Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: The message is a study of the conduct of the assembly at the Lord's Table

“In the following instructions, I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” [1]

A grave danger attends casual observance of the Lord’s Table. The immediate danger is that it is easy for a Christian to reduce the observance to a mere ritual, an act that is performed without due thought. Such thoughtless action easily leads to thinking of the act as a means of making oneself acceptable to the Lord. Christians that have slipped into such a mode of thinking see the act as meritorious, as a means of creating credit with the Living God.

Worse still is reducing the act to a meaningless ritual that is tolerated in order to get to “real worship.” Evangelical churches tend to emphasise some aspects of their liturgy to the virtual exclusion of other facets of their liturgy. If someone dissents, arguing that we do not have a liturgy, I will point to how the order of service quickly tends to become fixed. Regular attendees know precisely what is coming next and what to expect. Thus, without thinking of what is taking place, we develop a liturgy.

Consequently, during the past several decades in particular, many of our churches have moved toward a performance, calling that performance “worship.” This movement to performance as worship has been done unconsciously—we did this because we enjoyed what we were doing. We wanted music that reflected who we were rather than music that exalted God in our hearts. We moved from one or two instruments and a song leader to a band and a team of “worshippers.” These worship leaders appear to focus more on their performance than on leading worshippers into the presence of God. So, here we are today.

As we’ve moved into this performance as worship concept, our language has changed. We routinely speak of “worship” as the performance of a worship team or as the music we sing. We focus on what congregants feel rather than Who congregants meet. Let’s firmly establish the truth that worship revolves around the One we meet. If we fail to meet the Risen Son of God, regardless of how ecstatic we may feel, we will not have worshipped.

When we review the events surround the great showdown on Mount Carmel as Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal, we see two differing approaches to worship, not unlike the differences I have described in contemporary Christendom. On the one hand, the prophets of Baal are ecstatic—dancing, shouting and even mutilating themselves in their devotion to what they are doing. Nothing comes of their ecstatic, enthusiastic “worship” except for sore arms, sore throats and a sense of exhaustion. Contrasted to that is the quiet confidence exhibited by Elijah. He prays a simple prayer, confidently seeking the presence of the Living God.

“O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back” [1 KINGS 18:36, 37].

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