“The day of the Lord’s Supper is an occasion of joy for the Christian community. Reconciled in their hearts with God and the brethren, the congregation receives the gift of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and, receiving that, it receives forgiveness, new life, and salvation. It is given new fellowship with God and men. The fellowship of the Lord’s Supper is the superlative fulfillment of Christian fellowship. As the members of the congregation are united in body and blood at the table of the Lord so will they be together in eternity. Here the community has reached its goal. Here joy in Christ and his community is complete. The life of Christians together under the Word has reached its perfection in the sacrament.” – Bonhoeffer, Life Together (p. 122)
“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (1 Cor. 28-29)
Last week, I was blessed to receive a review copy of Discerning the Body, a new eBook written by Hone Phillips. Based on Paul’s words in I Corinthians 11:17-34, the book is a study of the requirements for participation in the Lord’s Supper, and addresses the significance of self-examination.
… the merits earned by Christ’s death were for each and every one of his saints, not just our friends and those who think as we do. The aim of the self-examination is, therefore, to help each of us see every other member as of great worth to Christ. (p. 68)
At just over a hundred pages, Phillips’ work is short and straight-forward, easily read in one sitting. This is not to say it lacks in theological depth – nothing could be further from the truth. It’s rich, thought-provoking, and biblically-rooted. But it also gets to the point and stays there. And I, for one, appreciated that.
Discerning the Body is Phillips’ first book (as far as I know), but the writing quality is superb throughout: crisp, articulate, and genuine. While stressing the importance of sound doctrine, he also lays great emphasis on love and unity in the body of Christ. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:2, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
Small differences should not blind us to the the great and glorious thing we have in common – salvation in Jesus Christ. We must not lose sight of the forest for the trees.
Here is the great cost, paid by the Lord Jesus Christ, for each and every one of his people. The very Son of God himself laid aside His glory and died the death of a criminal for us. Next to that great salvation and sacrifice what pettiness to consider as important the slights caused by another member of the congregation and hold them against him or her.
Without remembering what Christ did for us we cannot truly love one another as He has loved us. The standard is shown in the Supper. This is what forms the basic principle which Paul will apply to the situation he had heard about in Corinth. The Supper reminds us of what He did and we should love one another even as He loved us all. (p. 62)
(Discerning the Body is available for purchase here)