Understanding the Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace

This past week, at our church plant’s Thursday night gathering, we took some time to talk about the importance of the Lord’s Supper in the life of the believer and the church.

We looked at our philosophy of ministry, which says,

The ordained rites of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are faith-nourishing signs that tangibly portray Gospel realities to believers. As such, they are not to be neglected, devalued, or misused, but, rather, are to be guarded, administered conscientiously, and cherished as gracious gifts from Christ.

Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22:19-20; Acts 22:16; Rom 6:3-4; 1 Cor 10:16; 11:23-27; Gal 3:27; Col 2:12; Tit 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21.

I want to follow up on that discussion here in this post.

Often times, in the more baptistic, non-denominational, believers’-church-tradition circle in which I find myself, the Lord’s Supper is seen as nothing more than a cognitive aid for rehearsing the sacrificial death of Jesus. We call this the memorial view of the Supper: the Supper is a means of remembering (hence “memorial”) the death of Christ.

Now, I don’t want to downplay the importance of simply remembering Christ’s work on our behalf. But I do want to ask, What is that “remembering” suppose to look like and involve? What does the New Testament have in mind when it talks of this “remembering.” Is it merely a recall, a cognitive exercise like running scenes from the Passion of the Christ in your head? Or is it something more like what we refer to today as “preaching the truths of the Gospel to yourself”?

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Redemptive History Summaries

1 | Creation (Genesis 1-2)
God’s creational-kingdom intent is established.

2 | The fall (Genesis 3-6:8)
God’s creational-kingdom is lost; and humanity enters into a state of perpetual disbelieving disobedience.

3 | The flood | Noahic covenant (Genesis 6:9-11:26)
God confirms his commitment to his creational-kingdom intent despite humanity’s depravity.

4 | Abrahamic covenant | the patriarchs (Genesis 11:27-50:26)
God initiatives his new-creational kingdom plan in the form of covenant-bound promises to Abraham.

5 | The exodus (Exodus 1-18)
God begins to execute his covenant-bound, new-creational kingdom purposes by means of a deliverance.

6 | The Mosaic covenant (Exodus 19-Deuteronomy 34)
God gives his people—Israel—a conditional covenant (i.e., blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience) whereby his people could experience the blessings of the new-creational kingdom.

7 | The wilderness wanderings (Numbers)
God’s people fail to enter God’s new-creational kingdom due to disbelieving disobedience. God postpones yet remains committed to his covenant-bound purpose of bringing about his new-creational kingdom.

8 | Entrance and life in the promised land (Joshua, Judges, Ruth)
Although God is faithful to his covenant-bound purposes to bring about his new-creational kingdom, God’s people only experience a partial realization of it due to disbelieving disobedience.

9 | Monarchy | Davidic covenant (1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles)
Through covenant-bound promises to David, God specifies how he will exercise his new-creational kingdom intent of reigning over as well as through his people: he will reign especially through kings from David’s line.
However, due to disbelieving disobedience, as exemplified in the splitting of the kingdom, God’s people continue to fail to experience the full extent of God’s new creational kingdom.

10 | Wisdom and songs (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)
God supplies wisdom and songs for his covenant-bound, new-creational kingdom people.

11 | Exile | new covenant (The Prophets [Isaiah-Malachi]; Esther)
Due to disbelieving disobedience, God’s people—Israel—experience the covenant-bound curses. They experience the opposite of the covenant-bound, new-creational kingdom blessings.
However, God promises a New Covenant in which he will deal with these covenant-bound curses, eradicate his people’s disbelieving disobedience, and thereby finally and actually bring about his new-creational kingdom.

12 | Return from exile (Ezra, Nehemiah)
God brings many of his people back from exile. However, this is clearly not the ultimate realization of the new-creational kingdom of which the New Covenant spoke.

13 | The Gospel—the mission of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
God becomes a human being—Jesus—and initially but decisively brings about God’s new-creational kingdom. He does this centrally through his death and resurrection.

14 | Pentecost | the Church (Acts; the NT epistles)
God’s people is transformed into a community of Jews and Gentiles who experience the beginning realities of this new-creational kingdom by faith. God increases his new-creational kingdom through this people—the Church—as they proclaim the Gospel and live out its entailment or implications.

15 | The return of Christ | consummation (Revelation 21-22)
God fully brings about his new-creational kingdom upon Jesus’ return.

See this series of posts for further elaboration and explanation of these summaries.