The apostle tells us that every time we come to this Table we do so in order to make a proclamation. Every time we eat and drink here, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Now this proclamation is something that occurs among the Lord’s people, for we are the ones invited to this Table, but the proclamation is meant to be heard by all that has breath. Every living thing is invited to worship the Lord.
We don’t need to know how God arranges for nonbelievers to hear this proclamation, or how they come to learn of it, but fortunately, we don’t have to. All we have to do is eat and drink with sincere love for God and for our brothers and sisters. God takes care of the rest. He is the one who called it a proclamation, and who called all of us His messengers.
As you have been told a number of times, this is not a Table of introspection and morbid confession. Confession is relevant to what we do here, but it should not be what we do here. You wash up before you come to the Table, but the Table is not the designated place for washing up. Of course, if the Spirit brings something to mind while you are here, simply confess it and return to the subject at hand. But don’t go hunting for things to confess. You are not to be curled up in an introspective ball, but rather singing to the Lord, looking around at your people, the people you love.
This is a Table of fellowship, and so we call it communion. This is a table of gratitude and thanksgiving, and so we call it the Eucharist. But another important function of a meal like this is the giving of honor.
This meal is a place of sacrifice, but we do not sacrifice the blood of animals, for that system was prophetic, looking forward to the time of Christ (Heb. 10:4). This meal is a place of sacrifice, but we do not sacrifice Christ here because Scripture tells us that His death was a death that was offered once for all (Heb. 10:10)—and that happened two thousand years ago. So what kind of sacrifice do we offer? Not only at this Table, but throughout the worship service, and throughout the course of our lives, we lift up the sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13:15).
This Table represents two things that the world considers inconsistent. First, it is a Table of thanksgiving. It represents an overflow of joy, and love, and peace. This is a Table of fellowship, and mutual life. That is one thing.
But the second thing, just as real, is that this is a Table that proclaims death. The apostle says that every time we partake, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again.
How can these two things be consistent with one another? In their consistency, we see the wisdom of God, and we should also see the folly of man.
This is a Table of rejoicing and peace. We have gathered here in order to overflow with thanksgiving.
But what of sin? Shouldn’t we examine ourselves as we come to the Table? No, but not because we shouldn’t examine ourselves. While we are here, we are to be singing, rejoicing, thanking God, and looking around at our brothers and sisters in love. In order to do this, we do have to deal with sin, but that should have happened a bit earlier. We wash up for dinner, but not at the table.
So how does God deal with our sin? The Puritan William Bridge rightly said that affliction is God’s soap. The martyrs who gathered before the throne did so in white robes, and the robes were white because of Christ’s blood, but it also said that they had come out of the great tribulation. Affliction is one of the ways God uses to apply Christ’s blood to us. “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin” (1 Pet. 4:1).
This is a Table of grace. This bread and this wine are means of grace.
But God has determined a spiritual law for the world. Grace is organic, and it grows and flourishes. Grace is alive, which is why it can multiply, according to its kind. Grace and peace can be added. Grace and peace can be multiplied.
As with other forms of life, it does not grow into newer life unless and until the older life is expended. We are given new grace as the older grace is used. We are given grace so that we may lay it out. When we have done so, as we are doing so, God is continually gracious to us. It is given to us, not to hoard, but to spend.
You are here, an invited guest, because you are a friend of God. This great banquet is a banquet with assigned seating. There are place cards at every seat. You are invited. You are welcome.
Now the New Testament is filled with warnings about those who forge their own place cards, and counterfeit their invitations. That is a grim reality, and there are people who are bound hand and foot in order to be pitched out of the wedding banquet. But we are convinced of better things in your case. You are here because you have come in genuine evangelical faith.
When we come to this Table, we are, most of us, coming to it again. God not only feeds us, but He feeds us continually, regularly. And even if you are coming here for the first time, it is the first time of many.
God’s purpose is to sustain you. He is the Creator of all things, but He is also the sustainer of all things. He feeds the beasts of the field, He feeds all the fish in the sea, He feeds all the sparrows in the parking lot at MacDonald’s, and He provides you with your physical food. God brings into existence, and then nourishes what He has brought into existence.