29 November, 2022

Paul at the Table

by | 10 October, 2022

(We first ran this Communion meditation in January 2014.)

By Ronald G. Davis

Paul wrote beautifully and authoritatively of the Lord’s table. But he also sat there. Right across from us, as it were. Was he worthy? Are we? Both he and we are worthy in the gracious eyes of the Lord who invited us here.

Paul certainly had sins when he sat here. His tears of repentance were not for imagined occasions he “missed the mark” of God’s righteousness. No doubt, there were occasions at the table he thought about Stephen, the young evangelist, at whose stoning death he had smiled as he held the cloaks of the rock throwers. Perhaps he expressed his anguish of soul over his sharp disagreements with Barnabas on the wisdom of taking John Mark along on their second preaching campaign, dividing a friendship and an effective gospel team and putting the progress of the church at risk. Or maybe he sat here and berated himself. He had acted like a stubborn and senseless animal. He had rejected his first opportunities to accept Jesus as the Messiah, kicking, as it were, his rear heels against the prompting goad of God’s Spirit. No, Paul was not worthy, from a human perspective.

Certainly we have sat here, you and I, with our sins. Any tears we have shed were not actor’s tears simply for dramatic effect. Occasionally, no doubt, we have sat here with the image of one we failed to confront with the gospel, even though the opportunity stared us eye-to-eye. Perhaps here we have heard the echo of bitter and divisive words that once destroyed a relationship and dragged the old gospel ship onto a reef. Without exception we sit here recalling our own stubbornness to accept the clarion call of Christ to be his and to serve him in ways only we can serve. No, we are not worthy, from a human perspective.

But we sit here knowing, as Paul did, that we are “washed . . . sanctified . . . justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). These emblems before us wipe away our doubting looks at ourselves and allow us to see ourselves in the mirror of his grace and love. Paul could sit at the table in Troas and break bread with others in full assurance of forgiveness (Acts 20:7). You and I can sit at this table here and break bread and taste his cup in the full assurance of the forgiving death of our Lord and Savior. He has made us worthy.

Ronald G. Davis, former professor of Christian education at Cincinnati Bible Seminary, resides in North College Hill, Ohio.

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