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The Last (Divinely Sanctioned) Passover, the First Lord’s Supper: S. Lewis Johnson on 1 Corinthians 11

June 17, 2013

Continuing through S. Lewis Johnson’s 1 Corinthians series, chapter 11 includes a mini-series, exploring the depth of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.  In a set of five messages (messages 27 through 31)  Dr. Johnson covers the Passover (as a type of Christ the final Passover Lamb); the Particular Redemption extent of the atonement (“Limited Atonement”); addresses the error of the Catholic Church while describing the variations of meaning (“this is my body”) within different Protestant groups; and notes the three components of the early church meeting.

Parallels between the Passover and The Lord’s Supper

  • Both are memorials for deliverance
  • Both are anticipations of future blessing:  Israel delivered from Egypt in order to be brought into the promised land.  The church of Jesus Christ: we in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper anticipate also the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ and the entrance and the fullness of the blessings that our ours by redemption. (1 Cor. 11:26  “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He come.”
  • Both were/are highlights of corporate worship: Israel’s yearly celebration of the Passover/  In the Christian Church, the Lord’s Supper is the highlight of worship.

The Passover service included four cups.  It is likely that the Lord used the third cup — the “cup of blessing”  (reference 1 Cor. 10:16).

Limited Atonement

I don’t like the term ‘limited’ because it seems to suggest that the grace of God is not full and great and sufficient for all.  It is sufficient for all.  Any believing person who comes to the Lord God will be received by Him.  It’s sufficient for all.  And I don’t know the elect.  The elect make themselves known by the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.  If I must answer the question, yes I believe in a limited atonement; but I would like to tell you Arminians who don’t understand the grace of God, that you do, too.

So you have plastered us with the term “limited,” but I say to you, your atonement is limited also, because your atonement, which you say is intended for everybody, doesn’t save everybody.  In other words, it is not all powerful.  My atonement that I celebrate is all powerful.  It saves everyone intended by the Lord God in Heaven.   So I like that atonement.  I love its power.  It celebrates the great power of our God in Heaven.

I do not want a God who is frustrated in his purposes.  I do not want a God who cannot do what he intended to do.   And so I must say, yes, my atonement is limited, but it is sufficient for all.

As SLJ notes, most evangelicals see the Lord’s Supper as symbolic and a memorial, the Zwingli view.  Dr. Johnson himself aligned more with John Calvin’s view: I tend myself to feel that there is something in what John Calvin says.  That is, when we partake of the elements, there is a ministry from the Lord Jesus himself that we receive by virtue of His spiritual presence in our meetings and the ministry of Himself to us as we partake of the elements. 

As referenced in Acts 2:42, the early church meeting had three parts: teaching (the apostles’ teaching), fellowship and the breaking of bread (the Lord’s Supper), and prayer.

  1. June 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Great parallel that S. Lewis Johnson points out! I didn’t know that Johnson held more to Calvin’s view of the Lord’s Supper than the memorial view. Interesting

    • June 17, 2013 at 6:28 pm

      Yes, he mentioned his feeling about the importance of the Lord’s Supper occasionally in other series as the topic would come up (as in the gospel of Matthew & gospel of John series), but this was a much more in-depth treatment (5 messages). Believers Chapel observes it every Sunday evening, and in this series SLJ quoted several saints of old, Calvin, Spurgeon and others, who had said it should be observed weekly. I don’t know anyone else (modern day) that holds more to Calvin’s view; do you — or is your view the more common one, the memorial view?

      • June 17, 2013 at 8:24 pm

        I hold more to a Memorial view; maybe I have not studied enough but I was under the impression that most Conservative hold to Calvin’s view?

      • June 18, 2013 at 8:07 am

        I haven’t studied it that much outside of this series Johnson did (and his comments elsewhere). His impression (1994) was that most evangelicals (conservative, not the liberals) just see it as a memorial. I just looked through John MacArthur’s transcripts on the topic, and it appears he (and probably all associated) take the more standard evangelical view that it’s a memorial.

  2. Neil Schoch
    June 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Apart from the fact that an Omnipotent God can never be limited, and I have said enough previously about this, it is true that when we meet for the Lord’s Supper and also any time we come to praise and worship our dear Lord, there is the aspect of a ministry to us, even though He is our Supreme Object.
    In Ephesians 5:18-21 it speaks of “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” even though it is “to the Lord.”
    Also in Colossians 3:16-17 it speaks of “admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” even though it is all directed “to the Lord.”
    All our praise and worship must ascend in the directional flow upward to the Lord but He ensures that as we do so we are also ministered to on the horizontal level as our souls and spirits are uplifted and encouraged.
    The meaning of the word “admonish” can range from “encouragement” to a “mild rebuke.”
    As to the latter – many times over the years I have been present when the words of the hymn “All to Jesus I surrender” are sung, and I have had to stop and go to the Lord in repentance before I could truly sing this great hymn.
    But above all else, the breaking of bread and remembrance of the Lord, even though it is a memorial, will encourage and uplift all of God’s people.
    May we never neglect to do this.

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