Podcast: Are We Undervaluing the Lords Supper? (Tim Chester)

This text is a part of the The Crossway Podcast sequence.

The Significance of the Bread and Wine

On this episode of The Crossway Podcast, Tim Chester, writer of Fact We Can Contact How Baptism and Communion Form Our Lives, discusses the Lord’s Supper, explaining why he thinks many evangelical church buildings undervalue communion, the importance of the truth that Jesus gave us the bodily parts of bread and wine, and what it means after we say that Christ is current in our celebration of the Lord’s supper.

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Subjects Addressed in This Interview

Tim Chester

A theological exploration of how baptism and Communion form our lives collectively as Gods folks,explaining how thephysical water, bread, and wineembody the guarantees, grace, and presence of Christ.

Do Protestants Underemphasize the Lords Supper?


Matt Tully
For many people our expertise as Protestant Evangelicals is that the Lord’s Supper will be considerably of an enigma. We could be in church buildings the place it is practiced as soon as a month, possibly a pair instances a month, possibly much less. Typically it is arduous to know what to do with it. We might probably not be certain what is going on on, or why it is vital, and it’sas you discuss in your bookif it had been to be overlooked of the churchs common rhythm for six months or a 12 months, we would not even discover. Why do you assume it’s that Protestant Evangelicals usually underemphasize the Lord’s Supper?

Tim Chester
I believe that is proper. I do assume we undervalue it. We’re not fairly certain we all know what to do with it. In truth I used to be speaking to a girl in my congregation who was expressing precisely that sentiment and located it nearly embarrassing as a result of she wasn’t fairly certain what she was alleged to do as she took bread and wine. I believe there are a few causes they usually each have a little bit of historical past. One is that we nonetheless reside within the shadow of the large debates that came about across the Reformation within the 16th century that then sort of received revived within the 19th century, significantly right here within the UK. However I believe it was extra broadly with the rise of Anglo-Catholicisma sort of Protestant model of Catholicismwhere there was this type of debate over what the sacraments actually represented and what they stood for. And ever since then what we have tended to do as Protestants is to outline our place over towards the Catholic place, over towards transubstantiation, over towards a sort of re-enactment of Christ’s sacrifice. And so we’re very clear on what we do not take into consideration the sacraments. However I discover time and again that after I’m listening to folks discuss them they are not certain what they do imply. So we have got the destructive labored out, however as a result of we have been so centered on that we get very nervous about attempting to state positively what is going on on each in baptism and communion.

I believe the opposite issue that is occurring is that we’re kids of the Enlightenmentthis massive mental motion that came about the world over within the 18th and 19th centuries that basically remains to be with us and nonetheless shapes our fashionable world. It started iconically with Ren Descartes saying, “I think, therefore I am.” No matter else is occurring at that second, one of many key issues is that the motion is going down within the thoughts. And ever since we expect that what has that means is what takes place within the mindwhat I believe and the way in which I assess what is going on on round me. After which we get these bodily objectsbread, wine, and waterand we’re not fairly certain what to do with them. And that is why I say within the ebook I believe we’d be a bit extra comfortablemany of us as Evangelicalsif Jesus had stated, “Say this in remembrance of me”. And even higher, “Think this in remembrance of me. Here’s something for you to think about.” However he would not. He provides us bodily objectsbread and wineand I believe that is very vital.

The Significance of the Bodily Components


Matt Tully
Clarify that. Why are these bodily objects and the bodily acts of consuming and ingesting these issues so helpful to us?

Tim Chester
In some ways the ebook started with my try and try to reply that query. I believe there are a lot of methods of answering it, however here is a easy and highly effective one. In my relationship with my wifeI’m a married manI inform my spouse that I really like her. And that is an essential a part of our relationship. However I additionally maintain her hand. I additionally give her a hug. I additionally kiss her. And people, too, are actually essential methods through which my love for her is communicated. If I solely informed her that I beloved her and by no means touched her, then that might be an odd relationship. As certainly it will be if it was the opposite approach roundif I touched her however by no means communicated with phrases my love for her. And I believe what is going on on in communion is Christ is speaking his love for us. He does that each time the Gospel is preached, as the guarantees of the Gospel are heard once more. However as a result of we’re weak, fragile peoplewe’re not simply kind of brains in a field sort of factor, we’re embodied peoplehe additionally communicates his love for us in these bodily methods. And in order that’s why bread and wine are, in a way, the contact of Christ. They’re one of many methods, along with the preached Phrase, through which he communicates his love, and his presence, and His grace to us.

Consuming and Ingesting in an Unworthy Method


Matt Tully
One of the vital attention-grabbing passages that we encounter after we are on the lookout for communion within the Bible is 1 Corinthians 11 the place Paul warns us towards collaborating in communion in an unworthy method. I need to learn what he writes there after which get your ideas on it. He writes,

Whoever, subsequently, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy method shall be responsible in regards to the physique and blood of the Lord. Let an individual look at himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anybody who eats and drinks with out discerning the physique eats and drinks judgment on himself. That’s the reason a lot of you might be weak and unwell, and a few have died. (1 Corinthians 1127-30)

My first query is what does it imply on this passage to “eat and drink in an unworthy manner”?

Tim Chester
I believe it is essential to take a look at the broader context and the broader context is that the Corinthian church, as they collect to rejoice the Lord’s Supper, they’re doing so in a approach that reasonably than expressing the unity that we have now in Christ, which is one thing that’s to be celebratednot simply celebrated, however really strengthened by the shared meal that we have now togetherin the earlier chapter Paul has stated, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Corinthians 1017) So the very act of sharing collectively in communion reinforces the truth that we’re one physique. Nevertheless, in Corinth the alternative is occurring. So somewhat bit earlier he says, “no doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” (1 Corinthians 1119) I believe there he is being ironic. I believe the rich Corinthians, the kind of elite Corinthians in worldly phrases, and the sort of social hierarchies of this world are saying, “We can’t just eat with riffraff in this sort of way with the lower classes. There have to be differences.” That is how society works. Meals are a really highly effective approach of expressing inclusion. However equally, they are a very highly effective approach of expressing exclusionof sort of sustaining and reinforcing social hierarchies.

And so these elite Corinthiansthe kind of higher class, rich Corinthianssay, “Well, there have to be differences among us. We can’t just eat with the hoi polloi.” And Paul, I believe, is being ironic. He is sort of turning that on its head and saying, “You’re right. Differences are revealed when you take the Lord’s Supper, but not the ones you think. Actually, the real differences between those who understand the Gospel and those who don’t understand the Gospel.” And so I believe when he talks about “eating in an unworthy manner”, what he has in thoughts is sharing the Lord’s Supper in a approach that doesn’t present regard to your brothers and sisters in Christ. And so I believe really in verse 29 when he says “those who eat and drink without disturbing the body of Christ”, he is speaking there not concerning the bodily physique, however really the church physique. If you happen to’re consuming it in a approach that ignores the broader church physique, then you definately’re not expressing what the Lord’s Supper is meant to precise, which is the reconciliation that we have now with God via the loss of life of Christ, but additionally with each other. So that you’re proclaiming one factor within the act of taking the Lord’s Supper, however really the way in which you are doing it’s saying one thing else. And people are at variance with each other. So I believe that is what he means by that. The massive level there’s that the Lord’s Supper reinforces and expresses not simply unity with God in Christ, but additionally with each other. It is a communal, company meal that is really integral to our life as a Christian neighborhood.

Ought to We Be Consuming a Full Meal?


Matt Tully
That passage in particularin that broader context such as you describedcan typically even really feel overseas to us in our personal expertise of communion as a result of we do not share a meal sometimes. Perhaps typically you do. Some church buildings may share a standard meal and do communion on the meal a pair instances a 12 months. However that is undoubtedly not the norm in my expertise for communion. Do you assume we lose something by not having that full meal and is that the Biblical mannequin that we must be striving in direction of? Or is it okay to only have these small little thimble fulls of wine and small little crackers?

Tim Chester
It is a good query. In a single sense within the ebook I’ve tried to steer away from “And this is how you should celebrate communion”, as a result of I do need the main focus to be on actually understanding what they imply and the way they form our lives as Christians reasonably than kind of a sort of a rule ebook of “this is what you should do and this is what you shouldn’t do.” I believe that is the actually essential factor. Nevertheless, we usually rejoice it within the context of a meal. We do love meals in our specific church and I believe it is an important context to do it as a result of communion is not only a couple of piece of bread and a cup of wine. It is about these issues eaten and drunk within the context of a neighborhood, within the context of religion. I believe that is the purpose Paul is making in chapter 10 the place he says in a single sense what you eat or drink is neither right here nor there. There’s nothing magic within the bread or the wine. However really, within the context of a neighborhood it turns into this expression of communion with Christ. He’s the host. That is the place he talks about it because the Lord’s desk as a result of the Lord Jesus is internet hosting us on this second. And he is contrasting that with collaborating in pagan ceremonies the place once more, the meat in a single sense is neither right here nor there. Paul’s fairly blissful to eat it the following day. However if you happen to’re really collaborating within the ceremony in that sort of broader context, then really Paul says that is a participation with demons. So the constructive level for us is that on this wider context, which I believe is helpfully inclusive, we’re really expressing our unity with Christ. We’re consuming in his presence, having fun with his presence via the Spirit; but additionally our unity and our love for each other. And I believe in that context it turns into a really highly effective expertise that reinforces our union with Christ and our unity with each other.

Christs Presence on the Desk


Matt Tully
Even inside Protestant circles there will be disagreement and typically even debate about how precisely Christ is current. And infrequently the dialogue facilities on that concept of Christ’s presence on the Lord’s desk. How would you see his presence manifested within the parts?

Tim Chester
I believe Christ is current and I believe he is current by his spirit. That is the traditional Reformed place. I believe the middle for my argument, from a biblical perspective, is 1 Corinthians 8, 9, and 10. If you happen to hint the argument that Paul’s making there you discover the presenting problem is meat supplied to idols and what must be accomplished about that. And clearly some within the Corinthian church assume that it is okay as a result of it is simply meat, and others assume it is not okay as a result of it has been supplied to idols. And you may sort of see how each teams may come to that place. It appears clear that Paul thinks consuming the meat is okay as a result of it is simply meat, nothing magic occurs to it. Though a giant concern that comes out, significantly in chapter 9, is that these two completely different teams deal with each other with love and respect. However then in chapter 10 it takes an attention-grabbing flip as a result of in chapter 10 is the place he says however I do not need you to participate in pagan ceremonies. If you happen to try this then you definately’re collaborating with demons. And in a single sense you need to go, “Properly, cling on a minute, Paul. A second in the past you stated consuming meat supplied to idols was nothing.

So why immediately the large fuss?” And the purpose is as a result of it is not nearly this factor that you just put in your mouth. It is concerning the context through which it takes place. And so consuming meat that is been supplied to idols is ok if you happen to’re doing it the following day round your meal desk. But when really you are doing it within the context of a pagan ceremony, that is one other problem. In that state of affairs you are collaborating with demons. And to bolster that time Paul then parallels that to the Lord’s Supper. He says while you take the Lord’s Supper you might be collaborating in Christ. And so in different phrases, we’re experiencing Christ’s presence not in the bread and the wineas within the Roman Catholic positionbut on this context of a wider meal supplied in religion, with phrases of clarification, with prayers supplied, Christ is current by his spirit. He is not bodily current as a result of he nonetheless has a physique. He is ascended bodily into heaven. However he is current spirituallyliterally by the Spiritand that is why Paul can then describe it as going down on the Lord’s desk. Christ, because it had been, is internet hosting us right here. And so I believe it is actually essential that we are saying that. I believe we’re so nervous concerning the risks of heading off right into a sort of Catholic place that I believe there is a hazard that we miss this excellent reality that’s designed in such a approach that we count on to see Christ is with us. In fact, Jesus says that he’s with us “I shall be with you to the very ends of the earth.” However communion is designed to be an actual, tangible, and particular approach for us to see that Christ is current in communion. And I keep in mind Sinclair Ferguson as soon as stated that because the bread and the wine are handed round we ought to think about the one who passes us or holds out the bread to us as doing so on behalf of Christ. So it is really Christ himself who’s providing the bread as this type of token of his presence and his love for us.

What Ought to We Be Pondering About on the Desk?


Matt Tully
That is a lovely picture and it does assist to reply the query that many people have struggled with and I ponder if you happen to might provide some sensible steerage or options to the Christian sitting within the pew and communion has simply begun and the weather are being handed out they usually’re sitting there questioning, What am I alleged to be interested by? What am I alleged to be doing proper now? There’s usually a time of prayer and other people won’t all the time know, Ought to I be interested by Jesus’s damaged physique and shed blood? Ought to I be feeling sorry for my sin? Ought to I be feeling grateful for his sacrifice? What sensible steerage would you provide to the individual questioning these issues?

Tim Chester
By way of the practicalities of it, in a single sense the principle factor we get is Christ himself. And so I believe there are two solutions to your query. One might be to start out with pondering, What’s my want in the mean time? And the way is it that Christ meets that want? And the way is it that bread and wine sort of embody and talk that to me? And that implies that typically there could be a sorrowing for sin, however then different instances it could be fairly joyous. This meal that we share can also be an anticipation of the nice messianic banquetthis everlasting banquetwhere we are going to eat a meal in God’s presence within the New Creation. There are such a lot of notes or moods that one can have in a communion service as a result of it is representing such a wealthy concept. So that might be one factor; what’s my want? How does Christ meet that want? And the way do I obtain that? How do the bread and wine embody that for me?

The opposite factor can be to be led by whoever is main the communion service. I assume in most church buildings it is not only a kind of chilly liturgy that is rattled via, however somebody is guiding our ideas. Why not be led by that? If you happen to’re an individual who’s concerned in main communion, then I actually need to encourage you to only discover and assume via the richness of this theme and to hit completely different notes on completely different events. Typically it is going to be about embodying a promise, typically it is going to be a couple of sorrowing for sin, typically it is going to be a couple of marveling on the worth that Christ paid for our salvation. Typically it is going to be wanting ahead to that New Creation, and plenty of, many extra. However as somebody who’s collaborating, let that be what guides your ideas. And once more, be interested by how is it that the bread and wine embody this for me?

Does an Elder or Pastor Have to be Current?


Matt Tully
So you have talked rather a lot concerning the context for communion and why that is so essential for understanding what’s really happeningthat that is accomplished with the physique of different believers, within the context of a church, with different Christians. And I believe one query that typically folks have is whether or not or not it is applicable to rejoice communion, to take the weather, exterior of the context of a church’s` worship service, or worship gathering, or possibly even exterior of any formal church contextmaybe simply with a small group of Christian buddies in your house, or folks will go to the Holy Land typically and rejoice communion in sure particular locations there. I ponder what your ideas are on that and even is it applicable to rejoice communion with no pastor or an elder current as properly? How would you reply to these kinds of questions?

Tim Chester
I believe in all probability high of my checklist can be to be guided by the coverage and observe of your native church. Church buildings will take a special view on this and I believe a part of belonging to a church is submitting to the way in which it conducts itself and respecting that and never being autonomous. So that might be my very first thing. Personally, I believe it’s completely professional for communion to be performed with no pastor. However loads of the sort of rubrics of various liturgies and completely different constitutions do emphasize the significance of doing it in an orderly approach, in a reverent approach. And that is why I believe church buildings or denominations have stated it have to be performed by a pastor. Usually that is not a lot as a result of they do not assume that different folks can do it, however they only need to create a context through which they be certain that it’s accomplished in an applicable approach, which I totally respect.

One other query is must you do it at a convention when you could have a variety of Christians from completely different church buildings gathered collectively? Once more, personally I am comfy with that. I believe it is also applicable to do it in smaller teams if that’s accomplished beneath the authority and course of the church leaders. Once more, it is not being accomplished in a sort of autonomous approach, however as an expression of the lifetime of the church. And I believe that is the important thing factor. It’s a native church ordinance. It’s one thing that belongs to the native church. For instance, when you’ve got a small group ministry, it could be {that a} native church is blissful for communion to be celebrated within the smaller teams as an expression of this unity that Christians have collectively. I do not assume it’s a must to be certain that everyone seems to be there on a regular basis. However once more, it is being accomplished as an expression of that native church reasonably than as one thing that is in defiance of it, or separate from it, or exterior of it, as a result of I believe that is not proper. It’s one thing that belongs to the church. And really it is an integral approach of expressing belonging to a church and sadly, in some conditions, of expressing exclusion from the church.

Excommunication basically means ex-communion-ing folks. You are excluding them from communion. That is in 1 Corinthians 5. That’s how excommunication is expressedin not consuming with someone. And that is as a result of, on the constructive facet, communion is that this expression of our belonging to at least one one other. And so in that sense, it is vitally clearly a church ordinance.

Discomfort with the Phrase Sacramental


Matt Tully
So you have used the phrase “sacramental” a few instances and I ponder what would you say to the individual listening proper now who, in listening to the entire dialog, does really feel somewhat uncomfortable. They really feel somewhat bit uncertain of phrases like “sacramental”, fearful about the place all of it may lead. What would you say to that individual particularly?

Tim Chester
We might discuss the place the phrase “sacrament” comes from. It kind of has a barely sophisticated historical past. Personally, I am not too fearful about it. Although I’ve good buddies who it does make them twitchy. In order that’s high quality. I do not need to frustrate them any greater than is important. I will inform you one factor that I discover. I have been engaged on this problem for about 10 years and so this ebook has been a gradual burn as I’ve actually kind of mulled this over and what I discovered is the extra I seemed into itand I used to be introduced up within the sort of context the place something sacramental was seen as barely suspicious as if this may kind of ship you off to Romebut as I’ve seemed into what the Reformers stated, what the Puritans saidour nice forebears within the faiththey had an important love and dedication to the Lord’s Supper and to baptism. They noticed these items as actually essential. They had been unapologetic. They did not appear to endure from the identical sort of neurosis and angst that we do. They noticed them as actually essential they usually had been unafraid to talk of Christ current within the Communion desk. What I discovered as I delved into that is that reasonably than taking me away from my Reformed Evangelical roots, it was pushing me again into it. So I do not know if that reassures folks, however I assume an much more essential thought is these are presents Christ has given to his church. So until you assume Christ received it flawed or Christ’s emphasis is flawed, then we are able to press into baptism and communion with out worry as a result of these are Christ’s presents to his folks.

Can We Overemphasize Communion?


Matt Tully
So we have talked rather a lot about the truth that many Evangelicals, in your opinion, underemphasize the Lord’s Supper. Is it potential to overemphasize it? And in that case, what may that seem like?

Tim Chester
That is a great query. I do not know the reply. Is it potential to overemphasize the Phrase of God? I do not assume so. There could be methods of doing it which might be unhealthy and I believe that could be my reply. There are methods of emphasizing the sacraments that I believe are unhelpful. And positively, I do not need the sacraments to the exclusion of the Phrase. It is Phrase and sacrament collectively, the 2 nice marks of the church. And really the collectively is admittedly the place I believe there’s actual energy the place really the Phrase is being embodied within the sacrament, the sacrament is defined by the Phrase. And never simply in some sort of theoretical sense, however week by week as you preachand whether or not you are taking communion instantly afterward, or in a separate assembly, or nevertheless you manage itif you make the hyperlink between that, then within the shared lifetime of God’s folks there as they’re being fed by this Phrase, it is then being strengthened within the bread and the wine. Or maybe in that Phrase, you are doing as Paul so usually does in his writingsand Peterpointing folks again to their baptism and to the id that they’ve as baptized folks, then I believe there’s actual energy in Phrase and sacrament going collectively in that approach. So I am not fearful about folks overemphasizing the sacraments. I share all the standard issues about emphasizing them in a flawed approach and misunderstanding what they’re about. However do not let that worry make it a no-go space. As an alternative let’s assume somewhat bit about what the bread, wine, and water symbolize and signify for us so that truly we perceive the riches which might be supplied to us by Christ as his presents, not simply kind of supplied 2,000 years in the past when he commissioned the primary apostles; however week by week, he’s providing himselfa sort of embodied, strengthened expertise of his guarantees, and his grace, and His love, and his presence to us week by week. And I believe that’s one thing to treasure and to relish.

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