This week we continue on in our mini-series of short articles called “Why We Observe the Lord’s Supper Weekly?” Our hope has been to spark deeper-thought and conversation regarding our newer practice of celebrating the Supper weekly.
This week we will continue considering some practical benefits of celebrating the Supper each week. Although there could be many benefits outlined we’ve chosen two to consider this week.
1. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly reminds us that we are all equals.
One of the most overlooked aspects and functions of the Lord’s Supper in the modern discussion is how Scripture ties this practice to church unity. The reality is that modern, western believers tend to be individualistic, myopic, and sinfully-independent in our ‘religious experience.’ Our faith has now become “OUR faith.’ It is about ME and Jesus. It is about ME doing MY quiet time and growing in MY walk. It is all about what I believe this passage says to ME. If I’m not being challenged in MY church, I need to go somewhere else where MY needs are met. This sort of individualism, whether stated or subconscious, undercuts and is in direct conflict with the vast majority of Scripture’s teaching. Sure, God saves individuals. Yes, we are responsible to pursue God and grow as individuals. But the Bible has no category of an individual, independent, isolated Christian. In fact, if a person’s faith is consistently viewed as just their own personal, individualistic endeavor they may not even be a Christian.
Scripture says that God is forming a new people … individuals grafted into one family. He saves people but He saves them INTO the Body. And, in God’s providence, He has ordained that His Universal Church would manifest itself in the world as identifiable local covenanted congregations. So, how do you know if a person is a part of the Universal Church? Well … one of the most significant identifiers is to see if they are a committed part of a local church. For, how can we love those who are not seen (all believers, in all places, at all times) if we do not even love and walk with those we can see (believers in the local church). All that to say, the local church is at the center of what it looks like to be a Christian on this side of Heaven.
Now, in a way that no other element of worship can, the Lord’s Supper uniquely invites us to ONE table. This ONE table is not the table of race, ethnicity, age, interest, or personal preference. This one table is the banquet-table of Jesus. Here we are invited to corporately dine with and commune with Him. Here all believers are welcomed and invited to focus on and celebrate Jesus. Rich, poor, young, and old – we are at ONE table of the Lord, with the same elements, commemorating the center point (and person) of our faith. The Lord’s Supper makes us equals – and, frankly, we need to catechize ourselves with this truth. We take the Lord’s Supper weekly, in part, to subconsciously train ourselves to see that all believers are ONE at the banquet-feast of Christ. We all take this feast as we await the grand feast that is to come.
Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. – (1 Cor. 10:17)
2. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly promotes church unity.
Although we have looked at this passage multiple times before, 1 Corinthians 11 is an important passage to consider the topic of unity.
The apostle Paul writes a stinging critique to the church of Corinth by saying, “17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.”
It is clear that the Corinthian believers were significantly missing the mark in their practice of the Lord’s Supper. Some were sinfully distorting the meal to be of only selfish, individualistic benefit. It appears that some were going to the gathering early so that they could gorge themselves to get their fill before others could come and partake. The Supper had become an occasion for self-seeking, independent sin. Paul sharply rebukes them, “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?” “Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.”
Interestingly though, Paul’s corrective for the problem of self-serving egoism was not to make the Lord’s Supper less frequently or to make the bits of bread smaller. His corrective was godly self-inspection:
“28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another– 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home–so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.”
So much could be said about Paul’s instructions here; but obviously taking the Lord’s Supper with a divisive, self-seeking posture is an issue of somber importance. Obviously, those who are stirring up strife and division within a local church should be pleaded with to not take the Supper in an unworthy manner. Why? For, in doing so, they put themselves in grave danger. Unity within the body is, biblically-speaking, a matter of life-and-death.
And, on the positive side, we see that the regular observance of the Supper provides motivation for individuals to examine their posture toward their fellow believers in the local church. Hurdles to unity, barriers to fellowship, and footholds of division are all dealt with before enjoying communion. In the Supper, the blood of Jesus unites and we are reminded that we are one in Him.
Christians need reminders. We need gracious interruptions that push us toward the truth. We need to be prompted every week to pursue unity and to repent of divisiveness. Receiving the Lord’s Supper weekly, with proper instruction (fencing), helps us towards this end.
We pray that between now and Sunday, you might take time to consider the peace-promoting, unity-producing nature of communion. And, if needed, to even pursue reconciliation with a brother or sister in our fellowship. To God be the Glory.