This Day in Presbyterian History:
Preparing for the Lord’s Supper
With no observable reflection of Presbyterian history on this November 14, we look at the necessary preparation which every Christian must have before they partake of the Lord’s Supper. In colonial days and up to the present in some churches, there was a spiritual examination of every member of the congregation by the pastor as to their readiness to come to the Lord’s table. Those who were found ready were given tokens, or little round metal pieces, which were then exchanged for the privilege of partaking of the bread and wine. Those who failed that examination were forbidden to partake, and urged to do the necessary spiritual work to partake aright the next time the sacrament was offered. Such practices are few and far apart in Reformed congregations and people today, though some Scottish and Irish Presbyterian churches continue the practice.
It is good to know then of a Larger Catechism which speaks to the need for self-examination so as to prepare ourselves properly for the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Larger Catechism 171 states, “They that receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves of their being in Christ, of their sins and wants; of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance; love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong; of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.”
Self-examination! Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:28 tells us that one must not come and partake of the Lord’s Supper without it. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” (KJV) Before partaking, examine yourself to see if you are worthy to partake of the elements of bread and juice. The content of this self-examination is as follows.
First, are you really a child of God? Have you by faith come to Christ, confessing your sins and your need of His saving grace and mercy? “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. . . .” (2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV).
Second, examine yourself of your sins and wants. Examine the living out of the faith that you profess. Are there sins of commission and omission found in you? If so, if you have failed to confess and acknowledge their presence in you, then do so. Separation from the sins which so easily beset us is needed before we partake of the Lord’s Supper.
Next, self-examination of the truth and measure, the reality and growth of our spiritual knowledge, faith, repentance, love both upward to God and outward to man, including charity to all, with forgiveness extended to those who have wronged us, our desires after Christ, and our practice of obedience to God and His Word. Our Confessional fathers have given us a lot of areas to spiritually “chew upon”, but each and every one by self-examination can be used by the Holy Spirit to revive us spiritually, and prepare us for participation in the right observance of the Lord’s Supper.
When we find shortcomings, or as we find shortcomings in these graces, we can then renew ourselves in the exercise of them, by serious meditation and fervent prayer.
Words to live by: Before you come, whether it is the preceding week, the Saturday night before the Lord’s Day, the Sunday time proceeding church, or the preparatory service conducted by the church, here are your spiritual “marching orders” of preparatory attitudes and actions. Christians today need to pay closer spiritual attention to preparing for their observance of the Lord’s table. How will you do so?
Through the Scriptures: Acts 13 – 14
Through the Standards: The necessity of baptism
“Although it be a great sin to condemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it: or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.”