Community Property

We might describe the marriage between the Lord Jesus Christ and His bride, the Christian church, as a community property marriage. This way of saying it might jar us at first, but it points to an important aspect of our faith that is often neglected.

What we have in this meal is a representation of koinonia, of mutual partaking. In this meal, Christ offers Himself to us. In this meal, we offer ourselves to Him. In this meal, we offer ourselves to one another in koinonia love. And last, in this meal, we offer Christ (and ourselves with Him) to an aching, lost, miserable, and sin-torn world. As often as we partake here, we proclaim Christ’s death until He comes.

Our understanding of this mutual partaking is an understanding that grows over time. In the Song of Songs, the bride at first mentions how her beloved belongs to her, and follows it up with the fact that she belongs to him. “My beloved is mine, and I am his: He feedeth among the lilies.” (Song 2:16). But later in the book, this is reversed. She begins with the fact that He possesses her, and then goes on to rejoice in the fact that He belongs to her. “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: He feedeth among the lilies” (Song 6:3).

We begin with the knowledge of what we are receiving, but we know that we are also giving. We grow up into the knowledge that we have given ourselves away, and in that knowledge, we know that we have received everything. Whoever loses everything for Christ’s sake is one who has gained everything. He who grasps to keep what cannot be kept is forfeiting what, if received, could never be lost.

At this Table we are reminded—and we are reminded every week—that Christ is everything to us, and everything that He is and has is now our possession by right. That right was not bought through any merit of ours, but rather through the sheer and quite outrageous and completely scandalous grace of God.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

Though the Devil Should Say Contrary

This is the time in our weekly worship when we come to the Supper. But the connotations might be different for us if we simply said that this is Suppertime. This is the point where the Holy Spirit of God, who is the Comforter, offers us His food, but the connotations are different when we acknowledge that it is comfort food.

This is all true because Christ is here, Christ is here seeking you. As Samuel Rutherford put it, wonderfully, “”Christ seeks you in the sacrament, seek ye Him again, and though the devil should say the contrary, there shall be a meeting.”

Right Handed Mercy

As we gather here, we are partaking of Christ. This is presented to us under the forms of bread and wine, representing His passion on our behalf. But we are not being presented with a momentary Christ, a Christ limited to those few days at the end of His life.

No, we are presented with everything Christ is and has. We are presented with everything He has done in history, what He did for us on the cross, the glory of the moment when He left the tomb, the wonder of His ascension into Heaven and presentation before the Ancient of Days, His gracious outpouring of His Spirit, which brought His bride into union and communion with Him. Not only that, but we are united with Him in His glorious Second Coming.

As we consider the world outside of Christ, we see with them the perennial desire to be free of this Jesus. They do not want Him to rule over them. But we do want that, and we bring it to pass by worshiping His Father through Him and in His name, in the power of the Spirit. As we do this, we are anticipating by faith.

Anticipating what? We long for the day when Christ will be revealed to the entire created order as the one who has been given universal dominion. Every eye will see Him, and they mourn the one whom they pierced. They will acknowledge Him, with every tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. They will bend the knee before Him, because He sits on a throne looking down upon the sons of men, and as He does so, by faith we see righteousness in His left hand and—glory to God—mercy in His right. Because mercy is in His right hand, we have good news to proclaim to a world that has not been consumed.

We are not coming here to a partial Jesus, or an incomplete Christ.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

The Pebble and the Seed

The sun is 93 million miles away. It would be fair to say that the sun is distant. But for everyone who has eyes to see, the sun is very much present.

The Lord Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is there, not here. As a true man, He is located in the heavenly places. And yet, God has established the kingdom of His Son in such a way that the radiance of the Son’s glory extends throughout that entire kingdom, which is done through the power of the Spirit.

That radiance of glory is not felt equally by all. If you were to bury a pebble in your garden and a seed in your garden right next to the pebble, you would get very different results from them. The seed contains life, and so can respond to the gift presented by the distant sun now present. The pebble contains no life, and is insensible to whether the sun is distant or present.

When the Word is preached to you, and when the bread and wine are presented to you, you are called to respond in faith to the felt presence of Christ. This is possible because the Spirit has quickened you—you are a seed, not a pebble. You are green shoot, struggling up through the soil, beginning a glorious journey for such a small plant. You are three inches tall and you plainly want to make a journey of 93 million miles.

The glory of grace is this—that distance is traveled, not by us, but rather by the sunlight. That gap is overcome by the power of the Spirit. The glory of grace is found in how it enlivens our lives here, how life is initially given and then turned into a life that is an abundant life. He comes to us, and we ascend toward Him.

So Christ is here. He is present. If you are alive in Him, you can feel the warmth, you can feel the strength, you can feel the glory.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

True and Entire

In theological discussions of the sacrament, the distinction between sign and thing signified goes back to the great Augustine. This is a distinction that is essential for us to maintain if we are to keep ourselves out of superstition and idolatry. At the same time, we must make this distinction without dividing or separating the sign and thing signified. If we break the sign and thing signified in two, the only thing we will find ourselves holding is the mangled sign, with the reality long gone. They cannot be there together, except as God has appointed.

The appointed instrument that God has given that enables us to hold sign and thing signified together is faith—the kind of faith given by Him, which means that it necessarily is vibrant, alive, receptive, eager or, to use the word that sums it all up, evangelical.

Simple faith can see at a glance things which unconverted philosophers and theologians with bulging foreheads cannot figure out. Faith does not create mysteries on a table, trying to figure out what is going on inside the bread or inside the wine. Faith receives the mystery into the body of Christ—you are that body—and there sees what God intends when He speaks of greater things under the form of the lesser.

What is offered here, in words and actions, is the body of Jesus, the blood of Jesus. But what is actually being offered is totus Christus, all of Christ, the entire Jesus. This is all about union with Christ, and remember that union with Christ is only effectual when received by faith, and it is not possible for a true faith to receive a partial Christ.

In a similar way, these emblems, these elements, are received by you with your hands and your mouth. But your hands and your mouth also represent something. They are also a lesser thing that represents, necessarily, much more. They represent all of you—body, soul, and spirit—and they represent you resting in Christ forever and ever, world without end.

So true faith receives the true and entire Christ into the true and new humanity, being grown up into the perfect man. So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

Tasting a Saving Act

Our God is a Savior, and because our need of salvation is something that is expressed in history, our God is the God of saving acts. God establishes the story, the end from the beginning, but God has also written in the story in such a way that requires Him to intervene in it.

When God told Noah to build an ark, and told him to retreat with his family into it, that was a saving act. When God intervened with Abraham, and pointed him to the ram in the thicket, that was a saving act. When God rained down destruction upon Egypt, and then led Israel through the cloud and the sea, that was a saving act. When God took Israel into Babylon for their sins, and brought them back to the land again, that was a saving act.

All these were precursors and types of the ultimate saving act, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is that saving act that we are memorializing here as we eat the bread and drink the wine. As we do so, we are partaking of God’s great saving act through Jesus, and if we do so in genuine and sincere faith, we are partaking of that saving act.

Now it is not possible to partake of that saving act—really, genuinely—without being saved. If you are in the ark, you are not drowning. If you are on the far side of the Red Sea, then you are not under the Red Sea.

Our intent here is not to partake of a little ceremony. Our intent is to gather, as a people overflowing with faith, in order to partake in the salvation of the world. When you chew and swallow the bread, that is what the salvation of the world tastes like. When you take a drink of the wine, what you are tasting is God’s kindness to sinners.

So we do not call God our Savior because that is a Bible word. We call Him Savior because He saves. We call Him that because we have gathered here to the salvation of mankind.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

A High Table for the Low Hearted

One of the great blessings of the covenant is that when we come to the Table of the Lord, the Lord is dealing with us. We partake of Christ in a special way here, and there is no way to partake of Christ with nothing happening. Christ is present here and He deals with us.

But He deals with us according to His grace, and not in a spirit of severity. This part of the service, where I say a few words just before the Supper, is called the Invitation. And it is a true invitation. Come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ is the constant theme.

Unspeakable Joy and Fullness of Glory

We have not yet seen Jesus Christ in the body, and through the grace of God, this is a great blessing and glory for us. While that fact has led many into a ho-hum profession of the Christian faith, cruising along on autopilot, that is not how the Spirit intends to use the fact that we have not seen Jesus Christ. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:” (1 Peter 1:8). God wants the fact that we have not seen Jesus with our eyes to be something that faith lifts up into unspeakable joy and fullness of glory.

Ineffable joy is therefore something that is part of normal Christian living. It should be part of the baseline. This is not an over-inflamed condition of uber-saints; these are words written to ordinary Christians such as yourselves. “Joy unspeakable and full of glory” is not a private reserve for mystics.

And this is what enables you, as you have gathered together in this way, coming to the Table of the Lord with that unspeakable joy, to then discern the body of the Lord Jesus in your brothers and sisters all around you. Just a few verses down, Peter says this: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:22–23).

When there is an unfeigned love for the brethren, when we love one another from the heart fervently, this is the Spirit’s seal upon us. It means that our joy unspeakable is not a sham, not a front, not a super-spiritual substitute for actually loving other people.

You have not seen Jesus Christ—joy unspeakable, full of glory. You have seen Jesus Christ in your brothers and sisters—unfeigned love, fervent love.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.