>The Lord’s Supper: A Sweet and Awful Place

>On this evening, here is a hymn that brings out the paradox of the gospel of Jesus Christ, especially how that paradox is displayed in the Lord’s Supper and felt by sinners who are invited to partake of it in joy.  This paradox is emphasized in the original wording of the first line found in #271 of the original Trinity Hymnal, “How sweet and awful is the place,” but has been lost in #469 of the revised version, which now reads, “How sweet and awesome is the place.”  Notice the paradox as it is brought out so clearly in the second and third stanzas:

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?

“Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

Now, there is no doubt that when the church gathers for fellowship with Christ at the Lord’s Table for the Lord’s Supper it is surely an awesome event.  Yet, we must never forget that it is also an awful place to be.  Yes, we meet Christ there to be fed from him and to see him in the bread and wine.  We are reminded of our fellowship with him in the new creation, and our fellowship with one another and all the members of the church throughout all time who will fellowship together in heaven for eternity.  But, we see all of this through the confrontation of the elements, as they show us a broken body and spilled blood.  That because of our sin, we are not invited because of anything good in us, and therefore, can only meet with the savior through his awful act of sacrifice and the ongoing awful act of eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

What a sweet privilege and honor to be invited to this feast and to meet with him who gave himself for his bride, and yet, what an awful means of coming to that table and that fellowship. 

Below is a beautiful rendition of this great hymn of the Lord’s Supper.  They are singing the words as they appear in the revised hymnal, so below the video, I have also included the words from the original.

How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?

“Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

We long to see thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing thy redeeming grace.

[HT: Gene Long]

Advertisements

>What is the Gospel?

>

What is the Gospel? This is the title of a new book that seeks to answer that question. In the “Introduction,” Gilbert notes that this writing project arose out of the growing confusion about the gospel and the lack of a unified answer. On pages 18-20, he provides a sample of different answers to illustrate the problem. So, in light of this new book and the time of year, I thought I might provide my answer to the question, “What is the gospel?”.
The gospel is the glorious good news that God has done everything necessary for sinful human beings to enjoy eternal fellowship with their holy creator. God created to have fellowship with humans. That communion was conditioned upon perfect, personal and perpetual obedience to God’s law, which would have been won through the obedience of Adam, the covenant representative of humanity. But humanity fell into an estate of sin and misery when their representative Adam, and they in him, rejected God’s law. By this rebellion, sinners inherited the curse of everlasting death instead of the blessing of eternal fellowship with God. But in his great mercy, God did not abandon his plan to have fellowship with humans and leave sinners to perish under the curse of death, so he sent a second representative to achieve for sinners what was lost in Adam, and what they could not achieve for themselves.
Jesus Christ, who was God, entered history, lived a life of perfect righteousness in perfect obedience to God’s law. He rendered unto God what Adam and all of humanity failed to do and by his obedience he merited the blessing of eternal fellowship with God. But not only did he complete the righteous requirement for fellowship, he also satisfied God’s just demands by taking upon himself the penalty owed by sinners because of their rebellion. Although perfectly righteous and just, Jesus took the curse of sin upon himself on the cross, where the just died in the place of unjust sinners. But Jesus did not remain dead in the grave, for he was raised three days later. As the righteous one who took sin upon himself, sin could not keep him down. He rose from the dead as a declaration of his righteousness and as a testimony that the Father received his sacrifice, and as the first born of the dead, he was the first to enter into the promised blessing of eternal fellowship with God in a new creation.
Jesus Christ obeyed where sinners could not obey, and he paid the penalty for sin that sinners owe. By his righteous life, sacrifice on the cross, and glorious resurrection from the grave unto life in the new creation, sinners can be forgiven of their rebellion, be accepted by God as having perfectly obeyed his law and enter in to eternal fellowship with God in the new creation. What is true of Christ becomes true of the sinner, but only when the sinner receives and rests upon Christ alone by the sole instrument of faith. By faith alone, a sinner can be declared just by God, forgiven of sins, adopted into his family, renewed in the image of God, share in his heavenly glory, and empowered to persevere in this new pilgrimage of faith, until faith gives way to sight upon entrance into the fullness of an eternity of perfect love and communion with the triune God and the church that never ends.

Calvin’s Summary of the Gospel

I am running behind on my Calvin reading, so I just started Book III Chapter II of the Institutes this morning. What a great way to start the morning! Calvin begins with a simple, three pronged summary of the gospel:

First, God lays down for us through the law what we should do; if we then fail in any part of it, that dreadful sentence of eternal death which it pronounces will rest upon us.

Secondly, it is not only hard, but above our strength and beyond all our abilities, to fulfill the law to the letter; thus, if we look to ourselves only, and ponder what condition we deserve, no trace of good hope will remain; but cast away by God, we shall lie under eternal death.

Thirdly, it has been explained that there is but one means of liberation that can rescue us from such miserable calamity: the appearance of Christ the Redeemer, through whose hand the Heavenly Father, pitying us out of his infinite goodness and mercy, will to help us; if, indeed, with firm faith we embrace this mercy and rest n it with steadfast hope.

Jesus Christ the Redeemer has appeared and he is the the one means of liberation. Are you resting in this Christ and his liberation today?