Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Antioch - Canon 2

All who enter the church of God and hear the Holy Scriptures, but do not communicate with the people in prayers, or who turn away, by reason of some disorder, from the holy partaking of the Eucharist, are to be cast out of the Church, until, after they shall have made confession, and having brought forth the fruits of penance, and made earnest entreaty, they shall have obtained forgiveness; and it is unlawful to communicate with excommunicated persons, or to assemble in private houses and pray with those who do not pray in the Church; or to receive in one Church those who do not assemble with another Church.  And, if any one of the bishops, presbyters, or deacons, or any one in the Canon shall be found communicating with excommunicated persons, let him also be excommunicated, as one who brings confusion on the order of the Church.

This canon dealt with those who would go to participate in the assembly of the church but leave for no reason before the Lord's Supper was shared.  While some today might consider this much ado about nothing, the early church considered the Lord's Supper to be paramount for the assembly of God's people.  Remembering the Lord was a unique privilege given only to an elect company (i.e. believers).  To disregard this was tantamount to holding Christ in contempt (Heb 6:4-6).  With this in mind, we can understand the severe action taken to depose leaders and cast any who held or taught this out of fellowship.

Should the Lord's Supper have that same status today?  Absolutely.  This has been trivialized in almost every part of Protestantism.  What once was a grand and necessary part of communal life became an afterthought.  Part of the downgrade would stem from the theological shift from sacramental to memorial.  Another factor would be rote without reason.  No longer being a means of grace with actual or perceived active work of God through the elements nor emblems used to reflect on the greatest of sacrifices for the most undeserving, the trend is to consider a work once completed but relegating God to a passive position: he is an observer rather than a participant.  The thought process in the local church, though not affirmed publicly, becomes one of performing a periodic duty to complete the task list for that Sunday morning.

The problem is not the act of remembrance, which we are commanded to do (1 Cor 11:23-26).  Rather the issue is falling short in who and what we remember.  At this point the reader may be thinking, "But we remember that Jesus died on the cross for our sins."  That is true enough, but if one stops there, the grandeur of the gospel is missed.  First, consider the person of Christ.  The one agonizing prior to and while on the cross is the Lord of glory, sovereign and creator over all things, who willingly set aside that glory for a time in order to be made like his brethren.  After rising victorious over death and the grave because our justification, he ascended where he is seated at the right hand of the majesty on high, having received a name above every name.  This same one will return in righteousness and judgment upon the earth.  Second, consider the work.  In his incarnation, God took on himself humanity that he might walk among his own to call to repentance, disciple those who would later go out, and willing suffer and die in our stead.  He took captivity captive, gave gifts to men, and now is before the throne ever living to make intercession for us.

How is the situation remedied, then?  The secret is in meditating on the person and work of Christ and the fullness of grace and mercy bestowed on those who confess him.  King David often took time to meditate on God's revelation of himself through his word and nature.  How much more we have the fullness of that revelation in the Lord Jesus being manifest to us and the Holy Spirit abiding and teaching if we simply had ears to hear.  The trick is not so much getting into a spiritual state of mind to think on the Savior but thinking on what is revealed of the Savior and his work in you for your sin and his glory.  The spiritual state of mind will surely follow.

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