The Importance of the Lord's Supper
With thanks to Raymond Kelcy (4th point is original
By Paul Robison

For unbelievers in the world, the Lord's Supper probably has little significance.  “In fact, it [could be] a stumbling to them.  Even devoutly religious people don't attach much importance to it nor do they find it very meaningful.  They don't object to observing it occasionally, but it really doesn't occupy much of their thinking [especially after Sunday has past.  To many people who are members of denominations,] it is a practice in which a Christian may or may not participate.  There are good reasons for believing that the Lord's Supper is important, that it is more than a mere optional [ritual]” (Kelcy).  Let's look at four reasons now.
 
The first reason that underscores the importance of the Lord's Supper is this: Jesus initiated it.  “Who could say that anything having its origin in the mind of Christ is insignificant or unimportant?  We may be sure that an [activity] which came from Him who was God manifested in the flesh is significant and worthy of our utmost respect and consideration.  No one ever thought of the Lord's Supper until Jesus spoke about it.  [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] tell in detail of the proceedings on that memorable night.  'And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said: “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”' (Matthew 26:26-28).  Jesus, approaching the cross, calls His disciples together and says to them: 'Do this [to remember Me].'  This was one of the last things He told them to do before He laid down His life for them.  Surely, it was something that He wanted His disciples to do [and to practice continually].  Jesus initiated it.  [During such trying hours as His cross grew closer,] Jesus wouldn't have wasted so much precious time in talking about that which was unimportant.  The fact that He introduced [His teaching] at this particular time and that Matthew, Mark, and Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, went into such detail in relating the incident should weigh heavily upon our minds.  It shows the gravity and the importance of the occasion and the events connected with it.  Certainly, the Holy Spirit did not have the writers of these books to record in such detail an incident which was unimportant.  Jesus said: 'If you love Me, keep My commandments' (John 14:15).  In 1 John 5:3, we read: 'For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome.'  As we contemplate this statement in connection with the command to observe the Lord's Supper, we must be impressed with the fact that those who truly love the Lord will be diligent in its observation.  Meeting around the Lord's table with brothers and sisters in Christ will be [indeed] a joyful experience.  It will be an event toward which they look [with] eager anticipation, and it will not be considered a hard or burdensome duty” (Kelcy).  One of our hymns emphasizes this communion or fellowship we enjoy with these words: “We gather here in Jesus' name, His love is burning in our hearts like living flame.  For through the loving Son, the Father makes us one.  Come take the bread, come drink the wine, come share the Lord.  No one is a stranger here, everyone belongs.  Finding our forgiveness here, we in turn, forgive all wrongs” (Leech).  The Lord's Supper is important because Jesus initiated this great act of our fellowship in Him.
 
The second reason that underscores the importance of the Lord's Supper is this: Paul taught it.  “In speaking of Christ's appearance to him, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:8: 'Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.'  Paul was not one of the twelve.  He had not associated with Jesus personally when the Lord's Supper was [initiated].  However, later, when Christ made Paul a special apostle, He revealed to him the details of that memorable night [when the Lord's Supper was initiated]” (Kelcy).  Remember what was reported in our reading this morning: 'For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread” (1 Corinthians 11:23).  “Paul then proceeds to delineate the other details relative to the bread and to the fruit of the vine.  Again we must be impressed with the importance of the Lord's Supper.  It was not God's intention that Matthew, Mark, and Luke narrate the events connected with it, and that it then be forgotten [in the future].  By the Holy Spirit, it was revealed to Paul in order that he might instruct the churches concerning its observance.  In this Corinthian letter, we see a large section devoted to a discussion of it” (Kelcy).  Paul taught it.  Notice also that Paul is trying to correct the Corinthian members' misconduct during the Lord's Supper.  They had two errors: they turned the Lord's Supper into a common meal, which Paul calls despising the church in verse 22, and they were creating further divisions by not waiting to eat the Lord's Supper together where all had a chance to be fed, which Paul calls shaming those who have nothing in verse 22.  “They were [participating] in an unworthy manner, and Paul declares in verse 27: 'Therefore whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord!'  What a terrible [state] to contemplate!  [Being] guilty of the body and blood of Christ!  Furthermore, 'he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body' (verse 29).  Such dire consequences would not follow the improper observance of this feast if it were not something of great importance” (Kelcy)!  For their great sins in abusing the Lord's Supper, God was disciplining the members at Corinth.  Verse 30 states: “For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.”  Commentaries are divided as to whether this is spiritual weakness, sickness, and death or whether it is physical weakness, sickness, or death.  Whatever the interpretation you take, God's intervention shows that one's participation in the Lord's Supper should be done with utmost seriousness.  Why would Paul provide such instruction about God's discipline if the Lord's Supper was not important?  Paul taught it.  Paul wanted the Gentile congregations that he established to partake of the Lord's Supper in a worthy manner, and not in an egotistical and flippant manner.  One commentator rightly noted: “Observance of the Lord's Supper [within] the Corinthian church had pointed up the abysmal insensitivity of some of the members to the needs of other members.  The Lord's Supper had to be seen by them as an act which solidifies the group as a [congregation] called by God which meets in expectation of its Lord and to honor its Lord.  One who fails to perceive this, invites judgment upon himself” (Holladay).  Our hymn once again emphasizes the special nature of this event with these words: “Jesus joins us here, He breaks the bread.  The Lord who pours the cup is risen from the dead.  The One we love the most is now our gracious Host.  Come take the bread, come drink the wine, come share the Lord.  We are now a family of which the Lord is head.  Although unseen, He meets us here in the breaking of the bread” (Leech).  “It does not seem reasonable to suppose that the Lord would have given this special revelation to Paul, and that such a large section of the New Testament would have been occupied with the Lord's Supper [with its proper observance, dire consequences for improper observance, and divine discipline so clearly spelled out], if it had not been considered by Jesus [and Paul] to be important” (Kelcy).
 
A third reason that underscores the importance of the Lord's Supper is this: The early Christians practiced it.  “The first century disciples took the command of Jesus seriously, and in the very chapter that records the establishment of the church, we read that [the members in Jerusalem] 'continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).  The early church was diligent in observing the Lord's Supper.  They were steadfast in the breaking of bread.  In fact, the custom of the early church was to meet on the first day of the week in order to partake of that sacred feast.  Acts 20:7 reports: 'Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart on the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.'  The wording of the statement indicates that the coming together on Sunday to break bread was the usual thing that Christians did.  Again, then, we are once more led to the conclusion that the Lord's Supper was considered by the early Christians an activity which was important and significant.  They were teaching and worshiping under the direction of men who were inspired, and they were led into the doing of that which the Lord desired they do.  The church today that wishes to be like the one we read about in the New Testament will meet each Sunday to observe the Lord's Supper” (Kelcy).  The early Christians practiced it.  Note something else about the passages in the New Testament which talk about the Lord's Supper.  Acts 2:42 shows us how the Jewish Christians in Palestine observed the Lord's Supper.  Acts 20:7 shows us how Gentile Christians in Asia Minor observed this communion.  1 Corinthians 10-11 shows us how Gentile Christians in Achaia partook of this memorial.  Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians gathered around the Lord's table in very different places.  This shows that churches in all parts of the Roman Empire actively observed this meal to remind them of Jesus' death, resurrection, and second coming.  “'This do in remembrance of Me' (1 Corinthians 11:24).  'For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes'” (1 Corinthians 11:26).  [The early Christians knew that] the Lord's Supper set before the world great and basic facts of [their] faith.  When [they preached,] Christ [was] proclaimed in word; in the Lord's Supper, He [was] proclaimed in symbol.  This is one way that all [early Christians proclaimed the sacrifice] of the Savior.  The Lord Supper speaks a universal language that cuts across all cultures and all languages.  When gathered around the Lord's table, there is a kindred feeling and a tie that binds [all Christians] together in understanding” (Kelcy).  Here's another proof.  A Christian living around 150 A. D. gave this description of a worship service: “When we cease from our prayers, we greet one another with a holy kiss.  Next is brought to the [elder] of the brethren bread and a cup of water mixed with wine.  Taking these, he sends up praise and glory to the Father of all through the name of His Son and of the Holy Spirit and makes thanksgiving at length for the gifts we are counted worthy to receive from Him.  When he completes the prayers and thanksgiving, all the people present sing out their assent by saying, 'Amen.'  This word in Hebrew means 'May it be so.'  When the elder has given thanks and all the people have made their acclamation, those called deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water for which thanksgiving has been given, and they carry them away to those who are absent” (Justin, Apology I, 65).  The Lord's Supper is still being observed by Christians during the second century, even though the Roman State viewed their religion as illegal and tried at times to execute its members!  How can people view the Lord's Supper as optional when the early Christians all across the Roman Empire observed it faithfully on a weekly basis, even under the threat of death at times?
 
Another reason that underscores the importance of the Lord's Supper is this: Jesus' prayer is fulfilled by it.  The prayer here is Jesus' great prayer in John 17.  Jesus prays that He may be glorified, that the apostles may be sanctified, that all His disciples might be unified and filled with God's love.  Can we see that all these requests of Jesus are fulfilled and displayed as Christians participate in the Lord's Supper?  Jesus is glorified because the Lord's Supper is about remembering His sacrifice, His resurrection, and His return.  We are sanctified because our relationship with God is strengthened as we recall His love, His goodness, and His forgiveness towards us.  The apostle Paul calls worshiping idols fellowship with demons at the table of demons, but as Christians we enjoy fellowship with God at the table of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:21)!  We are set apart from the world as we partake of this memorial meal.  All members of the church, no matter their location or culture, are united in Christ as they gather around the Lord's table to observe the Lord's Supper.  We are filled with God's love as we recall how God first loved us, even though we were sinners.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:8-10).  We see the importance of the Lord's Supper because Jesus' prayer is fulfilled by it.  “To those who do not understand and appreciate Jesus' death, the bread and fruit of the vine are meaningless objects.  But they are precious to those who understand their meaning.  There is, of course, no intrinsic worth or merit in the material [unleavened] bread and grape juice, but because Christ has designated these objects as memorials of His body and His blood, the proper observance of the Lord's Supper inspires us and makes us more consecrated.  There are many monuments in this great land of ours before which we stand with a feeling of respect and gratitude, not because of monument itself, but because of the great event it commemorates, [like the monument at Pearl Harbor, or the one in Washington D.C., which has the names of Vietnam veterans, or the one at Ground Zero, which has the names of those who were victims of 9/11.]  And if these monuments are important because of the historical event and because of the feelings of patriotism which they [instill] in our hearts, how much more important is the Lord's Supper [at the Lord's table] which is a memorial to the death, resurrection, and return of our blessed Lord Jesus, the Messiah!  That [memorial] which celebrates such a meaningful event cannot itself be insignificant to the Christian” (Kelcy).  Our hymn affirms: “We'll gather soon where angels sing.  We'll see the glory of our Lord and coming King.  Now we anticipate the feast for which we wait.  Come take the bread, come drink the wine, come share the Lord” (Leech).  Jesus' prayer for His glorification and our sanctification, unification, and edification is fulfilled by the Lord's Supper.
 
“In view of the importance of the Lord's Supper, all who desire to please Christ should be regular participants at His table.  Since that table is in Jesus' kingdom, all should desire to be citizens of that kingdom in order to have the privilege of communion.  [Christians can eat and drink at Jesus' table in His kingdom, just as Jesus promised to His apostles in Luke 22:29-30!]  All who are citizens of that kingdom should be impressed anew with the importance of continuing steadfastly in the breaking of bread [each Sunday].  We also should be impressed anew with the importance of eating and drinking in a worthy manner.  Getting ready to observe the Lord's Supper involves more than just gathering at a meeting place around the Lord's table.  It involves preparing our minds through meditation.  It involves preparing our hearts through keeping proper fellowship with other brothers and sisters, and seeking reconciliation before we come to this table if necessary.  [At the Lord's table, there is no place for grudges or hard feelings; we all stand on equal footing before Jesus' cross.]  Those who spend time in preparation for this special communion and who partake worthily, discerning the Lord's body and being sensitive to other members' needs, find gathering around the Lords' table a very enriching, [uplifting, and cleansing experience]” (Kelcy)!  Don't miss out on this important weekly memorial and celebration.  If you are not a Christian, you cannot enjoy the sanctification, unification, and edification that takes place during the observance of the Lord's Supper.  Become part of Jesus' kingdom by being baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, and you will be added that kingdom by the Lord Himself!   As a Christian, maybe you've been like the Corinthian brethren and approached the Lord's table in a very flippant and insensitive manner.  Allow us to pray for your forgiveness.  The Lord who initiated this great memorial meal wants all people to be in His kingdom and to enjoy the benefits of gathering around His table.  Bow before Jesus, the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords!