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The Two Ordinances of the Church
There are two ordinances the church celebrates: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism is a once in a lifetime event for the believer that publicly displays their passage from death to life through the salvation offered by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a picture of being “born again” (John 3:3, 7). The Lord’s Supper is something different. It is an event of self-examination and repentance that is celebrated on an ongoing basis, as often as the church desires, whether it be weekly, monthly, quarterly, or whenever they choose.
The Lord’s Supper is a reenactment of the Last Passover celebrated by Jesus and His disciples, but with one significant change. During the Last Passover, Jesus gave deeper meaning to the wine and bread. He said the bread represents His body that was to be “broken” for them (1 Cor. 11:24). And the wine represents a new covenant He made with us through the shedding of His blood on the cross (1 Cor. 11:25). Only Jesus didn’t use the word represents. I did. He said the bread is His body, and the wine is His blood. And this is where the plot thickens somewhat.
“Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me” – 1 Corinthians 11:24.
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” – Mathew 26:27-28.
And the debate about the literal or symbolic use of bread and wine has continued until this day, so we won’t spend our time running down that rabbit hole. But what we are going to look at is the meaning of what this all conveys, especially when Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:24-25), and how celebrating this feast proclaims “the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).
Which leads us to ask a few questions.
Question: What happens at the Lord’s Supper?
Answer: That really depends on you.
How much have you prepared to commune with the Lord today? Do you have an expectation of meeting with Him? And if so, how have you prepared yourself to meet with Him? Do you realize the Lord of the Universe has invited you to come to His table? And are you coming to His table in a “worthy manner” befitting Him (1 Cor. 11:27)?
Question: Ok, then what is supposed to happen at the Lord’s Supper?
Answer: Again, that really depends on you.
Jesus specifically set this time apart for us to experience an intimate communion with Him. So it is much more than a religious sacrament. It is actually a time for us to repent of our sins, cleanse our hearts before Him, and then partake in the sufferings (death) and blessings (resurrection) with Him.
We are to experience this union (key phrase) with Him in our soul, not just in our minds. And the way to do that (the “how” questions) begins with your spiritual preparation and prayer. After all, He has invited you to dine with Him at His table at His request.
The 1860 Revival of Cape Town
For over 38 years, Andrew Murray senior, the father of the well-known pastor and devotional writer, Andrew Murray, prayed for revival to take place in the Cape Colony in South Africa. And for 38 years, nothing. Then, in 1860, when his son Andrew Murray was a young 32-year-old pastor of a small church, revival broke out, and everything changed. In fact, eyewitness accounts (this one from Servaas Hofmeyr) of the revival and its aftermath describe it like this:
“Before the days of Revival, the situation of our congregation was lamentable. Love of the world and sin; no earnestness or heartfelt desire for salvation; sinning and idleness, that was the order of the day for most. When the Lord started to move among us, how intense were the prayers for revival and the cries for mercy! ‘I am lost!’ cries one here. ‘Lord, help me!’ cries another. Anxious cries were uttered, heart rendering testimonies of conversion were heard. Visions were seen. Corporate prayer, even behind bushes and rocks, on mountains and in ravines, men, women, greyheads, children, gentlemen, servants all kneeling on the same ground crying for mercy. And none of this was expected by anyone, nor prepared by anyone, nor worked up, or preached by anyone. It was all the Spirit of God, and not for a few hours or days, but months long.”
It was a time of spiritual wonder. In fact, a local pastor described it by saying:
“Prayer meetings were overflowing and full of fire and zeal. Early in the morning and late at night, people would come singing to God’s house. Repentance, renewal, rebirth, and devotion were deepened, and vision widened. Cases of heartfelt conversion occurred daily.”
Sounds like something right out of Acts 2, doesn’t it?
So what is the point of the 1860 revival and how does it relate to the Lord’s Supper? Simply this, in 1887 Andrew Murray wrote a book titled, The Lord’s Table: A Help to the Right Observance of the Holy Supper. And in this book, Andrew Murray gave clear instructions and, most importantly, heart-felt prayers that helped those who were experiencing revival in his time to spiritually prepare for the Lord’s Supper. And by following the instructions of someone who has experienced what we are striving for, we can hope for the same results.