Worship and Lord’s Supper
Traditions and Practices
It is a matter of great concern when people make doctrines and spiritual stand on issues in the Bible based on different traditions and practices. The Bible doesn’t give us any clear patterns on how to conduct our gatherings, yet we often stipulate strict written or unwritten code of conduct or order of meetings of the church. We have used a table to place the emblems of the Lord’s Supper in the church, and it has now become ‘Lord’s Table’ and some even come up with expressions like ‘worshiping with the Lord’s Table’. The translation of the Bible that ‘Jesus gave thanks for the bread and the cup’ is often mistaken for ‘blessing the bread and the cup’. We do not realize that any such man-made patterns of the gatherings grieve the Holy Spirit who wants to move the hearts of the believers to take glory through all that they do in a gathering according to His will and pleasure. Church history reveals that at the beginning of each spiritual movement the Scripture is strictly adhered to, but over the years, patterns, traditions, man-made rules and regulations set in to deprive the gatherings of spirit-control.
A good example for such mixing of tradition and practices with the Bible is how some gatherings misunderstand the place of worship in a gathering and limit it to the time of the Lord’s Supper. Some think that worship is the same as observing the Lord’s Supper. They teach that without the observance of the Lord’s Supper, worship cannot be practiced. Thus sadly they confuse people to limit worship for a few minutes a week. So it is spiritually and scripturally expedient to see if there is any distinction between the Lord’s Supper and Worship. It is vital to provide clarity in our adherence to worship so that we would truly worship God. It is also pertinent to examine how far our remembrance meetings will be a time to focus on the Lord and all that He has become for us. It will thus help us to submit ourselves to the leading and control of the Spirit in worshiping and remembering our Lord in the right perspective.
Worship is better experienced than explained. Worship is a spontaneous flow of the wonder and awe of our hearts as we see the Lord in His glory. It is to fall prostrate and to attribute all worthiness, glory, honor and praise to God for all that He is in His person, character and work. The Greek word mostly used in the New Testament for worship (proskuneo) means to bow down, kneel or fall prostrate and kiss the feet of God whom is the object of our worship. We see that worship is a continuous experience in heaven. Angels and the heavenly beings get themselves lost in the wonder and awe of the Lord and worship Him all the time.
This truth is seen all through the Old Testament and the New Testament. In some cases in the Old Testament, worship was accompanied with sacrifice and an altar. In other places, it is the expression of being wonder struck at the glory and greatness of God. Worship in the New Testament is shown clearly in the gospels whenever God’s people beheld His glory. The shepherds and the magi worshiped baby Jesus (Luke 2:20; Matthew 2:11). We read about the words of worship by Mary, the mother of our Lord (Luke 1:46-55). We also read about how Simeon and Hanna worshiped Jesus when they saw Him at the Temple soon after His birth (Luke 2:25-38). From then on, there were scores of instances when people worshiped the Lord Jesus as they beheld His glory, before and after His crucifixion (Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:52; John 20:28). The New Testament admonishes all God’s children to offer sacrifice of praise which is the fruit of their lips (Hebrews13:15). Worship in the New Testament is to offer praises to the One for who He really is and what He has done for our souls (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Colossians 3:16-17). It is interesting to see how Jesus taught His disciples in the model prayer to start with worship: “Hallowed Be Your Name” (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2). All believers are to submit their bodies as living sacrifices of worship (Romans 12:1-2).
Worship takes different forms, including our words and our songs (Ephesians 5:19-20), our act of falling prostrate before Him and His glory (Matthew 2:11) and submitting all that we are and have to Him (Romans 12:1). It has to be rendered without ceasing (Ephesians 5:20). Thus a believer’s life ought to develop an attitude of worship (Hebrews 13:15). Our worship includes giving to Him all that we have (Hebrews 13:16; Philippians 4:18) in which He will have full freedom to use it all for His glory.
In summary, it is important that all God’s children must worship God and live in a spirit and attitude of worship as they are filled with the vision of the risen, glorified Lord. Worship should then become our primary occupation throughout our lives. It will continue to be the greatest occupation in heaven as well (Revelation 4:8-11; 5:8-14). Interestingly we do not see worship in the New Testament linked with the Lord’s Supper which is a time of remembrance.
The Lord’s Supper
The Lord Jesus established what has been known as the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-30) or Breaking of Bread (Acts of the Apostles 20:7). It has several vital truths embodied in it.
(1) It is a memorial feast of God’s people where they remember the Lord through eating of the broken bread and drinking from the cup (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).
(2) It is a time and an act of proclaiming the death of our Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:26).
(3) It is an opportunity to enjoy communion or fellowship of God’s people with God and among themselves (1 Corinthians 10:16).
(4) It testifies that the partakers are members of the body of Christ and are bound together to function as one body (1 Corinthians 10: 17).
(5) It declares that our Lord will soon come to take His children to be home with Him forever (1 Corinthians 11:26).
This memorial feast is to be observed as often as we gather (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 11:26) and most especially on the Lord’s Day which is the first day of the week that reminds us of His resurrection (Acts 20:7). It is a time when we gather around the resurrected Lord and enjoy His victory on the cross for us.
Worship and Lord’s Supper
It is true that when we gather together to remember our Lord and proclaim His death on the cross by observing the Lord’s Supper, our hearts are filled with gratitude. We see the risen slain Lamb seated on the Throne in Heaven. We get ourselves enthralled in His radiating glory and love. We meditate on His sufferings all the way from Bethlehem to Calvary, and most especially during the three hours of darkness. Our hearts are filled with thoughts about His imminent return to take us to be with Him forever. As we observe the Supper by remembering our Lord, we might be filled with praise and adoration and we ascribe glory to His holy name. So let us remind ourselves of the fact that the Lord’s Supper primarily is a time of remembrance. But it cannot be denied that as we remember our Lord, we worship Him also.
But this doesn’t mean that Lord’s Supper and worship are the same. We worship all the time and it becomes our life style. We worship during our time of personal meditation and prayer, at home during the family altar, as we move around in this world during our daily walk, in the various gatherings of the saints, during the time of corporate worship and during the time when we remember our Lord through the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Any one of these occasions is in no way less important or significant than the other. But the Lord’s Supper is a unique time when we remember our Lord and proclaim His death through the eating of the bread and drinking from the cup. If we limit our worship to the time of the Lord’s Supper, we are belittling the importance of worship and limiting it to a short period of a few minutes during the gathering for the Lord’s Supper.
We must remember that worship started in the Old Testament times. The first instance of worship mentioned was when Cain and Abel worshiped by offering sacrifices to the Lord, even though there was a sacrifice of an animal to cloth Adam and Eve before that. But this act of worship continued all through the Old Testament. Many of the Old Testament saints had visions of the Lord at which they worshiped Him directly (E.g. Abraham, Isaiah, Ezekiel and others). But at other times, they worshiped by faith and often built altars to offer sacrifice which was the shadow of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross that was to come at the fullness of time (2 Chronicles 29:27-30). They worshiped when they crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 1:1). They worshiped when they heard the Word of God read aloud (Nehemiah 8:6; 9:3, 5-6). They worshiped when the Tabernacle was erected and the Temple in Jerusalem and its walls and gates were rebuilt and commissioned (2 Chronicles 5:13; 7:3; Nehemiah 12:27).
Worship continues all through the New Testament times. And worship will continue all through eternity. But the Lord’s Supper was established in the Upper Room on the night when Jesus was betrayed (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). It will stop at the rapture (1 Corinthians 11:26), as we would then no longer need to remember our Lord because we will see Him face to face and will be with Him forever. But worship will continue to occupy us throughout eternity.
The above discussion helps us to see the following truths:
a. We do not have an express commandment in the New Testament to worship at a particular gathering or occasion because worship is all pervasive and not limited to time, place or situation.
b. The Lord’s Supper is a commandment to remember our Lord through the breaking of bread as we gather together on the Lord’s Day.
c. As we remember the Lord, we endeavor to praise, glorify and adore our Lord for who He is and for all that He has done for us, but our emphasis is remembrance of Him who is the Lover of our souls.
d. At the memorial feast, our hearts of gratitude may lead us to offer praise to our Lord.
e. Worship and Lord’s Supper are not synonymous.
f. Worship is not an external observance of some sort at certain occasions, but a lifestyle, philosophy, motive, attitude and priority, to offer ourselves and all that we have to the One who gave Himself up for us.