FOR WHOM IS THE LORD’S SUPPER INTENDED?
The Lord’s Supper is intended for the Lord’s people;
communion is for Christians. This is established by:
(1) The definition of an Ordinance or Sacrament as ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’.
(2) The Lord’s enjoining it on His own disciples, and on no others. (Mt. 26.26, Mk. 14.22, Lk. 22.19,1 Cor. 11.23).
(3) The practice and procedure of the early church (Ac. 2.42,
(4) The uniform testimony of the Reformed protestant
confessional statements (Heidelberg, Westminster, Savoy,
Particular Baptist 1689, & others).
(I) Whose business is it to see that this basic qualification is met?
(1) The Church, as custodian of the gospel and its ordinances (1 Tim. 3.15).
(2) The Christian himself (1 Cor. 11.28).
(II) Is the Lord’s Supper available to Christians at all times, and in all circumstances? May a Christian partake whenever the table is spread?
NO. It is Christians (‘them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus’ 1 Cor. 1.2) who are instructed to ‘examine’ themselves (1 Cor. 11.28),
WHY, then, must a Christian ‘examine himself on every occasion before partaking the Lord’s Supper?
(1) Because the Lord’s Supper sets forth the holiest aspect, and the highest mystery of the gospel, in the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ the God-Man. With this the mind, spirit, and
life of the communicant must harmonize.
(2) Because the Lord’s Supper sets forth the ultimate height of Christian experience; union with Christ; a Christian is ‘in Christ’ (1 Cor. 15.22, 2 Cor. 5.17, etc). Unpardoned sin in a Christian is an experiential breach of this union, and should be dealt with before partaking.
(3) Because the Lord’s Supper rests upon ‘the apostles’ doctrine’ (Ac. 2.42). It implies the justice and righteousness of God, the equal deity and humanity of Christ, the vicarious or substitutionary atonement, and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. A Christian needs to understand what he is doing at the Lord’s Supper. He does not need an exhaustive knowledge of these things, but he does need to believe them from the heart, and with all the intelligence of which he is capable (Rom. 6.17).
(4) Because the Lord’s Supper is a means of communion and fellowship between Christians; it is a profession or protestation of their unity one with the other ‘in Christ’. So the intending communicant must ‘examine himself as to whether what he professes and does at the Lord’s Table is consistent with, or a contradiction of, what he does when he is away from it. If this is not done, the ordinance is mocked, Christ is mocked, and the gospel is mocked; but ‘God is not mocked’ (Gal. 6.7). At times it is more honouring to God, and more honest with one’s fellow-believers, for a Christian to absent himself from the Lord’s Supper, and thus to avoid being found ‘guilty of the body and blood of the Lord’ (1 Cor 11.27). This principle has always been followed in the best and most spiritually thriving days of Christian history; thus, e.g.,
(a) The practice of ‘fencing the tables’ in Scotland, when each intending communicant was personally interviewed by the minister and/or elders as to his current Christian character and testimony. If satisfactory he was given a ‘token’, on the production of which he was admitted to the observance of the Lord’s Supper.
(b) The compilers of the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England (1662) provided that the minister should address intending communicants in this way: ‘Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in His holy ways; Draw near with faith, and take…’
‘Let a man examine himself and so’Â—i.e. in the light of what he finds to be true of himself according to the above four considerations – ‘let him eat of that bread and drink of that
(III) What is the position of the unbeliever or non-christian who nevertheless, for whatever reason, partakes of the Lord’s Supper?
He eats the same bread and drinks the same wine – the
He does not receive the inward grace of the ordinance – the
He therefore ‘eats and drinks damnation to himself, not
discerning the Lord’s body’ (1 Cor 11.29).
Unworthy participation in the Lord’s Supper is thus seen to
carry with it a very severe punitive effect. But-
(a) This punishment is declared in advance for all to know (1 Cor. 11.27-29).
(b) The severity of the punishment is commensurate with the high and holy character of the ordinance which is thus abused and profaned by unworthy participation.
We conclude, therefore, that the Lord’s Supper is intended for Christians only, and for Christians only in a humble spirit, and with an unfeigned love for both Christ and His people.
K. W. H. Howard