Tag Archives: gospel

The Christmas Story: The Wondrous Birth of Christ (Luke 2:1-7)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, KY on the 3rd day of December 2017:

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Turning Away from the Gospel (Gal. 1:6-7)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky on the 26th day of November 2017:

Understanding Spiritual Riches (1 Cor. 1:4-6)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, KY in September 2017:

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you” (1 Corinthians 1:4-6, ESV)

Riches Beneath Our Feet

There is a large gold mine over in Queensland, Australia known as the Mount Morgan gold mine. Mount Morgan was a copper, gold and silver mine in Australia and it was the largest gold mine in the entire world at one time. To give you some perspective, they mined for copper, gold, and silver from 1882 until 1981—and during that time the mine yielded about 262 tons of gold, 37 tons of silver, and 387,000 tons of copper.

Before discovery of the gold mine, there were people who lived on the mountain’s barren surface. They were the original land owners, and they lived very poor lives. If you look at pictures of Mount Morgan you can clearly observe that, and see that whoever lived there obviously had a hard life of poverty—there isn’t a lot of good farm land, vegetation, or trees. And so for many years, the original land owners lived in deep poverty there. Even though the vast wealth of the gold mine was completely out of sight to them, it was beneath their feet the whole time.

If they had only discovered the wealth they already owned, they wouldn’t have lived impoverished and poor lives—instead they would have been wealthy, enriched, and supplied throughout the rest of their lives and the generations which would follow them. The only thing that separated them from living a rich life was their failure to discover the riches they already had in their possession.

And you know, I find that many of us as believers are in a similar situation. We are not living spiritually wealthy lives because we have failed to understand that God has made us spiritually rich in Christ. He who has ears to hear, let him hear that it is a serious mistake when we as believers fail to understand that we have been made spiritually rich.

Scripture teaches that God has given us a wealth and abundance of spiritual riches and resources to enable us to live the Christian life—to live lives which are spiritually wealthy to His glory. But often times, we are either completely unaware that God has done this for us, or we don’t believe it because it is so unheard of. When was the last time you heard a sermon on this? When was the last time you heard someone preach on how we have been given great spiritual riches to live a spiritually rich life?

Most of the time, we are struggling along in our Christian lives. Our devotional life, evangelism, discipleship, and church involvement would be more appropriately called poor than rich. But the truth is—God has made believers spiritually rich at conversion. He has given us everything we need to live a spiritually wealthy life. He has given us everything we need to be rich in pleasing Him, rich in glorifying Him, wealthy in magnifying His name. Christ did say, “How hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:23), but it is just as true that those who are in the kingdom of God are very wealthy spiritually. The only problem is, we often fail to discover the spiritual riches which are beneath our feet—spiritual riches which God has given to us that we therefore have in our possession.

Spiritual riches, if you don’t know, are good things which God has given to us through Christ which either affect who we are or how we live. There are spiritual riches pertaining to who we are—our identity; and there our spiritual riches pertaining to how we live—things which God gives us to obey Him in this life. There are spiritual riches or blessings concerning who we are (Ephesians 1:3-13), and there are spiritual riches or blessings concerning how we live (2 Peter 1:3).

Paul speaks of the spiritual riches which concern our identity in Ephesians 1 saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (v. 3, emphasis mine). Paul goes on to mention several of these spiritual blessings as they relate to who we are. Believers are chosen by God, adopted, blessed, redeemed, forgiven, recipients of His grace, and sealed for eternity (vv. 4-14).

The apostle Peter best captures the idea of spiritual riches which concern our living in 2 Peter 1 saying, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (v. 3). The power of God has given us everything which pertain to our lives and our godliness. We have all spiritual riches we need to live obediently for the Lord. And those riches—those good things which God has given to believers to enable them to live the Christian life—these are precisely Paul’s concern in this passage. It is clear that Paul wants the Corinthians to understand that God has made them spiritually rich at conversion. After describing the fundamental truths to which they needed to return (1:1-3), he now calls them to understand yet another fundamental truth—namely, that they are made spiritually rich.

The Corinthians certainly thought themselves to be rich—but in the wrong sense of the word. They considered themselves self-sufficient, rich in worldly things—and certainly they were. They were wealthy, no doubt—wealthy in sin, disorganization, division, strife, and disunity—they were wealthy in sin and poor in obedience. And so in this passage, Paul calls them to understand and comprehend once again how God has made them spiritually rich. They needed to understand this and we need to understand today that we have been made spiritually rich at conversion. We will spend all of our time together here discovering, believing, defending, and applying that truth. And we will see in this passage:

I. The Source of Spiritual Riches (v. 4)
II. The Content of Spiritual Riches (v. 5)
III. The Proof of Spiritual Riches (v. 6)

Let us discover this morning how exactly God has made us spiritually rich.

I. The Source of Spiritual Riches (v. 4)

If the Bible states clearly that we have been spiritually enriched, then how have we been spiritually enriched? Where do spiritual riches come from and how do they come to us? Clearly, everything has an origin. If the Bible is true in saying that we have been “blessed [in] Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3), and here that we have been “enriched in him,” then where does “every spiritual blessing” come from? How have we been made so rich in spiritual things? According to Paul, the answer is the grace of God. This is the first thing we need to comprehend—we need to understand the source of spiritual riches—the grace of God. Every spiritual blessing we have, and every spiritual possession we own is owing completely to the grace and kindness of God which comes to us through Jesus Christ. That’s the first thing Paul says in the passage—it’s clear that he first wants the Corinthians to understand that the grace of God is the source of all their spiritual riches and blessings, and also that this very grace has been given to them as well.

The grace of God is where it begins—the grace of God is the fountain from which every other gift of God to us flows. The grace of God to us is like a waterfall where a great amount of valuable treasures were dropped. Like a man in a forest who follows the upward path of a stream in the morning, finding valuable gold and silver, as he walks for miles towards the source of the stream, filling up his pockets as he goes. The stream carries the treasures downward, as they get caught on the bank where the man can pick them up—but they are all coming from the waterfall where all the treasures were dropped. If the man is wise, he will not only collect all he can possibly contain in his pockets, but he will travel onward until he finds the source of the treasures floating downstream. So it is with spiritual blessings and riches. We too will be wise to discover where they are coming from, while at the same time appreciating the ones we have picked up along the way. So where do spiritual riches and blessings come from? Paul says, “the grace of God in Christ,” which itself has also been given to believers. Let’s see how this idea is developed in this verse—let’s read it one more time: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (v. 4).

First, observe here that Paul gives continual thanks to God for the Corinthians. Paul begins this passage by expressing thanksgiving to God, and this is his usual pattern—he does this in just about every letter. It’s really a matter of perspective—before Paul deals with problems in the churches to whom he is writing, and before he gives them instructions, he thanks God for them. They are believers just like he is, no matter their problems or issues, and so Paul gives thanks for at least that reason. And he says here, “I give thanks to my God always for you.” Also, gratitude is not just an attitude here—thanks is actually something which Paul gives. He says, “I give thanks.” Thankfulness and gratitude is something that he gives to someone—who is that someone? He says, “to my God.” Paul gives thanks to God—not to the Corinthians. His thanksgiving is directed towards his God, not towards the Corinthians or anyone else. And notice also the frequency of Paul’s giving of thanks towards God.  He gives thanks, “always for you.” He is continually thankful to God for them.

But how can Paul possibly be thankful for such a twisted church? I mean, the whole letter itself is a correctional epistle written to a church that was in urgent and dire need of correction. They were divided over leaders, sexually immoral, misunderstanding marriage, mistreating the Lord’s Supper, failing to comprehend the fullness of Christ’s resurrection, and a whole host of other problems! What reason could there possibly be in Paul’s mind to give thanks to God for this Corinthian church? Because “of the grace of God that was given [them] in Christ Jesus.” That’s the reason why Paul gives thanks, found in the last part of v. 4 here. Paul gives thanks to God for the Corinthians, not because they are living right or because of anything they have done, but because of what God has done. And what God has done is give them His grace in Christ. He states here that the grace of God has been given to them in Christ Jesus—that is, the saving and sustaining grace of God. This grace has been given to them—they have received it. Also note that it is the grace of God in Christ Jesus, that which is because of Jesus, for Jesus, and through Jesus. This grace is in Christ. And since there is nothing but time separating us from the Corinthians, we can be sure that this grace of God in Christ has also been given to us. We too have received the grace of God in Christ, because He has made it accessible to us. The Spirit enables us to receive grace daily to obey God, and it is because of Jesus, and for the purpose of serving Jesus.

That which we and the Corinthians have received is the grace of God. That’s the reason Paul is thankful—because the “grace of God” has been given to believers. The word “grace,” here in the Greek means the favor and kindness of God. It is the undeserved kindness of God toward us. It is the outpouring of the mercy of God through Christ toward the undeserving. This grace is of God—it is related to God in every way conceivable. It is of God He alone is the only possessor of it, and it is of God because it comes from Him. Probably the best way for us to understand the grace of God is to look for a second at how Paul describes the grace of God in this passage as a whole. In this passage, he describes the grace of God not as an abstract object which sits by itself, but something which does. For Paul, the grace of God does things in the lives of believers. This grace of God saves, sustains, and secures.

The grace of God saves. Clearly, this is the emphasis in the passage we are considering (vv. 4-6). All of these things in the passage are past tense, implying that Paul is talking about a past act of God’s grace—which would be salvation. Notice, the grace of God has been “given,” it is through that grace that the Corinthians “were” enriched, and proof of that enrichment is that they received the gospel—the testimony about Christ was “confirmed among them.” When you are saved from the penalty of sin, and regenerated to new life, it is because God saves you by His grace (Eph. 2:8-9).

The grace of God sustains. It is also by this same grace that you continue to be saved. God saves you daily from the presence and power of sin by His grace—it is the kind act of God to give you His Spirit to be obedient to Him and overcome sin. This is what the Bible calls sanctification. The grace of God ensures and enables your obedience as you continue to live as a Christian. The grace of God supplies you with everything you need to continue being saved. You have everything you need through His grace, as you are waiting on the next big event in redemptive history: “you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 7).

The grace of God secures. The grace of God secures you for eternity. It is by this same grace that you are saved, sustained, and secured for an eternity with God. Paul says that Jesus “will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 8). He will keep you to the end—you will persevere because of the grace of God.

Knowing that the grace of God exists is enough reason to get excited and praise God, but even more, Paul says that we have been given this grace. “I [thank my God] because of the grace of God that was given you.” Even though the grace of God itself is the source of all spiritual riches and blessings, even this grace itself has been given to believers. Again, we are certain that Paul is referring to salvation here, considering the past-tense language here. This grace was given. “Was,” used as a reference to a time in the past, and “given,” the past-tense rendering of the verb “give,” or “to give.” Paul is recalling the Corinthians’ conversion and regeneration—when they came to faith in Jesus Christ. Even more to that point, how this grace was given to believers is explained in the last part of this verse.

This grace was given in Christ Jesus. The way in which God’s grace is both expressed and received is in Jesus Christ. God expresses and shows His kindness towards us “in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), but we also receive God’s grace in Jesus because He made it available to us, and secured it to us as well. In God’s giving of His Son Jesus as the atonement for our sins, He gives us His grace. By giving us Jesus, He has given us His grace.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that they have been given the very source of all spiritual riches and blessings—and we need to understand this as well. We have not only collected treasures along the stream, but we have been given the waterfall from where all treasures flow. This means that we have everything we need to be pleasing to God. Do you believe that today? Do you understand that you have everything you need in the Christian life because of God’s grace? Are you rejoicing in that truth this day? Every time you do something good for God, remember that it’s because you have been given the source of everything good—God’s grace. It is all owing to His grace. It is splendidly explained in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

We need to understand the source of spiritual riches, the grace of God—which we have been given in Christ.

II. The Content of Spiritual Riches (v. 5)

If the grace of God is how we have obtained spiritual riches, then what spiritual riches have we actually obtained? If we have found and claimed great treasures at the waterfall of God’s grace, then what are they? In what ways have we been spiritually enriched?

In v. 5, Paul explains this. We have been spiritually enriched both generally and specifically. He says that we have been spiritually enriched in every way, but specifically in our speech and knowledge. There are ways that God has enriched and supplied all of us, and there are ways that God has enriched and supplied some of us. This too is something we need to contemplate—we need to understand the content of spiritual riches. In this verse, Paul deals with what we’ve been spiritually enriched with.

He unfolds exactly what ways the grace of God has been manifested among the Corinthian believers. This is fitting, because the grace of God does more than save, it supplies. This is what the grace of God does when it is given to believers. You are not just saved, regenerated, and given new life at conversion. You are also supplied with spiritual riches to live the Christian life—God gifts you in various ways to bring Him glory in your Christian life. Paul says, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, [in] that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and knowledge” (vv. 4-5). The Corinthians were made rich in general ways and specific ways to be obedient to God, and so it is true of us as well.

First, they were made rich generally. The first way that we and the Corinthians have been made spiritually rich –  generally. Paul says, “in every way you were enriched in him,” denoting a general enrichment. And in the last half of the verse he spells out some specific ways, “in all speech and in all knowledge.” In the first part of v. 5, he says that believers have been enriched in every way. In everything believers are enriched. There isn’t one area of our lives that God has left in spiritual poverty. God has made us spiritually rich exhaustively—He has given us everything we need to be spiritually wealthy in everything. And again, this has already occurred – “you were” enriched in him. In every way and in everything, we were at one time in the past enriched. The word enriched here means “to be made rich.” There are only three occurrences of it in the NT, this being one of them—it was not a term Paul used often. One example is in 2 Corinthians 9, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way” (2 Cor. 9:11). Paul speaking there of how God will enable the church to give financially to God’s work (see also 2 Cor. 6:10).

So generally speaking, every believer has everything he needs to be obedient to God—all believers everywhere have been made rich in Christ. We have all we need in Him. But also, there are some ways that God has specifically made believers rich—ways in which God has enriched believers as individuals—ways we may or may not have in common. The second way that we and the Corinthians have been made spiritually rich is specifically. This is definitely something the Corinthians misunderstood—for Paul deals with specific spiritual gifts at length in this letter. And here he notes two ways that the Corinthians have been specifically enriched. Paul likely chose to point out these two precise gifts because these were precisely the cause of some of the issues they had in the church. They misunderstood and misapplied these gifts, resulting in problems, and Paul is calling them back to understand the true purpose of them.

First, in their speaking they were enriched. They were able to prophesy, speak in tongues, and do many other miraculous things through their words. Again, they clearly abused this gift or Paul wouldn’t have dealt so much with clarifying its use and nature in chapter 14. Second, in their understanding they were enriched. They were a wise people, discerning, able to understand great truths. They were able to tell forth the truth (in all speech) and to grasp/understand the truth (knowledge). We too have been made spiritually rich in ways applicable to all, and in ways applicable to some. Paul speaks of those specific ways in chapter 12,

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:4-6).

I read a story a few years back that may help us understand this truth further. It’s told by Dr. John MacArthur about a wealthy London businessman who lost his son. This man was your typical London business man—drinking hot tea, making deals, carrying around a suitcase, and making lots of money. But one day his son left him for a fuller life—and he had been searching for many years after his runaway son. One afternoon this father was preparing to board a train to London when he spotted a man in ragged, dirty clothing begging for money from passengers along the station platform. His first impulse was to avoid the beggar, but there was something strangely familiar about him.

When the beggar approached and asked if the man could spare a few shillings, the businessman realized he had found his long-lost son. With tears in his eyes and joy in his voice he embraced his son, crying, “A few shillings? You are my son—everything I have is yours!”

How foolish this son was to live like he was poor—he had a wealthy father who wanted to give him everything he had. And how foolish we are to live lives which are spiritually poor, considering that we have a heavenly Father who has said the same to us! There is no fuller life than a life of spiritual wealth—where our life’s greatest pursuit is being rich in obedience to God. We need to understand that we are like this runaway son at times, starving what could be a well-fed spiritual life, but often living as though we have nothing, when we possess everything that matters!

And that is the center of this passage—this is the key thing Paul wants us to understand. You have been made spiritually rich in Christ, given everything you need to glorify God—you should therefore have no excuse for living in spiritual poverty! If we have everything we need, but we live as though we are still in need—what’s the problem? Most of the time it is because we are not accessing it or acknowledging it. We need to access the spiritual resources and riches God has already given us, and we need to know that they exist! And how else do you know you have been made rich in Christ, other than by discovering it in the Bible? Find out from Scripture what kind of riches you have! Ignoring what Scripture says about how you’ve been made spiritually wealthy is like having five million dollars in the bank account, but not knowing it because you never went there to see if you had it! You have everything you need for obedience to God and joy in Christ, but you may not know it because you’ve never went to the Bible to see if you have it! Rest in this promise—you don’t come up with what it takes to be obedient to God, you just use what God has already given you and find out more from Scripture.

We need to understand the content of spiritual riches—that we have been made rich generally and specifically.

III. The Proof of Spiritual Riches (v. 6)

We have seen the source of spiritual riches (v. 4), and the content of spiritual riches (v. 5), now I want you to notice in v. 6, the proof of spiritual riches. I’ll be honest with you—I have really struggled in preparing this message, and I’ll tell you why. First of all, the idea of being spiritually rich, having everything we need to live an obedient life—that is not something we speak of very often, is it? I was questioning whether or not I was in the right in preaching such a matter—considering that it is not something we talk about very often. And secondly, look at the majority of our Christian lives. Does it look like we are living rich spiritual lives? Our devotional lives—are they rich and wealthy? Our evangelism and discipleship—is it rich, fruitful, and wealthy? Our churches—are they spiritually rich and abounding with spiritual growth and maturity? The answer is more often no than yes.

With all of these things in mind, it makes a little difficult to believe that we have actually been spiritually enriched at all. With an observant look at how little this idea is taught and preached, and how spiritual poverty seems to be more prevalent than spiritual prosperity—have we really been made spiritually rich? It would seem not. Is there any way we can be sure that we enriched? Can we be assured without even the lightest breeze of doubt blowing upon our hearts that we have been enriched in Christ? Is there any concrete evidence or proof that we have obtained spiritual riches?

Certainly the Corinthians would have had trouble believing they were made rich in Christ. They lived wealthy lives, make no mistake—but not spiritually wealthy lives. They were rich in sin and poor in obedience. So is there any proof that we have been spiritually enriched? There is, and it’s what Paul explains in v. 6. To eradicate any doubt that might be in their mind or ours, Paul presents the impenetrable, solid, and concrete evidence that we and the Corinthians have been spiritually enriched. So to what does Paul direct our attention as the absolute proof that we have been enriched? The fact that we have believed and received the gospel! The way we can be absolutely sure we have been made rich for obedience to God is to reach back into our past and see if we believed the gospel and see if from His precious hand we received salvation. If we have believed the gospel, then we have been given spiritual riches. That is how we know we have been spiritually enriched. Paul says, “[I give thanks to God for His grace given to you in Christ, namely in that you were enriched both generally and specifically] even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you.” Paul points to their reception of the gospel as the proof that they have been enriched for spiritual living. If they are saved, they are spiritually rich—it’s as simple as that.

This word testimony in the Greek is similar to the word martyr—someone who dies because they have testified about Jesus, because they have proclaimed Him. This word testimony means witness, this is the witness about Christ—the gospel of Christ—the witness and testimony about Him. The eyewitness account of who He is and what He has done—it is the gospel, the message about Christ. That is what is meant by the phrase testimony about Christ. When you believed the gospel and were saved, you believed the testimony or witness about Christ. So was true of the Corinthians, which is why Paul says secondly that this testimony was “confirmed among [them].” It was confirmed, established, and believed among them. This testimony about Christ wasn’t rejected and it hadn’t hit the surface and moved on—it penetrated their souls, thus enabling them to believe. It was established among them.

When a lawyer wants to prove his point to the jury and to the judge, often times he will call a witness to the stand. You hear and see it all the time: “I’d like to call Johnny Big to the stand, your Honor.” This witness can then testify to the events he saw or the things he experienced, and thus be convincing proof that what the lawyer is saying is true. And Paul in this passage is trying to get the Corinthians and us to understand that we have been made spiritually rich in Christ—and the witness that he calls to the stand is our conversion through the gospel. Paul is saying, “You Corinthians act like spiritual paupers, living like God has withdrawn every spiritual blessing from you, rather than living spiritually rich. Don’t believe me when I say that you have been enriched in Him in every way? Look at what you did when I preached the gospel to you! You believed it and it was confirmed among you—this testimony about Christ was established among you. If you weren’t made spiritually rich, you never would have believed the gospel in the first place! But because you believed the gospel, and God doesn’t leave you like you are, He has enriched you in every way to bring Him glory to the maximum degree in this life!”

If you have believed the gospel, God has made you spiritually rich. Conversely, if God has not made you spiritually rich, perhaps you haven’t believed the gospel. We need to understand the proof of spiritual riches—our receiving of the gospel. If you know at least that much about your Christian life—then that’s all the assurance you need to know that you have been spiritually enriched. Because that’s what God does for Christians—that’s His business.

Conclusion

We are standing on a gold mine folks—let’s dig in. We are basking in a waterfall of treasures—let’s pick them up one by one. We have a wealthy Father who says to us, “Son, everything I have is yours.” The great Scottish Bible expositor Alexander MacLaren once wrote, “We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key to the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank and told to help himself, and comes out with one cent, whose fault is it that he is poor?” Let me just ask you today: If God has made us spiritually rich at conversion, then whose fault is it if we live spiritually poor?

The source of all our spiritual riches is the grace of God, and we have also received this grace. Do you understand that you have everything you need in the Christian life because of God’s grace? The content of our spiritual riches consists in being made spiritually rich both generally and specifically. Are you accessing the spiritual riches you already have, such as the Holy Spirit, prayer, and the Scripture? And are you acknowledging the many other spiritual riches yet to be discovered in the Bible? Additionally, we have absolute proof that, at the moment of our conversion, these spiritual riches were secured to us. Do you believe it?

By God’s grace in Christ, may we understand truly that we have been made spiritually rich.

The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming the Gospel (1 Cor. 11:23-26)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky, on the 15th day of October 2017:

“23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Gathered Together for Remembrance

Jesus died. Could you think of a more stunning and sobering truth? That truth is a feature which is exclusive to the Christian faith – it sets us apart from all other religions which exist. Enough good works and you might please God or gods, according to all religions. But in the Christian faith, God takes on human flesh and dies, to enable you to please Him forever! This stunning and sobering truth that Jesus died is precisely why we have gathered together to observe what is known as the Lord’s Supper. We who know the Lord are gathered together here this morning for what is truly a special and solemn occasion, and that is to observe the Lord’s Supper. For that reason, I will not preach for very long this morning, because the Lord’s Supper itself is an unwritten sermon—what it means and what it represents is just as much a proclamation of the truth, as is my speaking of it to you.

The Lord’s Supper is certainly a wondrous thing—it is an ordinance which Jesus Himself instituted to remind us of Him. And how many of us know we could be more reminded of Jesus every day, amen? It is a physical representation which reminds us of the gospel—that Jesus died for sinners so that we who believe can be saved and have supper with Him again one day in glory. We need to be reminded of this truth constantly—we are forgetful people by nature, we forget things all the time. I bet none of us can recall what we saw on the news Friday night, or what we read on Facebook yesterday, or even what we read in our Bibles on Tuesday. Our minds fill up with knowledge, and our minds deteriorate—and both are reasons we forget.

But let me tell you this morning—I’m glad the Lord Jesus Christ knows we forget. The Lord knows we forget, and the Lord saw fit to remind us of the truth of the gospel through the Lord’s Supper. We need the Lord’s Supper to remind us of the greatest truth in all the world, that Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. This morning, we will look at what God’s word says about the Lord’s Supper—that would be the best place to begin. And we will spend our time this morning understanding the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, before we partake of it. And that is the most important part of the Lord’s Supper—understanding what it means and what it represents. We must understand the meaning of the memorial. We need to know what the Lord’s Supper means, and understand it’s significance. If we don’t know what we’re doing when we’re doing it, then there’s no point.

We can discover the meaning of the Lord’s Supper by looking at 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul explains exactly what it is. This is yet another thing the Corinthians got wrong. They were abusing the Lord’s Supper, misapplying and misunderstanding its meaning. In fact, they had it so messed up that Paul said that when they came together for worship, they might as well have stayed home. He says in v. 17, “But in the following instruction I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse” (11:17). And so, in the latter half of chapter 11, Paul is correcting them and giving instructions pertaining to the Lord’s Supper. We will see this morning that apparently, they completely misapplied and misunderstood the significant meaning of the Lord’s Supper, and that’s what lead to all of their problems surrounding it. The reason they were mistreating people, the reason why they were gluttonous, the reason why they were casual in their approach to this supper, even the reason why they were divided—it was all due to their malpractice and misunderstanding of the Lord’s Supper.

The Corinthians needed to understand the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, that it is both a remembrance and proclamation of the gospel. And we need to understand this today. We as believers today need to understand the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, that it is both a remembrance and proclamation of the gospel. It is not some liturgical ritual, or even a casual element tacked on at the end of a church service. It is a sermon, a memorial, a reminder, and a remembrance and proclamation of the gospel!

We will see in the passage we read this morning that:

I. The Lord’s Supper is the Tradition of Christ (v. 23a)
II. The Lord’s Supper is Remembering the Body of Christ (vv. 23b-24)
III. The Lord’s Supper is Remembering the Blood of Christ (v. 25)
IV. The Lord’s Supper is Proclaiming the Gospel of Christ (v. 26)

Let us now begin in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, the 11th chapter.

I. The Lord’s Supper is the Tradition of Christ (v. 23a)

The first thing that will help us understand the meaning of the Lord’s Supper is understanding where it came from. It isn’t a concoction produced by the Roman Catholic Church, and it isn’t the product of any Protestant denomination—in fact, no denomination, no religion, and no person but Jesus Christ Himself is responsible for instituting the Lord’s Supper. If any man came up with it, it wouldn’t hold any real value and it wouldn’t be worthy of practicing in the church today.

The name of this ordinance is very fitting—the Lord’s Supper, because it is just that—it is the supper which the Lord Himself instituted. And that’s the first thing we see in the passage regarding the Lord’s Supper—it is the tradition of Christ. That is precisely why we remember the Lord’s Supper—it has been instituted and commanded by our Lord Himself. And obeying His command to observe it is just as important as obeying any of the other commands which He has given us.

So in the first verse, Paul is reminding the Corinthians that the Lord’s Supper is the tradition of Christ—it is something Paul first received from the Lord to teach to the Corinthians. It is not Paul’s Supper, the Corinthians’ Supper—but the Lord’s Supper.

First, this is a tradition which Paul received from the Lord. Before reminding them of the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, he first establishes its authenticity and therefore his authority in instructing them on how to do it. Paul is explaining the origin of the Lord’s Supper. That’s where Paul goes first, because if the Corinthians know where the Lord’s Supper comes from, it will greatly affect how they see it, and it bears an even greater responsibility for understanding and applying it correctly. If they mess it up, they sin against the Lord, since it is His supper. If it is a tradition of Christ – if it comes ultimately from God, then it is serious.

Paul says that this tradition is something which he received from the Lord in the first part of v. 23, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you.” This tradition should be observed because it comes from the Lord, and Paul’s instructions should be heeded because they too come from the Lord. This is a tradition which Paul first received from the Lord. But it wasn’t something he kept to himself, he also shared it with the Corinthians.

That’s what Paul says next. Notice secondly that he delivered this tradition to the Corinthians. “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you.” Notice the tense of the word delivered—it’s in the past tense, meaning that sometime previously Paul had instructed the Corinthians concerning the Lord’s Supper. They already knew about it—they had been instructed about it before when Paul delivered it to them. It was first delivered to Paul by the Lord and then Paul delivered it to the Corinthians. This is a tradition they knew about and regularly practiced, because Paul taught them all about it before. They weren’t ignorant about it, they practiced it every time they “came together” (v. 20).

But even though the Corinthians were once taught about the Lord’s Supper, authoritatively from the apostle Paul—they continued to abuse and misunderstand it. That just shows you that a church can have a great pastor, and still be a bad church! And I hope you comprehend this morning that the only thing separating us today from the Corinthians is time and distance. We too can just as easily be taught authoritative instructions about the Lord’s Supper from Scripture, and continue to misunderstand it, undervalue it, abuse it, or approach it flippantly like it’s yesterday’s coffee. No Christian is immune from misunderstanding the Lord’s Supper, or this passage of Scripture under consideration would not need to be written! Just because you’ve been taught correctly about the Lord’s Supper for years does not guarantee you will truly understand and appreciate its gospel-meaning.

And frequency of observance doesn’t ensure understanding and appreciating its meaning either. You can observe the Lord’s Supper for 65 years and be as far from its meaning as the east is from the west. Traveling to the place where you can understand its meaning begins here with understanding that it is the tradition of Christ—it is something which Jesus Himself commanded and instituted.

And if the Lord’s Supper is the tradition of Christ, then that means several things. First, we dare not neglect it. If it’s something Jesus started, we should continue it. Second, we dare not approach it flippantly, because it bears His authority. It deserves the utmost respect when we observe it, if it is the tradition of the Lord. And thirdly, we should long to understand its meaning, if it is so meaningful. If it bears the authority of Christ, as tradition which He has instituted, then we should want to know what its all about!

We need to understand that the Lord’s Supper is the tradition of Christ.

II. The Lord’s Supper is Remembering the Body of Christ (vv. 23b-24)

Not only do we need to understand that it is Christ’s tradition, but secondly, we also need to understand this morning that the Lord’s Supper is remembering the body of Christ. It is a time for us to remember that Jesus gave His body for us on the cross. The Lord’s Supper is remembering the body of Christ, and it is uniquely represented by the breaking and consumption of bread. There’s a reason why bread is chosen to represent that, and we will take that up later. But in giving instruction and correction on the Lord’s Supper, Paul goes straight to the teaching of Jesus on this matter, and he refers to Jesus’ last earthly supper with His disciples where the Lord Himself instituted such an ordinance. If it is the tradition of Christ, it makes since for Paul to refer to this exact tradition, as he does here.

Paul recalls exactly when the institution of the Lord’s Supper took place. Paul says, “the Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed [instituted this supper].” The institution of the Lord’s Supper took place during Jesus’ last meal on earth with His disciples before He was crucified and killed. This institution took place the night that Judas betrayed Him. Before He was betrayed, He has this memorable supper with His disciples, and Jesus institutes a new ordinance for His disciples to observe from then on. Luke tells us that “when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him” (Luke 22:14).

Paul says that on this night he “took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it.” The first part of the Lord’s Supper concerns bread, that’s what we see Jesus doing here. He took bread, gave thanks for it, and likely tore it in pieces as He handed to His disciples to eat. Now, why bread? Was it because it was convenient and easy to produce? The reason for the bread was because of why they were gathered together. They were gathered together and sharing a meal because it was Passover. And the consumption of bread was commanded in partaking of the Passover. Passover, if you didn’t know, is a festival which Jews observed as a memorial of when God delivered the Israelites out of the hands of the Egyptians. In Exodus 12, we read what brought this about: God was striking the Egyptians with plagues in an effort to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites be free from slavery. He didn’t budge, so God threatened them with one final plague—the death of the firstborn son. And the Israelites were commanded to take the blood of a spotless lamb and place it on their lintels and doorposts so that God would “pass over” their house, so their firstborns would live. Hence the name, Passover. God said, “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt” (12:13). They were also commanded to have a meal during Passover as well, and God says to them that they “shall eat the flesh (of the lamb) that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it” (v. 8). And so Jesus is observing this Passover with His disciples, sharing bread with them.

But what is most striking about this scene where Jesus is sharing Passover with His disciples is how He reinterprets the Passover bread to be representative of His own body. Jesus makes no reference to the Israelites or their freedom from bondage in Egypt, but instead says concerning the bread, “This is my body, which is for you.” Jesus says that the bread is His body. Now, some like the Roman Catholic Church have taken this to mean that the bread is literally the body of Jesus, and that when you eat the bread you are literally receiving His body, and are thus saved by it. This doctrine they call transubstantiation. And while I love those who are Catholic, and have friends who are Catholic—that idea is absolute blasphemy and heresy if I’ve ever seen it. If Jesus means that the bread literally is His body, and not merely a representative of such, then we’d better take everything Jesus says metaphorically about Himself. By that logic, Jesus literally is a door (John 10:7); He literally is a vine (John 15:1), and He literally is a loaf of bread (John 6:35)!

Jesus is saying here that the bread represents His body—it represents what happened to the body. Jesus was using bread as an object lesson here, and as a fuller interpretation of the Passover supper. The bread represents His body, He says, “which was given [for us].” The bread serves as a reminder that Jesus has given Himself for us. Titus 2:14 says, “[Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness.” The bread that He gave His disciples to eat is representative of His body He was about to give for His disciples on the cross.

But that is not all Jesus says. Jesus tells the disciples that they are to “Do this in remembrance of me.” Here’s where the Lord’s Supper is enacted—Jesus issues it to us as a command. Jesus says to do this—to do what He did with the disciples at the Passover. It is Jesus saying, “This bread which I am passing on to you as representative of My body given for you on the cross— so do this same thing to remember Me.” Therein is the purpose of the Lord’s Supper—to remember Jesus on the cross. The Lord’s Supper doesn’t save you, but it does sanctify you. You do not have to observe it in order to be saved, but you certainly have to observe it if you are saved. It doesn’t justify you in the sight of God, but the justified should observe it to remember justification. The purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to remember Jesus Christ and His death on the cross—His body which was pierced on the cross. It is to remember the work of Christ on the cross, such as that which is described by Isaiah:

“Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth” (53:4-7).

Are you remembering that this morning? This is a time dedicated entirely to remembering His body given on the cross. Whatever is on your mind this morning—put it to a halt and remember the given body of Jesus on the cross. The Lord’s Supper is remembering the body of Christ on the cross, as we partake of the bread together.

III. The Lord’s Supper is Remembering the Blood of Christ (v. 25)

We need to understand that the Lord’s Supper is the tradition of Christ, and that is remembering the body of Christ. But the Lord’s Supper is also remembering the blood of Christ—the new covenant ratified by Christ’s blood, and this is represented by the cup. Part of remembering what he did on the cross is remembering His spilled blood which has been spilled on our behalf, and “drank in” by faith.

Paul says, “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper.” The cup, filled with wine (or juice for most of us), is the second element in the Lord’s Supper. And Jesus says that this cup represents the new covenant in His blood, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (v. 25a). Often times, when speaking of the Lord’s Supper we say, “The bread represents His body, the wine represents His blood.” And there’s nothing wrong with that. But if we do not also understand that Jesus said it represents the new covenant in His blood, we lose sight of what its complete meaning is. It is not merely His physical blood, but what His blood accomplished. The blood of Jesus ensured, secured, and enabled the new covenant to be ushered in. The new covenant is what God’s people in the Old Testament looked forward to for a long time. In the days of the exodus, the Israelites entered into a covenant with God in the Old Testament. They promised to obey the Lord, and to do all He commanded – about how well do you think that worked out? Here’s the full context of what happened:

“Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words” (Exodus 24:3-8).

Considering you know the Old Testament, it is easily observable that the people could not keep their end of the covenant. They constantly broke God’s laws and broke their covenant all the time. They were not obedient, and the sacrifices they were making were not enough to cover their sins completely. So the people yearned for a new covenant, where God might enable and ensure their obedience, and where He would cover their sin completely so that they would no longer need a sacrifice. The beautiful thing is that God said He would make this new covenant with them. Perhaps the greatest expression of what this new covenant will be is found in Jeremiah 31. Notice the language of salvation in this passage – the references to enabling obedience, transforming hearts, and forgiving sins:

“Behold, the days are coming [it will be in the future for God’s people], declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers [it will not be like the old covenant, and how it will be different is later explained in this passage] on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke [the precise problem with the old covenant], though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD [here’s how it will be different]: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts [obedience will come from their hearts]. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people [God will be in relation with them]. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more [their sins will be forgiven]” (vv. 31-34).

God would transform them so that they could obey Him—He would change their hearts—that’s what happens in the new covenant. And Jesus is saying in this passage that the cup represents His work on the cross of ratifying this new covenant. It represents His blood which is the means of bringing His people into a new covenant. All those promises of Jeremiah 31 are made real through the death of Jesus Christ.

Once again, Jesus says, as He does before, to “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Like the bread, we drink the cup in obedience to Christ’s command here to remember Him. Do you notice the difference in this verse compared to the one earlier about bread? There is mention of how often you should do it. Of course, for many years, Christians have debated about how often they should observe the Lord’s Supper. Some say every time the church meets together, others say just periodically. There is great evidence for both main views, I have to confess. But the frequency of observance is not an issue which Scripture plainly and explicitly addresses – Paul and Christ just say, “as often as you do.” What matters is understanding the meaning! Those who split hairs over this need to memorize Paul’s instructions about quarrels: “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9). The point is not how often, the point is understanding its meaning! I would rather partake of the Lord’s Supper one time a year understanding its meaning, than 52 times a year misunderstanding it!

We need to understand that the Lord’s Supper is remembering the spilled blood of Christ on our behalf.

IV. The Lord’s Supper is Proclaiming the Gospel of Christ (v. 26)

The Lord’s Supper is Jesus’ tradition. It’s remembering the body and blood of Christ, which has ratified the new covenant – these things we remember when we partake. But we also proclaim something during the Lord’s Supper. In observing it, it is proclaiming the gospel of Christ. Finally in this passage, we proclaim the gospel through the Lord’s Supper. Of course, what we have looked at already is the gospel in the giving of Jesus on the cross and of our receiving of Him by faith. But lest we entertain the thought that the Lord’s Supper is merely a ritual or a simple tradition, Paul says that it is a proclamation of the gospel as we wait on Jesus to come again. The gospel is presented through the Lord’s Supper as the elements are explained. In the Lord’s Supper, the gospel is preached as it is both seen through the eyes and heard through the ears. And that proclamation of the gospel is the very purpose of observing the Lord’s Supper. Paul says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

We testify to two truths when we partake of the Lord’s Supper—first, that He has died and been risen for us. Second, that He is coming again. Both truths are of equal importance. He died and one day He will return; He will return one day because He once died. And so we proclaim the wonderful news of the death of death in the death of Christ, but we also proclaim that He is coming again—that one day He will return to set things right, and that we will one day be with Him to feast at His table forever (Rev. 19:6-9). 

Conclusion: A Reminder of the Most Important Thing

You might know of the legendary sports broadcaster Jon Miller—he provided the play-by-plays for the Baltimore Orioles for many years, and he was actually considered one of the best sports announcers in the nation. He was just the right guy for the job—he could keep you gripped in the game. Some people are just made for their occupations, and so was true of Jon Miller. Whenever he would broadcast a game, Miller never forgot the most important thing—to remind everyone of the score. And to do this, he always kept an egg-timer to remind him to give the score every three minutes. You might even say that he needed a reminder to point him to the most important thing.

And through the Lord’s Supper, we have the reminder that we need to point us to the most important thing. It keeps us focused on what’s really important. We need the Lord’s Supper to remind us constantly of what’s most important—the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, let me say in closing that not just anyone can partake of the Lord’s Supper. To partake of the Lord’s Supper, you need to be one of the Lord’s people. We who believe are, through its observance, being reminded of our receiving of the body and blood of the Lord by His grace. If you are not a believer, you need to get saved before you partake. Friend, let me tell you that you are better off leaving the church building than partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. There are instructions from Paul about how you should approach the Lord’s Supper (vv. 27-32). Paul notes that one should not partake in an unworthy, unrepentant, or casual manner (v. 27). One should examine themselves before partaking and repent (v. 28). To ignore those things is to “drink judgment” upon oneself (v. 29). God can take your life or allow you to succumb to sickness if you partake of the Lord’s Supper unworthily (v. 30). Of course we are all unworthy, but if we know Christ, He makes us worthy. What Paul means is that we must not be insensitive to His presence, unrepentant, casual, unloving to our fellow church members, or God forbid regretful for His great sacrifice on our behalf.

Let us remember the meaning of this remembrance. It is the tradition of Christ – a time to remember the body and blood of Jesus Christ, for the purpose of proclaiming the the gospel.

By God’s grace, let us praise God for giving us this reminder today—this remembrance of Jesus, and proclamation of His gospel.