Our Lord's Memorial Service
By J. M. Frost, D.D.,
The Lord's Supper is not a social meal - is not a supper in any sense of the word, and is not governed by social regulations. This name came partly because the ordinance was instituted in the evening, and partly because its initial observance followed the evening meal. Excellent expositors among us hold that it should not be called supper at all; that the term supper is a misnomer and misleading as to the significance of a rite.
Their view has much to commend it, is warranted if not required by Scripture, though we may be unable to rid ourselves of the name and disentangle this beautiful service from the long and historic usage of calling it supper. Their view, moreover, has at least one manifest and strong advantage. It brings us at once to the very heart of our Lord's meaning when setting this ordinance in his church for all time as a commemorative service. His words, "Do this in remembrance of me," mean simply keep this as my memorial. So it began, so it has continued, and its every observance is his memorial service, commemorative even more than communion. For communion or fellowship
is incidental, while commemorative is essential and inherent in its very nature and purpose.
The ordinance of baptism and its companion memorial service are the ritual of the New Testament - ritual reduced to the minimum in quantity and simplicity, but beyond all comparison in richness of meaning, beauty in form and significance. They have much in common, being both set for service in the Lord's house, and largely for the same purpose; one as a monument with monumental meaning, the other as memorial with commemorative significance. They both, serving the general use of monument and memorial, bear testimony, testifying to the same person and the same event in history, and carry the same meaning as the expression in symbol of fact and doctrine.
To speak more precisely, this monument and memorial supplement each other and bear joint testimony to the two sides of one event; the one symbolizing the burial and resurrection of Jesus, the other his death before the burial and the resurrection life of the risen Lord. God has set these two ordinances in his house as monument and memorial to abide until the end of the age, that we might see on the one hand the new tomb of Joseph of Arimathea made empty in the rescue of its victim, and that on the other hand we might see as blending
in one figure the royal victim of the cross as "the bleeding sacrifice" for sin, but now - become the risen and triumphant Saviour - having died for our offenses and being raised again for our justification.
This was the meaning of these symbols at the first and this is their meaning now. In the very nature of the case symbols never change their meaning, nor their form, nor their power in the hearts of those who love. What these symbols mean, and what their place in the worship of God's people in the service of his house, we must learn from the New Testament, for they are of the New Testament, regulated by its law and the expression of what it teaches concerning the kingdom of grace. They have no saving or sacramental efficacy or magic power of any kind, and yet hold within themselves as symbols the very heart of the gospel of grace, and represent in powerful figure the things without which there can be no salvation. As monument and memorial, they are in the church, essential in its corporate and organic life, add significance and charm to its service; have also evidential value for Christianity, both as to its presence in the course of history and as testifying for its basal facts and fundamental doctrines.
Memorials have always, and everywhere, the same general purpose, and render a common
service. Each memorial gets its individual significance and peculiar worth by the person whose memory it holds, and the particular event which it commemorates. Every memorial, too, has its story to tell of its own message of honor and achievement through successive years or centuries, as generations of people come and go. The memorial service which our Lord committed to his people for their keeping is unique, and burdened with the most wonderful things men ever heard, in a story that never grows old, and in a service fresh with every return, and awakens the deepest and richest sentiment of the human heart. We point out here some things which may be seen and heard in the silence of this symbol.
It testifies to the person of Jesus. - It came from him, and bears testimony of him. The great love and richness of his own heart are seen in the symbol, and make their appeal to the hearts of those who love him. The very pathos of his soul is felt in the memorial service. His hands handled the elements, his hands broke the bread, his hands took the cup, his hands poured out the wine - his hands before they had the point and pierce of the nails. My body, my blood, my memorial - how these simple words find their way to the heart and awaken the best feeling of the soul, a feeling
strangely made up of joy and sorrow, pain and gratitude.
They make Jesus real in person, real in life, real in his teaching, real in his achievements, real in his relation to us as our Saviour, and in what he would have us do as his disciples entrusted with his honor and the interest of his kingdom in the world. Every observance of the memorial declares afresh for our Lord's person and for his life among men, and for his founding the church and its ordinances, and for his commitment of its keeping to those who are his. Memorials like monuments are everywhere the records of history, bearing testimony of achievements, and testifying the person through whom the achievements were wrought.
Our Lord's memorial leads all others in this, and in its beautiful simplicity it is glorified with a glory which shines out in his person and life. It shows his character, and reveals the will and purpose in which he wrought. It is indeed amazing how much this memorial service tell of our Lord, and in his behalf. It gives his words in their simplicity and power, shows the beat of his heart for a lost world, and the longing of his soul for the world's redemption. In its presence there is no room to question whether Jesus is historic or whether he lived and died for men.
The memorial testifies to his dying on the
cross. - This is the very meaning of the memorial service. Without that tragedy in the world's history there would be no memorial. There would be no memorial marking the battlefield of Waterloo, except for the gigantic conflict on the bloody day of history, between the mighty armies of nations struggling for mastery. The National Cemetery at Gettysburg, with its memorials in stone and marble, would be mockery except for the day American soldiers met there and in deadly conflict poured out their blood in defense for the cause to which they had sworn allegiance.
These events, though so near at hand, are not better vouched for in their respective memorials than the far-away event of our Lord's death on the cross by this memorial service in his church. Its occurring and reoccuring through the years from century to century, back through the course of history, reaffirms this awful day with its scene of agony and blood, of darkness and death. In this memorial we sit afresh at the foot of the cross and, hear over again the agony of his cry and see afresh the breaking of his heart.
This feature of the memorial service has two-fold value; it shows his death as being historic, and therefore being rightly chronicled among the events of history as a thing done as other things were done by men in the madness and
deepness of their sin. It shows, also, that his death was a real death, and brought him to a real burial. This offsets and completely answers the false charge that he was not dead, but only swooned; that he only revived, not being dead, and therefore had no resurrection from sepulcher. The memorial says he died, that his death was violent, with the shedding of his blood, the mangling of his body, the breaking of his heart. But for this the Roman cross with its cruel method of crucifixion might have been forgotten; but from that day the cross was glorified, and still holds mighty place in the world's literature. He had touched it, and henceforth it shone in his renown, and became the symbol of his triumph.
The memorial testifies also to his atonement for sin. - It not only sets out his death as a real death, a real event in history, but assigns it place and purpose in redemptive scheme of God's grace. This is no meaningless service that so frequently calls us within its sacred precinct. We come to look upon our Lord's dying to make atonement for sin, to save men, to answer the demands of the law; to die as the sinner's substitute, that the sinner might be free from the law with no condemnation.
From our last observance of this memorial, back through the centuries to its first observance, there is a trail of scarlet. There is no
mistaking what it all means. It is the scarlet of blood that flowed from Calvary; it is the blood for atonement of sin, the fountain of blood opened in the house of David for sin and uncleanness. Ah, that word of his, "This is my blood, shed for many for the remission of sin," the new testament in my blood. Herein are pardon and salvation, remission and justification, cleansing and sanctifying for all who have repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the meaning now as it was at the first, as our Lord broke the bread, poured out the wine and gave it to his disciples. Its voice is unchanged throughout the centuries, and its observance has given rich experience in the hearts of the saved, and found rich expression in many noble hymns.
This for example:
"Thou dying Lamb, thy precious blood
Shall never lose Its power,
'Till all the ransomed church of God
Be saved, to sin no more."
"His oath, his covenant, his blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand."
This is the word of the memorial, the "bleeding sacrifice" it offers to hearts stricken with sin and rained in the fall.
The memorial testifies to a living Saviour. - He died, but is not dead, is its wondrous and triumphant message. It testifies to his resurrection life, to the risen Christ, to the final return and triumphant consummation of his work. This memorial is burdened almost to breaking with the story of his dying, then leaves it to baptism, as its companion in testifying, to tell in monumental power of his burial and resurrection, and then itself again takes up the wonderful story of his new life this side the grave, as of one who was dead but is now alive forever more, and will come again. And so it shows the Lord's death until he shall come. Its every observance is promise and pledge for reunion of him and his, for companionship that shall never be broken, for life that shall have no end. Forever with the Lord.
This memorial, therefore, in its very nature testifies to the oneness of those in the service, their oneness with each other, and their oneness with the Lord. This is its communion, where the many are as the one loaf. Ceremonial fellowship is seldom considered, and yet is worth while, and is of much value. Fellowship in baptism precedes, and is necessary to fellowship in the Lord's Supper. Fellowship
in these ordinances is a thing to be told, and a thing to be coveted, an occasion of joy and rejoicing. Those who have died unto sin with the Lord, been buried with him in baptism, and risen again with him in the new life, have fellowship with him and with each other in his two great ordinances - the one a monument of his burial and resurrection, the other a memorial of his death and resurrection life. With him in death, with him also in his triumphant resurrection from the dead, is the meaning and prophecy of every memorial service.
[From The Convention Teacher; via The Baptist Message, SSB/SBC, 1911, pp. 158-167. This book was provided by Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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