The Lord’s supper–Holy Communion–is one of the important sacraments or ordinances of Christianity. It was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself hence its name the Lord’s supper. Indeed, if Jesus commands or ordains a celebration, it must be important.
Before I examine its significance, let me foremost attempt to explain what it is and its origins. The Lord’s Supper predates the New Testament. It takes its origin from the Passover, “the most sacred feast of the Jewish religious year.” The story is told in Exodus twelve of God visiting ten plagues on the land of Egypt and through Moses, He delivered the Israelites from bondage. On the night of the tenth plague, God, through Moses, commanded the Israelites to observe certain “rites” which will quarantine them from the death of every male firstborn about to sweep across the land of Egypt.
Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.”(Exodus 12:21-23).
These instructions, God commanded will become a memorial to be observed in future generations.“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as in future generations.” And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” “And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.” (Exodus 12:14, 26-27).
Now, what the Passover lamb without blemish, sacrificed and its blood smeared on the door post was to the Israelites in the Exodus from Egypt, Christ is to the New Testament believer in our Exodus and pilgrimage in the world. He is our passover lamb. He is our sin bearer. The punishment for our sins was laid upon Him so the Father will “passover” His wrath upon us who have come to saving faith through His Sovereign Grace.
When John the Baptist, saw Jesus, he exclaimed “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 2:29). On the road to Emmaus, when Jesus appeared to the two disciples, we see Christ represented in the Old Testament: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”(Luke 24:26-27).
The historian and New Testament writer, Luke gives us an apt comparison of the Lord’s supper to the Passover when he recorded the events leading to the institution of the Lord’s supper:
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.”…And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.(Luke 14:7-20).
Succinctly, we see the significance of the Lord’s supper in the aforementioned Scriptures. Let me at this point share four points I believe are some of the importance of the Lord’s Supper.
1: It is An Act Of Obedience
The Lord’s Supper is a command from The Lord and it must be obeyed. When we partake in Holy Communion, we are obeying a charge Christ gave to His disciples and all who will come to saving faith in Him. From vs 7 of Luke 14, we see Christ sending His disciples to “Go and prepare the Passover”. That is a command. “Go”. Then in vs 19, we see another imperative “Do this”. Paul also tells us “I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you”(1 Cor 11:23). Here we see clearly the communion is a charge from God that ought to be kept. If you you or your church doesn’t partake in the Lord’s supper, you are being disobedient
2: It Celebrates God’s Work Of Salvation
“Do this in remembrance of me”. Does Christ occupy your thoughts as a believer? Do you meditate on what great sacrifice He wrought on your behalf? If you don’t as a believer, you must begin to. Ponder on this great sacrifice!
We must approach the Lord’s supper with reverence and awe of God’s Sovereign Grace in our salvation. He sent His only begotten Son to die in our place. He gave His body and blood to save us from the wrath of God. He took our place. He bore in His body the punishment due us for our sins. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” “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.(2Cor 5:21, Isa 53:5)
But why did He die in our place? “because of the great love with which he loved us…”(Eph 2:3). God’s work of salvation in our lives must always lead us to worship. Note the response of the Israelites in Exodus 12:27 towards God’s Great deliverance: “the people bowed their heads and worshiped”. We owe our salvation exclusively to the Sovereign Grace of God. And that must cause our hearts to break forth in worship. Isn’t it so beautiful? “The people bowed their heads and worshiped”
3: It Creates An Anticipation of Eternity With Christ.
“Do this in remembrance of me.”…”For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes”(Luke 14:18-19).
Recently, during a family devotion, we were struck by how little we set our affection on eternity. The words of Charles Spurgeon from the devotional Morning By Morning on that day pierced our hearts with conviction. He spoke so fondly about eternity we were left with the question of whether we indeed ever anticipate heaven in our Christian journey the way it has been described by Spurgeon:
O Christian, anticipate heaven for a few years. Within a very little time you will be rid of all your trials and your troubles. Your eyes now suffused with tears shall weep no longer. You will gaze in ineffable rapture upon the splendor of Him who sits upon the throne. Better still, you shall sit upon His throne. The triumph of His glory shall be shared by you; His crown, His joy, His paradise-these will be yours, and you will be co-heir with Him who is the heir of all things.
4: It Engenders Holy Living.
This flows naturally from the previous point. An anticipation of heaven and being in the presence of our Saviour must be a motivation for personal holiness. Apostle John excellently explained this.
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.(1Jn 3:2-3).
It will be incompatible to be expecting the second coming Christ and live our lives in willful sin. Paul warns us to examine ourselves before coming to the Lord’s table.
I believe there are more than four points of significance to the Lord’s Supper and further study will bring out more.