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How to Take the Lord's Supper

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This article is a follow-up to the last one I wrote (“How to Listen to a Sermon”). Again, the purpose of writing these is to equip the people of God—specifically at CAB—to get the greatest benefit from the means of grace[1] in the Sunday gathering. In order to get the greatest blessing from the Lord’s Supper, you need to get four things.

1. GET UNDERSTANDING. 

Similar to preaching, if you do not know what the Lord’s Supper is, then you might approach it with the wrong mindset or attitude. For example, if you don’t know what a birthday party is you might show up without a present, which dishonors the birthday boy/girl and embarrasses yourself.[2] So, what is the Lord’s Supper?

The Lord’s Supper is a gift from Jesus Christ to his Bride—the church—for the purpose of nourishing our new spiritual life in Christ (Luke 22:7-23). It is similar to preaching in that it serves to give us Christ but different in the following ways:

  • Preaching is audible, but the Lord’s Supper is edible.
  • Preaching is verbal, but the Lord’s Supper is visual.
  • Preaching converts the sinner to Christ, but the Lord’s Supper comforts the sinner with Christ.

While the Lord’s Supper is edible (i.e. swallowing bread and juice), it does not mean we are literally eating and drinking Christ. The act of eating physically represents the act of eating spiritually. Jesus himself clarifies this in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” He compares our coming to him and believing in him as symbolic of eating him and drinking him. Thus, it is not a literal eating of the body and blood of Christ. 

The most in-depth passage on the Lord’s Supper can be found in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. We can conclude a few things from this passage, though not exhaustively.

The Lord's Supper reminds: If we are honest, we forget too easily. Tragically, we can forget what Jesus did for us (i.e. the gospel). And if we forget gospel, we may drift into legalism (attempting to earn God’s love) or antinomianism (living carelessly as if the cross made no difference). Jesus clearly states in verse 24, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Actively remembering and setting our minds upon Christ’s death and resurrection reassures our hearts that whatever sin and shame continue to pester us, God surely accepts us as righteous in his Son. This reminder is a form of preaching to yourself, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:24, 26)

The Lord's Supper unites: one of the most powerful ways to unite people who are different and flawed is through sharing. The deeper the reality shared, the deeper the unity is felt. Two women are united stronger by sharing their story, than by sharing their salad. But the deepest reality of existence is Jesus Christ. Thus, Paul says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17) The Lord’s Supper is not only a reminder of our forgiveness and justification in Christ but also of the eternal identify we all share in Church at Bergen. For a more in-depth look listen to the following sermon from our "Rhythms of Worship" series: Lord's Supper.

2. GET SURGERY.

Our souls need to be nourished and strengthened week-in and week-out with the gospel. Every week the gospel of truth infuses a healing balm down into the inner recesses of the heart where the infection of sin festers. Sin is like cancer, which can only be removed and snuffed out by surgery or chemotherapy. This is what the word of God does for us; it cuts through the callouses of our hearts and exposes where sin and unbelief reign, so that the gospel might be applied by the gracious touch of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 4:12).

Prior to taking the Lord’s Supper, we must have our hearts exposed and opened up by the preached word of God. Thus, be receptive and open to all that the word of God exposing in you. Why? Because only then will your heart be vulnerable to the Holy Spirit who heals you with the gospel of grace as you take the Lord’s Supper.

3. GET REAL. 

The Lord’s Supper is a most holy and sacred ordinance. It has been consecrated by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Thus, to trifle with the Lord’s Supper is a serious offense and is no small thing (1 Cor. 11:27-29). This is why Paul—speaking on behalf of Christ—tells us, “Let a person examine himself.” (1 Cor. 11:28) We must also remember there are no secrets with the Lord. He knows all and sees all (Hebrews 4:13; Psalm 90:8). But how do we examine ourselves? Ask yourself the following questions in the time between the moment the pastor ends his sermon and when you actually eat the bread and juice:

  • Is there anywhere in my life that I am not repenting?
  • Is there anywhere in my life that I am not trusting Christ?
  • Is there anyone in this local body that I need to reconcile with?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, quickly confess and repent to God and to anyone in the church if necessary.[3] The reason self-examination is so essential is because of the sacredness of the body and blood of Christ—represented by the bread and juice. Thus, to mingle it with sin reigning in your hearts is a most blasphemous act. 

CAUTION: Beware of overdoing self-examination, lest you paralyze your conscience from ever feeling free to take the Lord's Supper. Examine yourself for a few brief moments, if the Holy Spirit brings nothing to mind, joyfully approach the table.   

4. GET SATISFIED. 

Finally, after being exposed by the word and purging the evil within, you are free to come to the table. As you are taking the bread and wine, eat it as a one who “hungers and thirsts for righteousness.” Why? For Jesus promised that “they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6) But what exactly should your heart posture be like when eating the bread and juice? As you eat the bread and juice, do the following:

  • Consciously renounce and abase all inclinations toward self-righteousness and self-love.
  • Consciously embrace Jesus Christ in the heart as your sole righteousness and grounds for acceptance before the Holy Father.

Then as you return to your seat, let your heart overflow with gratitude and rest in God’s faithfulness to forgive and embrace you as his own. As you wait eagerly for the worship team to begin singing, savor all that Christ is for you now and forever. Be intensely aware of the fact that you belong to Christ and nothing will ever separate you from his love. Be satisfied in your soul and sing with all your might until the pastor gives the final benediction.

 

Footnotes

[1] The “Means of Grace” are the God-ordained channels through which the Spirit supplies more of Christ’s grace to his redeemed people. These include the word of God (preached and read), prayer and fasting, the Lord’s Supper, and Christian fellowship. Grace is not some invisible “substance,” but rather is Christ’s lavish, undeserved favor and help for the children of God in their weakness.

[2] Unless, of course, the birthday boy/girl asks that you not bring a gift. But even then, it is still a good idea to get them a gift ;)

[3] If you must confess and reconcile with a person in the church, there is no harm in refraining from partaking of the Supper and reconciling after the service.

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