Back in the Old Testament, God ordained that a nation-wide sacrifice for sin would be made year after year on the Day of Atonement. And because these sacrifices were offered repeatedly, it showed they couldn’t truly take away sin and there remained a remembrance of sin.
Listen to what the author of Hebrews says:
“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realties, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.” (Hebrews 10:1-3)
My wife, Ashlee, and I have been blessed to share the Gospel with a sweet young lady. As a devout Catholic, one of the things she believes is that the Lord’s Supper is a propitiatory sacrifice, that Christ is offered again and again week by week in an unbloody manner on behalf of sin. We’ve been blessed to be able to tell her: “That isn’t the sacrifice of Christ. Because it must be repeated, there remains a reminder—a consciousness of sins—and that is antithetical to the Gospel, to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.”
We’ve shared with her the truth of Christ’s sacrifice: “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
One of the areas where this truth of Christ’s once for all sacrifice is most clearly seen is, ironically, when the Lord’s Supper is taken biblically. When we take the bread and the cup, we do not do so remembering our sin. Yes, we are to confess our sin, but we are not living in a daily remembrance of our sin. We are not remembering our guilt. The just punishment of God is not hanging over our heads. Why not? Because Jesus Christ has appeared once for all and has put away sin by his once for all sacrifice. Sin has been paid for; there is no remembrance left.
But this does not mean that at the Lord’s Supper we don’t remember anything. We are to remember something, or more precisely, Someone. Who do we remember? What does Jesus say? “Do this in remembrance of me.” The beauty of the cross, and the beauty of the Lord’s Supper, is that we take it remembering Jesus, for it was because Jesus came and died as a once for all sacrifice, that there no longer remains a remembrance for sin for the people of God.