The "Meeting Place,"

Worship, Communion, and the Lord's Supper.
W. J. Lowe
Ealing, W.: A. J. Cowell, Printer, Oxford Road. 1903.

The Lord's supper is an ordinance. It is not presented as a command to be obeyed, but rather as a precious privilege offered to faithful souls, enabling them to draw near collectively for worship, in the Lord's appointed way.

By such a service, we are carried back in thought to the free-will offerings, ordained for God's ancient people, characterised by the death of a spotless victim (see Lev. 1-3). They answered to real needs in their souls, while maintaining constantly in their minds the sense of having to do with God, and giving them the privilege of drawing near to Him.

In pursuing attentively their history, we find much in it that serves to illustrate the principles which should mark and animate a gathering of christian people with the Lord in their midst (Matt. 18:20).

The tabernacle in the wilderness, set up in the centre of the camp, with the cloud ever resting upon it, testified in a most striking way to God's presence with them. The altar to which they could approach was there.

To begin then with what is fundamental, touching any possible relationship between God and man, we must own that the thought uppermost in a soul that has tasted of grace and goodness, when consciously in the presence of God, is worship.

If in that presence, and grace be unknown, there must be the sense of necessary judgment, because of sins on the conscience. But the moment access to a pardoning God is opened to man, because God graciously deigns to make Himself thus known, the worshipper must be on his face before Him, like Moses in Exodus 34:8-9.

Another illustration is that of the man in John 9, when the Lord, who had opened his blind eyes, revealed Himself to him as the Son of God. So also with the women in Matt. 28: they had been to the sepulchre, expecting to find it untouched, and were carrying the message given them by the angel, when Jesus met them saying, "All hail." In answer to the yearning desire of their hearts, He makes Himself known* to them, and they fall at His feet and worship Him.

{*Which was not the case with the two disciples whom He joined later in the day, on their way to Emmaus.}

The wise men from the East afford another blessed example of the same spirit of worship, inasmuch as theirs was rendered to the "little child." He who was "born King* of the Jews" was no ordinary child. They felt that they had to do with God, in undertaking a long and perilous journey in order to "worship Him." The divine direction they had enjoyed assured them of it.

{*He was "born King," not merely born to be a king as in the case of an ordinary heir to a human throne. God was their King, and Christ was so born: "To this end was I born," He says, "and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth." (John 18:37).}

Let us now consider briefly from scripture what worship is, in what circumstances it can be righteously rendered, and by whom it should be given collectively.

The book of Exodus supplies the first answer, showing unequivocally that it is by a redeemed people. On what other ground could it be possible to approach God so as to fulfil His purpose? The message sent by the hand of Moses to the people, on their reaching Sinai,* was, "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself" (Exodus 19:4).

{*And we should remember that worship "upon this mountain" was the "sign" given to Moses, when God gave him commission to bring Israel out of Egypt. (See Ex. 3:12)}

In perfect agreement with that, we find in Isaiah 43 the words, "This people have I formed for myself." … "I have created him for my glory."… "They shall shew forth my praise." God had already made Himself known to them as "Redeemer " (see verse 14), having brought them out of Egypt through the Red Sea. Their Redeemer was "the Holy One of Israel," their "Creator," and their " King."

Their first experience of God's power on leaving Egypt, was the sea turned into dry ground before them, and Pharaoh's host drowned in the very waters which had been to them a protecting wall on the right hand and on the left. There was but one way through the sea, lighted by the glory in the cloud. They had only to walk therein and enjoy the deliverance God had wrought, and in which they had had no hand whatever.

Subsequently, we find that He gave them "waters in the wilderness, rivers in the desert," to quench their thirst by the way, all the journey through. That was no greater difficulty to the LORD than making a path through the mighty waters; but it was He Himself who did it.

God's object in redeeming them and thus caring for them, was that they should "show forth His praise" (verse 21); and in consequence, their God-inspired song, under the lively impression of the deliverance He had wrought in the Red Sea, expressed the need of preparing an "habitation" for the LORD, who had become their "salvation," and who was their fathers' God. They felt that God must dwell in their midst (Exodus 15:2-3, 17)

Following the chapter in Isaiah, we next come to the sad facts of their history which bring into evidence man's failure in spite of all God's goodness. God sought for praises, but only sins were brought before Him. "Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins," He says, "thou hast wearied Me with thine iniquities" (verse 24). He had laid no hard burden upon them in the sacrifices ordained for worship, but in stead of rendering joyously what was ordered, they committed sins which loudly called for judgment, and thus defeated God's purpose in redeeming them for Himself. He then comes in again to do what could not be done without His direct intervention, "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins" (verse 25, see also chapter 44:21-22).

Such was in reality the divine sequence of the redemption through blood in Egypt, and in power at the Red Sea, though not hinted at before they reached Sinai*. At Sinai they both heard the law and broke it; but God's gracious answer to Moses' intercession (in Exodus 34) was the proclamation of His name as a forgiving God, and that too in the very place in which He had given the law, which brought sins to light and thus exercised the consciences of sinners (Romans 3:20; 7:7-10).

{*There is no mention of sins in Exodus 12, nor any reason assigned for the use of "blood" in sprinkling the door posts; the blood was for God's own eye. Neither do we read of a sin-offering previously to the promulgation of the law at Sinai, which set forth man's responsibility, and consequently made clear any and every dereliction of his duty.}

How much we have to learn through the gradual unfolding, by the means of Israel's history, of the hopeless condition of man's heart! If you desire to take the place of a privileged worshipper, you may well ask yourself, "Will God in reality take up such an one as I am, a vile sinner only fit to be driven away from His presence into outer darkness, and make of me a worshipper? The answer to that is the divine forsaking which Psalm 22 looks forward to.

We must remember that the first verse of the Psalm is said, not by a sinner, but by Him who had in His own right the privilege and the power of standing before God in absolute holiness, who could also claim His love and favour as having come to do His will, and in whom was all God's delight. (Ps. 40:6; John 14:31). God had come in to lay all our sins and iniquities upon Him, according to Isaiah 53:6, and under that unspeakable burden of sin and judgment, He cries, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Can you and I, individually, answer that question by saying, "It was for me"? Blessed is he who, like the poor thief upon the cross, can do so in the presence of God, and in His fear!

Those whose only place was banishment from God's sight, under eternal judgment, find One who has taken that place in suffering and death (Ps. 22:21),— One who, having been "heard" there, rises up out of it, to declare God's name to those He now deigns to call His "brethren" (Heb. 2:9-13). His identification with them was in His becoming the sacrifice for them, and hence their "Sanctifier." The personal question between each soul and God—that of sins,—is thus met by the only One who could meet it, and who has met it absolutely and perfectly. Those who receive this testimony are already "sanctified"; as to their position before God, they are "perfected for ever" (Heb. 10:10, 14). They are made "of one," that is, they are identified with Him.

Such is the divinely appointed way for us to learn what an "Assembly " really is, in the practical sense of believers being gathered around the person of the Lord. It is so set forth in verse 22 of the Psalm.

First, there is One who alone is able to declare everything divinely and perfectly, whether as regards His Person or His work, and who now, risen from the dead, stands with those whom He can on that account righteously call His "brethren," and to whom He declares God's name.

Secondly, He has become the leader of their praises, saying, "In the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee."

The first and fundamental accomplishment of this verse, is when Jesus risen "came and stood in the midst" (John 20:19). There is no mention of worship here, but we find the ground on which christians, as such, can freely worship, through the declaration of the Father's name (see John 4:23-24), and that, for the first time, in a known relationship consequent upon accomplished redemption, and necessarily in communion with the Son, who then first calls them "brethren." His message to them is, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God." He Himself, about to go to the Father, is to be the object of their hearts, and their blessed portion is communion with Himself, ministered in power by the Holy Ghost sent down in consequence of His going to the Father, as already explained in chapter 16:7-15.

Then also He, the risen One, breathes on them the breath of that risen life, reminding us of the way in which Adam was quickened at the beginning, when God breathed into his nostrils, and he became a living soul. (Compare John 3:6 and Romans 8:2). The Spirit of life was in Christ Himself, now free to communicate it in resurrection, since expiation had been wrought out.

The declaration of the name depends upon what He is—the Son who makes the Father known (John 1:18). The possibility of relationship and communion with Himself depends upon His finished work.

The Psalm which speaks of His sufferings in death, clearly sets forth both, and thus shows what an assembly, like that of the disciples in Jerusalem on the first day of the week, must needs imply.

Is that the thought of our hearts in gathering to His name? Is our thought on going to the assembly on the first day of the week, that we are going to meet Jesus, and going there with the character given by the angel to the women who "were early at the sepulchre," and to whom he says, "I know that ye seek Jesus"?

We cannot say that faith or intelligent reception of the Lord's oft repeated statement about His resurrection marked their action; but their pious care for the body of the Lord, controlled by respect for the Sabbath day, was evidently prompted by a love which would spend and be spent for Him. They were distinguished by hearts that could be satisfied by nothing short of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This was a true and intense desire, and the Lord met it as they, in obedience to the angel's order, were going to bring the disciples word (Matt. 28:9). There was not one of those beloved women to whom the Lord did not reveal Himself before doing so to any other persons (compare Mark 16:9). Beloved brethren, let us lay it to heart that our faithful Lord will meet every one that is truly seeking Him, as it is written "Ye shall seek me and find me, when ye search for me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13).

* * *

In principle, the "meeting-place" supposes that you conform to the Lord's appointment, which is not of your own choosing; you go there to be with Him seeing He has said, "There shall they see me" (Matt. 28:10, 16, 17). You go there in humble dependence upon the Holy Ghost, who has come here below to take of the things of Christ, in order to reveal them to us—the things that belong to the SON who makes the Father known: "All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you."

The actual presence of the Lord in the midst of two or three, is not a mere promise, but is stated as a divine fact, depending upon what He is in incarnation, Emmanuel, "God with us." Such is His divinely-given name (Matt. 1:23). His closing word is, "I am with you" (Matt. 28:20). Two of the gospels were written to unfold this blessed truth: Mark,* referring more especially to His ways; John, to the mystery of His Person; Matthew establishes the fact.** Both chapter 18:20, and 28:20, are in the present tense. The former states it in connection with the constitution of the Church, and chapter 28 adds the assurance that it is during the whole of the present "age."

{*In Mark, we meet continually with the statement that He was with them, and they with Him; e.g. 3:14; 4:36; 9:8.

** Emmanuel is His name, as expressed by those gathered around Him, "God with us." "I with you" is the same truth, expressed by Himself, in the midst of those so gathered. He says, "I AM." … It is what He is, in His own Person.}

We may add that the first twelve chapters of John's gospel unfold the effect of the presence of the Lord Jesus on earth, the Word become flesh, dwelling among us, "full of grace and truth." The following five chapters show how that is made good for our souls by the Holy Ghost during His absence.

What then is the secret for abiding in the love of Jesus? He has said that it is keeping His commandments; and these are given to those whom He deigns to call "friends"! It is only to one in whom you have implicit confidence that you would venture to impart the secrets of your own heart: not many such are to be found on earth. But the Lord says He has kept back nothing of all that He heard from the Father. To keep His commandments is, in result, to abide in His love, and enter into the communion of the Son in His perfect obedience to the Father's will.

The disciples did not at the time apprehend this communion, nor even the bare fact that Jesus had come from the FATHER and was returning to Him. Their thoughts do not rise above the divine origin of His mission, even as it was said of John, "sent from God." (See chapter 16:30). The revelation of the Father's name escaped them, and hence the depth of the Sons love, of which the cross was the proof (chapter 14:31). The Spirit, when He came, made it all plain; and now, through obedience, we too shall find the reality of communion with the Son, and of abiding in His love.

* * *

Let us now turn to 1 Cor. 9:23, noting that all coming after the word "that" is a direct communication from the Lord in glory, to Paul. It cannot therefore be considered as a comment on a quotation from the gospels. It was given doubtless before the gospels were written.

"The Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread." What is there in those words for your soul and mine? Who took the bread? and what was He thinking of in doing it? It was "the same night in which He was betrayed." He was then and there, Himself, in their midst, to take the bread.

On "that night," knowing all that was before Him, He gave thanks, broke it, and said to them, "This is my body, given for you." Is there any difficulty in understanding what that bread meant? What could it be but Christ Himself personally in death?

And so with the cup "after the supper," who could hesitate as to what that cup set forth? He Himself says, "In my blood." It is not the blood in the body but apart, and separated from it, i.e., in death, all of which is denied by the so-called "sacrifice of the mass."

When the Reformers were gathered* to discuss this, for them, momentous question as to the significance of the elements, and Luther, in order to "strengthen his own faith," in maintaining his thesis against Zwingle, wrote on the velvet cloth, in Latin, the words translated "this is my body," —what was it that he, as also the others, forgot? Was it not this fundamental truth, already set forth in Psalm 22:22, as a consequence of Christ's resurrection, namely, His presence in their midst? Incredible as it may now appear to us, they forgot that Jesus was there, in the midst of His disciples, to give them the bread, when He said, "Take, eat, this is my body." Had they insisted on that simple fact, their difficulties would have vanished at once.

{*At Marburg, in the castle of Philip, landgrave of Hesse, on 2nd October, 1529.}

It is sad, alas! to have to record that the very first thing that was lost in the church's history (together with the true sense of a present relationship with the Father, revealed by Jesus risen), was the truth of the Lord's presence with His own, gathered to His name on the earth. Ministerialism displaced it, as the Epistle to the Galatians proves. Those to whom Paul had first preached the gospel, listened readily to Judaising teachers, clung to ordinances, and forgot Christ.

But the artifices of the enemy have not ceased. Many, alas, in the present day, preoccupied with the idea that the unbroken loaf is an emblem of the "church," forget that it must needs be broken before it can be partaken of. We read that when He had given thanks, "He brake it." He gave it to them, not whole, but broken. Evidently, then, it signifies His death,— Himself in death, and nothing but Himself.

Think of the loss to the soul, when Christ gets displaced, in order that satisfaction may be found in contemplating the mystical "Body"! Could there have been such a thought presented by the Lord to His disciples on that night on which He was betrayed, and previously to His having gone through that death, without which the church could not even exist? Note again what is said in chapter 10:16: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ. The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Does that refer to the mystical Christ, as if the "blood" were the blood of the church, or as if "the body" here implied the church? No true believer could entertain the thought for an instant. Are we not shut up to the thought that the body of Christ "given for us" is His own personal (not mystical) body? whereas the act which testifies practically to the unity of the mystical body ("the church," Eph. 1:21), is that performed by each one gathered, in partaking of an already broken loaf. This reason is stated in verse 17, "For we are all partakers of that one bread.

A further explanation follows, or borrowed from the well-known rites of the Levitical sacrifices, "Are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?" That is, each and all having part with Christ on the same ground, and in the same way, are they not all shown in the act to be members one of another?

We have thus a practical representation of the church in its entirety, extending beyond those who are for the time being actually and visibly gathered together "into one place." The "body" includes every christian throughout the length and breadth of this world, each and all united to Christ by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven at Pentecost. (Compare 1 Cor. 1:2, with 12:12).

In this way, the act of partaking of the one loaf sets forth the existence of the mystical body of Christ, and the identification of ourselves with Him, and with one another. The loaf, when partaken of, is already broken, the fragments being meant to express the Lord's death, and that it is only through His death that we can have any part with Him in life. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (John 12:24). By the ordinance, we show "His death," until He come. If you lose the sense of His death, every thought is falsified as to the signification of the blessed ordinance in which He is brought so near to our souls. For the apostle, Christ was everything. He could say, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."

On the other hand, in feeding upon His death, let us not lose sight of His presence in the midst, and the communion which flows from it, in "the unity of the Spirit," lest our worship should degenerate and fail in its most characteristic feature.

The secret of communion, as well as its living power, is that it is with Himself, and yet of such an order that the least instructed saint, who is truly subject to scripture, may have his full part in it. Each one can say with the psalmist of old, "My cup runneth over." The sense of the Lord's presence induces worship, as we find twice recorded in Matthew 28, first in the case of the women, and afterwards when "the eleven disciples" saw the Lord in the appointed place in Galilee. Gathered around Himself in a worshipping spirit, we are carried on to the moment when worship will be perfect around the Lamb in glory (Rev. 5:9-10); and that is forestalled now by the power of the Holy Ghost.

That communion, in its full character, follows upon worship, according to the principles of sovereign grace, the last verse of Numbers 7 clearly shows.