We have the historic witness of the Agape, or Love Feast, and the breaking of bread in the early church. In this sermon, Brother Curt Wagoner speaks of three aspects: “the encounter of the suffering Christ,” “the encounter of the shared Communion,” and “the encounter of salvational confidence.” The Lord’s Supper unites believers on a common ground in remembrance of Christ’s death. It is because of the confidence we possess in salvation through Jesus Christ that we can break bread together without condemnation.
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Opening prayer by Finny Kuruvilla:
Father, we thank you for this opportunity that we have to hear your Word. We ask that you would use Brother Curt mightily. May the passion that he has for you radiate through his Words. May it cut us to the heart, and may we be shaped according to the power of your Word at work through your Holy Spirit. We ask that we would all be attentive. We ask that you would give Brother Curt clear words to speak, and we look forward to how we’re going to be changed as a result of this message. Pray all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Message by Curt Wagoner:
Amen. Thank you.
I want to invite you to turn again to Acts chapter 2. And let’s read these verses that have been covered multiple times already this weekend beginning in verse 42:
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
By now, those are very familiar verses to us.
And the title of the message this evening is “Encountering Christ in the Breaking of Bread.” We have two references in these few verses to the breaking of bread. We have the reference in verse 42, which says “and in breaking of bread” and we have the reference in 46, verse 46 which said “and breaking bread from house to house did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.”
I ask you tonight: Do you think that verse 42 and verse 46 are speaking precisely about the same thing?
I pondered that and I wondered, “Is the same thing in view in verse 46 that’s in verse 42?”
There seems to be a bit difference in emphases and these two verses. Verse 42 speaks about the harmony that existed among the disciples, and verse 46 speaks about the fact that as they were together, they were going from house to house. One place it’s emphasizing the harmony, the other place it’s emphasizing the “house to house” experience.
When we speak about breaking bread, I’m just going to think about how we use it in our vernacular.
When we speak about breaking of bread, we do that with different senses. It’s sometimes used, this expression “breaking bread,” to simply signify fellowship, especially spiritual fellowship.
Sometimes we use the expression “breaking of bread” in the sense of sharing a meal together.
And sometimes we use these the expression “breaking of bread” as we speak about the fact that when God’s people come together and commemorate the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, we break the bread of Communion to each other.
“Encountering Christ in the Breaking of Bread.” I want to just emphasize that the breaking of bread launches us back into an encounter that Jesus had with his disciples. I speak about the evening in the upper room when Jesus gathered the 12 together, and in that setting they broke bread together. Or in a more sense, Jesus broke bread to them.
I want to just review those events for a little bit this evening to kind of give us some basis, some Scriptural basis as we think about “Encountering Christ in the Breaking of Bread.
There can be no question but what Jesus intended that there will be a meal partaking of in the upper room. You’ll recall that he had sent two of his disciples, and he had told them to go into the city. There they were to meet a man bearing a pitcher of water. Matthew 26 verse 46, I think is the Scriptural reference. And he said, you speak to him, speak to the goodman of the house, and you tell him that the master hath need. And that man will have a large upper room furnished and made ready for the Passover.
And so the Bible says that the disciples those, two disciples did as Jesus said. And a very concise phraseology, it says they made ready the Passover. They made ready for the Passover in the upper room.
When Jesus gathered his disciples together in that setting, however, it would have been about 24 hours prior to the time of partaking of the Passover meal. Jesus’ death on the cross at the hour he expired would have been at the hour the Passover lambs were slain. Careful examination of scripture gives us this understanding.
As we read the accounts of the synoptics especially and also John, but as we read the Gospel accounts of the events that took place in the upper room, we began to gain some insight that the meal that was for partaken there was not actually the Jewish Passover. The Passover have been prepared, the ingredients were there, but Jesus in particular of that meal was partaking of something other than the Passover.
I can think of Scriptures like John 13:1, where the Bible says, “Now before the Feast of the Passover…” and it describes Jesus in the upper room. Or the Scripture in John 13 verse 29, “…as Jesus had dipped the sup and had given it to Judas and he had left the room, the remaining eleven disciples, apostles, supposed that Judas had left the room because he had gone to purchase those things they had need of against the feast” indicating the Feast of the Passover was yet future at that moment. Or you can think about passages like John 18:28 the describes how that the Jewish leaders did not want to enter in because they did not want to become defiled ahead of the feast. Those are only three Scriptural citations that emphasized to us that the meal that Jesus partook of in the upper room that evening was not the Jewish Passover.
As Jesus partook of this meal with his disciples, with the apostles, partaking of that meal, the Bible says, at the end of the meal “Jesus took the bread and the cup and he gave to those disciples.” Matthew 26 verses 26 and 27 says as they were eating, Jesus took bread. Look 22:20 says that a bit clearer and in that passage it says after the expression about the partaking of bread “Likewise also the cup after supper.” So the bread and the cup that evening were partaken of after the meal, after supper. In other words, the supper was eaten prior to the bread and cup.
There’s an understanding that’s so many people overlook, fail to acknowledge, and that is that there was a fellowship meal there in the upper room that evening. In fact, as you read the accounts of the early church, you’ll find that the fellowship meal was kept in the early church for the first few centuries of the Christian era, and it was finally abolished because of excesses, I believe, at the Council of Carthage. You can look up that citation that reference to be sure.
This meal was referred to as the Agape. It was sometimes referred to as the Love Feast, the meal partaken of by the church as they met together. Peter makes reference to this in Second Peter chapter 2 verse 13, and he speaks about those who were assembled with the church and he says “Spots they are and blemishes in your feasts.” That’s Second Peter chapter 2 verse 13. Jude makes reference to this in the 12th verse of his epistle when he speaks about those individuals, those unbelieving individuals who are “spots in your feasts of charity.” Paul makes reference to this. First Corinthians chapter 11 verse 20 and he speaks about the meal that the Corinthian church was keeping, though with great deal of excess, and he speaks about it as being the Lord’s Supper.
And so we have the witness of the Apostle Peter. We have the witness of the Apostle Paul. We have the witness of Jude. We have the historic practice of the early church indicating that the Agape or the Love Feast was a meal that was kept when the church came together, the apostolic church, and their breaking of bread.
As I examine this passage in Acts chapter 2 verses 42 through 47, but especially verses 42 and 46, I really think that there’s not a great deal of difference in emphasis.
There was a fellowship meal that I think is in view in verse 42, verse 46 and there was the commemoration of the suffering Savior that I believe is in view in verse 42.
As you look at all of the Scripture accounts, the New Testament accounts about the breaking of bread, most of them – this is not exclusively true – but most of them point clearly to the commemoration of the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus as the church comes together, breaks bread, and shares the cup of Communion.
And so tonight, we’re going to look at Encountering Christ in the Breaking of Bread and we’re going to think about it in this sense of the Communion, the time when the church comes together and breaks bread and shares the cup of Communion.
I’m going to turn to a passage of Scripture in First Corinthians chapter 11, and I want to read a few verses there to give us some basis for some comments as we think about the encounter of the suffering Christ.
I’m going to break this message down into three different encounters. And the first of them is the encounter of the suffering Christ. Verse 23, First Corinthians chapter 11:
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
The encounter the suffering Christ is that you and I, as we break bread together, as we encounter Christ in the breaking of bread we would discern the Lord’s body. We would discern what Christ has done for us. The Lord Jesus, the suffering Christ who died at Calvary to provide redemption for our sins. The encounter the suffering Christ. You’ll notice in those few verses, in verse 24 that Jesus gives a clear command, and he says, “Eat.” It’s written by the Apostle Paul. But Paul is quoting Jesus and he says that Jesus said, “Take, eat” a clear command to eat.
You’ll notice in verses 24 and 25 that this eating or this breaking of bread and partaking of bread was to be done with a specific focus. It was to be done in remembrance of him. Jesus said in verse 24,
This do in remembrance of me,
and verse 25
After the same manner also, he took the cup when he had supped saying this cup is the New Testament in my blood this do ye as oft as ye drink it in remembrance of me.
It’s always to be in remembrance of Jesus, “In remembrance of me,” Jesus said.
This breaking of bread, the encounter of the suffering Christ, is especially clear in verse 26 of First Corinthians 11 when he says, the Apostle,
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you do show the Lord’s death till he come
is to portray, to show, the death of Christ and his to be perpetuated until the Lord returns in the clouds of glory. “Till I come,” he said. Encountering the suffering of Christ.
And finally as we think about this passage in 1st Corinthians 11, you’ll notice that it’s to be done with sobriety and reverence. Again beginning in verse 27, sobriety and reverence.
Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily…
without sobriety, without reverence, irreverently, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord
… but let a man examine himself.
Look within, consider the faith,
and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup, for he that eateth and drinketh unworthily (irreverently) eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
Jesus commanded it. “Eat it,” he says. And he told us how to eat it, “in remembrance of him.” And he told us as we did so we would encounter the suffering Christ, and he told us that it must be done with sobriety and reverence.
This is an institution of a memorial of Jesus’ suffering as we break bread together.
You know, God has a variety of ways of impressing our hearts and connecting with our spirits, and we’re physical individuals, and we live in a physical world, and one of ways that God uses to speak to us, to fellowship with us, to commune with us, is that he uses our senses. And it’s such a blessing that God works this way. The sense of hearing is important. We’ve been hearing a lot of really good Bible-based teaching this weekend, and we’re going to hear some more. The sense of hearing is important. The Apostle says in Romans 10:14, he says how shall they hear except there be a preacher? He says,
How shall they hear without a preacher?
We gain. We are blessed. We grow. We encounter Christ as a result of hearing, the sense of hearing. But as we break bread together, as we share that experience, do you know that God uses all five of our senses? We are spoken to, we hear, of course. But we also see. We look at that wafer, that piece of bread, and we see what it is. We touch it. We taste it. We even smell it. God uses all five of our senses to impress the reality of the encounter the suffering Christ as we break the bread of Communion together. The five senses, you know.
We heard a message this afternoon about “Encountering Christ in the Apostles’ Doctrine.” There’s an interesting passage in the book of Hebrews. At the last verse of Hebrews chapter 5 verse 14, says something like this,
By reason of use our senses are exercised to discern both good and evil.
And the very next verse, which is the first verse of chapter six, actually speaks about the apostles’ doctrine. And so this idea of God using our senses to encounter Christ in the apostles’ doctrine is Scriptural. This is part of the apostles’ doctrine to exercise our senses. The encounter of the suffering Christ.
I don’t suppose I need to tell you tonight that Jesus suffered intensely when he went to the cross. This suffering of Christ at Calvary was a very intense degree of suffering. He suffered both in body and in soul. The Bible says in Isaiah 52 verse 11 that “his visage was so marred more than any man.” This was not a common crucifixion. Crucifixion was a terrible thing. It was a horrible death, but the prophet says that his message concerning Jesus was so marred more than any man.
I want to take you back to the prophet Isaiah and I want to turn instead of chapter 52 to chapter 53, and I want you to notice something that the prophet is very clear about in this passage of Scripture. It’s a beautiful, beautiful passage. Some folks have referred to it as the Gospel of Isaiah. There can be no doubt that it’s betraying the coming Messiah, the suffering Messiah, beginning with about verse 13 of chapter 52.
But as we think about the encounter of the suffering Christ, what Jesus experienced at Calvary was not only a suffering of the body, but it was a suffering of his very soul. Notice the last three verses of Isaiah Isaiah 53 which say thusly:
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him. He hath put him to grief. When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin. He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied. By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great and he shall divide the spoil with the strong because he hath poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors. And he bear the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Now, did you notice there in those three verses the references to the suffering soul of Jesus? Three times in three verses the Bible says here about the soul of Jesus, his innermost being, the soul of Jesus, the encounter of the suffering Christ. It says in verse 10 that his soul was made an offering. The offering of a soul. Jesus offered up his soul to his Heavenly Father.
In verse 11 it speaks about the travail of his soul. It wasn’t just travail of the body and travail of the mind, it was the travail of Jesus’ soul that is spoken of here. Verse 12 says “He hath poured out his soul.” The outpouring of the soul. This is the doctrine of the kenosis, the emptying of Christ, as he poured out his soul unto death. And so we have the clear statements in Isaiah 53 about the offering of his soul, the travail of his soul, and the outpouring of his soul. The encounter of the suffering Christ.
This is not just – this encounter with the suffering Christ, and these passages that I’ve just read tonight are not intended for us to only think about what Jesus did for us.
We are to encounter him. Encounter him. And this is perhaps portrayed as clearly as anywhere in the words of the Apostle Paul when he writes in Philippians chapter 3, verses 10 and 11, and he says,
That I may know him and the power of his suffering, the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. The Fellowship of his sufferings. The encounter of the suffering Christ.
We must be willing to suffer, dear ones tonight, brother and sister, old and young alike. We must be willing to suffer with Jesus. The encounter of the suffering Christ. This is the doctrine of the Apostles, being willing to suffer with Christ.
This was the call of the Lord himself. Many, many times he spoke of this truth. I think about a time as the apostles were returning from the first missionary journey. The Bible says in Acts, chapter 14 verse 21,
When they had taught many they returned again to Lystra and to Iconium and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that with much tribulation we must enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
You can’t get there any other way, it doesn’t sound like, as you read that passage. If you’re going to be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven, you’ve got to be willing, you’ve got to be forewarned, and fore-equipped to be willing to suffer with Jesus. The encounter the suffering Christ. And there are thousands, and tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands of individuals who are experiencing this in reality today around the globe. The encounter of the suffering Christ. Willing to suffer, willing to die for him.
Well, that’s one of the primary points that I wanted to make tonight, the encounter the suffering Christ.
I want to also speak about the encounter of the shared Communion. I spoke about the fact that the breaking of bread, I believe, is pointing primarily to the commemoration of the Communion. And so let’s think a little while about the encounter of the shared Communion.
We may have time to do this. I want to turn back to the first chapter of Acts, and I just want to emphasize something that’s already been stated, but I want to add my voice as a voice of emphasis to this, this weekend as we worship together. And that is in the first part of the Book of the Acts, there is a continuing, ongoing reference to the fact that the apostolic church was frequently together, and they were with one accord. Notice these references:
- Acts chapter 1, verse 4, “being assembled together with them”
- verse 6, Acts 1, “when they therefore their come together”
- Acts 1, verse 15, “the number of names together were about a hundred and twenty”
- Acts chapter 2, verse 1, “when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place”
- this passage in Acts 2, verse 44, “all that believed were together”
- verse 46, “continuing daily with one accord”
- chapter 3, verse 1, “Peter and John went up together”
- verse 11, chapter 3, “all the people ran together”
I’m probably not referring to all the “together” and “one accord” statements in these passages, in these chapters.
- verse 31 of chapter 4, “they were assembled together”
- verse 32, “they were of one heart and one soul”
- chapter 5, verse 12, “they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch”
I think that’s enough references in these five chapters to illustrate to us tonight that the apostolic church, it was important to them to have this sharing experience of being together and being of one accord.
Frequently in these five chapters you’ll find that the church was coming to a common place. You’ll find that they had a common purpose. You’ll find they had common possessions. These were just the experiences of the apostolic church, a common place, a common purpose, and common possessions. The encounter the shared Communion.
It’s often times been said that Communion signifies a common union. Now that expression is so true Biblically. However, I’m not saying tonight that the word Communion means common union. I’m just saying that the way Communion is used in Scripture, in the New Testament Scripture, speaks about the fact that Communion means to have common union. It takes more than one, more than one individual to have this encounter of the shared Communion.
The breaking of bread is to be done on a common level. All the people of God come together, and they break bread together, just a common level. None exalted, lifted up above the other. Common level.
First John chapter 3, verse 17. John is not speaking about the breaking of bread precisely in this passage, but he speaks about the necessity for the commonality or the common level among the church. He says this:
But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
The common union, the common level, the common experiences of life. We cannot shut up our bowels of compassion. We’ve got to look at our brother. Look at our sister as we see the need. We want to share with them that which God has given to us. The encounter the shared Communion.
The Lord’s table is a great equalizer, a great equalizer. A significant portion of the Earth’s population is still enshackled by the caste system, and higher caste will not eat with lower caste. In those kinds of settings, the Lord’s table takes all of that away. There is no caste system when the people of God come together. This is a wonderful blessing when those who esteemed to be more important, and those who are considered to be less important, they come together on one level and they encounter the shared Communion.
There are, I suppose to all of us, certain expressions in Scripture that just really resonate with us. And I suppose that you have Scriptures or expressions that resonate with you, that that if I were to look at them, they would not connect quite so closely with me. But one of those expressions in Scripture that just resonates with my spirit and my soul is the expression of a very simple English word, the word “all.” “All.”
I speak about the great equalizer. I speaking about the encounter the shared Communion. The “all” statements of Scripture – and I’m going to use a word here that that I use with caution, because it’s used in a variety of ways, but I but I’m going to use it tonight in this sense and the word is “inclusive,” by the way. The word is “inclusive,” and what I’m talking about when I speak about the word inclusive in this setting tonight is the fact that the “all” expressions include each of us.
Think about passages of Scripture like this: Romans 3:23,
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Or second Corinthians chapter 5, verse 15 when the Bible says,
Christ died for all.
Or think about 2nd Peter chapter 3, verse 9, what Peter says,
God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Or first Timothy chapter 2, verse 4, where Paul says that,
God would have all men to be saved.
Or this passage the second Corinthians chapter 9, verse 8, and I love this passage. “God is able.” Do we doubt that tonight?
God is able to make all grace abound toward you that ye always having all sufficiency in all things.
Oh, I love that passage!
That ye always having all sufficiency in all things. All sufficiency. All have sinned. Christ died for all. All are to repent. God wants all men to be saved. And God has provided all sufficiency for all of us. Everything we need. All sufficiency
The encounter of the shared Communion. The “all” statements. The inclusive “all” statements of Scripture.
That ye always having all sufficiency in all things may abound unto every good work.
is the way that verse finishes.
As we think about the encounter of the shared Communion, as we think about the privilege that we have to break bread with each other in our local church settings. That ye always having all sufficiency in all things would work together. Would work together. Abounding unto every good work.
The purpose of trials, and I’m not going to speak about this with a complete sense of understanding, but I’ve lived long enough in life to recognize that trials are a great equalizer. We push them back. We push back against them. We run from them if we can. We do not like trials. But dear ones this evening, trials and troubles and difficulties of life are a great equalizer. It’s when I have a trial that my brother steps up and blesses me. It’s when you have a trial that’s your brother steps up and blesses you, or your sister. Trials are great equalizer. Trials accomplish more, difficulties accomplished more in on lives than I suspect we will ever know this side of heaven. And when we get there, it really won’t matter anyway. But suffice it to say that trials are a great blessing.
I love this passage in Romans chapter 5, verse 3 through verse 5, where the Bible says this, the Apostle Paul. He says, “Tribulation worketh.” “Tribulation worketh.” Remember we’re abounding unto every good work. Tribulation worketh patience, and patience worketh, it worketh experience, and experience worketh, it worketh hope, and Paul says,
And hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us.
The love of God is she’d abroad in our hearts, dear once tonight as a result of trials. The Encounter of the shared Communion. The purpose of trials. The great equalizing effect and dynamic of the purpose of the encounter of the shared Communion and the purpose of trials.
The third part of the message that I’d like to speak some about tonight is the encounter of the salvational confidence. And that might be an interesting mixture of words, but let me just begin to talk about the salvational confidence that we have in Christ.
Remember that passage that we looked at, and referenced briefly just a few minutes ago in First Timothy chapter 2 verse 4 which speaks about how God would have all men to be saved. There’s another expression somewhat like this, but it’s a different pronoun that’s used and this is in Romans chapter 5 again, in verses 8 and 9 where the Bible says there that,
God commendeth his love toward us in that while were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
He died for us. Not just all, but he died for us; make it personal. He died for me. He died for you. Christ died for us. The encounter of the salvational confidence; Christ dying for us. And that passage goes on in Romans chapter 5 in verse 9 and it says this,
Much more then being now justified by his blood we shall be saved from wrath through him.
Confidence. Salvational confidence. We shall be saved from wrath through him. It shall happen. We shall be saved from wrath through him. Christ died not only for all, but he died for us.
The doctrine of assurance has one of the most precious doctrines in all of Scripture. Christian assurance, I’m speaking about. And this is referenced in a variety of passages. But let me just sight this one: Philippians chapter 1 verse 6 where Paul says as he writes to the church at Philippi, and he speaks about the confidence that he has in them. Remember, we’re looking at the encounter of the salvational confidence. Paul says this,
Being confident of this very thing that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it.
Make no mistake about it tonight. If God has his way, the good work that he has begun in your heart, in your life, he will perform it. He is faithful. It’s up to us whether or not that happens, but we can be confident in our God.
He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ.
The assurance – the doctrine of Christian assurance. Having this confidence, having the encounter of salvational confidence in no way implies that you and I have any room for boasting.
Paul says this later on in the book of Philippians in chapter 3 verse 3. He says concerning his own self, he says,
I have no confidence in the flesh.
I want to say tonight that I have no confidence in this flesh. And I think you do the same. We have no confidence in the flesh. Our confidence is of the One who created us. Our confidence is in the One who gave his Son to die for our sins. Our confidence is in the One who raised Jesus up from the grave. Our confidence is in the heavenly Father at whose right hand the blessed Lord Jesus sits even now interceding on our behalf. Oh, the intercessory presence of the blessed Lord Jesus at the right hand of the throne of God. No confidence in the flesh. No cause for boasting. You know, really, all we are – it doesn’t matter how many experiences we’ve had in life. It doesn’t matter how old we might be, it doesn’t matter how seasoned and weathered we might have become through the trials of life, we are simply earthen vessels.
I want to turn and ask you to turn with me to Second Corinthians chapter 4, and I want to read a few verses here about the earthen vessels, beginning in verse 7. Paul says this,
We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.
And I’m going to use my own translation here in these next couple of verses, but it says this, “We are pressured, but not distressed. We are perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted, but not deserted. Pummeled, but not destroyed.” It’s the p’s and d’s of the Christian experience.
The King James says,
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
As you think about the encounter of the salvational confidence, just think about the truths that the apostle is conveying to the church of Corinth. He says, I say it again: we are troubled on every side. We are pressured every side the troubles were coming at us, this side, this side, back and front, the top, the bottom. We are troubled on every side, the pressures of life. We are pressured, but not distressed. We are perplexed. As we think about it, as we ponder an encounter, we are perplexed, but we are not in despair. We are persecuted.
Jesus said there’s a blessing in that. The Beatitudes:
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad…
Not exceedingly. Exceeding glad.
For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Moving on past gladness. Exceeding glad. Persecuted, but not deserted. God will never forsake us.
I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.
The promise of Scripture is clear. Persecuted, but not deserted. Cast down. I picture in my mind a scene of two men in a boxing ring, and one is just pummeling the other. The one is cast down. He has been pummeled, but not destroyed. And that’s the way the enemy likes to do to us. He likes to beat us up, beat us down. So many times we are pummeled, but dear ones tonight, we’re still here. We’re not destroyed. Praise God for that!
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. The encounter of the salvational confidence.
The Scripture says concerning the apostles – that reference was made this morning to Acts chapter 4 verse 31, that when these individuals had had the encounter of the salvational confidence, the Bible says at the end of that verse, “They spake the word of God with boldness.” “They spake the word of God with boldness.”
We have the blessed privilege of encountering Jesus Christ. We have the blessed privilege of entering into the presence of God in the name of Jesus. And the Bible says that we’re to do that boldly. Hebrews chapter 4 verse 16.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
We come there with the desire to obtain mercy, but the Bible says when we get there, we receive much more than mercy. We receive grace from God, “that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We come boldly to the throne of grace.
We all have seasoning experiences of life, and I may be speaking to you and what you think are rather idealistic terms tonight as I speak about being bold for Christ. I’ve been seasoned a bit in life. I remember a time some years ago that I had stopped by a gas station one morning. I think I was going to get a cup of coffee or something of that sort, and I got the coffee and walked up to the counter to pay. As I did so I realized that the man in front of me was engaging in some banter with the clerk behind the counter. I don’t recall exactly what it was that he was that he was doing there. But before he left he said “Oh, I need…” and then I forget whether it was some lottery tickets or whether it was some tobacco products or whatever it was, and the clerk said, “Are you sure you want that?” He says “Oh, yes. I know I want that.” He said, “Everybody’s got to have at least one vice.” And he began to turn around towards me, and he looked at me and he said, “Is that right?” And I said, “No, it’s not right. You don’t have to have vices. And that man turned back to the clerk and he said, “I guess I asked the wrong person that time.”
And I thought about that, and I think he asked the right person, not because of who I am, but because the Word of God was on my tongue and I was quick to respond. I spake the Word of God with boldness, and you can do the very same thing. I never thought about it. It just came out the way it came out.
Speaking boldly for the name of Jesus. As I think about the standard, and as I think about the idealistic tone to what I’ve just shared, as I speak about the encounter of the salvational confidence, I want to speak to some of you in this assembly tonight that I suspect may be challenged by this teaching. I recognize that our constitutions vary, and I recognize that there are probably individuals here in this assembly who have a lack of assurance. Maybe you’re more of a timid nature. Maybe you would be described by the expression “wallflower” or something of that sort. I want to speak heart to heart to you tonight. If that’s you, I want to tell you that this man standing up here in front of this pulpit tonight is by nature a very timid individual. That’s my natural inclination – or, it was. I was so timid. You’ve heard the expression of being afraid of your own shadow. That’s just about the way I was. I didn’t want anybody to focus or rivet attention upon me. I remember as a young lad, adolescent, being so timid and so afraid that I was afraid to walk into a church building because I suspected that people would turn and look at me. That’s how afraid I was.
And that lingered; that continued. In fact, when I was about twenty years old, I had an uncle that was a minister of the Gospel; I shared that with a brother this afternoon. He was a minister of the Gospel, and he had a heart attack. He was recovering, and he was invited to an out-of-state preaching assignment, several states away actually. He talked to his doctor and his doctor said there was no problem with his heart and going to preach, but he wasn’t given the privilege to drive. And so this uncle asked me – I was unconverted about twenty years of age – he asked me if I’d be willing to drive him to this preaching assignment, appointment. And I said that I would do that. Now remember, I was about twenty years old, and we drove out there.
It was just fine, and spent a day or so ahead of the weekend. And then on Saturday morning, we made our way to the meeting house and we got there, and I just locked up. I froze. The fears just assailed me. And I was so afraid that I could not get out of the vehicle. I sat in that vehicle for the Saturday morning worship service. I sat in that vehicle for the Saturday afternoon worship service. I sat in that vehicle beshackled with fear for the Saturday evening service. The same thing happened on Sunday. I was too petrified, too afraid, too timid to get out of that vehicle and encounter individuals that I didn’t know, or even some that I perhaps did know. I was just afraid. That’s who I am naturally.
You might ask as I stand here tonight with not a quiver in my knee, and not an ounce of nervousness within me, you might ask, “What happened?” Well, I’ll tell you what happened. I had an encounter with Jesus Christ. When I became born again, I no longer had to pretend. I no longer had to protect the image. I could be who I was, and I’m not telling you that it went away immediately. I’m not speaking that way tonight. But I’m telling you things begin to change at that moment in my life. And it was when I was called to the ministry that God took away that fear. God took away that timidity. God took all of that away. And that’s the reason why I’m able to stand here and preach from this pulpit this evening.
You see, this is not my natural talent. This is something other than that. People use the two terms “talents” and “gifts” interchangeably sometimes, and I wish we would not do that. God has naturally talented each of us. He’s given you, brother and sister, old and young alike, he’s given you some natural talents. But God delights in giving spiritual giftings to his children. And that’s only an illustration of one of the ways in which God spiritually gifts the encounter of the salvational confidence.
Ephesians chapter 3 verse 12, Paul says,
In Christ Jesus our Lord, we have boldness and access with confidence into this grace, this faith wherein we stand.
In Christ Jesus our Lord, we have boldness and access with confidence.
The encounter of the salvational confidence. Jesus is a gracious Master. Jesus is a gentle Shepherd. Jesus is the One who sustains us in trials. Jesus is the One who sits there at the Father’s right hand interceding for us. Jesus is the One that we hoped, we intend, we hope – and I use that word “hope” in the sense of the Christian doctrine of assurance – that we intend, we hope, we have the assurance of meeting someday with open arms as we encounter Jesus in living reality in that great and glorious morning, that resurrection morning.
And so the encounter of Christ in the breaking of bread. The encounter of Christ in the breaking of bread.
They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread. And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added unto the church daily such as should be saved.
Isn’t that a wonderful expression, “Such as should be saved.” Who should be saved? Well, you should be saved. If you’re sitting here on these seats tonight in this tabernacle, and you’re not saved, you should be saved. The Lord’s adding to his church daily such as should be saved.
The encounter of Christ in the breaking of bread. We’ve looked at the encounter the suffering Christ. The encounter the shared Communion. The encounter the salvational confidence. All of these are encounters. All of these are portrayed to us through the breaking of bread. As we break that bread together, I just – I love the experience. As I sit there at the Lord’s Table, as my brother turns to me and he speaks words something like this, in our culture, our faith tradition, he will say: Beloved brother, this bread which we break is the body of Christ.” And I say, “Amen. The bread which we break is the body of Christ.”
Have you met Jesus? Have you really met Jesus? I don’t mean some casual brush of encountering Jesus. I mean meeting Jesus, really meeting Jesus. Have you met Jesus? Are you walking tonight in Holy Spirit power and victory. Is that characterizing your life that the Holy Spirit power is infilling you, and you’re living in victory in Christ?
“He causes us always to triumph in Christ,” the Bible says, if we allow him to do that. Are you living in Holy Spirit power and victory in Christ?
As I said earlier, I recognize that there’s a variety of circumstances, different constitutions, personalities, experiences in life. I didn’t think I would do this, but I just want to speak to those on these seats tonight who are not born again. It would be folly for me to look out on a vast throng of people like this and assume that all of you are born again. I want to speak to you tonight. I want to plead with you. I want to speak softly and gently with you, and yet I want to speak clearly and boldly to you. I want you to know and encounter Jesus Christ in a way that you’ve never experienced him before. I plead with you that you would allow Jesus and his Spirit to just speak to your heart and just touch you, to just rest, rest here, and let God speak to you.
If you knew this were your last day, I wonder what you’d do.
Could you look up and smile and say “Come, Lord, I welcome you!”
Or would you panic to and fro with painful haunting fear,
Afraid to stay, afraid to go, yet summoned to appear?
What of those shady things you’ve done, of gossip passed along,
Or obscene literature you’ve read, each secret sin and wrong.
Have you confessed each known sin, repented through and through,
Unbarred your heart and let Christ in. Have you been born anew?
Except a man be born again, he’s lost in endless night,
But Christ transforms the heart of man to see the heavenly light.
Are you transformed in heart and will? Is Christ your life today?
He’s calling now, is waiting still, but this may be the day.
Encountering Christ in the breaking of bread.
Finny Kuruvilla offers closing thoughts:
Thanks, brother Curt for that message. There were a few points that that struck me as you were speaking there. One of the points that I was eager to hear how you’re going to resolve that debate that’s existed in Acts 2 about “Is this about Communion?” “Is that about a meal,” and I think you did a great job of articulating that that’s really a false dichotomy, because the early Christians had a meal in the context of their Communion.
One of the things that you alluded to – the caste system. I was in India several years ago, and I was eating breakfast. And this was in a Christian setting, and there was a man who was standing there, and I said “Come eat with me. I’m eating breakfast.” He said, “No, no, no. I don’t want to do that.” And I kept asking him again and again. “Come, just come sit down and come talk.” And several times he refused, and so I decided to try to pull some seniority. So I asked my mom, “Tell him to come, make him sit down with me. She says, “You don’t understand, Finny.” And I said, “What is it?” She said, he’s from a different caste system.
And so I explored this a little bit more, and as it turns out in North India, there are literally thousands of people who will tolerate passing a plate of wafers or crackers, and little things of juice as their Communion, but they refuse to eat one with another because of the holdovers of the caste system. It’s actually very common in North India. And that’s because they’ve picked up this Western model of Communion, which is really divorced from the meal which, again, I think you did a great job of highlighting that. So I appreciate that story a lot.
So these are not merely academic exercises when we think about the nature of what Communion and the Lord’s Supper should be. You know, Michael Sattler in his preface to the Schleitheim Confession talks about how the early Anabaptist had meals consistently in the context of their Communion. This is something that, unfortunately, as more and more Protestant influence has come in to our circles that has fallen away. But I hope to whatever extent you have influence in your groups, you can be part of reviving that.
I would never have guessed that you were timid. I would never have guessed that you would have sat in the car waiting out of fear. Never would have crossed my mind, but what a tremendous story of transformation from encountering the Lord. And I sometimes think I do a fair bit of apologetics, and there’s a line that we use often which is that,
A man with an argument is no match for a man with an experience.
And it’s so true that when a person meets the Lord, there’s a new creation. And one of the things that I will urge you to do is (particularly in the context of your small groups), if you have not had that experience, if you don’t know what this was about, pray for that. And maybe Brother Curt would even – you could even talk to him, and he might spend some time praying with you as well. I think that’s something for all of us to seek after in addition to head knowledge. It’s a tremendous thing to meet the Lord directly through the breaking of bread, through prayer, through these experiences. So thank you brother Curt. There’s a lot of great challenges in that message; really appreciate that.