Making the Lord's Supper What It Should Be
“Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord….For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.” 1 Cor. 11:27, 29
The words guilty and judgment should get our attention and cause us to realize the manner in which we partake of the Lord’s Supper matters, so let’s think carefully about what needs to be done in order to make the memorial supper what it should be. What is needed to keep the Lord’s Supper from being a time of judgment instead of the time of worship and edification God intended?
If I proposed this question in a Bible class or a men’s meeting, what would the answers sound like? I suspect we might hear statements much like the following: “We need to spend more time on the Lord’s Supper.” “Song leaders need to give more thought to the song that precedes the Lord’s Supper.” “I’d like to see longer talks that really emphasize the suffering of Jesus.” While that might be the more common sentiment, we might also hear, “I wish the men would realize that when they preach a sermon before the Lord’s Supper it becomes a distraction.”
There would likely be a few other suggestions and I want to be clear about this—the right song can help and carefully chosen words can aid us in partaking in a worthy manner, but if we go back to 1 Cor. 11, I believe we will find the real keys to making the supper the meaningful memorial the Lord intended. After having given instructions about not turning this into an occasion merely to eat and drink, for they had houses in which to do that (11:22), and telling them to eat together (11:17-22, 33), the apostle wrote the following:
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” 1 Cor. 11:23-29
While a song may help and the words spoken can aid our focus, the key to making the Supper special is the personal, individual realization of what it is all about. The ideal song sung with perfect pitch can’t force me to think on the body and blood of Jesus, and conversely, even if no song were sung and no words were spoken, I could still discipline my mind to think on the Lord’s death and its significance to me. I don’t want to be misunderstood, for I have often found the songs, talks, verses read, etc. helpful, but I have two concerns.
Sometimes I fear we forget that the memorial chosen by Jesus is the bread and the fruit of the vine. We may do some things to help everyone better understand what and why we are eating, but the songs we sing and comments we make are not the memorial. Whatever we do, let’s not allow “our part” to overshadow the things divinely instituted. Perhaps the most important thing we can do to help others is to avoid distracting them from reflection on that which the Lord has said and done.
And then let’s take personal responsibility for our partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Too often, if we feel that something is missing, we start thinking of what someone else needs to do or has failed to do, when the reality is that the most poorly worded talk ever made should not be an excuse for me not thinking about the great significance of the Lord’s body and His blood shed at Calvary. The call is to “let a man examine himself,” not to make excuses for why his worship is not what the Lord intended.
Because the apostle went on in 1 Cor. 11 to say that failure in this Supper had caused some to become weak, sickly, and to sleep (die), think about what will happen if we take responsibility for our thoughts and actions in the Supper. Will we not be helped to become strong, healthy, and alive in Christ? Let’s do this in true remembrance of Him.
All quotes from the New King James Version, copyright 1995, Thomas Nelson Publishing, Inc.