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The Christian Altar (The Lord's Supper, Episode IV)
Mal 1:7 “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ 12 “But you profane it, In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ Ps 7:11 God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day.
Mt 26:26-28 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.” 27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
1 Cor 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
1 Cor 10:17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
1 Cor 10:18 Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
1 Cor 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.
2 Cor 3:6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
2 Cor 3:14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ.
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
He 13:10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.
1 Jn 2:1-2 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
Does the Church Have An Altar?
“We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.” (The Writer to the Hebrews)
The only Christian altar mentioned in the New Testament is the Lord’s Table, or what is called the communion table (1 Corinthians 10:21; Hebrews 13:1). One is taken aback when the actual modern practice of the Lord’s Supper is compared to the teaching of Holy Scripture. It should arouse a holy indignation within our breast to see the Lord’s Table forsaken, to the point of being moved entirely from the front of the sanctuary in many churches, if not out of the worship area altogether.
The affront to Yahweh is the same as if the Israelites would have removed the Altar of Burnt Offering (Altar of Holocaust) from their worship. This can be said because the Scripture is clear: there are two testaments: the old and the new (2 Corinthians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 3:6); both testaments have their respective “Lord’s Table.” For the Old Testament, it is the Altar of Holocaust (Malachi 1:7,12); for the New Testament, it is the Communion table (1 Corinthians 10:21). The Altar of Holocaust was central to Israel during their wilderness existence. It occupied the very center of the encampment—literally. Any night the Israelite family could open the flap of their tent and see the fiery glow coming from the altar, as the evening sacrifice was being consumed, and be reminded that the evening sacrifice was there to placate the displeasure of a holy God, Who was angry with the wicked every day. Likewise, the Lord’s Table, as the centerpiece of Christian worship is a constant preacher of God’s attitude toward sin and the propitiation of His anger provided by Christ’s sacrifice.
Further, the worshippers of the Old Covenant identified with the sacrifice, that was placed on the altar, by eating of it (1 Corinthians 10:18). In this way the sacrifice was vicariously the person offering it. So, too, the New Covenant worshippers identify with the body and blood of the Lord’s Table and become one with it (1 Cor 10:17). This oneness with the body and blood of Christ is accomplished by partaking of the earthly elements that contain the heavenly. So, the Christian is saying, “Lord God, I offer myself for my sin, vicariously, through the broken flesh and shed blood of Jesus. (Joint Participation, is one of the meanings of Koinōnia—translated as “communion” in 1 Corinthians 10:16.) The Lord’s Table, then, is a true altar where we place, not only Christ, but also ourselves. Let every Christian be mindful of his and her sin and know that we, of ourselves, are unworthy offerings to God, Who, Himself, is too holy to look upon sin with any degree of tolerance. Thus, we must be offered up to the Judge of the universe in the person of His sinless Son. Only then will the Father’s adjudication be justification—producing salvation for sinners such as us.
Challenging My Family
Being, as I have been, a Pentecostal evangelist, pastor, teacher, and author for over sixty years, I claim the right to critique my own family. So the following is an observation made in love.
Pentecostal style congregations are the worst offenders in the neglect of the Christian altar. When one stops to consider the Pentecostal psyche in regard to corporate worship, their attitude toward the Lord’s Supper is understandable but not excusable. Mainly, there is the redefining of the altar in, not just Pentecostal, but, all evangelical churches. What is called the altar among these groups is actually a prayer bench. In my youth it was called the mourner’s bench. The redefinition of the altar has proven a sad error. The New Testament speaks of the Christian altar only once. The reference is found in Hebrews 13:10 where the Lord’s Table of the Christian communion is identified as the Christian altar. Sadly, replacing the Lord’s Table with a prayer bench is indicative of a salvation by works mentality, replacing salvation by grace.
The Lord’s table, as the altar centerpiece, preaches that we are saved by the broken flesh and shed blood of the Savior, while the “mourner’s bench,” as the altar centerpiece, announces that we may be saved if we mourn enough over our sins and ‘pray through’. These are works of the flesh. Just like the labor of the minister over the sermon, and striving to present it just so, is a work of the flesh. The Word must be preached, for sure; the saints must pray, for sure; sinners must repent, for sure; but not at the expense of the Altar of our Lord’s broken flesh and shed blood.
Another crime of flesh was perpetrated upon the Lord’s church when the Lord’s Table was moved from being the center piece of worship and replaced by the pulpit. As important as the preaching and teaching of the Word of God is, it is less important than the Lord’s body and blood. Of course, a wrong theology concerning the elements of the Lord’s Supper makes this neglect an easy step.
There is a propensity within Pentecostal circles to spiritualize too much. To many, if not most, within these groups, our Lord’s Words of Institution are to be understood allegorically. They say: When Jesus said, “This is my body” and “This is my blood” He did not mean it; not really. In this way the Real Presence is denied to the elements of bread and wine. So, then, to this segment of Christians, Christ’s body and blood are not REALLY present in the elements, and the Lord’s Table is not an altar in any real sense. The Christian altar, then, becomes only a table that is easily moved out of the way, so the congregants can better see the floor show of singers and dancers, accompanied with smoke machines and frolicking lights. The focus of such churches (apart from their entertainment) is on repackaging the written Word for a spiritual, but only casually religious, generation. Sadly, their focus is not on the Word, Himself, being presented on the true altar.
☩ Jerry L Hayes
Read More From The Bishop On The Lord's Supper
- Who May Administer the Lord's Supper (Lord's Supper, Episode VIII)
There is a message being sent from non-denominational type churches that just anyone may officiate at the Lord's table. Counter to this is the question of the imperfect minister. What says the Bible?
- Who May Partake of Holy Communion? (The Lord's Supper, Episode V)
The question of "Who may Partake of holy Communion" is explained by this writing. Some churches practice "open communion", while others practice "closed Communion." Which is biblical?
- Breaking Bread (The Lord's Supper, Episode III)
This writing establishes the biblical phrase "Breaking Bread" as a discriptive name for the Lord's Supper.
- What Is the Lord's Supper, Episode II
In this writing the author gives a brief description of the different terms used by Christians to describe and identify the sacramental meal Christ instituted the night before His death.
- The Lord's Supper (From the Beginning)
This article is the introduction to a series on the Lord's Supper. Jesus instituted this covenant meal and commanded its observance. Here we review the teachings of those whom the apostles taught.
- The True Elements (Lord's Supper, Episode IX)
This article covers the question as to the nature of the biblical elements of the Lord's Supper. Christians are divided over leavened or unleavened bread; fermented or unfermented fruit of the vine.
- Are Symbols Important to God (A Study in the Lord's Supper, Episode X
In this study we examine the importance of biblical symbols, especially in relation tot he holy Communion.
- Bishop's Epistle: The Real Presence (Lord's Supper, Episode XI)
The Book You Owe It To Yourself To Read
In "The Lord's Supper" Bishop Hayes presents a comprehensive study of the holy Sacrament. Both the Catholic and Reformed positions are examined and biblical solutions are given for the problems that exist in the mentioned theologies. The book answers important questions, like: "What is the Lord's supper?" Who may partake of the Lord's supper?" "Is the body and blood of Christ really present in the elements or do the elements actually change into the body and blood of Christ?" "How often should the Lord's Supper be observed?" These are but a few of the questions addressed in the book. Having shopped in several Bible bookstores and discovering how little is written on the subject it is safe to predict that this work will be in great demand and a standard volume in the libraries of those who love the Sacrament.