Traditions: Man-Made and Divine (Part 3)

In our prior lesson we concluded with this thought: If we fail to teach and be reminded of divine traditions and the rationale undergirding them, we may eventually mistakenly conclude that they can be disposed of like man-made customs or opinions. To disregard a tradition that God expects us to keep (whether due to ignorance or apathy) is a serious matter indeed.

At this time let's consider a New Testament tradition that originated with Christ. We often call it the Lord's Supper. "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take eat; this is My body.' Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom.'"

Have your children asked in the assembly: "Why do they pass the small piece of bread and the cups of grape juice?" If they haven't asked, they will. Or, more likely, they will want to know why they don't get to participate also. What will you say to them? What have you already taught them on the matter?

1. The Lord's Supper is a sweet and simple memorial to Christ.
Our Lord instructed His followers - "Do this in remembrance of Me" (cf. I Cor. 11:24,25). He does not want us to forget Him! Tragically, many do forget Him--even in the very thing He commanded to be done in His remembrance. Some partake of the bread and the cup while their minds are far from the sacrifice of the Savior. Others forget the Savior, forsake the assembly, and fail to partake of the symbols in remembrance of Christ. Friends, there are many memorials and traditions in our world (as we've noted previously), but none are more important than this one! The passing of time cannot destroy this memorial, though unfaithfulness can tarnish it.

2. The Lord's Supper shows the Lord's death.
As often as we eat the bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes (I Cor. 11:26). The Lord's Supper testifies to the greatest sacrifice of the ages; that is, Jesus' sacrifice for mankind that atones for the sins of the world (cf. I John 2:2). Such a memorial should be participated in with reverence.

3. The Lord's Supper is a memorial which preaches the New Covenant.
Jesus declared - "This cup is the new covenant in My blood" (I Cor. 11:25). The fruit of the vine symbolizes Jesus' shed blood, which is the basis for the new covenant God made with man. Again, the importance of the memorial is underscored.

4. The church at Troas observed this memorial on the first day of every week.
Acts 20:7 indicates that they assembled on Sundays for that purpose - "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight." They came together on Sundays to partake of the Lord's Supper. It is important to remember that the early church had prophets and apostles who were led into all the truth by the Holy Spirit. I believe it is wise to follow their approved example on this and also partake weekly of this memorial. What Biblical rationale can be offered for partaking at a different frequency (e.g., monthly, quarterly, etc.)?

5. We don't want to forget the Lord.
God said in Jeremiah 2:32 - "Can a virgin forget her ornaments or a bride her attire? Yet My people have forgotten Me days without number." I am sometimes forgetful. I suppose we all are to varying degrees. But, can you ever imagine a bride forgetting her dress on her wedding day? It would be so important and central to her thinking that she couldn't forget it! That's the way we ought to be regarding Jesus Christ and the memorial He expects us to remember Him by. It ought to be central to our lives. The Lord knows we forget if we are not reminded, and thus He established this memorial and wants us to keep it faithfully. In our assembling with other Christians we are reminded weekly of the love and sacrifice of Christ, and our love should be rekindled!

So, what do we mean by this service--namely, the Lord's Supper (cf. Exo. 12:26)? Hopefully, we mean a lot by it! Hopefully it is not a meaningless tradition or viewed as adult snack time. It should be something we should look forward to each week. It should be something we should strive not to forsake if at all possible. To neglect this memorial and to forsake the Sunday assembly in order to pursue other things is a slap to the face of Jesus. "I'd rather be doing something else, Lord." May we never allow that attitude to develop in our hearts!

There are some things we do out of tradition simply because we enjoy them. However, there are other things we do out of tradition because of divine instruction. We need to understand the difference, remind ourselves of this difference, and instruct others (especially our children). It's OK to change or disregard man-made traditions, but may we never do so to those things the Lord has put into place. May we practice His traditions faithfully and teach them to others so that they will never be forgotten!