MORNING MESSAGE- Wayne Smith
About 30 years ago Marlyn and I were sitting in that middle pew over there and as John preached, this little old lady whom I had never seen before was affirming John’s message by saying Amen!
This was a new experience for our church so out of curiosity at the end of the service I turned around and introduced myself.
Little did I know that God was about to turn that simple act of turning around into a spiritual challenge, in a very good way.
Her name was Marie Brault, a retired born-again nun and if God had chosen to make a female “Paul” it would have been Marie. Deeply spiritual, totally committed as one of God’s disciples, Marie was a force to be reckoned with, both as a personality and spiritually.
It only took Marie a couple of weeks until she had introduced me to some tapes by Malcom Smith on the Covenants God made with man. I eventually became the proud owner of some 600 tapes covering the entire Bible and amazingly, for someone that never considered himself to be intellectually inclined, found myself with this unquenchable thirst to study the Bible. And without me even realizing it, over the next 3 years God did exactly what He promises, He renewed my mind. For me that was a miracle.
I had been a Christian for about 30 years and had been actively involved in virtually every position of the church but for the first time I started to understand why I believed what I believed. I was more able to interpret the Scriptures and as well, separate the denomination from my Faith walk. It was personal, it was spiritual and it was transformational.
During this Covenant study some very simple yet impacting principles in the Scriptures emerged.
I discovered there is a vast difference between reading the Bible and studying it. Study, first of all requires a desire to do so, an open mind, constant prayer, quiet contemplation or meditation and several different research resources to arrive at the actual meaning God intended. It is often difficult to find one Biblical scholar that can give you the complete package and by that I mean taking into account the trilogy of God’s Word, the culture of that day and the language, all of which work in concert to add clarity to the Scriptures. John often became my go to guy as I wrestled with different interpretations.
The Bible is God’s Word and I believe it can be taken literally, providing we interpret it properly by understanding some of the principles God used in writing the Bible.
The Hebrew language is an idiomatic language, meaning one word may have several meanings and to get the right interpretation, whole thoughts, not words must be translated. In that vein, it does not effectively explain intangible concepts so God used word pictures to describe them. For example, in Psalms, peace is described as “green pastures and still waters”.
It is therefore very important for our Scriptural understanding that we know when He is using a picture or symbol, or the actual circumstances, otherwise we will go down some very difficult interpretive rabbit holes.
Also, the Bible is written in the context of the Jewish culture so one must understand Jewish history and how their culture relates to specific Scriptures or we will miss the full sense of what God is saying to us and so that means, back to the OT.
Further, it is structured around patterns that help to give context and meaning.
One of the dominant patterns in the Bible are the Covenants God made with man.
Through them He tells the story of the nation Isreal, the person Jesus and God’s redemptive plan for you and I.
They are the basis or foundation of the Old and New Testaments, the story line if you will, that explains who God is, His attributes and what His expectation of our relationship is.
That is the back story of my study and the result of Marie’s introduction to me of Covenant theology.
Today I would like to take that experience and those principles and put them in context of our celebration of communion.
To do that I will attempt to answer the following questions.
- Why do we take Communion? Is it just a liturgical Christian ritual to help us remember. Something you can take or leave without impacting on your spiritual life?
- Why do we use Bread and Wine? Do these elements have meaning beyond representing the body and blood of Christ?
- Is there a symbolic role attributed to the “Communion table”?
- Is Communion simply some kind of a memorial of an event in Biblical history?
- Communion means “fellowship”. Is that what we do today, come together for friendship?
- As communion participants do we need to prepare ourselves to ensure God’s purpose is achieved?
- In the Scriptures God points out that He will bless those who are in His will. Is Communion part of the process to ensure we are in His will?
To help us understand what we do when we take Communion, we must literally go back to the beginning of creation when God first ordained the concept of “Covenants”.
A concept initiated to help His people understand contractual relationships while communicating His plans for mankind.
The broader purpose was to also develop a recognizable vehicle of trust that could be used for relationships between God & man and man to man.
A concept that all people would immediately recognize as a legally binding contract between Covenant parties, one guaranteeing that the terms would be fulfilled.
They became a very practical tool for Tribes to form Covenant Partners to defend against a common enemy.
A Tribe would select one of its members to be their Covenant representative and give them the authority to negotiate a commitment of their Tribe’s resources.
In effect saying, what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is yours. Everything we own is ours. Even our lives.
An example of that concept would be David & Goliath who represented their respective tribes and fought on their behalf. The winner of the fight gave victory to their Tribe.
Every Covenant had a pattern or ritual. It was made before God, between 2 or more parties, declaring their allegiance to one another according to the Covenant terms.
The strongest Covenant of all was a Blood Covenant because in the Bible blood stood for life.
Every Blood Covenant had Terms that contained both Blessings or benefits if the terms were kept but Curses or death if a partner broke the terms.
The final steps of making a Blood Covenant were the cutting of their wrists and holding them together to mix their blood, symbolically becoming blood brothers, followed by an exchange of gifts, a name change and then concluding with a Covenant meal which was sometimes substituted or replaced with Bread & Wine.
Whenever anyone saw those scars or heard the new name, they knew immediately that person or his tribe was in a Blood Covenant.
Because God used the terms of Covenant to define contractual responsibilities, adherence to them became a test of commitment, thus at the core of every Covenant was OBEDIENCE of the Parties involved, yielding blessings if kept and death if broken.
As we celebrate Communion today, you and I are personally reaffirming a Blood Covenant, we are swearing before God that we acknowledge and agree that as the Son of God, Christ sacrificed his life so that upon our acceptance of Him and on the confession of our sins we become His Covenant Partners and are guaranteed eternal life.
However, it is conditional, as its blessings rest upon our continued acceptance of the terms.
If we reject Christ either directly or indirectly through unconfessed sin, then we break our blood covenant with Him and experience the curses or penalties of breaking covenant, our spiritual death.
Communion therefore is very serious, one we need to think on and get right or risk the penalties of a broken covenant.
As previously noted, the whole Bible is written around the Covenants God made with man.
That alone should get our attention as to the importance He placed on it and be very sure we are properly prepared to participate in Communion.
To violate either the concept or process or terms of covenant suggests we lack the spiritual integrity to enter into Covenant.
In Luke 22:15 Christ said to His disciples, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”.
Christ had just participated in the Passover meal, a feast remembering the Covenant God made with the Jewish people to free them from slavery. In point of fact, it was also mean’t to be a foreshadow of the soon-to-be fulfillment of the New Covenant.
He then went on to prepare His disciples (and us) on how they should remember His death and resurrection in the future as partners in the New Covenant.
In Luke 22: 19,20 it states,
“And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”
Why Bread & Wine? Because they were cultural symbols every Jew understood to represent a Covenant meal. Fast forward to today and He is reminding us that He views the symbols of Bread and Wine in Communion as symbols of a Covenant Meal.
In His eyes as we partake of the Bread and the Wine in Communion we are entering into or reaffirming our Covenant commitment with Christ. We are symbolically sealing our Covenant contract with Christ.
In 1 Cor 11: 27,28: He adds a condition to His instruction by saying, “Therefore whoever eats the Bread or drinks the Cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
What is an unworthy manner?
It means anything that we have done or not done, that dishonors or separates us from God, be it lying, sexual immorality, an extreme attitude of pride or self centeredness, covetousness, a broken relationship or falsely swearing to this Covenant. Anything called “unconfessed sin” or “a denial of Christ as the Son of God”. If any of those exist and we take Communion we are acting in an “unworthy manner” and the Scripture says we bring Covenant judgement on ourselves.
This is further clarified when the Scriptures advise us to not even participate in a sacrificial act of worship if we are guilty of sin or have a broken relationship.
We are better off to postpone our offering until we have confessed our sin or reconciled the broken relationship.
Matt 5: 23, 24 states, “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the Altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way, first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
Even though this Scripture refers to the old sacrificial system, remember God’s covenants are progressive and the terms, benefits and penalties still apply. God is saying to us, be very serious when you renew or (reaffirm) your New Covenant with God by participating in Communion.
Prepare yourself by confessing specific sins and if you have a broken relationship that can’t be repaired immediately, confess it and asap after Communion go and repair that relationship.
This table then is a Covenant Table with Bread and Wine representing a Covenant meal, sworn before God. It signifies and celebrates making or reaffirming our Covenant relationship with Christ and the New Covenant.
Communion therefore is more than remembering a past event, it is more than recalling the physical pain of Christ’s death suffered on our behalf, it is more than appreciating we now have eternal life, although each one of those is an important part of it.
Communion is the process of swearing before God that we desire to reaffirm or recommit to our Covenant relationship with Christ, and subject to our obedience, we are guaranteed the terms will always be met and that we will enjoy the blessings of eternal life.
So before we reaffirm our commitment to the New Covenant as represented by the Bread & Wine today, a Covenant Meal made before God, let us pause and in silent prayer prepare our souls by confessing our sins and if there is a need to reconcile a relationship but because of circumstances is difficult to do immediately, confess it now and promise God you will repair it asap after this service.
Let us bow our heads and in silent prayer prepare to reaffirm the covenant that gives us eternal life. After a period of prayer, I will close and we will serve communion. Let us pray.
Today through our Communion service this wooden table symbolically has become a living table as we have resealed our Covenant with Christ, one of recommitment, renewal, restoration and new life. We are in God’s will and our spiritual account has been credited with righteousness.
God has prepared us to go forth and in obedience live a life of Covenant, so others, especially our families, will see God in how we live and in our testimonies of faith.
May God bless each one of us with the vision of His purpose for our lives. Amen!