Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Practical Observations on the Lord’s Supper

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 28, 2012 at 9:34 am

The Lord’s Supper: covenantal meal

The Lord’s Supper is a covenantal meal (Matt. 26:26-29 and Mark 14:22-24). As the Old Covenant had a covenantal meal connected to covenantal blood in the special presence of God, so does the New Covenant. Listen to Exodus 24:1-11.

Then He said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall worship at a distance. 2 “Moses alone, however, shall come near to the LORD, but they shall not come near, nor shall the people come up with him.” 3 Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!” 4 Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 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!” 8 So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” 9 Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10 and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. 11 Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank.

The “blood of the covenant” indicates entrance into covenantal relations with God. Thus, when we take the Lord’s Supper, it is a covenantal renewal meal. It does not bring us into covenant with God; it reminds us that we are in covenant with him through Christ and enhances that covenantal bond. That’s why the Confession says, “The Supper is …[for the] further engagement in, and to all the duties which [believers] owe to Him; and to be a bond and pledge of [believers’] communion with Him, and with each other” (2ndLCF 30:1; WCF XXIX.1). When we take the Supper we are re-asserting allegiance to the exalted Christ together. Michael Horton says:

The Lord’s Supper, then, is a covenant meal. That means that while it is first of all a ratification of God’s pledge to us, it also ratifies our pledge to God and to each other. It has both vertical and horizontal dimensions.[1]

The Lord’s Supper: memorial ordinance

The Lord’s Supper calls us to look back; it is connected to the past–“Do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:24). It has a memorial element to it, just like the Passover of the Old Testament (Exod. 12; 34:25; Lev. 9; Deut. 16). It is retrospective. It has something to do with the past. It looks back to redemption accomplished. The death of Christ, which was the exhaustion of damnation for us, is its memorial terminus, its stopping point, its target. When we take the Lord’s Supper, let us never forget what we are remembering: the just one dying for unjust ones that he might bring us into the safe presence of God (1 Pet. 3:18). The Lord’s Supper reminds us that redemption has been won for us by Christ, the captain of our salvation who brings many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10).

The Lord’s Supper: present communion

The Lord’s Supper has a present, spiritual benefit to it. Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). We commune together in or share together the present benefits of his blood and his body given for us long ago. It is a covenantal meal. It is a bond and pledge of present communion with Christ and the benefits he purchased for us and gives to us.

The Lord’s Supper: eschatological anticipation

The Lord’s Supper is connected to the future (Matt. 26:29 and 1 Cor. 11:26). In Matthew 26:29, Jesus said, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” In 1 Corinthians 11:26, Paul said, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Listen to Geerhardus Vos commenting on 1 Corinthians 11:26:

When Paul enjoins his readers to proclaim the Lord’s death “until he shall come,” this certainly is not intended as a mere chronological remark concerning the perpetual validity of the observance of the Supper in the church. It suggests rather the idea that when the Lord shall have come the necessity for further observance of the sacrament will no longer exist, and this in turn gives rise to the thought that in the present observance of it there is an anticipation of what the eschatological state has in store for the believer.[2]

The Lord’s Supper is anticipatory. It not only points to the past and ministers grace in the present, it also points to the future, when the Son of God will drink of the fruit of the vine with us.

The Lord’s Supper: three tenses (past, present, future)

There are three tenses of the Lord’s Supper–past (the accomplishment of redemption), present (the application of redemption), and future (the consummation of redemption). When we take the Supper, we do so in remembrance of Christ’s death. At the Supper, we enjoy present communion with Christ. But our Lord said he will drink with his people in the future in his Father’s kingdom. It is of interest to note that at the inauguration of the Old (Exod. 24:1-11) and New Covenants (Matt. 26:26-29) God was with his people and eating occurred. There is also a prospect held out for us, an eschatological feast in the New Heavens and the New Earth (Matt. 26:29; Luke 14:15; Rev. 19:9). There will be eating and feasting at the consummation. All of this is due to the blood of the Lamb, slain for sinners, in order to bring us to God. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of the past, blesses us in the present, and looks to future eating, future feasting with the Lamb in all his glory. As Vos said, in it “there is an anticipation of what the eschatological state has in store for the believer.”[3]

Richard Barcellos
Pastor of Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Palmdale, CA

[1] Michael Horton, God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006), 159.

[2] Geerhardus Vos in Danny E. Olinger, A Geerhardus Vos Anthology: Biblical and Theological Insights Alphabetically Arranged (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2005), 185.

[3] Vos in Olinger, Anthology, 185.

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