The Lord’s Supper is an important time for God’s people. It is a time in which we can remember the work of God in bringing salvation to us. It is a time in which we can celebrate the hope that we have in Christ. It is a time in which we have communion with the Lord and one another, and it is a time in which we remember what we have committed ourselves to as Christians.
There is one other aspect of the Lord’s Supper that we do not think about often as God’s people. This is the fact that the Lord’s Supper is a “sacrificial meal.” I do not mean by this that when we partake of the Lord’s Supper that we are offering a sacrifice to God. The Lord’s Supper is not explicitly referred to as either a sacrifice, an offering, or even as worship that we offer to God in the New Testament. What I mean by this is that the New Testament portrays the taking of the Lord’s Supper using terminology from the Old Testament that would bring to our minds the idea of partaking of a sacrifice. Under the Old Covenant, the priesthood would take a portion of the sacrifices they offered on the altar on behalf of the people for themselves, and they would partake of the meat from these sacrifices. The Lord’s Supper is, in a sense, a fulfillment of what the priests did.
We, as the priesthood of Christ, partake of the “body” and “blood” of our sacrifice as we partake of the Lord’s Supper. Remember that Jesus said when He inaugurated the Lord’s Supper, as He held the bread in His hands, “This is my body.” And when He took the cup, He said, “This is my blood” (Luke 22:19-20). Jesus did not say, “this symbolizes my body,” or “this symbolizes my blood.” I agree that this idea is there, but I think there is more to the language that He uses than that. We take away some of the force of the passage when we insert the word “symbolizes” into it. He could have said “this symbolizes my body and blood,” but He didn’t. He is giving sacrificial language in the passage. He says, “This is my body and blood which is given for you...” then he gives them instructions to take the bread and fruit of the vine and to partake. Whenever we are partaking of this sacrificial meal, we are making His sacrifice real to us. THIS IS His body which was given for me. THIS IS His blood which was shed for me.
Paul also uses priesthood/sacrificial terminology in 1 Cor 10 where he talks to the Corinthians about two tables that they can eat at: the table of idols (Satan) and the Lord’s table (in partaking of the Lord’s Supper). He is trying to show them that when one partakes of meat in the idols’ temples, they were showing their participation in the altar and were having fellowship with demons. When one sits at the table of the Lord, he/she is showing as they partake of the “body” and “blood” of the Lord that they have benefited from His sacrifice and are in fellowship with Christ. He then tells them, “Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” Those who eat of the sacrifices are participants/partakers in the altar. They are in fellowship with the altar, sharing in the blessings of the altar’s sacrifice, and they are having fellowship with the One in whom the sacrifice was made to.
I don’t believe in the Catholic interpretation of this idea-that the emblems actually become the literal body and blood of the Lord before we partake. I do believe Jesus is using figurative language. He is speaking metaphorically, but I would argue from these passages that we should think about it in the sense of what the passages say. “This is My body,” and “This is My blood.” Our minds need to think of the body and blood of the Lord. As we partake, we are reminded of how this sacrifice is our sustenance as priests, but not like the Old Testament priests who received their physical sustenance from the sacrifices. Christ’s sacrifice sustains us spiritually. It gives us eternal life.
Our Sacrifice of Praise
The first act of worship that we will examine is the music that we offer to the Lord. Our music is an example of a spiritual sacrifice that we give to God. It, like the sacrifices given by the priests, are a fulfillment of the system of OT worship. Just as we are the temple, the priests, the sacrifices, and the sacrifice givers, we are also the “Levitical singers” of the temple who offer up sacrifices of praise to God.
“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name…with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:15-16
We are in a giving our offering or sacrifice of “fruits” to God as we sing and give thanks to Him. In regard to what we do when we gather together with our fellow priests and saints, our singing not only is a sacrifice and offering to God, it has the purpose of admonishing and teaching each other as we offer it to the Lord. Paul says in Colossians 3:16:
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
The picture we are given here is that those who have the word of Christ dwelling in them will have it come out from within us as teaching and admonishing. This is the natural thing that will happen. As we sing to the Lord, we need to learn and be challenged by the things that we are hearing one another sing. The same point is made in a parallel passage in Ephesians 5:18-19:
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord”
Our singing goes two directions, horizontally to one another and vertically to the Lord to be offered at His throne. We sing to God along with His heavenly host. Paul also says that we make melody in our hearts to the Lord as we sing and speak to one another. The melody doesn’t necessarily come from our mouth, although we do use our mouths to teach and admonish while we sing. But the melody is to the Lord from and with our hearts. It comes from within us and goes to the Lord. Thankfully, He doesn’t talk about the melody coming from our vocal chords. I know at times there is not much melody to be heard there. At times my singing doesn’t sound good to my ear (and probably others), but it is a sweet sound to the ear of the Lord as our hearts make melody with thankfulness to Him.
One other point I would like to make from this passage that I hinted to earlier: I believe this passage is also showing us that we are not just the fulfillment of the shadow of the temple singers, but also of the instruments that some of the Levites used during their temple ceremonies. Our instrument is within us. It is our heart. The melody that we offer to the Lord comes from our within us. The phrase “make melody with your hearts” does literally mean that we are “plucking the strings of our hearts.” This is where the music/melody comes from when we sing to the Lord. Instead of using the Old Covenant instruments that were meant to be a shadow of what was to come in Christ, we “in spirit” worship God by giving Him thanksgiving and praise from the heart. This is our “sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Under the New Covenant, this is the kind of worship that our God and King is pleased with, and this is the kind of music that He specifically commands that He be worshipped with.
This is why bringing a mechanical instrument, such as a guitar or piano, etc. into New Testament worship just does not fit. The melody that is offered to the Lord is to come from within us, not from instruments that we use that are outside of us that are more for our ears and emotional stimulation. The Lord says to sing and make melody with our hearts. He does not give His approval in the New Testament for any other instrument.
I agree with John Calvin when he said, “Musical instruments in celebrating the praise of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, the restoration of the other shadows of the law.” Either all of the worship in the Old Covenant is fulfilled under the New Covenant, or none of it is. If you want to bring in other instruments other than the heart, why not bring incense to accompany our prayers? Or lighting candles during the offering? How about we all come to worship wearing the garments that God gives the priests under the Old Covenant? We could go on and on here. Those who want to introduce the mechanical instrument into worship really are picking and choosing “buffet style” what they want to do in worship from a covenant that we are not under instead of looking at the New Testament and asking, “what does God tell us that He wants for His church?” And many times, those who want to use instruments do it because it is what they prefer in worship, and they go to Old Testament passages to justify what they want to do. This is always the wrong way to approach scripture.
I would ask this question to those who want to bring the “shadow” of the instrument from the worship under the Old Covenant: why? Why introduce a mechanical instrument into the worship of the New Covenant, especially when He does not show His approval of it in the New Testament? We cannot know it is pleasing to Him unless He tells us it is. To do so would be presumptuous. Unfortunately, the answers we receive to these questions are often, “It is because I like it more than just singing,” or “this is the way we have always done it,” or “this is what is common in our culture today.” Once again, these lines of reasoning place us and our culture on the throne as the authority to decide what God wants in worship instead of allowing Him as King to tell us what is pleasing to Him for New Covenant worship.
"And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,” 8 and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. 9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY" (1 Peter 2:4-10).
Peter tells us that we as Christians are a Royal Priesthood under our Great King and High Priest. He tells us a lot about the worship and work of priests under the New Covenant, especially about the nature of our work and worship.
There are two points I would like to explore in this article:
WE ARE A SPIRITUAL KINGDOM AND PRIESTHOOD
We are the Spiritual Israel, the descendants of Abraham. We are a spiritual kingdom of Priests:
WE ARE A SPIRITUAL SACRIFICE
All work and worship within the kingdom begins with full self-sacrifice to God. This is foreshadowed in the Old Testament with the burnt offering. This sacrifice was brought to the temple by the one offering it. It was killed and then it was prepared by the Levitical priest to be taken to the altar where it was fully consumed on the altar as a sacrifice to God.
As New Testament Priest, Jesus gives us the prime example of what it means to give yourself as a burnt offering to God. He fully consumed Himself with doing the will of God, even to the point of His death on the cross, where He completely emptied Himself of life itself as an offering to God on our behalf. Paul uses burnt offering terminology when He talks about the offering that Jesus gave to God for us in Ephesians 5:2:
“and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
Paul teaches us that we need to follow in Jesus’ steps in giving ourselves to God as a sacrifice in Romans 12:1.
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.“
Unlike the Levitical burnt offering and our Lord’s offering for us, we are called living sacrifices in this passage. We put our lives fully on the altar to be sacrificed to God for His worship and work. We are “fully consumed” in His work and service. If we want our worship and work to be pleasing to God, this is where we must begin. It begins with us giving our whole being to the Lord.
WE GIVE SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES IN OUR WORSHIP AND SERVICE TO GOD
After we give ourselves to be totally consumed on the altar for God, we then from our hearts offer to God sacrifices that are pleasing to Him, sacrifices that are referred to as a “a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).
Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2 that we offer to God spiritual sacrifices. They are not physical sacrifices like the ones offered in the Old Testament. Jesus in John 4 tells us that the true worshipers under the New Covenant would worship God as He is, in spirit. Even though we may do things in this realm for God, our service and worship to Him is spiritual in nature. This may mean a couple things for our service and worship to God:
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