Basic Training, Evangelism

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: The Great Commission

Originally published June 15, 2018

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

Have you ever heard the phrase “The Great Commission“? Do you know what it means? If not, you’re not alone…


photo courtesy of barna.com

The Barna Group recently conducted a study asking churchgoers if they had previously “heard of the Great Commission.” In their report, 51% of Churchgoers Don’t Know of the Great Commission the results of the study were summarized thusly:

“…half of U.S. churchgoers (51%) say they do not know this term. It would be reassuring to assume that the other half who know the term are also actually familiar with the passage known by this name, but that proportion is low (17%). Meanwhile, ‘the Great Commission’ does ring a bell for one in four (25%), though they can’t remember what it is. Six percent of churchgoers are simply not sure whether they have heard this term ‘the Great Commission’ before.”

Now, if you know anything about statistics, you know how important it is to structure your questions carefully and get a representative sampling of the population you’re surveying in order to get the most accurate results. What does “churchgoer” mean? Is it possible people have never heard the term “The Great Commission” simply because churches don’t use this particular phrase any more? It’s important to take things like this into consideration because it affects the results of the survey. (You can find out more about Barna’s structuring process for this study at the end of the article linked above.) But even if the numbers of the Barna survey aren’t exact, I think it’s safe to say there are a lot of people out there in churchland who aren’t familiar with The Great Commission.

Just for fun, let’s see what the results would be if we surveyed readers of my blog:

The Great Commission refers to some of Jesus’ final words to the disciples before His ascension and is cited from Matthew 28:18-20:

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

With these words Jesus commissioned the eleven remaining disciples to go out into the world and carry on His mission. Since every Christian is a disciple, or follower, of Christ, this is our commission from Him as well. Let’s examine what it says.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
Before commissioning his disciples, Jesus reminds them that everything He’s about to say is founded on and imbued with His authority. Jesus alone has the divine authority to establish the church and to dictate the way in which His church is to be set up and to grow.

We 21st century Christians would do well to keep forefront in our minds and hearts the authority of Christ over His church. There is no need for churches to “cast vision” or come up with mission statements. Christ is the head of the church and has already given us His vision for it. The Great Commission is His mission statement for the church.

Go therefore
“Therefore” in this little phrase refers back to what Christ has just said about His authority. In other words, because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me, I am telling you to go.

“Go” is a very generic verb in English. We can “go” into the kitchen or we can “go” to the moon or we can “go” out and conquer the world. We can “go” anywhere from our own personal microcosm to the edges of the known universe. And that is the same sense the Greek word πορεύω captures: as you “go your way,” as you “go forth,” as you “walk”, as you “pursue the journey on which [you have] entered.” Wherever life takes us, whether it’s across the street or across the world, we go as ambassadors of Christ, carrying the good news of the gospel with us.

All nations
Revelation 7:9 tells us that God will save people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” So that’s who we share the gospel with as we go our way. Everybody. Regardless of where they’re from, what they look like, or how they talk. We are not to withhold the gospel from anyone, and we’re to make sure the church is proactively carrying the gospel to every populated geographical location on earth.

Make disciples…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you
Notice the language Jesus uses here. He doesn’t say “make converts” or “make Christians”. He says “make disciples.”

Think about what the disciples did while Jesus was on earth. First, they answered His call to follow Him. Then, they began the journey of following Him wherever He went. He trained and equipped them day and night. They loved Him and worshiped Him. They imitated the things He did and said. They carried on His work after He ascended. Jesus is saying to the disciples, and to us, “Replicate yourselves. Make more like you.”

That means that the Great Commission starts with sharing the gospel with a lost person, but it doesn’t end there. There’s more to our mission than just evangelism. We are to train and equip Christians to follow Jesus daily, to love and worship Him, to imitate Him in obedience, and to carry on His work.

Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
After salvation, baptism is the first step a new Christian takes on the road of discipleship. It is not optional. Baptism publicly identifies a person – to the church and to the world – as a Christian, and is a personal pledge to follow Christ obediently all the days of one’s life.

Being baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” carries several layers of meaning.

💧Again, pay careful attention to the language in this phrase. Jesus does not say “in the nameS” – plural. He says, “in the name” – singular. This is a boldly Trinitarian statement directly from two of its members: Jesus, who spoke these words to the disciples, and the Holy Spirit, who breathed them out through the pen of Matthew. This is God Himself telling us who He is. Jesus spoke these words to good Jewish boys who were born and bred on the shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” There was to be no confusion for new Believers back then, Believers today, or to the onlooking world, as to who these Christians are following. They are not following three different gods. They are following the one true God in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – the whole ball of wax.

💧Names meant far more in biblical times than they do to us today. We see God changing people’s names – Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, etc. – when He commissioned them for a new mission or phase of life. Being baptized “in the name of” the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit echoes that tradition of God changing people’s names. You are no longer your own, you are Christ’s. You are no longer “Sinner”, you are “Saint”. You no longer go forth in your own name, but in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as their emissary, endowed with the power and authority of God to live for Him and to proclaim the gospel to a lost and dying world.

💧Because Christians are, by definition, Trinitarians, and because baptizing a Believer is commissioning her to go forth into the world as a representative of Christ, it’s appropriate for pastors to take this verse literally when performing a baptism and verbalize its words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Basic Training: Baptism

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
What a sweet promise, both to the disciples and to us today. Obediently following Christ in our daily lives, sharing the gospel, and making disciples can be lonely, exhausting, and discouraging at times. But we don’t have to do it alone, and we don’t have to do it in the flesh. Christ is with us and He knows all too well how hard it can be. God has given the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower Believers to live for Him and to carry out The Great Commission.

Additional Resources

What is the Great Commission? at Got Questions

The Great Commission by John MacArthur

The Great Commission by Burk Parsons

Evangelism at Theology Gals

Basic Training, Evangelism

Basic Training: The Great Commission

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

Have you ever heard the phrase “The Great Commission“? Do you know what it means? If not, you’re not alone…


photo courtesy of barna.com

The Barna Group recently conducted a study asking churchgoers if they had previously “heard of the Great Commission.” In their report, 51% of Churchgoers Don’t Know of the Great Commission the results of the study were summarized thusly:

“…half of U.S. churchgoers (51%) say they do not know this term. It would be reassuring to assume that the other half who know the term are also actually familiar with the passage known by this name, but that proportion is low (17%). Meanwhile, ‘the Great Commission’ does ring a bell for one in four (25%), though they can’t remember what it is. Six percent of churchgoers are simply not sure whether they have heard this term ‘the Great Commission’ before.”

Now, if you know anything about statistics, you know how important it is to structure your questions carefully and get a representative sampling of the population you’re surveying in order to get the most accurate results. What does “churchgoer” mean? Is it possible people have never heard the term “The Great Commission” simply because churches don’t use this particular phrase any more? It’s important to take things like this into consideration because it affects the results of the survey. (You can find out more about Barna’s structuring process for this study at the end of the article linked above.) But even if the numbers of the Barna survey aren’t exact, I think it’s safe to say there are a lot of people out there in churchland who aren’t familiar with The Great Commission.

Just for fun, let’s see what the results would be if we surveyed readers of my blog:

The Great Commission refers to some of Jesus’ final words to the disciples before His ascension and is cited from Matthew 28:18-20:

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

With these words Jesus commissioned the eleven remaining disciples to go out into the world and carry on His mission. Since every Christian is a disciple, or follower, of Christ, this is our commission from Him as well. Let’s examine what it says.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
Before commissioning his disciples, Jesus reminds them that everything He’s about to say is founded on and imbued with His authority. Jesus alone has the divine authority to establish the church and to dictate the way in which His church is to be set up and to grow.

We 21st century Christians would do well to keep forefront in our minds and hearts the authority of Christ over His church. There is no need for churches to “cast vision” or come up with mission statements. Christ is the head of the church and has already given us His vision for it. The Great Commission is His mission statement for the church.

Go therefore
“Therefore” in this little phrase refers back to what Christ has just said about His authority. In other words, because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me, I am telling you to go.

“Go” is a very generic verb in English. We can “go” into the kitchen or we can “go” to the moon or we can “go” out and conquer the world. We can “go” anywhere from our own personal microcosm to the edges of the known universe. And that is the same sense the Greek word πορεύω captures: as you “go your way,” as you “go forth,” as you “walk”, as you “pursue the journey on which [you have] entered.” Wherever life takes us, whether it’s across the street or across the world, we go as ambassadors of Christ, carrying the good news of the gospel with us.

All nations
Revelation 7:9 tells us that God will save people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” So that’s who we share the gospel with as we go our way. Everybody. Regardless of where they’re from, what they look like, or how they talk. We are not to withhold the gospel from anyone, and we’re to make sure the church is proactively carrying the gospel to every populated geographical location on earth.

Make disciples…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you
Notice the language Jesus uses here. He doesn’t say “make converts” or “make Christians”. He says “make disciples.”

Think about what the disciples did while Jesus was on earth. First, they answered His call to follow Him. Then, they began the journey of following Him wherever He went. He trained and equipped them day and night. They loved Him and worshiped Him. They imitated the things He did and said. They carried on His work after He ascended. Jesus is saying to the disciples, and to us, “Replicate yourselves. Make more like you.”

That means that the Great Commission starts with sharing the gospel with a lost person, but it doesn’t end there. There’s more to our mission than just evangelism. We are to train and equip Christians to follow Jesus daily, to love and worship Him, to imitate Him in obedience, and to carry on His work.

Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
After salvation, baptism is the first step a new Christian takes on the road of discipleship. It is not optional. Baptism publicly identifies a person – to the church and to the world – as a Christian, and is a personal pledge to follow Christ obediently all the days of one’s life.

Being baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” carries several layers of meaning.

💧Again, pay careful attention to the language in this phrase. Jesus does not say “in the nameS” – plural. He says, “in the name” – singular. This is a boldly Trinitarian statement directly from two of its members: Jesus, who spoke these words to the disciples, and the Holy Spirit, who breathed them out through the pen of Matthew. This is God Himself telling us who He is. Jesus spoke these words to good Jewish boys who were born and bred on the shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” There was to be no confusion for new Believers back then, Believers today, or to the onlooking world, as to who these Christians are following. They are not following three different gods. They are following the one true God in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – the whole ball of wax.

💧Names meant far more in biblical times than they do to us today. We see God changing people’s names – Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, etc. – when He commissioned them for a new mission or phase of life. Being baptized “in the name of” the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit echoes that tradition of God changing people’s names. You are no longer your own, you are Christ’s. You are no longer “Sinner”, you are “Saint”. You no longer go forth in your own name, but in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as their emissary, endowed with the power and authority of God to live for Him and to proclaim the gospel to a lost and dying world.

💧Because Christians are, by definition, Trinitarians, and because baptizing a Believer is commissioning her to go forth into the world as a representative of Christ, it’s appropriate for pastors to take this verse literally when performing a baptism and verbalize its words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Basic Training: Baptism

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
What a sweet promise, both to the disciples and to us today. Obediently following Christ in our daily lives, sharing the gospel, and making disciples can be lonely, exhausting, and discouraging at times. But we don’t have to do it alone, and we don’t have to do it in the flesh. Christ is with us and He knows all too well how hard it can be. God has given the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower Believers to live for Him and to carry out The Great Commission.

Additional Resources

What is the Great Commission? at Got Questions

The Great Commission by John MacArthur

The Great Commission by Burk Parsons

Evangelism at Theology Gals

Faith, Parenting, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Follow On

Originally published July 29, 2010follow on

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. John 1:35-39

When we speak of “following Jesus” today, we mean that we follow in His footsteps figuratively. We keep His teachings. We obey Him. We submit to His leadership.

But when Jesus was physically present on earth, people were literally able to follow Him. Around. As in, walking right behind Him. Maybe even stepping on the backs of His sandals like my children do to me sometimes.

Which got me to thinking. Why do people follow other people around? And who are these people who follow other people around? And why are my children and my dog always following me around? And why does it annoy me when my children and my dog follow me around? (Ok, I haven’t figured that one out yet, but there’s some kind of a sin issue in there somewhere, I’m sure.)

Who?
First of all, you don’t usually see an adult following another adult around unless one of them is a stalker. But there are a some occasions in which it might be appropriate and legal, for example, if the person being followed is a tour guide, or if the person being followed is a seasoned employee training a new hire. Much of the time, literal followers are children. And at my house, the dog.

Why?
Why do people follow people around? Think about it– have you ever followed somebody around? Why did you do it? Do people follow you around? Why do they do it?

People generally follow another person around because:

a.) they are interested in what that person is doing,
or
b.) they want to learn from that person,
or
c.) they have no idea where they’re going and the person they’re following does.

That’s why people followed Jesus around. They had heard that he spoke and taught as no one ever had before. They had heard about the miracles and healings. They were curious. Were the rumors true? What might they see? Would Jesus do something for them?

For some, that initial interest blossomed into a desire to sit under the tutelage of Jesus. They couldn’t get enough of His teaching, so these first century groupies followed him from speaking engagement to speaking engagement.

Certainly, none of the people who followed Jesus around had a clue as to where they were going, spiritually speaking. Jesus did. He not only knew the way to the kingdom of God, He was the Way. Who better to follow?

So why do my children and my dog follow me around?

Well, my dog follows me around because hope springs eternal in her that I will drop food on the floor, or that one miraculous day, the meal I’m cooking in the kitchen will actually be for her. She’s not interested in learning anything from me and she knows her way around the house just fine.

My children follow me around for the same basic reasons people followed Jesus around. They’re curious. They want to know what I’m doing, and they hope it will be something fun that will involve them. When they’re young, even cooking, sweeping, and folding the laundry seem interesting to them (yeah, my kids don’t get out much) and they want to learn how to do it just like Mom. When we’re in an unfamiliar place, they follow me because they don’t know how to get where we’re going, and I do.

Which makes me think.

How am I walking? Am I walking the way Jesus walked? Do I walk uprightly? Do I walk in integrity? Do I walk blamelessly?

Do I follow Jesus so closely that by following me around, my children can learn to follow Him too?

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ John 14

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John 14

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Who is speaking, and who is being spoken to in this chapter?

2. What does it mean that “no one comes to the Father except through” Jesus? (verse 6) What does this mean for followers of religions which exclude Jesus or do not have a correct, biblical understanding of who Jesus is?

3. Some people say that Jesus was only a man and never claimed to be God. Does this chapter support or refute this idea? Which verses would back up your answer?

4. Does verse 14 mean that God will give you anything you ask for in prayer as long as you say the phrase “in Jesus’ name” when you ask for it? What does it mean to ask for something in Jesus’ name?

5. According to verses 15, 21, 23, and 24, what is the evidence that someone truly loves Christ as she claims to?

Church, New Testament, Sunday School

The Last Supper~The Lord’s Supper ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 11-16-14

Last Supper

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 46 ~ Nov. 9-15
Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24, John 13-21
The Last Supper ~ The Lord’s Supper

Last week we took a look at the last act of Jesus’ public ministry, the woes to the Pharisees. Today, we’re studying the last act of His private ministry to His disciples–the Last Supper, and with it, the institution of the Lord’s Supper for the church.

Mark 14:12-16
It was time for the annual celebration of Passover. As you will recall, the Passover pointed to Christ and was fulfilled in Christ. As the Passover celebrated God’s people being released from the bondage of slavery to Egypt, the Lord’s Supper celebrates Jesus releasing the Christian from bondage to the slavery of sin. As the Passover lamb was slaughtered and the blood applied to the wooden doorposts so death would not come to that house, Jesus, the Lamb of God, was slaughtered and bled on a wooden cross, so that if His blood is applied over the doors of our hearts, we will not suffer eternal death.

That’s why, as Christians, we now observe the Lord’s Supper instead of the Passover. For us, the Passover has been fulfilled in Christ. But for the disciples, on that night, it had not yet been fulfilled. So they began by celebrating the last Passover and ended by observing the first Lord’s Supper. It was a bridge between the old covenant and the new.

Peter and John (they’re mentioned by name in Luke 22:8) went into town, found the man whose house they were to use, and began to prepare the Passover meal. From the notes on verse 12 in my MacArthur Study Bible*:

After the lamb was slaughtered and some of its blood sprinkled on the altar, the lamb was taken home, roasted whole, and eaten in the evening meal with unleavened bread, bitter herbs, charoseth (a paste made of crushed apples, dates, pomegranates, and nuts, into which they dipped bread), and wine.

Luke 22:14-20
The end of the Passover (14-18)
This passage begins with the last Passover. Jesus will not partake of the Passover again until Heaven, after His death, burial, and resurrection have fulfilled it. Here, Jesus brings the old (Law) covenant and Passover to a close. For the last time, the first of the four cups of Passover, the cup of thanksgiving, is passed around. It is an appropriate time for the disciples to look back and give thanks to God for His good Law, and His love, kindness, care, and patience with His covenant people. It is also a time to look forward and give thanks -although the disciples don’t yet understand it- for the sacrifice Christ is about to make to atone, not only for their sin, but for the sin of all those who will come to trust in Him.

A New Meal (19-20)
With the breaking and blessing of the bread, a new ordinance is born for the church, the Lord’s Supper. The bread represents Christ’s body. (It does not actually or materially become Christ’s literal flesh, and the wine does not become His literal blood, as the false teaching of transubstantiation posits. Christ’s words are a metaphor, the same as when He said, “I am the door,” or “I am the bread that comes down from Heaven.”) He breaks it, as his physical body will soon be broken. He breaks it for his disciples, as his physical body will be broken for all future disciples. He gives the broken bread to His disciples -they did not take it themselves or earn it- as Christ gives life to Christians without any work on our part to earn or merit it.

In verse 20, Jesus likewise gave His disciples what had been the third cup of Passover, the cup of blessing. And what a blessing it was! Christ’s blood, shed for the remission of our sins. It represented the new covenant of grace– trusting in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as payment for our sin for right standing with God, rather than looking ahead to Messiah with the keeping of ceremonial Law.

1 Corinthians 11:23-34
Flash forward a couple of decades from the upper room to the church at Corinth. This church had allowed sin to corrupt their observance of the Lord’s Supper so much that Paul said (20) could no longer rightfully be considered “the Lord’s” supper. In verses 23-34, he sets about to instruct them on the proper way to come to the Lord’s table. Because this is an instruction to the church, we also draw upon this passage to learn how we should conduct the Lord’s Supper today.

A few implicit things to understand
First Corinthians is a letter to the church at Corinth. The church consisted of baptized Believers. Paul was not instructing lost people on receiving the Lord’s Supper. Lost people partaking in the Lord’s Supper would not have made any sense (then or now) because it was the celebration of the new covenant between God and His new covenant people, Christians. Lost people are not part of that new covenant. Their participation in the Lord’s Supper is sort of like an unmarried man and woman hooking up and having sex versus a man and woman getting married and then celebrating and consumating their marriage covenant by having sex.

The Lord’s Supper is not a lucky charm or magic wand that takes care of spiritual problems. Partaking of the bread and wine (or juice) will not save anyone who is unsaved. It is also not some sort of spiritual “booster shot” that imparts righteousness, grace, forgiveness, or holiness to the person who partakes, nor does it somehow supernaturally protect a person from demons or life’s negative circumstances. Neither does it prove that a person who claims to be a Christian is actually saved. It is simply an outward celebration of salvation by those who have already been saved.

Because the Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance, it is to be celebrated by the gathered body of the church (not at home {unless the church is meeting in a home} or somewhere else by individuals, families, groups of friends, etc.) and presided over by the pastor and elders or deacons of the church. Since it is not salvific and does not impart any kind of spiritual “good luck” there is no need to partake of it outside the meeting of the church body. It is a church celebration.

23-26– Paul sums up the gospels’ accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper by Jesus, relating that it commemorates Christ’s death for His people, and reminding us that it is a celebration of the new covenant of God with Believers through Jesus. He also says that when we, as a body of Believers, celebrate the Lord’s Supper, it is a picture of the gospel to the lost, so that they might come to know Christ as Savior.

27-32– We are not to underestimate the seriousness and solemnity of the Lord’s Supper. Once again, I think the notes on these verses in my study Bible* say it better than I could:

“In an unworthy manner” means ritualistically, indifferently, with an unrepentant heart, a spirit of bitterness, or any other ungodly attitude.

To come to the Lord’s Table clinging to one’s sin does not only dishonor the ceremony, but it also dishonors His body and blood, treating lightly the gracious sacrifice of Christ for us. It is necessary to set all sin before the Lord, then partake, so as not to mock the sacrifice for sin by holding on to it…

When believers do not properly judge the holiness of the celebration of Communion, they treat with indifference the Lord Himself- His life, suffering, and death…The offense was so serious that God put the worst offenders to death, an extreme but effective form of church purification. (Keep in mind, these are Believers, not lost people, we’re talking about, here.)

Believers are kept from being consigned to hell, not only by divine decree, but by divine intervention. The Lord chastens to drive His people back to righteous behavior and even sends death to some in the church to remove them before they could fall away.

The Lord’s Supper is a big deal. We are not to be flippant about it. Christians are to approach His table in reverence, awe, and gratitude for the extreme sacrifice God made through Christ to rescue us from hell. While it is not for unbelievers to participate in, it is a beautiful picture of the gospel to them, and a reminder to us -as individuals and the body of Christ- of just how much our sin and reconciliation to God cost Jesus. As often as we do it, let’s do it in remembrance of Him.

 

If you’d like to read more about the Lord’s Supper and the ins and outs of observing it in the church today, check out Joe Thorn’s excellent series of articles (they are brief and easy to understand), The Lord’s Supper:

For Sinners
Open or Closed?
Fencing the Table
A Means of Grace
Only in the Assembly
Sip It, Don’t Dip It
How Often?
Wine or Welch’s?

*Quotes taken from The MacArthur Study Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois, 2010.