October 13, 2023

A Consecrated Feast

Sinclair Ferguson
A Consecrated Feast

As we come to the Lord’s Table, we are to give our hearts entirely to the One who gave all to save us. Today, Sinclair Ferguson describes the Lord’s Supper as a meal of consecration.


Proclamation, blessing or benediction, participation or communion, and anticipation—we’ve been looking at these big words this week because they’re all used in connection with the Lord’s Supper. They help us both to understand it better, but also, I think, to enjoy it more. I suspect we might be shocked if someone handed us the bread and the wine at the Lord’s Supper and then said what the waiter might say in a restaurant: “Enjoy.”

In the church I was in at one time, the tradition was that at Communion, the elders would sit around the Lord’s Table and serve the congregation from it, and on my left hand sat one of the elders who was usually the senior elder who had served longest in the congregation. I remember coming home one day and my wife saying to me, “It is wonderful to see a man sitting beside you at the Lord’s Table who looks naturally so happy to be there.” She didn’t mean he was flippant and superficial, just that there was a sense that he belonged there with Jesus.

John Knox’s successor Robert Bruce—not Robert the Bruce—Robert Bruce used to say, “We don’t get a better Christ at the Lord’s Supper than the Christ we get in the preaching of the Word, but we do sometimes get the same Christ better.” But we can only do that when we remember another word that helps us to understand the supper. It’s not actually used by Paul, but it’s obviously implied in what he tells the Corinthians. He says, “You can’t be going to feasts where the food has been consecrated to idols and then come into the Lord’s Supper in which you’re consecrating yourself to Him anew.” So, today’s word is consecration.

The Lord’s Supper, like baptism, has often been described since at least the time of Saint Augustine as a visible word, a sermon in dramatic form. We might even think of it as a kind of mime in which we’ve been given program notes that help us to understand every movement. What Paul means is that when you reach out to take the bread and wine into your hands, you can’t be holding other food in them as well that doesn’t belong to the Lord Jesus. You can’t take hold of Jesus and cling on to something else tightly that He doesn’t favor. In Corinth, that meant you can’t be sharing in pagan celebrations because these banquets contained food offered to an idol. You can’t do that and then come to worship with Christians who are sharing in the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s the Lord’s Supper after all. And when you receive it, you’re joining yourself to the community that says Jesus Christ is Lord and shouts out, “Maranatha, our Lord come.”

But Paul says something else that I think is intriguing. He says: “If you do this, you’re in danger of provoking the Lord to jealousy. Do you think you’re stronger than He is?” What can that mean? I think one thing it means is this: if you’re really a Christian, you need to know that Jesus Christ loves you with a very deep passion, and you mustn’t get entangled with other lovers. He is determined that He will have all of you and that He’ll never let you go. He is jealous with a holy jealousy, a proper jealousy, and He knows that you’re doing yourself harm. And in that holy jealousy, He will have to break that relationship that you’ve established. And in the process, things will happen that will inevitably cause pain and grief.

So, Paul is saying: “Don’t let yourself get caught up in a foolish compromise situation. Instead, when you take the bread and wine and in faith come to the Lord Jesus at the table, receive His love. Tell Him you trust Him. Take Him with both hands. Let everything that He does not favor drop out of those hands and give yourself without reserve to Him.” The supper is meant to help us to do that because as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we’re saying to the Lord Jesus: “You gave everything for me, body and blood. You are giving Yourself entirely to me now. Lord Jesus, I receive You, and I give myself to You in return.” And so, we’re able to sing with Isaac Watts:

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
‘Tis all that I can do.

So, here’s the message of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and sup with him, and he with me.” So, if you’re having the Lord’s Supper in church this coming Lord’s Day, or the next time you do, remember these words, or at least one of them: proclamation, benediction, communion, anticipation, consecration. And until next week, then, enjoy.