The Ordinances of the Lord's House

Portion of devotional study, Autumn Council, Grand Rapids, Michigan, October, 1946.

By M. L. ANDREASEN, General Field Secretary, General Conference

I. The Communion Service on Earth

At the time of the institution of the Lord's supper, Christ said, -"With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer : for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the king­dom of God shall come." Luke 22 :1 5-18. Mat­thew has Christ say, "I will not drink hence­forth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." Matt. 26:29.

This was said more than nineteen hundred years ago. This long Christ has waited for that celebration of the ordinances. Apparently the angels have no such service. At least Christ has not taken part with them if they have, for He says that He will not drink "of this fruit of the vine, until that day wizen I drink it new, with you in My Father's kingdom."

Christ was never greater than that night when He quietly arose "from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel where­with He was girded." John 13:4, 5. Christ had no inferiority complex. He knew "that the father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God." Verse 3. He was fully conscious of His di­vinity. He knew He was their Lord and Mas­ter. (Verse 14.) But with this full knowledge He arose to serve.

When He came to Peter to wash his feet, Peter burst out, "Thou shalt never wash my feet." Verse 8. By this time Peter had had time to do some thinking. To him, it was al­together unfitting for Christ thus to humiliate Himself. Christ was doing a servant's work, was belittling Himself. Hence, "Thou shalt never wash my feet." Peter would most cer­tainly never wash the feet of the others, and that Christ should thus lower Himself was too much for him.

"If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me." These words caused Peter to think. "No part with Me." No part with Christ? No part. No part in the supper to come? No part. No part in the kingdom? No part. This was get­ting serious. Was there a deeper meaning in what Christ was doing than appeared on the surface? There evidently must have been, for Christ had told Peter, "What I do thou know-eat not now." Verse 7. Peter thought he had a very clear idea of what Christ was doing. He was washing their feet—something He ought not to do.

Light began to dawn on Peter, and after hav­ing just exclaimed, "Thou shalt never wash my feet," he completely reversed himself and cried out, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my bands and my head." Verse 9.

Peter now saw the spiritual implication of Christ's words. Christ had said that he did not know what He was doing, "but thou shalt know hereafter." Verse 7. Evidently Christ had a higher cleansing in mind than merely a phys­ical one. There was evil in their hearts, and jealousy, envy, hatred. There was strife among them as to who should be the greatest. They were in no fit mood to sit at table with their Lord; they were not ready for the insti­tution of the holy communion, not ready to be participants in the blessings of the new testa­ment, not ready to enter into covenant with God. Their hearts must be cleansed, their lives purified, or they could never enter into true communion with God.

This preparatory work Jesus accomplished for them by the simple act of washing their feet. In wonder and amazement they saw Him kneeling before them, and gradually they be­gan to understand what He was doing. Peter was the first to see it, and in his joy cried out, "Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." But Jesus corrects his immature con­ception of the service by saying, "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but he is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all." Verse 10.

In baptism we go down into the water, and as by faith we partake in this beautiful and sig­nificant ordinance, the words spoken to Saul be­come applicable to us, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins." Acts 22 :16. Bap­tism, rightly administered, is a washing away of sins, a "washing of regeneration," of which in a certain sense it may be true that "baptism doth also now save us." Titus 3 :5; I Peter 3:21. Lest this last statement be misunder­stood, the apostle hastens to add that baptism as such does not save of itself, and that what counts is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God." I Peter 3 :2I. However, the going down into the water and the complete immersion of the body is symbolic of the abounding grace of God which cleanses from every sin. When the candidate arises from the watery grave, and by, in, and through faith has followed his Lord in baptism, he is a new crea­ture in Christ Jesus, "clean every whit." John 13 :to. The "old things have passed away ; be­hold, all things are become new." 2 Cor. 5:17. He stands before God as though he had never sinned. He even has a new name.

After baptism the Christian begins his life­work in earnest. He works, he strives, and makes constant progress. He finds that though Gbd has forgiven him his sins, he is not yet perfect. He comes short, he fails at times. He does not go back into sin again. With that he is done. But though he does not sink into the mire, he finds that as he walks life's pathway, his feet become dusty. This does not necessi­tate that he be baptized again, for "he that is washed [baptized] needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit." John 13 :10.

The ordinance of foot washing was instituted by Christ as a continuing, cleansing ordinance. The true Christian who in faith and humility follows the Lord's command may know that on each recurring occasion Christ's word becomes true of him—that he is clean every whit. This encourages him to believe that he may now sit at table with the Lord and receive the blessing which is there for him.

II. The Communion Service in Heaven

"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them." Luke 12:35-37.

These verses describe the occasion to which Jesus had reference when He said that He would not henceforth drink "of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." Matt. 26:29. As that day is nearing, it is of interest for us to consider these statements.

Christ admonishes us to be like "men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding." Those that thus wait are called blessed, and to them the promise is given that the Lord "shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them."

This is nothing less than the first communion service in the kingdom to come. For this oc­casion Christ has waited more than 1900 years. And now at last the day has come. His own are gathered together, and Christ is about to celebrate the ordinances with them as in Jeru­salem of old. It is for that day He has longed and waited with great desire. And now all things are ready.

Slowly Christ arises from the throne, girds Himself, and steps forth to serve. Amazement fills the hearts of all. Surely, Christ is not go­ing to serve! That is their part, not His. But He waves them back. They protest, "Let us serve !" But Christ gently insists, and at last He is able to "make them to sit down." Note the wording. It is most significant. One can almost hear the saints as they plead to be al­lowed to serve, and as they cast their crowns and themselves at His feet saying, "We are un­worthy; Thou art worthy," and remonstrate against the evident intention of Christ to serve. How full of meaning is the statement that Christ shall "make them to sit down." They feel ut­terly unworthy of the honor of having Christ serve them, but He at last makes them sit down, and He goes forth to serve.

Christ "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." Matt. 20:28. What He did on earth when He last met with the disciples as recorded in the thirteenth chapter of John, was an ex­ample for us. (John 13:15.) But it was more than an example. It was a revelation of the very inmost heart of God.

It was not only on earth that Christ came to serve. In heaven itself, after He has been crowned Lord of all His first act, at the first meeting with His own, is to serve. Let men who strive after high place, contemplate the scene as Christ stoops to serve. Never was Christ truly greater on earth than on the mem­orable occasion of the Lord's supper, when He took the place of a servant and humbled Him­self. Never is Christ greater in heaven than when He ministers to His saints.

With this beautiful example of service be­fore us, how can anyone absent himself from the communion service? Should anyone who here disdains this service be present at that first meeting in heaven, how would he feel as Christ, the Lord of heaven and earth, steps forth to serve ! Would he not wonder how he ever could have neglected this most beautiful and blessed ordinance?

What joy, what thrill, what exultation, will be ours on that glad day ! But also what feel­ing of unworthiness, of humility, of abounding grace. There will be no boasting, no feeling of superiority, no seeking after place or honor. All these things have passed away. Behold all things have become new.

With all the goals we have, would it not be worthwhile to add another : "Every member present at the communion service." This would be pleasing to God.

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By M. L. ANDREASEN, General Field Secretary, General Conference

January 1947

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