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The Invincible Kingdom of Christ (Psalm 2)

The following sermon was delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church in Barlow, KY on the 26th day of February, 2017:

“1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2).

Introduction: Jesus is an Invincible King

Something unique about and exclusive to Christianity is that we worship and serve a King. Not just a King, but the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. Yes, we worship Christ who is our Shepherd, Savior, Prophet, Priest, Mediator, and Lord. But something that distinguishes us from other religions is that it isn’t just a man we are worshiping. He isn’t just a good man, or even just a deity, or a God-like being—Jesus Christ is a King. He isn’t an enlightened man like Buddha, He isn’t a prophet visited by an angel like Muhammed or Joseph Smith (Mormonism). He isn’t among a host of other gods, as in Hinduism. He is a King greater than any religious figure. And He is a king greater than any political figure, greater than Caesar or any government, administration, or president (Acts 17:7).

He is the “King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim. 1:17). He is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). Jesus Christ is a King and His kingdom is invincible. When Jesus appeared the first time, His kingdom was inaugurated—His first coming marked the beginning of the coming of the kingdom of God, His rule and reign on the earth. When He came the first time, died on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended to heaven—that’s when the administration of Jesus took over! He dominates, rules, and reigns in the world today through the Holy Spirit which He and the Father have sent to the world to carry out His purposes.

So it is clear from Scripture that the kingdom of God is invincible—and not just because the Spirit of God is here today accomplishing the will and purpose of God. It is invincible not just because Jesus is ruling in the hearts and lives of millions across the world. The chief reason that the kingdom of God is invincible is because one day, Jesus is coming back to finish what He started. One day, the King of Kings will return to gather in all His sheep, conquer anyone who stands in His way, and dominate the nations so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). He will come to rule, He will come to reign, He will make war and will dominate all nations, and conquer His enemies. And while this gives great hope for the church today, it also highlights the foolishness of anyone who might seek to revolt and fight against Him.

Scripture says that when He comes, those who are in rebellion against Him will mourn and wail—they will be put to shame, because they won’t stand a chance against Him. It is foolish and deadly to be against Jesus because, while we don’t know the day or the hour of His second advent, we are always one day and one hour closer! But oh, the folly of those who reject Him—oh the absurdity of those who are unsaved and the dangerous ignorance of those who revolt against Him! It is foolishness in the highest degree to reject Jesus because His kingdom is absolutely invincible, impenetrable, and it is impending—getting closer and closer to the time when Jesus will conquer all. And that’s the thrust of the second psalm we have before us. We’re going to see in this psalm that it is foolish for man to revolt against the Lord because of the invincible and impending kingdom of Jesus Christ—instead of revolt, one should submit to and take refuge in Jesus. This is a call to both nonbelievers and believers alike. Nonbelievers need to take refuge in Christ to avoid the terrible fury of God’s wrath, and we as believers need to continually take refuge in Christ daily so we may overcome sin and have our eyes fixed on the day when He comes again.

The psalmist writes this from an observer’s point of view and speaks of a great rebellion, and a greater king who will conquer all rebellion. The psalmist speaks of the nations of the world who are revolting against the kingdom of God, how God will conquer them all through His king, and ultimately through His Son. And the psalmist invites all who read this psalm to trust in this King who is the Lord Jesus Himself. We will see in this psalm:

I. The Revolt of the Apostates (2:1-3)
II. The Response of the Almighty (2:4-6)
III. The Rule of the Anointed (2:7-9)
IV. The Recommendation to the Apostates (2:10-12)

Let us look now at the word of God:

I. The Revolt of the Apostates (2:1-3)

First of all, we see in vv. 1-3 that it is foolish to revolt against the Lord, expecting liberation. It is absurd to rebel against the Lord, thinking that you can overthrow His sovereign rule. The psalmist expresses here that the apostates are fools to plot a revolt in order to be liberated from the rule of God and His anointed one. Listen to the underlying tone of foolishness in the way the psalmist describes the world’s revolt against the Lord:

“1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us” (vv. 1-3).

The psalmist opens this psalm with a question: “Why do the nations and the peoples plot in vain?” (v. 1). He sees the nations and peoples of the world plotting and raging against the Lord, and asks why.  You can even hear the concern in his voice in the way he penned v. 1—he views the nations’ revolt against the Lord as absurd, foolish, and stupid. And this idea leads the psalmist to ask, Why? Why would the nations do such a thing, he asks. Of course, “the nations,” in this psalm (and the Old Testament), are those who are outside of God’s covenant family. They are Gentiles, apostates, those who are outside of the faith—those who are pagan, worshiping other gods like Baal and Molech. These are not nations which worship the true God. It is said that these nations “rage,” and “plot in vain,” meaning they are restless, raging, and conspiring to do evil. They are upset about something, restless about something. And even this far in to the psalm the psalmist views their rebellion and revolt as absolutely foolish: Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? Don’t they know they are planning destruction for their own selves?

Notice also, their raging now leads to plotting. In v. 2, they move to greater action than just raging and being restless: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed.” Now the psalmist tells us what the apostates actually do in an attempt to carry out their revolt against the Lord and His anointed. The kings of the earth come together and the rulers come to take counsel together—they meet to discuss what they must do. They draw up plans, prepare weapons, train their armies, enlist their generals, locate their targets, and prepare reinforcements. They are meeting together to conspire a great revolt, a great rebellion. But it is not against another army, not against another nation, not to conquer land, not even to conquer the world—they plan a revolt “against the LORD and his Anointed.” That’s why the psalmist views them as dimwits, and it’s as if the psalmist is saying, “Why would you revolt against God? He is all powerful, all-knowing, all-present and who destroys His enemies.”

But that’s the focus of their rebellion—they rebel and revolt against the Lord God of heaven and earth, and they rebel against “his Anointed.” The anointed one would be the king of Judah—likely David at this point. Those who ruled God’s people were considered anointed—set apart by God Himself for His purposes, namely, to carry out His rule and reign among the people. Often you will see David saying things like, “[God] shows steadfast love to his anointed” (Psalm 18:50), or “the Lord saves his anointed” (Psalm 20:6). Statements like that are references to himself because he was the anointed king who ruled in Judah. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “anointed” here is masiah, which sounds a lot like Messiah, who is truly God’s anointed One. We know that the true Messiah is Jesus, God’s Anointed One. Keep that in mind for now, we will say more on that later.

And finally in v. 3, we have the goal of their plotting. The reason they are angry, the reason they are plotting, the reason they are planning a revolt against the Lord and His anointed king is this: “Let us burst their bonds apart, and cast away their cords from us” (v. 3). They want to separate the bond that exists between the Lord and His anointed king, for if they can get the Lord out of the picture and have the king by himself, they can be victorious in their revolt. So they first want to “burst” apart the “bond” between the Lord and His anointed. Secondly, they want to be liberated from both the Lord and His anointed! “Let us . . . cast away their cords from us.” They want to be free from His restraints on them as well.

So all throughout this section (vv. 1-3), it is clear that it is foolish to revolt against the Lord, expecting liberation. And that is the first thing the psalmist tells us about King Jesus and about His invincible kingdom. It is very clear from what we’ve just read that it is deadly, foolish, and even audacious to revolt against the Lord—but let’s not make the mistake of leaving this passage in the dust of ancient time, because anytime we sin, we are declaring a revolt against the Lord as well! This idea of attempting liberation from the rule of God has been mankind’s central problem since the beginning – and it never ends well. Adam and Eve took the fruit because it was a “delight to the eyes,” so that they “could be like God.” The real sin was not mere disobedience, but idolatry of their own selves. They wanted to be like God, and they didn’t want the rule of God over them. And this is what happens when sin is committed. It is saying: “Let me be free from slavery to God!” It is declaring an insurrection upon God—declaring independence from God, saying by our actions that we do not need Him. Sin isn’t a mistake, it isn’t an accident, or a blooper. Sin is a willing revolt against an invincible King. And the utter foolishness of it is seen in that, when we sin, we are standing upon the very ground which God created and sustains – having a beating heart, breathing lungs, and a working mind – all of which are completely owned and operated by God! Sin is foolish, for we are using what God has created against Him. Sin is deadly and audacious foolishness.

Since the Fall, we have been in a revolt against God and His rule—it is deeply threaded within the very fabric of our existence to rebel against God and His dominion over us. We want to rule, we want to be in control of our lives and our decisions. The only solution to this problem is to have God be Lord over us again—and this happens through the gospel. This happens as God uses His anointed King Jesus to conquer the rebellion in our hearts and have us joyfully submit to Him by His grace. But even as believers today, when we sin against God it is a revolt. Do you view your sin that way? Pray that God would help you view your sin as a revolt against Him. We could certainly use more help in viewing our sin for what it really is. And the more we are sanctified through the word of God, as the Holy Spirit applies it to us, we will naturally view sin as “exceedingly sinful” (Rom. 7:13). Our distaste for sin should continue to grow, so that anytime we come in contact with sin or a tempting situation, we will see it as a bitter poison. If your distaste for sin isn’t growing, it’s because you don’t view it as an attempt to overthrow the rule of God on your life. It is foolish to revolt against the Lord, expecting liberation.

II. The Response of the Almighty (2:4-6)

But how does God respond to this? Does God get enraged with anger at their revolt? Does He open up battle plans on a table? Does He worry about the well-being of Israel and Judah? Does God stop their revolt because of the threat it poses to the kingdom which will one day bring forth the Messiah?

Not only is God not bothered, but He laughs:

“He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill” (vv. 4-6).

God is not bothered by men’s revolt because of His established King. The psalmists notes that God is unaffected by their revolt and responds with laughter, terror, and confidence in His appointed king.

The psalmist says, “He who sits in the heavens laughs.” God laughs at them. God scorns and laughs—He is unchanged by their conspiring and plotting. God is He who sits in the heavens—He is in control of all things and He is far above them. He could wipe them out in a second. The ground upon which they stand could swallow them up to Sheol at any time—just as soon as God gave the command for it to do so. So of course, He laughs. 

Not only does He laugh, but “The Lord holds them in derision.” He views them with contempt—a scornful laugh comes from His throne as He sees apostates attempting to throw off His rule over them. The one who sits in heaven is the Master of the universe—He isn’t bothered by a tiny spec of humans on one planet in His universe who attempt to overthrow His rule.

Secondly, God terrifies them by His word. “Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury” (v. 5). Instead of being terrified, God terrifies. God speaks and terrifies them when He speaks. Isn’t that amazing? What God does in response to their revolt and uproar is He speaks. When He speaks, the peoples are terrified by His words.

What does God speak? He says, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (v. 6). This is the most interesting verse in the passage, in my estimation. I mean, you might expect God to say, “I will make an end to you,” or “My judgment shall quickly come upon you.” You would at least expect some other pronouncement of judgment on the nations as retribution for their plotting against the Lord! Instead, God Himself points to His established king as the very thing that should terrify the nations. What terrifies the nations of the earth is that God has installed His king. The king is God’s solution to the world’s revolt against Him.It is the establishment of this great king that should terrify the nations, it is this king who “is set on Zion, my holy hill.” “Zion” or Jerusalem, was God’s chosen dwelling place. That’s why it’s referred to here (as many other times) as His “holy hill.” Zion is God’s territory—it is the city which God had sanctified by His presence. God wasn’t limited by a city or a hill, or a temple—but He chose to carry out His rule in the world through Israel and through Zion. Zion is truly then, God’s “footstool.”

The nations were right to feel terrified, for God would empower any king who sat on the throne of David—it’s what God promised. The rebellious nations stand no chance against a king who has God on his side. God is not bothered by men’s revolt because of His established King. What is so great about this king? Well, let’s look at vv. 7-9 for that answer.

III. The Rule of the Anointed (2:7-9)

We’ve seen the revolt of the apostates and the response of God – notice now the rule of God’s anointed. Listen to the psalmist in vv. 7-9:

7 I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

What is it that makes this king so great? Because he is God’s anointed who will rule all the earth. This anointed King is God’s Son who will rule the earth by His might. The psalmist interjects to explain the decree which God has spoken to His anointed king-Son and the promises included in it.

The psalmist reaches back into the past and declares: “I will tell of the decree,” meaning it was one which was previously spoken. And it is likely that this decree is a retelling of the decree which God spoke to David in 2 Samuel 7,

“Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” (vv. 8-16).

In this decree, God promises David that His throne will go on forever. God will be a father to him, and David would be to him as a son. It is this decree which David is recalling, and it has many implications for the Messiah who is truly God’s Son, and who will also sit on David’s throne. And the psalmist is saying here, “I remember this exact decree, and here’s what it said.”

So in this decree, notice first the identity of the anointed in v. 7. “You are my Son,” says the Lord. The anointed king is God’s son. God would father King David as He loved and disciplined him, but this also looks forward to Christ who is God’s Son, His only begotten. Secondly, notice the rule of the anointed. In v. 8, the anointed king is promised worldwide rule and his kingdom shall extend to the ends of the earth: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” God invites the anointed king to just ask of Him and He will make Him the ruler of all the earth. The anointed king will have the nations, the very nations who have rebelled against him—he will have them as his heritage. The ends of the earth shall be his possession. In reality, this worldwide domination points beyond any earthly king because David, Solomon, and all other kings after them failed to do this. It doesn’t mean God’s promise had failed—it means that Someone greater would one day fulfill it completely. And notice finally how this anointed king will conquer all things: “You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” He shall break them, and dash them in pieces like pottery. Certainly the might of this king is very great! Again, it is clear that the dominion and rule of this anointed king looks beyond any earthly king. The language used here is elsewhere used in the Bible when talking about God and His judgment, His wrath, and His power. No earthly king will make the ends of the earth his possession. No earthly king will destroy his enemies like pottery—but a heavenly King will. Any nation or person that rebels against this Davidic King, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus Christ—He shall one day be conquered. One day Christ will fulfill completely what is spoken of in this psalm—He will return and claim what is rightfully His, He will dominate the nations. The psalmist is recalling it now as his confidence that his enemies will not prevail over the kingdom of Judah, but it is also a confidence in the future installment of the King of kings who will wipe out all who stand against Him.

Believe it or not, Jesus Christ will one day rule over the United States of America. Some folks like to say that the USA is a Christian nation, but just wait until He comes. He will one day rule in the poorest places of India, He will one day rule over any tyrant such as Kim Jong Un. He will one day terminate ISIS and terrorist groups from the face of the earth. He will one day make every nation, tribe, and tongue His inheritance. He will one day rule and reign from the east to the west, from the north to the south—for He will diminish His enemies with a rod of iron, and He shall break them like pottery smashed on the ground. Revelation 6:15-17 says that this day will be so severe that people would rather be crushed by boulders than to face Jesus: “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Sorry if you don’t like it, but this is who Jesus is—a conquering King. He’s not some sissified, needy Jesus who is just begging you to come to Him. He is a judge called Faithful and True who will one day return to bring all things to their rightful place. And for believers today, this speaks much to how we deal with worldliness, worry, persecution, and perspective. If Jesus is coming back to conquer, then this carries many implications as to how we deal with problems in the world today. Here’s a few things Jesus’ return in this psalm means for us today:

1. We should avoid worldliness at all costs. There is no logical sense in building up earthly possessions and being concerned with worldliness, if Jesus is going to make a new world. Certainly, obsession with accumulation of possessions should be avoided because you can’t take it with you after death, but even more so because it will all be destroyed! Jesus warns us about this in Matthew 6, saying that we should not exhaust ourselves in worldliness because there will one day be no world such as the one we are in (Matthew 6:19-21).

2. We should not worry about anything earthly. We have no reason to worry, because everything will one day be in dominion under the rule of Christ, the King (Matt. 6:25-34; Phil. 4:6-7). Why worry about things of the earth, when one day, there will be no things of the earth?

3. We should be joyful in persecution. We know nothing of real persecution in the United States, but what persecution we do know – bring it on. Kill us, persecute us, do what you want – you aren’t slowing Him down from destroying you. We as believers literally have nothing to lose. We are soldiers in battle waiting for our king to return—even if we die on the battle field, He is still coming (2 Tim. 3:12).

4. We should have a heavenward perspective. Those of us on Jesus’ side should earnestly look forward to that day when He returns (Titus 2:13). We should have a perspective looking towards heaven, as we wait for Him to return in the same way He was taken up (Acts 1:11). But for those who don’t know Him, look toward Him in repentance and faith! If you do not, your fate is so terrible and dire that no description in language can capture what you will suffer.

This is the rule of the anointed and nobody will be able to stand in His way.

IV. The Recommendation to the Apostates (2:10-12)

Finally in this psalm we see a recommendation from the psalmist to those who revolt. The foolishness of their revolt has already been explained in this entire psalm. A man is a fool who revolts against the Lord because He has an installed and powerful King, His anointed one, who will conquer not only those who rebel, but the whole world. So then, the kings who revolt should be afraid, they should abandon their rebellion, they should be terrified that God has a mighty, invincible king who will conquer them with one swipe of a sword. So, the psalmist gives them a warning:

“Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (vv. 10-12).

It is clear that the only appropriate response to God’s king is service and submission. The psalmist concludes with a warning for the apostates—they should serve and submit to the Lord. First of all, he exhorts them to be wise and be warned. They would be wise to heed the warning of this psalm. “O kings, be wise,” he says, and “be warned, O rulers of the earth” (v. 10). Instead of foolishness, the wisest thing to do would be to view this decree as a warning, and heed it with all their might. Secondly, they are exhorted to serve the Lord: “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (v. 11). They should serve Him rather than seek to subdue Him. And they should “rejoice with trembling,” taking pleasure in God while fearing Him for who He is. And finally, they are called to take refuge in the Lord Himself. Now this is where the psalm is at its highest peak. They are exhorted: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him!” Embrace the Son if you are among those who revolt against the Lord and His anointed! Embrace Him or face Him! Notice this is the Son of God, indicated by His powerful wrath and the capitalization of the word son. Obviously, this is no ordinary king, if His wrath is quickly kindled. This is a Son who can be angry, cause His enemies to perish, and have His wrath stirred and kindled. They would be very wise to embrace Him. The psalmist concludes with a final invitation saying, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him!” Instead of revolting foolishly, take refuge in Him! 

Let me encourage you, if you are not submitting right now to the lordship of Jesus Christ, these are His terms of peace – take refuge in Him right now. Surrender to Christ if you haven’t—instead of revolting against Him, take refuge in Him. Turn to Him right now.

Conclusion: He Is Building a Coffin For Your Empire

Flavius Julianus was a Roman Emperor for a short period of time, and he was known for reinstating pagan worship which had been abolished under the rule of Constantine. With great fury, Flavius opposed the followers of Christ and he viewed them, in his own words, as “powerful enemies of our gods.” With fanatical resolve, he sought to remove Christianity from the face of the earth. But he never realized the stupidity of his endeavor. Still, history records that Flavius persecuted many Christians and took the lives of many who stood for their faith in Christ. One day Flavius was taunting a Christian believer named Agaton, in an attempt to entertain some of his friends. With so many Christians being put to death, the emperor asked him, “So, how is your carpenter of Nazareth? Is he finding work these days?” Without hesitation Agaton replied, “He is perhaps taking time away from building mansions for the faithful, to build a coffin for your Empire.”

Agaton was right—centuries have passed and the Roman Empire has risen and fallen, but only one kingdom has withstood time, persecution, bloodshed, heresies, splits and divisions—and it is the invincible kingdom of God, ruled by King Jesus. And the Son of God still takes time away from building mansions to build coffins for those who reject His lordship. This is a rebellion you don’t want to be in.

It is foolish for man to revolt against the Lord because of the invincible and impending kingdom of Jesus Christ—instead of revolt, one should submit to and take refuge in Jesus.

Do you understand that you sin is a revolt against God? Do you view it that seriously? If not, pray that God would help you to see that way. As you get more into the word, by His grace, God will increase your hatred and sorrow for sin. Are you expectantly awaiting the return of Jesus Christ? Is the promise of His return affecting your perspective on worldliness, worry, and persecution? And do you know Him today as your Savior and Lord? Are you taking refuge in Him this day? If not, realize you are a sinner, turn away from sin once and for all, and place your faith in Jesus Christ. He is a conquering King whose kingdom is invincible – don’t reject His lordship over you, lest you wind up in a coffin He has prepared for your empire.

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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.