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Reception of the Elements

September 27, 2006

The two elements of the Lord’s Table are bread and cup. We know that the bread represents Christ’s broken body and that the grape juice symbolizes His shed blood. Does the “broken body” get a whole lot of coverage in Scripture? What’s the point? I contend that “broken body” or bread is substitutionary death and that “shed blood” or cup is sacrificially shed blood. Jesus couldn’t just bleed; neither could He only die in some non-bloody way, like strangulation. Both were necessary. The blood was not a mere metonym[1] for death and the Lord’s Supper reminds us of that. This fits with Colossians 1:20-22 (applied phrases highlighted):

And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

The Lord Jesus Christ reconciled us to God by means of “the blood of the cross” and “the body of his flesh through death.” The second is not just a restatement, but a separate mandatory aspect of the work of Christ at Calvary. Our salvation depends both on His death and His shed blood as two entities within the same work of the Lord.

Several different types of wounds were opened upon Jesus’ body for Him to bleed profusely. They scourged Him with the cruel cat-of-nine-tails[2] (Mt. 27:26; Mk. 15:15; Jn. 19:1), pierced His precious head with the hard, sharp, Palestinian crown of thorns (Mt. 27:29; Mk. 15:17; Jn. 19:2, 5), struck His beautiful face with hard punches (Lk. 22:64), pounded those railroad spike-type nails into His hands (Jn. 20:25; Col. 2:14), and gashed His side with a deadly, Roman spear (Jn. 19:34). These details reveal the bloody sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). His blood washes away (Rev. 1:5) and cleanses (1 John 1:7) sin.

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3). He “died for all” (2 Cor. 5:15). Hebrews 9:16, 17 says:

For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

Shed blood is necessary. Death is necessary. We take the cup and we take the bread.

And when we receive these separate elements into our bodies through our mouths and then into our digestive systems, what do they do? Putting the bread of the Table into our bodies through our mouths and drinking the juice of His Supper into our bellies through our lips testify of an ongoing reception of Him and everything that He is.

When the Passover was observed, as part of the ceremony the master of the feast offered the sop to those at the table. The sop was a piece of bread dipped in a special sauce. By accepting and then eating the sop, the one at the Table declared his reception of the coming Messiah.  It was at that very point of those proceedings that Satan entered Judas and he went out to betray the Lord Jesus Christ (John 13:26-30). He stood up and walked out into the night. It was a fitting moment for Judas to leave. The Messiah truly had come, was seated right next to him, and he would not receive Him.  He left the Bread of life, walked away from the Light of the world, and went into ultimate and utter darkness.

Every time we come to the Table, we also have the opportunity again to receive Jesus Christ, not for salvation this time, but for sanctification. We welcome His fellowship and His presence. We gladly associate ourselves with His body. We publicly pledge our loyalty and love to Him in the light of the special presence promised to His church.


[1] Metonym is a figure of speech. This sentence will illustrate the metonym: “I read Shakespeare.” I am not reading William Shakespeare, the man, but what he wrote. In this case, when I say “Shakespeare,” I don’t mean Shakespeare, but his writings. As this figure of speech applies to the issue of death and shed blood, some, like John MacArthur, say that although shedding of blood was necessary, shed blood is a metonym for death. I believe this evaluation falls short of Scriptural teaching and, in so doing, devalues the shed blood of Christ.

[2] Scripture does not actually mention this kind of whip; this is a historical point.

Categories: Brandenburg, Lord's Supper
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