Several years ago there was a couple who was driving on a remote stretch of highway in Florida, where there had been a number of crimes committed in recent days. Unfortunately the couple had car trouble and got stranded, and for the longest time no one stopped to help them because of the reputation of the area — until one man finally did. He stopped to help, looked over their car, and got it going again. Although they offered, the man wouldn’t take anything for what he had done. As he drove off, the wife said to her husband, “How will we ever be able to pay him back?” The husband said, “We cant. But we can pass on to someone else, what he has done for us.”
The lesson of that real life story is very much in line with our passage for tonight from I Corinthians 11:23-26, as we prepare to share the Lord’s Supper together. In reading this passage again this week, I was struck by the first words of this text, which I had never really focused in on before. This section on the Lord’s Supper begins with :23, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you …” and then he goes on to describe the Lord’s Supper.
I want us to focus tonight on those introductory words: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you …”. We should never overlook any words in scripture; “all scripture is God-breathed”; “not a letter or a stroke will pass away from” it until all is accomplished. So these words aren’t just an “insignificant” introduction. Let’s think about them for a moment: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you.”
I. Passing On The Scriptural Tradition Of The Lord’s Supper
FIRST of all, this relates to the Lord’s Supper. Paul was saying, Listen folks, I did not just “make this stuff up” about what we are doing in the Lord’s Supper.
One time a few years back I had finished preaching and was out in the congregation talking with some of our church families, and the parents were remarking on my message, and one of the kids spoke up said: “Are you just making this stuff up or what?” We all laughed; Of course I wasn’t “making this stuff up”; I got it from the Bible; it came from the Lord.
And that’s what Paul is saying here. He’s saying, Listen, I didn’t just “make this stuff up.” There weren’t a bunch of us apostles sitting around one day saying, “Hey we need to start some traditions for our new-found faith. Here’s a good one: let’s use some wine and some bread …”. NO; he said “I received from the LORD that which I also delivered to you. JESUS founded the Lord’s Supper, and He passed it down to us.
We find the story of that in the first three Gospels, how Jesus shared the cup and the bread with His disciples, and told them that this represented His body and blood, which were going to be given for their salvation, and that they were to do this in remembrance of Him.
And Paul repeats that story here in I Corinthians 11, saying “The Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'” And then in :26 he writes: “In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, this cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this; as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
So Paul makes it very clear: the instructions I have given you about the Lord’s Supper were not something I just “made up”; THE LORD gave these to us — and now I am just passing on to you, what He gave to me and the other apostles. HE delivered this Lord’s Supper to us, and I am passing it on to you. And that is why we celebrate it today. We are passing on, what the Lord has passed down to us.
II. Passing On Everything We Have Received In The Christian Life
Secondly, there is a good principle here which applies to a LOT of areas in our Christian lives: we are Christians are to pass on to others, what the Lord has delivered to us. Think about it: Paul said “I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you” — that’s a pretty good example for all of us in the Christian life: we are to pass on to others, whatever good things the Lord has delivered to us:
— He has given us salvation: so we should pass on to others what we have received, by witnessing to them.
— He has given us the Bible and spiritual lessons: we are not just to keep those to ourselves; we are to share them with others. (And by the way: we are not to “make up” new and innovative truths when we teach; our call as Christian pastors and teachers and disciplers is just to PASS ON to others what the Lord has given us in His word. Don’t just “make stuff up”; be faithful to pass on to others just what He has given you in His word.
— And this applies even to our material blessings. God has “delivered” so much to some of us — so we are to pass on to others what we have received from the Lord: through giving to missions and benevolence and other gifts. Scripture goes on to say that we are to give as God has prospered us — we are to pass the material blessings He has given us, on to others.
Like that couple on the highway in Florida said, we can’t pay back the Lord for all that He has done for us — but we CAN pass on to others, what He has done for us. In fact, it is our responsibility to do so. Sharing is at the heart of the Christian faith; God has commanded us to pass on to others what He has given us: share the gospel; share what you have learned in His word; share your material blessings.
(And the truth is, we CAN only pass on to others what we have received ourselves. We can’t share salvation with anyone if we have not first ourselves received it; we can’t teach anyone a lesson we haven’t first learned; we can’t disciple anyone in an area where the Lord not has first grown us. We can only pass on to others, what God has given us first. But whatever He HAS entrusted to us, we then have a responsibility to pass along to others.)
So one of the things we should each ask ourselves tonight is: am I really grateful for what the Lord has given me? And am I showing how grateful I am, by passing what He has given me, on to others?
III. Specifically Passing On the Forgiveness We Have Received
So there is this general principle that we are to share with others what the Lord has given us; but we can also get very specific about it in some areas — and one of these is the area of forgiveness: The same forgiveness that we have received from the Lord, is the same kind of forgiveness that WE are to deliver to others.
We should be able to use these very words the Apostle Paul used here in I Corinthians 11, towards those who have offended us: “For I received from the Lord, that which I also delivered to you.” I received from the Lord forgiveness for all my sins. So I will pass that same forgiveness on to you as well. What we received from the Lord, we are delivering to them — in forgiveness.
So think about it for a minute: HOW has the Lord forgiven us? Jesus showed us in the Model Prayer that the 5th petition we are to pray is: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” We are to forgive others in the same way that WE are forgiven.
SO HOW IS THAT? If we are to deliver to others the same forgiveness that we ourselves have received, what does that mean? How have WE been forgiven?
— We have been forgiven graciously: that is, God forgave us out of His mercy and grace; He didn’t “make us pay” for our sins. In fact, He paid for them Himself! That is the forgiveness we have received from Him — so that is the forgiveness which we are then to pass on to others: we are to forgive them graciously: not grudgingly; not “making them pay” for it in some way. We are to pass along to them the same kind of forgiveness that we have received.
— We have been forgiven totally: for every sin. I John 1:9 says if we confess our sins that the Lord will cleanse us from “all” unrighteousness. That means there is NO sin that God will not forgive of ours. That is the forgiveness we have received from Him — and so that is the forgiveness that we are to pass on to others as well: there is no sin of theirs which we are not to forgive!
— We have been forgiven repeatedly. That same I John 1:9 passage says that God is “faithful” to forgive us: “faithful” means He will forgive us every time, no matter how many times we bring it to Him. That is the forgiveness which we have received from Him — so that is the forgiveness which we are then to pass on to others: we are to forgive them repeatedly; no matter how many times they sin against us.
So in every way, you & I are to pass along to others, the same kind of forgiveness that God has granted to us. Now that doesn’t mean that it is easy; some of us may need to bring a person or a situation in your life to the Lord tonight and ask for His grace to help you do that. But the Bible is very clear what our responsibility is: we are to deliver to others, the same thing that we ourselves have received from the Lord.
So we want to take some time tonight to prepare our hearts in prayer and confession and commitment:
— thank God for the good things He has given you in His grace;
— confess any sins in your life;
— ask Him to help you share with others the good things He’s given you — to witness to someone, disciple someone, help someone financially;
— and ask Him to give you the grace to forgive someone the same way that HE has forgiven you.
We’ll pray for just a bit, and then in a few moments our deacons will prepare the elements for us to share in the Lord’s Supper.