In times gone by, much emphasis was placed on each person preparing their hearts before coming to the Lord’s Supper table. This came from taking 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 seriously, which speaks of the need for self-examination and self-judgement, to make the most of the Lord’s Supper itself and to avoid God’s judgement for taking it ‘unworthily’.
One old order of service talks about the Lord’s Supper like this: “For as the benefit is great, if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy Sacrament… so is the danger great, if we receive the same unworthily.”
“For as the benefit is great, if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy Sacrament… so is the danger great, if we receive the same unworthily.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that only those who are completely perfect get to take part in the Lord’s Supper. If that were true, the bread and wine would go untouched! Rather it means that those who come are those who have a living faith in Jesus, are trusting him for salvation, and desire to recognise and turn away from their sin. In fact, those who claim to be perfect may actually be those who are ‘unworthy’, who have given into their sin with desensitised consciences (see 1 Timothy 4:2), and who deny their need for God’s continuous mercy and grace through Jesus (see 1 John 1:8, 10).
Often in our services, the encouragement to prepare hearts for the Lord’s Supper happens a few minutes before we serve the bread and grape juice. Not that long ago (and I’m sure some churches still do), the pastor would encourage the congregation the week before to begin preparing for the Lord’s Supper next Sunday.
This preparation usually involved some personal reflection during the week on what the Lord’s Supper actually means, perhaps by reading and reflecting on passages of Scripture such as Matthew 26:26-29, Luke 22:14-23 or 1 Corinthians 11:23-32. It involved measuring profession by practice (Matthew 12:8). It involved serious searching and examining of hearts by meditating on such Scriptures as Mark 12:29-31, and, if necessary, acting upon what was discovered. That may mean confessing and repenting before the Lord of sins you were previously unaware of. It may mean forgiving someone, as Jesus forgave you (Ephesians 4:32). It may mean going to a person you have sinned against and making things right (Matthew 5:23-24), as far as you are able, in the Lord’s strength (Romans 12:18).
There was often an invitation too, that if anyone preparing their hearts for the Lord’s Supper remains troubled, struggles with a nagging conscience, or doubts the fullness of God’s grace for them in Jesus, they should come and see the pastor for counsel so thatthey can enjoy the Lord’s Supper with the rest of the church. And there’s a whole week to do that. (I would gladly meet with anyone who feels they need counsel, advice or comfort because they want to take the Lord’s Supper this Sunday).
We intend to celebrate the Lord’s Supper this Sunday at our 7.45am and 9.30am services. What preparation might you need to make over the next few days before you come to the Lord’s Table?