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Christian Questions with Their Answers, part one

Christian Questions with Their Answers,part one

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Third Sunday after Trinity
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Sun, Jun 20, 2021 

Today begins a sermon series on the Christian Questions with their Answers.  We read from page 329 in the hymnal, questions one through eight.  Please read the answers to the questions. …

First Corinthians eleven says, “Let a person examine himself and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Now, immediately we want to put rules on this.  How often do I have to examine myself?  How little do I have to do?

It is better to ask, Why examine yourself?  The Sacrament is not a small thing.  It is not merely a remembrance meal or a symbol.  It has power for forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.

As with every way that the Lord comes to us in His Gospel, the proper reception of this powerful meal requires faith: faith in the institution of Christ, faith that trusts in God alone as the Giver of grace, and faith that repents of sin.

We should not treat the Supper as if it is a fearful thing, that is, a thing that, if you do not do it exactly right at exactly the right moment every single time, then you will receive damnation.  We should receive it with joy to receive a wonderful gift from our beloved Lord.

Yet we should also come to this meal thoughtfully and carefully.  We examine ourselves to ensure that we have true faith to receive this Supper properly.

Does this mean we should have a particular ritual of examination every time we receive the Sacrament?  Paul does not say so.  He says, “examine himself,” but does not specify how often.  Yet it would not be a bad thing to examine yourself in a specific way, every time.  That would be healthy and good.  Our tendency is to be lazy and do as little as possible.  We don’t want to be legalists, after all!  But then we often end up doing very little, or nothing at all.

The intention is that we check up on ourselves to make sure that we are receiving properly, that we are believing properly, and view the Sacrament properly.  We ought to do that from time to time to make sure that we are not drifting into some false belief that can creep into any one of us, and so lead to unhealthy faith and even loss of faith, not to mention receiving the Sacrament to our judgment.

So Doctor Luther provided the “Christian Questions with Their Answers”.  This is a good guide for self-examination, but there are also others.

Notice that Luther begins by saying, “After confession and instruction in the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper,” etc.  Here Luther assumes that there is proper instruction before receiving the Supper.  This also assumes Closed Communion.

The questions for self examination first focus on our standing before God.  When we examine ourselves in light of the Ten Commandments, we find that we are sinners.  This is vitally important for the Supper.  A person who does not think that they are truly a sinner should not be coming to the Altar.

If you think you are only slightly sinful, then the Supper is not a big deal, or maybe you might view it for some other use in your life besides forgiveness.  To be sure, the Supper has other, secondary benefits.  But these all flow from the forgiveness of sins. 

For example, a person may not think they sin very much, but they like the happy feeling they get from taking the Lord’s Supper.  This creates all kinds of problems.  The Sacrament becomes for them a kind of pat on the back from God.  They may be encouraged to notice that other sinners are not as good as they are.  They may be reinforced in a faith that lacks any real repentance.  These are dangerous conditions for a person.

Forgiveness and repentance must be firmly at the center of the Supper as its main purpose and benefit.  So it is good not only to examine yourself to admit you are a sinner, but to review the commandments to see where you have sinned.  This takes honest introspection and noticing your sins.  This is hard work.  This kind of examination should go on throughout the Christian’s life.

When we see and believe how serious our sinfulness is, then we realize our intense need for the Sacrament.

We also should be sorry for our sins.  We should not shrug them off, as if to say, “Everybody sins.  To err is human.  No big deal.” No, we should feel deep and serious sorrow because we have not lived up to God’s expectations for us.  We commit bad sins, not just innocent mistakes or small idiosyncrasies in our behavior.  Our behavior is offensive to God, the holy One.

Of course, we can mentally comfort ourselves that in Christ, God does not see us as offensive.  Christ’s holy Blood covers up our sins from God’s sight.  But if all we do is remind ourselves, yet we do not receive the Gospel, then we push away the reassurance and strengthening that the Lord wants to give us.  We need these things found in the fellowship of the congregation, not least of all the Supper.

So repentance should draw you to the Sacrament.  You should feel genuinely grieved at your sins.  You should realize that you deserve God’s anger, as well as eternal death.

Since we cannot save ourselves, from these things, then we look to God for salvation.  We put our hope in the righteousness that He graciously gives us on account of His Son.  As Christ lived the perfect life and suffered for us sinners, and was raised on the third day, so we know that He is our sure and certain hope.  We trust in Him alone because He gave the only sacrifice of enough value to atone for the world’s sin.

His sacrifice is so infinitely valuable because Christ is true God.  The only-begotten Son is equal to the Father in majesty and power.  Yet He is also true Man, born of the Virgin, our Brother who is human in every way except for sin.

Yet there are not three Gods, but one God in three Persons.  How that exactly works we cannot say.  It is beyond our human wisdom.  We do not have to fully comprehend how God can be one yet three at the same time in order to receive the Supper.  But we do need to be able to confess this truth of Scripture.  Our faith that brings us to the Supper is set upon the truth of the Bible, and nothing else.  If we want to believe whatever we want, yet approach this Altar, then we conceal a serious lie.

I would urge you, if you believe something contrary to the Lutheran confession, which is Scripture alone, then come, let us work it out as brothers.  But if we sneak around in deception, each one believing what he wants, then we are no fellowship, and the Supper is a Meal of judgment for us.

But as we approach with one faith, then we gather as the true Body of Christ, His beloved Church, to receive His rich, wonderful gifts.

God continue to grant this for the sake of His Son, through His Spirit’s work.  Amen.



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