March 23, 2012
February 10, 2010
October 16, 2009
The Lord’s Supper Today
What of the service or ceremony, called, “the Lord’s Supper” or “Holy Communion” conducted by various Christian denominations in different ways over the years and today? It is a token meal, not a real meal, but also a ceremony. Just as Paul argued that circumcision, food restrictions and special day observances do not in themselves achieve anything, so the same can be said for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. However, it can be a very valuable custom. It can help us to seriously reflect on the death of the Lord Jesus and its significance. It can remind us of things that we might tend to forget. Yet, we must not invest it with anything that is improper. We must rid it of error so that we are not led astray and do not lead others astray. Taking part in a service of “The Lord’s Supper” or “Holy Communion” does not make anyone right with God. It does not bestow any special benefits. It cannot. It is only a ceremony. However, if we find it helpful to participate in such a ceremony, then presumably we will take part in that ceremony. And if we do so, how frequently should that be? That is a matter of choice! No one should make demands of us but neither should we make demands of others. Any participation in such a service can be helpful but it is not mandatory.
We must seek to honour the Lord Jesus Christ – not ourselves and not our ceremonies. We are free from the Law. We are recipients of the mercy and grace of God. We have been justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and we live by, and must walk by, the Spirit. The ceremony of baptism in itself avails nothing. The ceremony of Holy Communion in itself avails nothing. Christ and his death are everything. We will glory in him!
Barry Newman Christ Church St Ives 19th July 2009 v. 2
September 14, 2009
Here is the third in my series of three papers. See introduction here.
Certain aspects of the first and second papers would have been controversial. The third will also engender controversy. However it is not my intention to do that. I am merely trying to ascertain the truth about these matters and to place what I believe to be true before the Christian public for serious debate. I have consulted with a number of people over the last few years but I alone bear the responsibility for what I have written and spoken about.
Christ Centred Communion
Some years ago when speaking at a camp to a group of people who did not come from an Anglican background I was asked if I would administer the Lord’s Supper on the Sunday morning. I readily agreed. I was conscious of not wishing to distract people from contemplating on the death of Jesus, by doing anything that for them was unusual, so I enquired beforehand if there were any particular customs that I should follow. After being told there were no real customs of any note, I conducted the service. At its conclusion I was kindly informed by one of the leaders that contrary to normal practice I had broken pieces off the end of the bread instead of beginning by breaking the bread into two pieces. Though I had been informed otherwise they did indeed have customs that they considered important.
What is the Lord’s Supper really? How did it originate? What did the Lord Jesus actually command that we should observe? What should we do in our church? This paper attempts to answer these and other questions. Consideration is first given to the nature of the Last Passover Meal and then the early Christianmeals mentioned in the New Testament. The idea that various passages of the New Testament allude to a ceremony (what some may call a rite) reflective of the Last Passover Meal is then considered together with what some of the Early Fathers termed the “Eucharist”. There is then a discussion on what Jesus meant by his statements regarding his body and his blood. Some general comments are made on the occurrence of Corinthian Christians meals and also on the nature of formal meals in the Graeco-Roman world. Sections of chapters 8, 9 and 10 and the latter half of chapter 11 of 1 Corinthians are then examined in some detail. Some final comments are made as to what we can learn from the latter half of 1 Corinthians 11 and how we should regard our celebration of “The Lord’s Supper” or “Holy Communion” today. The overriding concern of this paper is to discern whether or not there was a ceremony observed by Christians of the New Testament reflective of the Last Passover Meal and whether or not Jesus commanded that the ceremony be observed. Of course if there was not a ceremony then there was not a rite.
The term, “Christian”, mentioned only once in the New Testament (Acts 11: 26) is used in this paper for convenience. Those who gladly responded to Christ were commonly referred to as “disciples” in Acts while Paul preferred to address them in terms of some relationship they had either with himself or with God or Christ. They are also referred to corporately by the term “ekklesia” (church) both in Acts and by Paul.
August 28, 2009
The Law: Its role was to educate, to reveal sin, to curb sinful behaviour and to lead the Jew to Christ. It has fulfilled its God given role.
The Spirit: The Holy Spirit has been given as the great gift of God to us, his people, we who are in Christ, to transform us, writing righteousness in our minds, bringing forth in us the fruit of love, peace and joy and more.
Ceremonies and Regulations: Once, the observance of certain ceremonies and regulations was necessary but that is not the case now. However, if for instance ceremonial observance is our choice, we must be careful never to imagine that such a manner of living gains merit with God. It cannot. We must never boast about our ceremonial behaviour. Such boasting is vain.
The Gospel: Central to the gospel is the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins to rescue us. We need to boast about the cross. Such boasting is our Lord’s due. By God’s grace we have been saved through faith, trusting in our Lord Jesus Christ alone. We are freed from the Law. For freedom, Christ has set us free.
What are we to make of the ceremonies, Baptism and Holy Communion, often referred to as the Sacraments? They are subjects for next week and the following.
August 26, 2009
Ceremonies and Regulations
We should now be able to answer the question, “Why, in the Galatian letter, was Paul so concerned with circumcision?” Centuries before the Mosaic Law was introduced, God instituted male circumcision to be observed by Abraham and his descendants as a sign of the contract that God established between himself and his people (Gen. 17: 10). It later found a place in the Law given to Moses (Lev. 12: 3). The law and practice of circumcision was exceedingly significant. It seems from the letter that Paul wrote to the Galatians that certain Jewish people were insisting that Gentiles who had responded to the gospel needed to be circumcised, just as they were circumcised. Perhaps they argued that no one could legitimately call himself a child of God unless he abided by that ancient law that had indicated that God had chosen them. And the Galatian Gentiles who had become recipients of God’s kindness listened and Paul was greatly disturbed! He did not give thanks to God for them. Instead he exclaimed, “You foolish Galatians who has bewitched you?” (Gal. 3: 1) and “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all” (Gal. 1: 6, 7). In his letter to the church at Rome Paul appealed to Abraham to demonstrate that before the law was ever given Abraham was justified by faith. In the Galatian letter, he appealed to the two sons born to Abraham, to make a point about slavery and freedom. One son, Ishmael was born to Hagar, a slave. The other son, Isaac, through whom the promises of God were fulfilled, was born to Sarah, a free woman. By analogy he argued that those of the Judaism of his day are children of Hagar, in slavery, while those who are the recipients of the promises of God are free, children of Sarah. They are free from the Law, even the law of circumcision (Gal. 4: 21 – 31).
Circumcision was not the only item of Jewish Law that caused difficulties in the early churches. The people of Israel, in observing the ancient Mosaic Law, recognised some foods as clean and others unclean, not to be eaten. For example, the camel, the rabbit and the pig were to be regarded as unclean along with insects and certain birds (Lev. 11: 1 – 47). With the coming of the gospel, the Law having played its part, such matters could be understood differently. Even Jesus declared, that it was not what went into the mouth that made a person unclean it was what came out of the mouth from the heart (Matt. 15: 17 – 20). Paul was concerned however, that those, perhaps mainly Gentile believers, who felt free to eat whatever they choose, did not endanger the faith of those, perhaps mainly Jewish believers, who had restrictive eating practices (Rom. 14: 1-15; 1 Cor. 8: 1 – 13). Indeed when it came to eating meat that had knowingly been offered to idols, his instruction seems to be that the meat was generally off limits for everyone, perhaps because the knowledge of what they were doing would very likely cause problems of conscience (1 Cor. 10: 23 – 11: 1). Though the spiritual welfare of others was always to the fore of his thinking, Paul had never the less come to realise that the Jewish food laws no longer strictly applied. In his letter to the church at Rome, he declared that no food in itself, was unclean (Rom 14: 14) and in a letter to the church at Corinth, he stated or agreed that, “Food does not bring us nearer to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat and no better off if we do” (1 Cor. 8: 8).