The New Testament Teaching on the Lord’s Supper (1)

In our last couple of posts, we made a brief survey of five Old Testament types or prefiguring foretastes of the Lord’s Supper. In the next two posts, we want to briefly survey the New Testament substance in the Lord’s Supper itself. This mainly draws our attention to the Last Supper, found in Mt 26:17-35, Mk 14:12-31, Lk 22:7-23, and Jn 13:1-30, and Paul’s instructions about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Cor 10:14-22 and 11:17-34. This post will focus on the Last Supper in the Gospels.

The Last Supper

In our Old Testament survey, you may have wondered, ‘what about the Passover?’ We were just waiting for the Last Supper. It’s a Passover meal celebrating God’s redemptive work towards Israel in Exodus 12:33-50. But this specific reenactment is different than any other before it. In fact, Jesus forever alters it for His people.

He’s the climactic fulfillment of God’s redemptive work! He’s the Passover Lamb (Jn 1:29; 1 Cor 5:7)! He’s the Lamb Who before His shearers will be silent and slaughtered under the wrath of God as a penal substitutionary atonement for us.

Put another way, He brings about a New Exodus through His death and resurrection, one that leads His people out of their bondage to sin, death, Satan, and hell, and into the glorious freedom of the children of God!

And in the Last Supper, He means for His disciples to see this, in all of it’s wonderful effects, and to remember it moving forward, to feed on the grace of Christ’s Person and Work in what’s now called the Lord’s Supper. So let me highlight, all too briefly, some of the graces we’re to spiritually feast on in the Lord’s Supper, as taught most explicitly during the Last Supper:

  1. It’s a look-back upon the redeeming work of Christ. In this hour, Christ’s work was still future. But He instituted this as a meal of remembrance for them (Lk 22:19). Remember what? His death and resurrection (implied in His words about partaking of it again with them in the kingdom of Heaven). In the Supper, we’re to remember what Jesus has done to save us from our sins.
  2. It’s a look-ahead to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Lk 22:16). So we have OT types of the Lord’s Supper, and the Last Supper as transitional to the Lord’s Supper. And then, when we come to the Lord’s Supper itself, we find that it also is but a foretaste of a meal still greater! It’s a meal that, even as it points us back to the cross, roots us in the fact of the resurrection, pointing us ahead to the fellowship of Glory (Rev 19:6-9). It not only reminds us what we’ve been saved from, but what we’ve been saved for, and that forever!
  3. It’s remembering the ratification of the New Covenant (Mt 26:28). All the promises of God are ‘Yes’ in Christ (2 Cor 1:20). By His blood, more precious than silver or gold that perishes (1 Pet 1:18-19), the Son of God purchased every saving grace for His people, to be applied most graciously by the Spirit at conversion. This includes chiefly the full forgiveness of all our sins (Mt 26:28), but also, it would then seem from contextual clues, our adoption (‘Father’s kingdom,’ Mt 26:29), preservation (Mt 26:30-32), and qualification for Glory (Lk 22:16).
  4. It’s drawing a line around Christ’s disciples. As implied under the foregoing point, the Lord’s Supper is the meal of Christ’s New Covenant people. To be as clear as one can be, it’s only for (I think the Bible teaches, baptized) believers in Christ. It’s a meal that separates the visible church from the onlooking world as God’s heirs of grace and glory. In turn, the Supper is evangelistic, not in that it invites unbelievers to participate, but in that it alerts them to the fact that they aren’t Christ’s, nor His grace theirs; but they and it can be! Next point then,
  5. It’s reaffirming our faith-commitment as Christ’s disciples. This is probably my favorite part of practicing the Lord’s Supper. As we come forward to take and eat and drink the elements together, we are, as it were, coming to Christ all over again! It’s not that we are being re-converted, but that we are reconfirming that we still believe Him. That we’re continuing to publicly love Him and identify with Him and hope in Him and say, to world and principalities and powers, ‘the Gospel is true! Grace is real! Jesus is Lord! And God is worthy of being all in all to us!’
  6. It’s reaffirming our service-covenant to Christ’s disciples. In Christ, God is creating a new covenant, new creation community by the Spirit—one that will be marked by self-sacrificial love and humility towards one another. The Supper is a family meal taken together in order also to reaffirm our love and devotion to one another. We see this mostly in John’s account (Jn 13:14), though there are hints of it in Lk 22:26-27.
  7. It’s equipping for spiritual battle. Swirling around the Last Supper is a spiritual world we may be inclined to ignore. Satan’s there. Satan plants his man there. That man, proving to be what he always was, betrays Jesus. Apostates are exposed, even as authentic believers are revealed. Even after the Supper, Satan shows up to sift one of the authentic ones—to no final avail on account of Jesus’ preserving mercies (signified in the New Covenant realities of the Supper). So before it, during it, after it, Satan’s working overtime to do harm to Christ and to His people. Thus, it seems to me that the Supper is a spiritual battlefield. It’s the King’s table prepared for His citizens in the midst of our now scrambling enemies. With it’s focus on God’s redeeming grace, it really, spiritually strengthens us to live for Christ, assured of victory.

Well, I hope this survey of the Last Supper has only further whet your appetite! Next time, we’ll go into Paul’s instructions concerning the Lord’s Supper as practiced in our church-age. Until then, continuing to aim only for fully-informed minds begetting fully-rejoicing hearts as we, in spiritual unity and with holy accountability, come to remember the Lord’s death until He comes again. Devoted to the most Scriptural display of Christ’s glory in and through you,

TMC elders

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