Volume 1, Number 3 – July 2021
Lord’s Supper, Not Ours
Each week, Christians gather together to partake of communion (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 11:23-28). We do this each Sunday because our Lord, while instituting his Supper, spoke of not partaking of it with his disciples again “until that day” when the kingdom of God comes (Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18; cf. Matt. 18:20; Heb. 2:11-12). The kingdom – the church (Col. 1:13; 1 Thess. 2:12; Rev. 1:4, 6, 9) – came on the day of Pen- tecost, a Sunday (Acts 2:1-42; Lev. 23:15-16), which is why the early Christians observed communion and gave of their means on that day (Acts 20:7; cf. 1 Cor. 10:16- 17; 16:1-2).
As with anything that is done with regularity, it can be very easy for “familiarity” to “breed contempt.” Each Sunday, Christians will break off a piece of unleavened bread and drink a small amount of fruit of the vine… just like last week. Most or all of us – myself included – have been guilty of offering to God the meaningless worship which consists of doing what he requires of us in praise to him on the surface while our hearts and minds are thousands of miles away (Matt. 15:7-9). We need to remember that God requires and is looking for spiritual worship based in truth (John 4:23-24). Are we really any different from the one who habitually forsakes the assembly (Heb. 10:25) when we are present in body and action but absent in mind and spirit?
For this reason, the abuse of the Lord’s Supper by the church of Corinth (1 Cor. 11:17-33) is a worthy topic for our consideration and study. Paul’s rhetorical question about them having houses to eat and drink in if they were hungry (vs. 22, 34) implies that they were looking at communion in the same way as they would an ordinary meal, something easy to start doing when partaking of it on a weekly basis. Thus, they were “digging in” without even waiting for all of their brethren to assemble (vs. 20-21, 33), leaving nothing…save humiliation…for those who came afterwards (v. 22). In this way there were despising God’s church for which his Son died (v. 22; cf. Acts 20:28) and were not worthy of Paul’s commendation (v. 22).
There was another reason they were despising the church and worship of God, the same reason they started treating communion like a common meal – They forgot the true purpose and meaning behind it. This is why Paul reminded them by talking first of the circumstances surrounding its institution by Christ, that it had begun on the night Christ was betrayed, the night before he died (v. 23). He then reminded them that the bread represents his body “which is for you” (v. 24), given to go through the horrendous pain and humiliation of scourging and crucifixion so that we would not have to pay the penalty for our sins (Rom. 5:6-11; 6:23; 1 John 2:1-2). The cup represents “the new covenant in my blood” (v. 25), the new covenant which does what the first could not: grant us forgiveness of our sins through the blood Christ freely shed on that cross (Heb. 8:7-12; 9:11-15; Eph. 1:7; cf. Acts 22:16; 1 John 1:7-9).
We are to remember these things – all that Christ accomplished for us by his death – when we partake of communion (v. 25). By doing so, we “proclaim” the great significance of the Lord’s death until he comes again (v. 26). Of course, a failure to remember the eternal significance of the Lord’s sacrifice shows that one considers that sacrifice to be “a common thing” (Heb. 10:27), a mindset that leads to willful sin that makes that sacrifice of no benefit to you (Heb. 10:26-31). This is why God considers those who partake of communion “in an unworthy manner” – i.e., without remembering his death and the significance of it – to be guilty of basically crucifying his Son again (v. 27; cf. Heb. 6:4-6). This is why we are to examine ourselves when we par- take in order to discipline ourselves and put our focus where it needs to be (1 Cor. 9:25-27).
Communion is the Lord’s supper, not ours (v. 20). Literally, it “belongs to the Lord.” When we forget that, we forget to discern the sacrifice of his body which that bread represents…and as a result we become spiritually weaker and sicker until God brings the judgment of the second death upon us (vs. 29-30; cf. Rom. 6:23; Rev. 21:8). We need to be reminded of this, because oftentimes we do not look at what we do the way God does (v. 31; cf. Is. 59:2). Let us not neglect the Lord’s Supper so that we will not be among those whom God condemns in the end (v. 32).
The Sacrifice of Praise
As Christians, we praise God. We do so in spoken word, in song, and in other worship. Do we understand what it means to praise God? Do we know what we are doing when we offer the sacrifice of praise?
In the Old Testament, there are different Hebrew words for praise. These different words indicate different nuances of meaning. There are at least five concepts behind the words for praise: thanksgiving, joy or rejoicing, adoration or worship, blessing and boasting. When we praise God, we do these things.
- When we praise God we give thanks. The Bible is filled with the language of gratitude. Psalm 106:1 reads “Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Hebrews 13:15 also teaches the relationship between thanksgiving and praise: “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Undoubtedly, praise involves thanksgiving.
- Praise also involves joy. Psalm 98:4 declares, “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” In Luke 19:37 we see the two concepts used to extol Jesus in the triumphal entry. The text says, “the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen.” When the Christian appropriately praises the Lord, he does so with joy in his heart.
- The concept of praise means we also love. We can see the love for God of Paul and Silas as they sang praises in the jail at Philippi (Acts 16:25). The man at the gate in Acts 3 no doubt was filled with love for God when he was healed. The text says, “And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8). Love and praise go hand in hand.
- Blessing is also involved in praise. Psalm 145 is a song of praise. It declares: “Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever” (145:2). “All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee” (145:10). “My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever” (145:21). When we praise God, we bless God as well.
- When we praise God we boast of His greatness. The Psalmist writes, “In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever” (Psalm 44:8). Consider Paul’s words in Romans 11:33, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” Here is a praise of exclamation that boasts of God’s greatness. God is truly worthy of our boasting. Jeremiah wrote by inspiration, “But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:24).
Praising God is an important part of the faithful Christian’s life. Let’s resolve to know what we are doing when we offer praise to God. It will both improve our worship and our spiritual lives.
Solomon said, “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom” (Prov. 13:10).
Now, some believe that there is good pride such as be- ing proud to be called a child of God and praise Him or when you take pride knowing that you have a family that loves you so. However, foolish pride has the ability to raise contentions or discord within families, towns, countries and even the Church. Unfortunately, one who has this pride has emptied himself of knowledge and wisdom. He becomes impatient to others opinions and desires and seeks to compete with many. Now, because of the characteristics of foolish pride, quarrels comes with people seeking revenge, who will not forgive others and who have lost the art to say, “I was wrong.”
There are such who are humble and modest who will seek the counsel of God and will ask advice from those who are superior to them in knowledge and understanding. By doing this, we show that we are willing to humble ourselves. That we are able to yield before God and be ones who are peaceable because we seek such wisdom. So, guard yourself against pride. If you find yourself arguing, examine your life and see if there is pride. If so, be willing to admit your mistakes.
Volume 1, Number 4 – July, 2021
“It’s Only Singing”
How many times have we heard it? Sadly, how many times might we ourselves have actually thought or even voiced it? It’s the once monthly Sunday or Wednesday evening service that the leadership of our local congregation has decided is going to be a night of singing God’s praises together, and the attendance and interest is way down, because inevitably somebody is either going to be thinking or speaking of staying home from the assembly of the saints because, “After all, it’s only singing.” Really?
God’s people had painfully endured 400 years of bitter slavery at the hand of the merciless Egyptians who afflicted them without measure – even going so far as to order the brutal murder of their newborn male children (Exodus 1). God heard their cry and sent Moses to lead them to freedom. Ten plagues and countless Egyptian deaths later at both the hand of the Lord at midnight (Exodus 12:29-30) and at the hand of the Lord by Whose power the Egyptian armies lay dead at the bottom of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-31), God’s stunned and suddenly surprised and redeemed children stood free and clear on the opposite shore… and as they did, what did they do? They sang about their incredible, incomparable, and unbelievable God and His divinely empowered deliverance! They sang to God and one another as they celebrated their sweetest of victories over a very formidable four-hundred year old foe! Go back and read that song they sang in Exodus 15:1-22. Dare any Israelite not join in praising God for that freedom, saying “Well, it’s only singing!?” When the children of Israel were later harshly oppressed once again, this time by Jabin, king of Canaan and his army commander Sisera, and God gave His children resounding victory through Deborah and Barak, what did they do (See Judges 4 & 5)? Was that “only singing?”
1 Chronicles 16 catalogues what occurred on that momentous occasion when King David finally managed to maneuver the precious and holy Ark of the Covenant – which signified the presence of God – into the tabernacle he had constructed for it in the holy city of Jerusalem. What resonated and reverberated from the rafters and rooftops of Jerusalem’s residences that day? Music, sweet music! Music to minister, commemorate, thank and praise the Lord God of Israel (vs. 4); the singing of Psalms to “talk of all His wondrous works” (vs. 9); singing “to the Lord” and to “proclaim the good news of His salvation” (Vs. 23)! As you read that chapter ask yourself this question: “Does that sound like it wasn’t as worthwhile as sitting home and either falling asleep or watching the Jerusalem nightly news because after all, it was ‘only a song service?’”
David, along with a few of his Psalm-authoring contem- poraries, included the inspirational instruction to “sing” some 69 times in the Psalms alone! Why? Let’s allow them tell us, with just a few “sacred selections” from their Psalms!
- And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord (27:6).
- Sing praise to the Lord, You saints of His, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name (30:4).
- My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise (57:7).
- But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; For You have been my defense And refuge in the day of my trouble. To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; For God is my defense, My God of mercy (59:16- 17).
- Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful (147:1).
- Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name (100:1-4).
Does that sound like it wasn’t worth their time; like it was “only singing?” They sang because of their God-given victory and the unbelievable joy in their hearts because of it (27:6). They sang at the remembrance of His holy name and because their hearts were steadfast with Him (30:4; 57:7). They sang of His incredible power, infinite strength, and all-encompassing mercy; and how He was therefore their defense and refuge (59:16-17).
They sang in honor of His name and made His name glorious, singing out loudly and joyfully to Him Who was the Rock of their salvation (66:2; 95:1). They sang to bless His name and proclaim the good news of the salvation He had provided (96:1-2). For His many blessings they even came into His presence with glad, joyful, and thankful singing of His praises (100:1-4). They sang constantly and never missed the opportunity to sing to Him (104:33). They sang because it brought goodness, peace, harmony and beauty into their lives when they did (147:1). And this is just a very few of the plenteous examples found in the Psalms… “Only just singing?” I think not!
II Chronicles 20:1-30 contains the story of a victory God’s overwhelmed children enjoyed from His hand. When He promised redemption through His prophet Jahaziel, the people responded with singing His praises. The next morning as the people went forth to see and experience God’s deliverance firsthand, Jehoshaphat “…appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: ‘Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever’ Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another” (vss. 21-23).
In II Chronicles 29, it is recorded how good King Hezekiah repaired the Lord’s house that had been abandoned and left to fall into ruin, and then restored temple worship that had long been neglected by God’s people. Verses 29-30 report that, “And when they had finished offering, the king and all who were present with him bowed and worshiped. Moreover King Hezekiah and the leaders commanded the Levites to sing praise to the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshiped.”
“Only singing?” Of course not. There is power in praising and proclaiming the name of the Lord in reverent and heartfelt song! Whether patriarchs, prophets, priests or kings, many of the Old Testament faithful knew the full-forged power of singing God’s praises!
And what about the New Testament? What about Jesus’ last, incredible, and all-important pre-crucifixion evening on earth? Let us now turn our attention to the events of that evening. The Lord Jesus had just in- structed and illustrated for His hand-picked apostles the true meaning of godly love in action; He had celebrated the Passover, named His betrayer, instituted the Lord’s Supper, and was now headed out to deal with the ordeal and agony of Gethsemane, Golgotha, and then finally to be delivered to the glory beyond. So what did He do in between? What was so vitally important to Him on that final, fatal evening, that on His way to His arrest and crucifixion for the sins of the entire world, He felt was so essential to make sure to take the time to do? I think it is of no small or arbitrary importance that Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26 of the divinely inspired record report, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Why would He, the Lord and Savior and Son of the living God, under those circumstances make sure to stop and sing? And why would God see fit to ensure that this tiny tidbit was included in the divine record? Was that really “only just singing” and therefore worth missing? Apparently not to Jesus – not to God the Father. Nor did God the Father believe we ought to miss the fact that Jesus stopped to sing at that point either seeing as how He included it here. Why?
Although that text does not tell us why Jesus stopped and took the time to sing a Psalm, it tells us that He did. And this writer believes the answer as to exactly why is not all that difficult to figure out, especially in light of all we’ve discussed in this article so far: There is victory and power to endure even the worst of trials, in the reminder given us as we vocally express and faithfully extol God’s praises, singing them out both to Him and to one another while focusing fully on Him in song, period. (Remember the story of Paul and Silas punished and shackled and singing in prison in Acts 16:16-34?)
God knows and needs for us to experience and unleash the awesome privilege and unlimited power of praising and sharing Him and His deliverance in faithful and joyful song at each and every opportunity! Just listen to James 5:13: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.”
It should be extremely and abundantly clear at this point, that there is no such thing as “only just singing” in the Scriptures when it comes to God’s children faithfully and fearfully seeking and praising Him together in song. Let us be sure that in our hearts, souls, minds, and attitudes and actions, that there is no such thing in existence either. And if there is, let us repent, and let us SING!