This post is a continuation of The Who, The What, The Why and Why and the How posted last week. Click here to catch up on the subject.
As I observe the world around me I realize that not all are coming to the communion table, or that not all are coming to Christ. Although salvation is an open invitation to all, many are prevented from doing so and I wonder what keeps them from doing so. This is what I term The What. What keeps people coming to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior? What keeps people from accepting his sacrifice for their lives? Why keeps people from remembering what it was for Jesus to give up His life for them? Such answers are important for me as I realize that in each and every person’s life the angel of death as spoken of in Exodus 12 still comes. And when he comes, if the blood of Jesus Christ has not been applied to that person’s life, they will be destroyed by the second death.
I believe that the Apostle Paul provides me with some answers to these questions. Although I know that the decision to follow Jesus, to accept him ultimately is the decision of the individual, I see that we who are to be his witnesses often prevent people from coming to the communion table in one of two ways. Either we hoard the blessing of Christ to ourselves, continuing to operate in the Old Testament mentality that what God did for us is for us exclusively, as the Passover was for the Israelites exclusively. If the former is not the case, we can also be so divided, and so unloving that no one outside of the church would want to be a part of us. I Corinthians 11.17-22 gets at this saying:
“But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you; so that those who are approved may become evident among you. Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you” (NASB).
I know that this particular situation might be unique to the church in Corinth, in that I do not think that anyone is hoarding the stale wafers and grape juice that make for communion in our modern day churches. Yet our churches are so often divided, so often fragmented because of denominationalism, racism, sexism, and so many other isms that it keeps people from drawing near to the communion table who otherwise would eat. In our divisions and even in our elitism that we so often convey, we must remember that we are not saved unto ourselves for ourselves. We must remember that unlike in the time of Moses, the sacrifice of Christ is for all people. As those who have already been redeemed by his blood, we are to be “witnesses of these things” (Luke 24.48), inviting others to have a relationship with God as well so that when death comes knocking at their door, they with us will be passed-over and instead receive their heavenly reward.
Now some really well meaning people might say that this is all fine and dandy, but the responsibility of soul-winning, witnessing, inviting people to the communion table is the role of the pastor, evangelist, missionary, or teacher. Besides this is what we pay them for. To such well meaning persons, I would say, that this is not true. For starters, looking at the paychecks of most pastors and clergy leaders, they are highly uncompensated for what they do, let alone the said task of winning the whole world that we place upon them.
Secondly, nowhere in the New Testament does it say that this is their responsibility alone. Clergy leaders are there in order to train and equip the larger body of Christ to do the work of the ministry. They are there to teach people how to study the Word of God, how to share their faith, how to pray, how to worship as we are all ambassadors for Christ. This is what the apostle Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 5.17-21, in that as a result of our coming to know the Lord, we now share in the task of reconciling the world to God and to one another.
Now I must present The Why and ask the question why inviting people to the communion table of the Lord is something of importance. Why is this something that believers like you and I should do? Why should we even care? In the text of 2 Corinthians Paul says that as a result of our coming to know the Lord that we are now ambassadors of reconciliation for Him. In the same way that God has shown mercy and grace to us, extending to us the opportunity to be reunited with God in Christ we are to extend the same opportunity to others. As ambassadors for Christ we do not represent our own affairs or own agendas, but we represent God’s agenda, God’s purpose. And as the passage in Luke has shown us, God’s higher purpose is to draw all near to receive forgiveness of their sins and subsequently partake of the communion table to commemorate that forgiveness.
As we represent the affairs of God, it is important that we show love and respect for one another. Jesus understood this all too well, knowing that it was only as a result of love that people who were unbelievers would draw near. John 13.34, 35 declares this:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (NASB).
Not only did Jesus give this commandment of love to his disciples, he also prayed for them concerning it as He knew what was at stake if those who claimed to be his did not model love. For Jesus, a true indicator of love was oneness or unity as such that existed within the Godhead:
“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17. 22, 23, NASB).