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July 16, 2017 Divine Tokens, Divine Power

Scripture reading: I Corinthians  10:16; 11: 23-32. READ. PRAY.

 

[I. Introduction] The apostle Paul teaches on the Lord’s Supper and he presents a warning in his teaching. We read two paragraphs. The first paragraph is positive. The second paragraph is negative. However, in this message I am going to focus on the positive benefits of the Lord’s Supper. The warnings are clear enough in the apostle’s own words. The positive benefits may be missed. Therefore, I am going to emphasize these. There are great and marvelous blessings in the Lord’s Supper that are often missed by the Lord’s people.

 

When we looked at the calling of Elisha not too long ago, one of the things that we learned was that we should not discount the power that is available through tokens. A brief review of what we learned then will serve as an introduction to the blessings that are available through touching the elements of the Lord’s Supper – the bread and the wine.

What is a token? A token is an object, usually a physical object, that represents something else.  You must know that the abuse of a truth often makes us suspicious of that truth because we have seen it misused or mishandled. This is the case with tokens. The Bible reveals that tokens, physical objects, have power and sometimes authority associated with them. If someone is superstitious they will think that the power is in the object itself. They would be wrong, but a physical object can be a conduit for God’s grace and power to be manifested. That a token can be a conduit of God’s grace and power is seen often in the history of God’s people.

Some examples of tokens in the Bible:

1. Handkerchiefs that had been touched by Paul could be taken to a sick person and they would be healed! Not only a sick person, but a demon possessed person would have the evil spirit driven from them at the touch of his handkerchief or apron! (Acts 19:11)

2. If Peter’s shadow fell on some they could be healed from their sickness.[1] (Acts 5:13-15)

3. Moses fashioned an image of a snake made of bronze after the Israelites began to die in the wilderness, being judged by God because of their complaining. (God hates complaining!) The people are dying and all they have to do is look at the bronze image and they are healed.

4. The staff of Moses. Moses used his staff by touching or pointing it in various parts of Egypt to bring about many of the plagues that the Lord brought upon Egypt (Exodus 7). Likewise, Moses used the staff to part the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16). It is called the staff of God!

5. Anointing oil in James 5. If the elders anoint the sick with oil, the prayer of faith will heal them.

These are all examples of tokens that are attended by the grace and power of God. There are more in the Bible, but these should suffice to show that tokens are not superstition.  They are real and when we touch them we receive a blessing. However, people, tend to think things may be tokens that are not. We do not decide what a divine token is, God does. Therefore, we must avoid attributing any kinds of benefits to objects like rabbit’s feet, four-leaf clovers, horseshoes, rosaries, or medals and coins depicting saints of the past.

 

We do tend to be superstitious. A visitor once came to the home of Nobel Prize–winning physicist Niels Bohr. Niels Bohr was one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century. He was the discoverer of atomic structure and escaped Hitler at the onset of WW2 and came to the United States. Here, he worked on the Manhattan Project which led to our development of the nuclear bomb and guaranteed our victory in WW2. The visitor to Dr. Bohr having noticed a horseshoe hung above the entrance, asked incredulously if the professor believed horseshoes brought good luck. “No,” Bohr replied, “but I am told that they bring luck even to those who do not believe in them.”

Yes, even the smartest among us tend to be superstitious. So, we must avoid empty tokens but we must not discount the divine tokens because they do, indeed, bring with them the blessings of God.

The most significant tokens to which the disciple of the Lord Jesus has access are those found in the two great ordinances (sometimes called sacraments) of the church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In baptism we contact the water. In the Lord’s Supper we contact the bread and the wine.[2]

The Lord’s Supper, also called the Lord’s Table, Communion, and the Eucharist[3], is a rich celebration and it communicates several things. Presently, however, let us see just four truths about the Lord’s Supper. These four verities will encourage you, strengthen you, and I hope will provide a deeper appreciation for the good and wonderful ordinance. One of these four is either neglected or unknown among evangelicals. Maybe you will be pleasantly surprised at this benefit.

[II.] The first thing we must see is that the Lord’s Supper is a blessing. Because the Lord’s Supper is a blessing we need to experience it – because we need blessing! The Lord’s Supper is primarily for us!

What does the word “blessing” mean? Blessing means either “speaking well” or “doing well” (sometimes both!). When we bless God, we speak well of him. When God blesses us he does well to us. Good things happen! We need to get this into us. Repeat after me:

When God blesses me he does well to me.

When God blesses me he does well to me.

When God blesses me he does well to me.

When we take the Lord’s Supper good things happen to us. I Corinthians 10:16 reads:

16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? [4]

See that the cup that holds the wine or grape juice is a cup of blessing. This means that when you touch it, when you drink it, blessing comes to you! Paul goes on to say that we bless the cup, too. That means that we speak well of it. When a brother facilitates the practice of communion he speaks well of the bread and the cup before it is distributed to the participants.

Because the Lord’s Supper is a blessing we need to experience it.

[III.] The second thing that we ought to see is that the Lord’s Supper is a communion with the Lord’s body and blood. Because the Lord’s Supper connects us with the Lord Himself we need to experience it.

Note what the apostle asks in I Corinthians 10:16: “Is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” This is a rhetorical question. That means that he expects his readers to know the answer already. The answer is Yes! The touching and tasting of the wine is a communion with the Lord’s blood! What does that mean?

Observe that the word translated “communion” in the KJV and NKJV is variously translated as “participation” (ESV, NIV), “sharing” (NASB, NET), and “fellowship” (Young’s Literal, Recovery Version). The Amplified Bible solves the dilemma by using all four!

 

16 “The cup of blessing [of wine at the Lord’s Supper] upon which we ask [God’s] blessing, does it not mean [that in drinking it] we participate in and share a fellowship (a communion) in the blood of Christ (the Messiah)? The bread which we break, does it not mean [that in eating it] we participate in and share a fellowship (a communion) in the body of Christ?”

The word in the original language is κοινονια which is most often translated “fellowship[5]” elsewhere. Any of these English translations will do, although “participation” might be my least favorite. I prefer either “communion” or “fellowship.”

Most conservative theologians understand that a mystical union with the Lord Jesus takes place in the Lord’s Supper. It is something that cannot be fully explained but is, nevertheless, real. What happens when we take the tokens of the Lord’s Table is explained about as good as it can be in that beautiful and accurate confession of faith, The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. It is over 330 years old but still relied upon by hundreds of churches throughout the U.S.

 

“Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this ordinance, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually receive, and feed upon Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death; the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.” (Chapter 30, § 7)

 

It says that the receivers “really and indeed”…”receive and feed upon Christ.” And that “the body and blood of Christ”… is “spiritually present.” This is marvelous! Those are a lot of words. But, I think we can simply it by just saying that when we touch and taste the tokens of the Lord’s Table we enter into a mystical union with Christ that bestows the benefits of his sacrifice and makes it real to us.

 

It is mysterious. Yet it is real. We do not fully comprehend how it can be. Yet we receive it.

Because the Lord’s Supper connects us with the Lord Himself we need to experience it.

[IV.] Third, it is a memorial. This is plainly stated in I Corinthians 11:

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, 24 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.” 25 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.” [6]

I do not need to say much about this because this is the aspect we have emphasized the most in our practice. Because the Lord’s Supper helps us to remember what was effected by our Lord’s sacrifice we need to experience it.

Jesus died on the cross not for Himself, because he was sinless. He shed his blood to take away the sins of all who will trust in Him. If you have not yet trusted in the Lord Jesus then I implore you to no longer put it off. His sacrifice is the only means by which we can be forgiven.

Yet, even we who have received forgiveness need to be reminded of it.

It has been said that you can do 100 things and 99 of those will be good. You will make one mistake and people will remember that and forget about the 99. Not only will they remember it, but they will remind you of it. Sometimes more than once! I think this observation is true-to-life and should persuade us to be more patient with one another. But, don’t you think it is also true of the way we view ourselves? We may do many things right, but when we fall down we will beat ourselves up over what we have done.

If we repent God forgives us, but we have trouble sometimes in forgiving ourselves. Oh! We need to be reminded of what the sacrifice of Christ has done for us. We need to be reminded not just in words, but in a tangible way – by touching the body of Christ and by tasting the blood of Christ. This will confirm to us what we need to be impressed with: that our sins are all taken away forever! Hallelujah! God is so good to give us this memorial!

Because the Lord’s Supper helps us to remember what was effected by our Lord’s sacrifice we need to experience it.

[V.] Lastly, we ought to see that there is health and healing associated with the Lord’s Supper. The first three truths concerning the Table are explicitly stated. The Scriptures clearly say that it is a blessing to us, that there is a mystical communion with the Lord in it, and that it is to remind us that our sins are forgiven and we are part of his covenant. Health and healing are implicitly known. This means we will have to dig a little deeper in His word to see it. We will have to turn over some rocks. But, it is there and it is a blessed benefit to God’s children!

Because the Lord’s Supper brings health and healing we should experience it.

[A.] If we eat and drink the tokens in an unworthy manner, then we may become weak and sick and even die.  Verses 27-32:

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. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. [7]

 

What does it mean to eat the bread and drink the cup “in an unworthy manner?” First, let me say what it does not mean. It does not mean that a member has sinned. If it meant that then we would either have no one taking the Lord’s Table or maybe just two or three people who thought they hadn’t sinned.

Verse 28 says, “Let a person examine himself…” What does that mean? It means at least what it says in verse 29. The person partaking of the tokens must discern that the bread they are eating represents the body of Christ – that it is not just ordinary bread. It has been set apart as a holy ordinance. Likewise, with the cup.

Therefore, eating and drinking in an unworthy manner means not discerning the import and hallowedness of the Lord’s Supper.

Verse 31 goes on to say, “If we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.” Because of verse 31, “examining ourselves” also includes a determination how we have sinned, if we have sinned, and confession. If we have already confessed a sin we do not need to confess it again.

Here is something that should be obvious:

[B.] If we are weak or sick because we have taken the Lord’s Table in an unworthy manner, then when we take it in accordance with the apostle’s admonition here – by discerning Christ’s body and by judging ourselves (confessing and turning away from sin) – then we will cease to be weak and sick. We will be healthy. We will be healed.

[C.} Healing is part of what was accomplished by Christ’s sacrifice.

 

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed. [8]

(see also Mathew 8:17)

The tokens of the Lord’s Supper are all about his sacrifice and healing is in the sacrifice.

But there is still more.

[D.] We should remember that the Supper instituted by the Lord Jesus was the Passover meal. He and his disciples were eating the Passover meal when he took the bread and broke it. He and his disciples were eating the Passover meal when he took the cup and said that it was the cup of the new covenant in his blood.

The original Passover was celebrated by the Israelites in Egypt who were delivered from the death angel that came and slew all the firstborn in all of Egypt. They were saved because they took the blood of a lamb and applied it over their doors and upon their doorposts. They took that same lamb and ate it. That lamb became the first Passover meal.

As soon as they ate their meal they fled across the Red Sea and into the wilderness as they escaped Egypt.

Psalm 105:37 tells of their deliverance:

“He brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person among their tribes.” (KJV) (also having the same wording: NKJV, ASV, Amplified Classic, Geneva, Wycliffe, and Young’s Literal Translation)

They ate the Passover and then there was not even one feeble person among them!

Many of the modern translations have, instead of “not one feeble person,” “no one stumbled.” The primary meaning of the word in the original language, though, has to do with health rather than stumbling. It is one of those words that can have more than one meaning. Unless the context makes it abundantly clear, I think it is better to go with the primary usage of a word rather than a less common usage.

I like the way the Good News Translation has it.

“Then he led the Israelites out; they carried silver and gold, and all of them were healthy and strong.”

The Living Bible:

“And brought his people safely out from Egypt, loaded with silver and gold; there were no sick and feeble folk among them.”

The New Life Version has:

Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold. And there was not one weak person among their families.”

That rendering reminds us what Paul wrote, “That is why many of you are weak…”

One might say, “Just because they were all healthy right after eating the Passover and leaving Egypt doesn’t mean it was because they ate the Passover.” They would be right. Just because one event follows another does not necessarily mean that the first one led to the second. But when you consider what Paul said and what Isaiah said about these matters then this passage in the Psalms gives credence to the link between the Israelites health upon eating of the Passover meal.

[E.] There are many testimonies of confirmed healing after the taking of communion.

There was a pastor in Florida, near Orlando, by the name of Troy L Miller who was diagnosed with cancer of the kidneys. He had a biopsy and it was confirmed. He became quite ill and was hospitalized.  His mother, also a believer, brought him the tokens of the Lord’s Supper because she knew that there was healing in them. They took the Lord’s Supper together at his hospital bed. He was completely healed of his cancer. I confess that I am somewhat of a skeptic. And I think it is prudent to be skeptical of things that you read because there is so much sensationalism and nonsense out there, both on the internet and in print. So, when I read about this account I did some research. I found the pastor’s church and I called. I spoke with  Troy Miller’s wife and she confirmed that he was healed. Their physician was incredulous. He told them that if he had not personally seen both slides of tissue, before and after the healing, he would not have believed it. But he saw it with his own eyes.

A chiropractor, Dr. John Miller (no relation to the pastor), had a friend who was in a severe car accident. His body, through the natural healing process, healed itself. However, there was one bad side effect from the accident. He had lost his peripheral vision. He could only see things directly in front of him. One morning, at 2:00 am, Dr. Miller explained to his friend that there is healing available through the Lord’s Supper. They took the tokens together and, as they were meditating upon it, he was healed right then and there! His peripheral vision was restored!

Another brother and his wife were getting ready to go to church. He was strapping their child in the back seat of their car and was holding on to the part of the car where the front door closes. His wife got in the car without paying attention and slammed the door shut on his fingers. She closed it so hard that the door latched with his fingers still in the door! He screamed and when he took his hand out his fingers were deformed and bleeding. They suspected that they were broken. His wife was going to take him to the Emergency Room but, oddly, the man didn’t want to miss church, especially since communion was going to be available. He figured that they could go to the hospital after church. Now, that is dedication! I’m not sure I recommend that, but I am just relating this brother’s story. (Makes you think about some people’s reasons for skipping the meetings of the church!) He went to church with oddly bent fingers, pain, and blood still oozing. When it came time to take communion, he took the bread and ate it. He felt the pain leave his hand. He looked down at his hand and saw the blood disappear and the fingers straighten! By the time church was over he felt good enough that he didn’t go to the hospital and his pain was gone.

One sister was on a flight to Israel to go on a tour with a Christian group. She had DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and passed out on the plane. The plane landed in Israel and she was being taken to the hospital. On the way to the hospital she suffered cardiac arrest because a blood clot from her leg had loosened and gotten to her heart. They were able to restart her heart and she was placed in ICU, unconscious. A pastor and other brothers went to her hospital room and they took the Lord’s Supper around her bed. She, obviously, was unable to since she was unconscious. Not too long after this she became conscious and felt so good that she was released from the hospital and did a tour of Israel with the next Christian group that came through since she had missed the first one!

Healing through communion is not always instantaneous. A young man by the name of Dan Gonzales from California had severe eczema since a boy. The kids at school would make fun of him because his skin would get red, dry, and chapped. Not much seemed to help. When he learned that healing could be facilitated through partaking of the Lord’s Table he made sure that he never missed it. The church he attended partook of it every Sunday. Every Sunday as he took the tokens he meditated upon their significance and believed what Isaiah had written. Slowly, he noticed his skin began to get better. After a few months others noticed it too. His skin had a healthy glow to it. In his case, the healing took a few months, but he was healed!

Healing is not guaranteed through the atonement, but it is available. God still decides whom he will heal. But, God uses tokens to effect healing.

 God’s grace and God’s power, including the power to heal, are sometimes operative through means. Sometimes these means are tokens There are divine tokens and these tokens bring divine power – divine power to heal lives broken by sin and divine power to heal our bodies.

[VI. Conclusion] The Lord’s Supper is a time when we touch and taste the tokens that Jesus Himself has identified.

  • Because the Lord’s Supper is a blessing we need to experience it.
  • Because the Lord’s Supper connects us with the Lord Himself we need to experience it. There is a mystical union that happens.
  • Because the Lord’s Supper helps us to remember that our sins are forgiven and we are part of Christ’s new covenant, we need to experience it.
  • Because the Lord’s Supper brings health and healing we should experience it.

What marvelous reasons the Lord has given us to enjoy this gift. Touch and taste the favor and power of God!

 

[1] The text in Acts 5 does not specifically indicate that they were, but this is the implication and conforms to God confirming his apostolic representative as he did with Paul in Acts 19.

[2] In America, it is often grape juice.

[3] All of these terms are acceptable for they are found in the Bible and are apt descriptions of the blessed practice.

[4] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 1 Co 10:16). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[5] See Sermon Notes on May 28, 2017 for a fuller understanding of this word.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 11:23–25). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 11:27–32). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 53:5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.