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Friday, April 18, 2014

#50. We Should Not Separate our Celebrations of the Lord's Death and His Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:3–4 — For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...

One of the things we find as we read the writings of Paul is a repeated claim that he did not receive his message from any man, nor was it something he made up.  It was a mark of his Apostleship that his message was given to him directly by the Lord Jesus Christ for him to pass on to the church.  In our passage above, Paul singles out two truths from that message (both, of course, in complete fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures) that he recognized were of the greatest importance for the Corinthians to know: the death and the resurrection of Christ.  Of all the breadth of truth that Paul was charged to communicate to the church, here are the things of first importance - that Christ died for the sins of His people and after three days in the tomb, He was raised from the dead.  Take away either of these truths and there is no Gospel.  They are inseparable tenets, belonging together at the very heart of the Gospel message.

It is interesting to note that these two cardinal truths of the Gospel are highlighted for us in another, most significant way in the Scriptures.  The means by which we are to remember these events are both set apart by being called by the Name of our Lord.  So in Revelation, John indicates that he received the contents of the book on "the Lord's Day" (Revelation 1:10), which most understand to be the name given to the first day of the week, the day when Jesus rose from the dead; the day that the church understood as the day for her to gather for worship and to regard as the Christian Sabbath. And in 1 Corinthians 11:20 it is clear that the meal Jesus gave to the church to remember Him by - and particularly to remember His atoning sacrifice, was designated "the Lord's Supper".  This underscores for us the importance of these truths - the Lord does not give His Name to unimportant things.

It is not hard to draw a conclusion from these observations concerning the most appropriate practice for the church - there should be an observance of the Lord's Supper each Lord's Day.  And so this forms another compelling reason for this practice to add to those we are studying in this part of our series.

Believers meet on the Lord's Day to worship and to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  Some churches are altering this practice because worldly Christians don't want worship to get in the way of their recreational activities on a Sunday, but this has otherwise been the practice of the church for centuries. What is not so clear is the reason why many churches have reduced the frequency with which they observe the Lord's Supper - the means by which we remember Christ's death.

To put it another way, Paul taught the death and the resurrection of Christ to the early church as two cardinal (and inseparable) truths of the Gospel. Both the death and the resurrection of Christ are graced in Scripture by events and practices that are called by His Name, yet many churches have felt it appropriate to separate the celebration of these inseparable truths by observing the Lord's Day once a week, but the Lord's Supper only once a month or even less often. This suggests that such churches have come to believe there should be a hierarchy of importance, or at least of emphasis, between the indivisible truths that Paul declared as being of first importance for the church.

We maintain that there is a Biblical harmony and appropriateness not to drive a wedge between our observance of the Lord's Day on the one hand, and of the Lord's Supper on the other. What God has joined together, it is unwise for man to separate!