Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dispensing Food - Word and Sacrament...

In the 1662 Book of Common Prayer - The Ordering of Priests, as a new minister is ordained the Bishop exhorts:  And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Following up on my last post, "Feed My Sheep" - Preach Good News, which presents the view that the preaching of the Word is not primarily the giving of Biblical truths and information.  It is not intended to be basically a means of exhortation to more godly living.  The preaching of the Word is a means of grace by which Christ feeds his sheep.  And this food is the Gospel; specifically the righteousness of God received through faith.

Jesus himself makes the point in the Gospels that all of Scripture points to Him.  He is its main character.  His mission as the Lamb of God, the Redeemer of his people is the central drama.

John 5:  39 Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me; 40 and ye will not come to me, that ye may have life.
Luke 24:  (Jesus and the 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus) 25 And he said unto them , O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  26 Behooved it not the Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory?  27 And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself... (later, Jesus with the apostles) 44 And he said unto them , These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me.45 Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures; ASV

The above passage in Luke makes the point that not only did Jesus show that the entire Scripture foretold and spoke of him, but the he "interpreted to them in all the scriptures the thing concerning himself."  As J. Gresham Machen points out in Christianity and Liberalism, "But Jesus announced not only an event; He announced also the meaning of the event. It is natural, indeed, that the full meaning could be made clear only after the event had taken place. If Jesus really came, then, to announce, and to bring about, an event, the disciples were not departing from His purpose, if they set forth the meaning of the event more fully than it could be set forth during the preliminary period constituted by the earthly ministry of their Master."

And this is what I think Paul was getting at in 1 Corinthians 1 when he states "but we preach Christ crucified"; and continuing he writes, "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption."  The heart and purpose of the preaching of the Word is the putting forth of this good news - Christ crucified and the meaning (doctrine) of his life lived, his death and resurrection - as indispensable daily food - for the believer.  This must necessarily be presented as the context for all that is preached by the preacher precisely because the demands of the God's holy law, whether that in our conscience or that revealed in the Mosaic Covenant are woven into the very image of man and throughout all of Scripture.  The law demands sinlessness and perfect obedience - that which we do not have.  The gospel gives complete pardon for sin and a perfect righteousness received though faith - by the life lived and the sacrificial death and life-giving resurrection of  Jesus Christ.  As believers our sustenance cannot be found in the sacrifice of our obedience and good works offered to God.  No, our spiritual nourishment can only be found in Christ's sacrifice, his obedience and good works offered to God for the ungodly.  It is to this that the Holy Spirit points and bear witness.

Let's look back at that passage in Luke 24 and road to Emmaus account.  
27 And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.  28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they were going: and he made as though he would go further.  29 And they constrained him, saying, Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent. And he went in to abide with them.  30 And it came to pass, when he had sat down with them to meat, he took the bread and blessed; and breaking it he gave to them.  31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.  32 And they said one to another, Was not our heart burning within us, while he spake to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures? ASV

Here we have the repetition of the Lord's Supper which Jesus instituted before his crucifixion.  He blesses the bread, breaks it, and gives it to his disciples.  From his Commentary on this passage Matthew Henry writes:  "See how Christ by his Spirit and grace makes himself known to the souls of his people. He opens the Scriptures to them. He meets them at his table, in the ordinance of the Lord's supper; is known to them in breaking of bread. But the work is completed by the opening of the eyes of their mind..."  The opening of the Scriptures and the breaking of bread work together to communicate Christ's saving benefits to the one who hears and receives.

Q. 96. What is the Lord’s Supper?
A. The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.  (Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Article XXVIII Of The Lord's Supper reads in part:  ... it is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ... The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith. (The 39 Articles of Religion)

In the Lord's Supper the Holy Spirit gives and through faith we receive the spiritual body and blood of Christ - the grace of his sacrifice for the pardon of our sins and his perfect righteousness as our own.  Thus in the Supper we eat and drink with thanksgiving the very same spiritual food, i.e. the Gospel, as proclaimed in the preaching of the Word, both being effectual means of God's grace for our justification and our sanctification.  The good news of Christ our righteousness proclaimed in the preaching of the Word thus strengthens and informs our faith as we then come to the Table receiving the same spiritual benefits dispensed in bread and cup.

"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'  (Jeremiah 33:14-16) ESV

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Jack.

    I just got off the phone with another one of those Bible answerman type radio show hosts. He asserts that the body and blood announcement by Jesus was mere ritual.

    As if our Lord is into empty religious ritual. What kind of a god is that? Pretty puny, I'd say.

    No, our God delivers the freight. He is in that meal for us. He is doing the gospel TO US...in the bread and the wine.

    Thanks, my friend.