When I say that communion is more than mere symbolism, I primarily mean that it is not a dead religious form- rather it is a living reality- very active, very dynamic. The dynamic life which fills this exercise is the Holy Spirit of God- and perhaps it is helpful to think of this in terms of the word ‘permeation’. As simple as the physical act of communion may be, we need to accept by faith (regardless of what our senses and emotions might indicate) that there is a permeation of the Spirit’s reality in what we are doing.
So then, on our way into this exercise- on our way to the table of the Lord- let us conclude that the ever-abiding, the ever-present Holy Spirit of the living God is dynamically active in what we are doing. Anything less makes the whole exercise redundant and meaningless.
By stating this I am not at all indicating that we have plumbed and perfectly understand the profound mysteries of the communion table. These mysteries are infinite, they are profound, and past the understanding of the natural mind- and can be understood only by that same living and dynamic Spirit of God.
As I come to this table this morning the one thing that is absolutely certain- and this certainty has nothing to do with my feelings or senses-is that the Holy Spirit is actively engaging my spirit. That engagement is about revelation, and that revelation is about one reality- the Person of Jesus Christ.
The scripture makes it clear that the whole function of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Son- and the way in which He glorifies the Son in relation to the life of the believer is to progressively reveal and unfold to, in, and through us the infinite truth or reality of Christ. And of course, this revealing of the Christ to us and in us moves around the fully finished work of Christ on our behalf.
Against this brief background I want to point you to a very precious insight I have never really considered before- an insight I believe the Holy Spirit has graciously granted to me for my own enrichment and encouragement.
The insight moves around this text: 1Cor.11:26 -For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
This statement of the apostle is very strong in nature; it is not a statement of mere intent, but is rather a statement of fact or in fact.
I do not say this critically- but we need to note that the focus of this statement is not upon what we receive, or what is added to us in our coming to the table of the Lord.
Paul is telling us that in our participation in the communion there is a very definite reality taking place- and it is taking place whether we are particularly conscious of it or not- and what is taking place is this: you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
My own personal sense is that Paul is touching upon a mystery that would rock our heads if we really understood it. I am not claiming to understand it- but I am claiming that the Holy Spirit has allowed me to touch a flyspeck of reality here- and even that flyspeck puts me on my face before God because of this unspeakable privilege of participation in the most important business in the universe- the proclamation of the Lord’s death.
I would suggest there are a couple of incredibly vital realities in this. First, I believe that the participation in the proclamation of the Lord’s death that takes place in this act reaches or touches a depth that goes beyond even preaching.
And secondly the privilege of this participation is equally available to all the saints- all who eat this bread and drink this cup.
As we prepare to come to the table of the Lord- the covenant table- I would like you to consider three factors relevant to this text. First, there is the meaning of the word proclaim. Second, there is the issue of what is being proclaimed. Third, there is the issue of who hears the proclamation being made.
(1)The word ‘proclaim’ is quite incredible in its scope of meaning. The word in the Greek text means this: to announce, declare, promulgate, make known, to proclaim publicly, publish, to report, to tell with conviction. Each word of this definition is meaningful, but the last phrase- to tell with conviction- is very significant.
With the word conviction we have come to the whole issue of faith- which, by the way, is not a mere mental exercise- but rather refers to being convinced at the deepest or core level of consciousness, which is spirit. Conviction or faith refers to that witness within the spirit (much deeper than the soul realm) which is created by the argument of the Holy Spirit whereby we become convinced.
The physical act of taking up the bread and the cup is exactly that- a physical act- until or unless it is joined with, or better yet, born of faith. And now the physical act becomes profoundly more than physical- it becomes S/spiritually dynamic because it is flowing out of the conviction of what I have become convinced of by the Holy Spirit Himself.
This dynamic of true faith turns this act of eating the bread and drinking the cup into a living, active and dynamic proclamation which reverberates through the entire S/spirit realm- including the realm of darkness.
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(2)In the words of the text, what we are proclaiming is the Lord’s death.
In proclaiming the Lord’s death I am proclaiming much more than the historical fact that there was a Man named Jesus who died at some point in time. What I’m declaring is the full and total purpose of the Sovereign God that was realised in and through the death of Christ. Even though I do not fully comprehend the entire reality of that purpose, it is none the less true that I am declaring its fullness through this act of faith.
The all encompassing purpose in the death of the Lord was and is redemption. All of the wonder, all of the mystery- the little bit we know and all that we do not yet know of the infinite provision of God on our behalf, through the redemptive death of Christ- all of that is represented in the table of the Lord. And in my coming to and by participation in this table I am making a bold proclamation of that full and complete provision.
In the Old Testament we find this admonition- ‘Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.’
My paraphrase of this: Let the redeemed of the Lord give mighty witness to the reality of their redemption through bold declaration of it.
I would suggest that there is no greater means whereby we get to declare the reality of redemption than by taking up this bread and this cup.
Let me add this before moving on- There is a relationship between the word of our faith- that is the word of our true conviction expressed in this act- and the consequent release of God’s provision through the redemptive work we are proclaiming.
(3)But whose listening? Who hears the proclamation?
In just a couple of minutes when we eat and drink together- and this proclamation is made- who is going to hear?
First, God is going to hear.
Secondly, the heavenly hosts are going to hear.
Thirdly the demonic realm is going to hear.
Fourthly, the redeemed community is going to hear.
Fifthly, my own soul is going to hear.
God hears and releases. The heavenly hosts hear and stand in awe. The demonic realm hears and is served notice that the blood line marks the boundaries and there is no trespassing of those boundaries. The redeemed community hears and celebrates. My own soul hears and is strengthened in its conviction regarding the full provision of redemption.
To understand this flyspeck of truth is to know that communion is not just mere symbolism.