The Enjoyment of the Lord's Supper - by Keith Petersen
There are two sacraments in the New Testament pertaining to Christianity. One is baptism and one is the remembrance of the Lord in the Lord’s Supper.
Baptism is always effectuated for someone by someone else. It imparts no salvation and no life in and of itself – it is symbolic of a committal through identification with the death – and, by extension, the resurrection of the Lord.
The remembrance of the Lord in the Lord’s Supper, on the other hand, involves the conscious act of the believing Christian in affiliating themselves intelligently and willingly in a sacramental occasion that necessitates a holy state both in themselves and, concurrently, in those who are joined in the same occasion.
The Lord’s Supper – conditions permitting – provides for the faithful Christian an occasion in which the immeasurable joy of association with Christ can be entered into with others of like mind, heart and moral standing – “ I will not leave you orphans, I am coming to you” (John 14:18). In the atmosphere of the Lord’s Supper the very real experience of being part of Christ’s Bride, His Body and His brethren can all be enjoyed. Much of the language of the Song of Songs can be experienced in the Lord’s Supper – “Yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, yea, this is my friend”.
There is a general notion with many in Christendom that – other than in a case of pronounced error – any and all who attend a particular fellowship are entitled to partake of the Lord’s Supper. It is surely true that all believing Christians share an inherent title to partake of the Lord’s Supper – and, it is as true that it is God’s desire that all believers should be putting their hands to the emblems ; however, it is as true that God makes a distinction between entitlement and those who might be morally unfit to partake of the Lord’s emblems.
In the historical type as seen in Exodus 12 it is to be realized that (1) there was to be no leaven – the soul that ate leaven was to be cut off, as leaven is always a reference to an unacceptable, natural influence (see 1st Corinthians 5:6-8 for the antitype in the New Testament) and (2) in memoriam it was to be a holy convocation.
These same principles are seen in the setting out of what is proper and suitable to the holding of the Lord’s Supper in the NT. God never changes His principles, and we see that reality in a scripture that says “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and to-day, and to the ages [to come]” (Hebrews 13).
The precursor, it can be said, to the proper conditions for the Lord’s Supper is seen in Matthew 18:20 – “For where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them.” There is an idea with many in Christendom that this simply entails, more or less, a group of Christians coming together for fellowship in any particular locale and thus the automatic presence of the Lord. However, we are to gather unto His name, and there is an infinite, holy import attached to the Name of Christ. “God [has] highly exalted him, and granted him a name, that which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9) and the Lord speaks prophetically in Isaiah 45 “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth [in] righteousness and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.”
The reality is that Christianity is a spiritual system engendered of God, centered in the Lord as the Head to His body and entered into only through the capacitating power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Lord’s words in John 4 are “But [the] hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for also the Father seeks such as his worshippers. God [is] a spirit; and they who worship him must worship [him] in spirit and truth.”
It is a biblical reality that the spiritual realm leaves no room for the natural mind of man – 1st Corinthians 2 sets this out succinctly – “we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which [is] of God, that we may know the things which have been freely given to us of God: which also we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, communicating spiritual [things] by spiritual [means]. But [the] natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him; and he cannot know [them] because they are spiritually discerned”. Of course, this does not preclude that which Paul writes in 2nd Corinthians 4 – “we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (i.e., God well understands that we are yet here on earth in a mixed condition); yet, in similar language the apostle concludes in saying “that the surpassingness of the power may be of God, and not from us”.
The proper worship of God is undoubtedly that which marks the most elevated level to which man as a creature can be brought. It must be done “in spirit and truth”, it must be done intelligently as befits those who “have the mind of Christ”, it must be done in an entirely holy way as befits the God whom we are worshipping, and it calls for the affection and love of a people – individually and collectively – who understand and reciprocate in the fullest possible measure the love and affection of this God for those who “made in his image and likeness” He is pleased to call sons.
The highest level of collective Christian worship while here is undoubtedly in the Lord’s Supper – in which the Christian partakes (symbolically of course) of the flesh and the blood of the Christ who died to bring men into the glory of God’s presence. That this involves a suitable and holy Christian state is not only without doubt; but, as alluded to at the beginning of this paper, if the Christian – or, Christians – is not morally fit for the partaking of the Lord’s Supper, God effectuates a judgment as to that: Paul writes in 1st Corinthians 11 – “So that whosoever shall eat the bread, or drink the cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty in respect of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself, and thus eat of the bread, and drink of the cup. For [the] eater and drinker eats and drinks judgment to himself, not distinguishing the body. On this account many among you [are] weak and infirm, and a good many are fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, so were we not judged.”
This language is simple, direct and compelling. It shows us that God considers that a Christian(s) might “unworthily” partake of the Lord’s Supper. It is not now `We are all Christians and thus are entitled’; but, `are you worthy?’ And, if not worthy, such are “guilty in respect of the body and of the blood of the Lord.” What is the result of being unworthy? “The eater and drinker eats and drinks judgment to himself.” This is sober language, indeed.
God tells us in the early part of 1st Corinthians 2 that the natural has no part in His spiritual realm, and then there is, essentially, a moral advance on this in the same chapter in the setting out of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. In Christendom today much has been introduced into the Lord’s Supper which simply does not bear the light of Scripture.
The rich language of another Christian writer shows the great place in the Lord’s mind as to His Supper: “it is a part of the Lord's mind in the entire christian walk, to which He attaches importance in view of our moral condition, and of the state of our spiritual affections individually, as well as those of the assembly. In the joy of christian liberty, amid the powerful effects of the presence of the Holy Ghost -- of the gifts by which He manifested Himself in the assembly, the Lord's death, His broken body, was brought to mind, and, as it were, made present to faith as the basis and foundation of everything.”
Subsequently this writer says, “In the Lord's supper the heart is brought back to a point in which it is entirely dependent, in which man is nothing, in which Christ and His love are everything, in which the heart is exercised, and the conscience remembers that it has needed cleansing, and that it has been cleansed by the work of Christ -- that we depend absolutely on this grace. The affections also are in the fullest exercise. It is important to remember this” and then, marking what Paul wrote as to being unworthy, “The consequences that followed forgetfulness of the import of this ordinance confirmed its importance and the Lord's earnest desire that they should take heed to it.”
In the Supper the Lord says to His people – “this do in remembrance of me.” It is necessary for each and all of us to have in mind and heart that we are remembering, as shown in this paper, One who is “the Lord of Glory” – One who is “Lord of lords” and “a great King” (Malachi 1:14). There is infinite enjoyment and a great privilege in partaking of the Lord’s Supper according to Divine precepts; but, according to the same precepts, there is a great responsibility attached to this partaking, as well. So, let each “prove himself” beforehand and thus eat and drink.