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.  Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.  For even in Thessalonica, you sent aid once and again for my necessities.”  The church in Philippi was helping their missionary, weren’t they?  So we see that the early church was concerned for the needy as well.  Realizing that God, Christ, and the early church were all concerned for the needy, let’s show our concern too today as we participate now in the collection!

[The congregation then had the collection.]

Why do we gather together to partake of the Lord's Supper?  Jesus commanded it, the apostle Paul explained it, and the early church practiced it (Matthew 26:26ff; 1 Corinthians 11:23ff; Acts 20:7).  Those are very good and biblical reasons.

One brother's comment about our practice of the Lord's Supper really caught my attention: “Who are we kidding when we presume that our scaled-down, substitute version of the Supper is itself free from abuse?  Can any of us honestly say that we have not sat through innumerable observances of the Lord’s Supper which seemed no more than ‘going through the motions?’  And then there’s the perfunctory [or routine] prayers (if sincere) which all of us could finish from memory if the presider dropped dead in mid-sentence.  And the intrusion of the collection plate into the body and blood of Christ.  And the bare mention (if at all) of the purpose for our gathering.  And the rush to get it over with” (F. L. Smith).  There are many things here that could be discussed further, but let's concentrate right now on just one of his statements: “And the bare mention (if at all) of the purpose of our gathering.”  So often, we partake of the Lord's Supper, but we don't really do much explaining or teaching about its value.  So this morning, we want to reverse this tendency.  We want to dedicate some time to think about purpose as to why we are doing this.  Hopefully, this will make all of us more appreciative and thankful for what God and Christ have done in giving us this sacred meal which we regularly observe, just as those early Christians did.  We want to look at four reminders from the Lord’s Supper. 

First of all, in the Lord's Supper, we are reminded of God's covenants.  When Jesus instituted this supper, notice what Jesus said in  Luke 22:15: “Then He said to them: 'With fervent desire, I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.'”  Jesus points us back to the Jewish Passover feast.  During this annual feast, the Jews were reminded of their deliverance from bondage in Egypt.   There were six elements used in the Passover feast to remind the Jews of their past.  Let's notice some of the parallels between the Passover and Lord's Supper: both events point to deliverance—God delivered the Jews from slavery in Egypt, and He delivered us from slavery to sin; both events stress a sacrifice of blood—the Passover lamb was slain for the Jews, but Jesus was our Passover Lamb Who was slain for the benefit of all people; both events call for continual celebration—the Jews were to celebrate annually, but Christians in the early church celebrated weekly; both events involved elements that were symbolic; both events point toward the making of a covenant.  The making of a covenant was sort of like the making of a peace treaty between two parties.  The Hebrew wording is actually “to cut a covenant”.  This is because when a covenant was made, animals were usually cut down the middle, and their blood would flow down a hill into a valley.  Then the parties making the covenant would walk barefooted in the blood path.  Why did they do that?  They were saying in their actions: “If I do not keep my part of covenant, then you can shed my blood, just as we have shed these animals blood.”  So making a covenant showed that a serious relationship had been established.  Remember when Moses made a covenant between God and the Jews, what happened?  Look now at Exodus 24:7-8: “The he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people.  And they said, 'All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient.'  And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, 'The is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.'”  Instead of walking down the blood path, Moses sprinkled the people to remind them that they should be serious about the promises they had made to fulfill their end of the covenant.  Jeremiah prophesied that one day God would establish a new covenant, and God would forgive people their iniquities and remember their sins no more (Jer. 31:31-34).  Now notice what Jesus says in Matthew 26:26-27: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples saying, 'Take, eat, this is My body.'  Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying: 'Drink from it, all of you.  For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.'”  Let's notice some important truths that Jesus emphasized as He gave an interpretation of these elements for His disciples.  The bread represented Himself or His body.  It reminds us of the incarnation, of the Word becoming flesh, of Jesus giving Himself, of Jesus being the sacrificial lamb that atones for sin.  The fruit of the vine represented the blood of covenant.  This blood inaugurates a new period in the history of salvation, that new closer relationship that Jeremiah had prophesied.  This blood was shed for many.  Now all people, both Jews and Gentiles, could be God's people.  This blood provides the remission of sins.  The apostle Peter notes that we were not bought back with money, but Jesus gave His precious blood from a perfect life to give us the possibility of living beyond our past traditions (1 Pt. 1:18-19)!  This blood also binds us to be obedient to the new covenant.  One writer puts it this way: “All four [Gospels] speak of a ‘new covenant’ in reference to the blood of Jesus.  The sacrifice of Christ brought a new covenant based on forgiveness of sins. … For Christians, the eating of the bread and drinking from the cup is an act of renewing covenant allegiance to the Lord.  This is a relationship that excludes all other religious loyalties (1 Corinthians 10:21).  The church is the people of the new covenant, who have a new meal as its expression.  The covenant language marks the participants as being especially the Lord’s, and calls attention to the meal as being for those alone who share the covenant” (Ferguson).  So we see that we are reminded of the God's covenants, both the old and new, in the Lord's Supper.

Secondly, in the Lord's Supper, we are reminded of Jesus' sacrifice.  In Luke 22:19, Jesus said: “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  Jesus expects us to participate in this supper as a memorial to Him.  When the Jews commemorated the Passover annually, it was as if each generation was reliving the exodus for themselves.  One writer explains: “When the Jews celebrated the Passover memorial, there was more than recalling of a past event.  Each person was to regard himself as having come out of Egypt.  The deliverance from bondage became his own experience. [“ The story was told from the viewpoint of the participants. 'WE were once slaves in Egypt. ... God raised up for US a deliverer'” (Stein).]… Likewise, by repeating the actions of Jesus in breaking the bread and distributing the cup, believers participate in what He did; by the symbolism, they bring those past events into the present and make [His unselfishness, and His forgiveness, and His fellowship of all people] living realities” (Ferguson).  We are reminded of Jesus' sacrifice in the Lord's Supper.

Thirdly, in the Lord's Supper, we are reminded of Jesus' resurrection.  Jesus said in John 6:54ff: “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise Him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.”  Notice how Jesus says that He served a LIVING Father.  Jesus claims that He will give us eternal life.  Now if someone came to you and said, “Follow me because I will give you eternal life,” would you believe them?  Neither would I.  But how can we believe Jesus' claim?  We can believe Jesus because His story does not end with a cross, but with an empty tomb!  “He arose!  He arose!  Hallelujah, Christ arose!”  One writer rightly observes: “Jesus looked at the cross with both horror and confidence.  The horror of crucifixion is clearly understandable.  Jesus' confidence is seen in His last saying.  He goes to the cross knowing He will be victorious” (Stein)!  A brother states: “The church is a living continuation of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ.  At the table, it makes its sacrifice of thanksgiving for the atoning sacrifice of Christ.  The church lives in the humiliation of the cross and the power of the resurrection.  The Lord’s Supper brings the church once more to these realities and reminds it that the resurrection is an assurance of the power of the sacrificial life” (Ferguson).  Another brother reasons: “We think of a ‘memorial’ as a funeral service, but [we do] not hold a funeral service for someone who is alive—raised from the dead” (Wendell Willis).  If we really believe that our Lord arose, shouldn’t we express joy as well as seriousness when we participate in the Lord's Supper?  A final brother shares this good thought: “It was on the Lord’s Day that the risen Jesus appeared reassuringly to a weeping Mary Magdalene, and also to Cleopas and the ‘other disciple’ (possibly Luke?) in Emmaus.  And, of course, it was in the evening of that same Lord’s Day when Jesus showed His crucified body to the apostles, and removed every doubt about His resurrection. … [This is the stuff of which goose bumps are made.  Do we not see?  Do we not understand?  It is on this same Lord’s Day, each and every week, when Christ reveals Himself afresh to us!  When He calls our name, like Mary’s, and appears to us through our [problems].  When—as with His apostles—He shows us again and again His crucified [and resurrected] body to remove any and all doubt.  And especially when He breaks the bread with us—as He did with the two disciples in Emmaus—and our eyes are opened to recognize Him” (F. L. Smith).  We are reminded of Jesus' resurrection in the Lord's Supper.  Now let's come to table of the Lord's Supper to partake of the bread remembering God's covenants, Jesus' sacrifice, and His resurrection.  While the bread is being served, there will be some slides with Scriptures and events on them, and then we will observe a period of silence.

[At this point, the bread was served.]

One other thing has not yet been mentioned.  In the Lord's Supper, we are reminded of Jesus' return.  The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11: 26: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes again.”  One scholar noted this parallel again with the Passover: “Even as the Passover was an anticipation and longing for the day when God's people would participate in the messianic banquet (Isaiah 25:6-9), so the Lord's Supper looks not only back at Jesus' death but forward to His coming” (Stein).  In a sense, this meal is a proclamation celebration; it proclaims not only Jesus' victory over Satan but also His return at the end of time to judge the world (Jividen).  A brother expresses a similar idea and points out how such an anticipation was what the early Christians emphasized: “The Lord’s Supper not only brings the past into the present and creates a present fellowship, but it also proclaims a future event.  In a sense, it brings the future into the present.  Indeed, the predominant note in the early Christian observance was not sorrowful remembrance as at a funeral but joyful expectation [as at the arrival of a dignitary].  The crucified Christ is also a living Lord, and the present fellowship is a guarantee and anticipation of a fuller fellowship yet to be enjoyed” (Ferguson).  Hopefully, as we partook of the bread, we looked backward.  Now as we partake of the fruit of the vine, may be look forward.  The predominant note was joyful expectation.  The early Christians had a very simple prayer to express their anticipation; it's found in 1 Corinthians 16:22: “O Lord, come!”  While the fruit of the vine is being served, again there will be some slides with Scriptures on them about Jesus’ coming again, and then we will observe a period of silence.

[At this point, the fruit of the vine was served.]

Today's lesson has stressed three reasons for giving and four ways the Lord's Supper helps us to remember certain important truths.  God has given His Son, and the Son has given His blood.  Have you given your life to Christ?  Will you take up your cross and suffer its humiliation?  Will you be buried with Christ in baptism in order to experience the power of resurrection and a new life?  Are you looking also in joyful expectation for Jesus’ return?  Can you say with all honesty, “O Lord, come!” Are you ready to stand before the judgment seat of Jesus?  Why not accept God's new covenant and join us each Sunday around the Lord's table?