“Showing the Lord’s Death”
Chalcedon Report No. 320, March 1992
[Note: following is the text of a communion sermon on January 12, 1992]
“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Cor. 11:26)
This is a sentence that needs particular attention, because it tells us that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper has a meaning to the end of time. It is witness to His atonement, and to His victory over sin and death. It is a rite which tells men and nations that the Lord who conquered sin and death rules all history. He has made us His people and heirs together with Him of His eternal Kingdom.
Charles Hodge’s comment is excellent:
What Paul had received of the Lord is recorded in the preceding verses. Here and in what follows we have his own inferences from the account which the Lord had given him. The first of those inferences is, that the Lord’s supper is, and was designed to be, a proclamation of the death of Christ to continue until his second advent. Those who come to it therefore, should come, not to satisfy hunger, nor for the gratification of social feelings, but for the definite purpose of bearing their testimony to the great fact of redemption, and to contribute their portion of influence to the preservation and propagation of the knowledge of that fact. For indicates the connection with what precedes. “It is a commemoration of his death, for it is in its very nature a proclamation of that great fact.” And it was not a temporary institution, but one designed to continue until the consummation. As the Passover was a perpetual commemoration of the deliverance out of Egypt, and a prediction of the coming and death of the Lamb of God, who was to bear the sins of the world; so the Lord’s supper is at once the commemoration of the death of Christ and a pledge of his coming the second time without sin unto salvation.1
The words, “ye do show,” imply an action on our part, and also a public confession. By partaking of the elements, we confess ourselves to be Christ’s people and possession, and that we are members of a Kingdom which shall encompass all peoples in its victory.
The victory is over sin and death. It is the triumph of the new human race being recreated in Jesus Christ, who shall subdue to Himself all principalities and powers, all rule and authority, and then, at the end of time, shall destroy death itself (1 Cor. 15:24–27; Eph. 1:17–23).
According to F. W. Grosheide:
He that comes to the Lord’s table declares that he not only believes that Christ died to pay for the sins of His people, but that he also believes that Christ lives and that His death has significance for all time.2
Our presence at the table is an expression of faith and a belief in victory.
It is sad that too many churchmen know less about the meaning of their faith than do the enemies of Christianity. Our enemies often have an inspired awareness which is evil and even demonic. For example, Albert Camus, in The Rebel, declared, “Since God claims all that is good in man, it is necessary to deride what is good and choose what is evil.”3 He also held, “I rebel (I) therefore we exist.”4 Camus stated openly that which is the spirit of this age, and of fallen men generally.
The Lord’s Table has been understood and parodied by His enemies over the centuries in what is called the Black Mass, or the Satanic Mass. Much has been written on the subject, and much reported which is not repeatable. An extensive investigation occurred under Louis XIV, which was suspended when it became apparent that his mistress Francoise-Athenais, Marquise de Montespan, was deeply involved. Other investigations have uncovered similar data. The Black Mass is an obscene parody; homosexuals are often deeply engaged therein. At every point, the meaning of the Lord’s Table is exactly reversed. Some aspects of this are, first, the performance of illicit and perverse sexual acts; second, at times human sacrifice has marked the Black Mass; third, instead of celebrating Christ’s triumph over sin and death, our empowerment to righteousness, or justice, and our inheritance of eternal life, the Black Mass exalts sin and death. Very tellingly, it enacts Solomon’s description of the enemies of God. Wisdom declares, “But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death” (Prov. 8:36). A culture which is humanistic and anti-Christian will see, not only the widespread observance of the Black Mass, but a cultural will to death. We today are surrounded by a suicidal generation, men and nations powerfully motivated to courses of action which manifest a death wish.
The world outside the realm of this table is given to self-will. Its motto, often used in the Black Mass, is an ancient one: “Do what thou wilt is the highest law,” or, some would say, the only law.
It comes down to a matter of Christ, His victory over sin and death, His law, His righteousness and eternal life, as against self-will and death.
By being present in faithfulness at this table, we witness to our faith that Christ’s Kingdom shall prevail. We commit ourselves to His service, and to the support of those men and missions which advance His rule. We thereby “show the Lord’s death till he come.”
Eating and drinking of these elements is thus ordained to be an impetus to faithfulness and to action, to service and to obedience. Our Lord’s words, immediately preceding Paul’s statement, declare, “this do ye . . . in remembrance of me.”
According to Godet, our Lord’s words, and then St. Paul’s, imply and require action. “For the meaning of the action is to shew His death.”5 To show His death is to proclaim the coming death of death, the triumph of His Kingdom, and the great certainty proclaimed in Revelation 11:15:
The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever.
1. Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1950 reprint), pp. 229-230.
2. F. W. Grosheide, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1953), p. 273.
3. Albert Camus, The Rebel (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1956), p. 47.
4. ibid., p. 22.
5. F. Godet, Commentary on St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, vol. 2 (Edinburgh, Scotland: T. & T. Clark, 1886), p. 161.
Topics: Church, The, Theology