What does it mean to partake of the Lord's Supper "Worthily"?

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Abeard

Puritan Board Freshman
1 Cor. 11:26-29, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly."

1. Does this mean simply that for one to partake in the Lord's Supper, he must have a spirit of repentance and an understanding and acceptance of what Christ did for him?

2. Also, does this text give us, as church officers, warrant to "supervise" the Lord's Table? I.E. Interviewing visitors before they can partake?

3. Thirdly, does this warrant the partaking of the Lord's Supper sparingly (4-6 times a year) with prepatory services before hand?

I ask this because I had a visitor come to our church that refused to partake the Lord's Supper because we didn't fence the table properly (interviewing him before the service). He also said he wouldn't partake because he wasn't "prepared."
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
At the least, it means he who participates should understand the serious solemnity of the business. The Supper is a profound mystery. People who have come a long time to its seat will find new riches for the soul to feast.

Elders who examine prospective communicants (often our covenant youth) should be satisfied that those who come possess some "minimum" of apprehension as to the meaning and substance of this sacrament. Which discernment, it seems from the passage, is a requirement for participation. A person must be a member of Christ's church and under his rule through his ministry; this membership should be formal and admitted as such on both sides. He must be baptized. He must not secretly and impenitently cherish any sin. He may have sinned very recently in a back-sliding way; but if he sincerely hates and loathes that sin and repents of it unto God, he is then worthy. "Take it, woman. Take it; it's for sinners!" (attributed to Rev. John "Rabbi" Duncan).

As for the warrant to guard the table, I would look to Heb.13:17, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account," That is a sobering realization, for as 1Cor.11 testifies, some careless persons have died for lack of discernment.

So, we should understand that admission to the table, as much as the refusal of it, is a matter of church discipline.

As for the question of frequency: biblical arguments for specific, regulated celebrations are not on the surface of any text. And this matter is generally left to the discretion of the Session. If the Supper be not held week-to-week, then reasonably some form of preparation by way of a reminder of the duties associated with participating (especially self-examination) seems in order.
 

hammondjones

Puritan Board Sophomore
Branch 3. Does Christ offer His body and blood to us in the Supper? Then with what solemn preparation should we come to so sacred an ordinance! It is not enough to do what God has appointed—but as He has appointed. "Prepare your hearts unto the Lord," 1 Samuel 7:3. The musician first puts his instrument in tune—before he plays. The heart must be prepared and put in tune—before it goes to meet with God in this solemn ordinance of the Lord's Supper. Take heed of rashness and irreverence. If we do not come prepared, we do not drink—but spill Christ's blood! "Whoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord," 1 Corinthians 11:27. "That is," said one, "he shall be judged a shedder of Christ's blood."

...

Let us dress ourselves before a Scripture looking-glass, before we come to the Lord's Supper; and, with the Lamb's wife, make ourselves ready.

How should we PREPARE for the Lord's Supper?

1. We must come with SELF-EXAMINING hearts...
2. We must come with SERIOUS hearts...
3. We must come with INTELLIGENT hearts...
4. We must come to the Lord's Supper with LONGING hearts...
5. If we would come prepared to this ordinance, we must come with PENITENT hearts...
6. We must come with SINCERE hearts...
7. We must come with hearts fired with LOVE to Christ...
8. We must come with HUMBLE hearts. We see Christ humbling Himself unto death...
9. We must come with HEAVENLY hearts. The mystery of the Lord's Supper is heavenly...
10. We must come with BELIEVING hearts...
11. We must come to the Lord's Supper with LOVING hearts...
12. We must come with PRAYING hearts...
13. We must come to the Lord's Supper with SELF-DENYING hearts...

We see how we are to be qualified in our coming to the Lord's Supper. Thus coming—we shall meet with embraces of mercy. We shall have not only a representation, but a participation of Christ in the Lord's Supper. We shall be filled with all the fullness of God.

http://www.gracegems.org/Watson/Lords Supper.htm
 

Abeard

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for the replies. I agree 100% with the statements.

In regards to the frequency. Say a person who partakes of the Lord's sparingly at his church visit another church who is partaking the Lord's supper. Would you say he has a legitimate reason to refuse the Sacrament because he wasn't prepared? a part of me thinks that just like hearing the word we should always be prepared to partake of the Lord's Supper.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Great questions!

Think the scriptures allow for any number of times can be taken, "as often as you meet"

Think that we can affirm before presenting that it should ONLY be taken by those whoa re saved, and also walking with the Lord

Also think that the main problem in Corinthians appeared to be that those partaking were treating it like drunken parties, and showing total lack of respect for Jesus and His work for them on the Cross!
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
a part of me thinks that just like hearing the word we should always be prepared to partake of the Lord's Supper.

I concur. We administer the Lord's Supper each week and encourage people to prepare for it just as they prepare for worship on the Lord's Day. I know there are many godly denominations that administer the Supper sparingly and have lead-up times of preparation weeks in advance. I understand their reasoning and do see wisdom in it. However, I think this practice leaves the churches who do this at least a little open to the charge of elevating some Lord's Days above others in a kind of nouveau church calendar.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
1. Does this mean simply that for one to partake in the Lord's Supper, he must have a spirit of repentance and an understanding and acceptance of what Christ did for him?

For further insight on the attitude of the worthy receiver, I would highly recommend Q. 97 of Fisher's Catechism, "What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord's supper?"

Here's an excerpt:

Q. 6. Why should a gracious man examine himself?

A. Because "there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not," Eccl. 7:20.

Q. 7. Why should they, who think they are graceless, examine themselves?

A. Because "they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick," Matt. 9:12. They thus come to see more clearly their absolute need of Christ.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Say a person who partakes of the Lord's sparingly at his church visit another church who is partaking the Lord's supper. Would you say he has a legitimate reason to refuse the Sacrament because he wasn't prepared? a part of me thinks that just like hearing the word we should always be prepared to partake of the Lord's Supper.
I suppose you would be wise to leave the matter to the man's conscience. Your Session invited/admitted him, but he declined.

If he took an attitude of superiority, or took it upon himself to instruct your elders in the matter, that's hard for the welcoming church to address as the man was a visitor. The host church should have it's own clear conscience; and the comments offered on their practice should not wound the innocent.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
At the least, it means he who participates should understand the serious solemnity of the business. The Supper is a profound mystery. People who have come a long time to its seat will find new riches for the soul to feast.

Elders who examine prospective communicants (often our covenant youth) should be satisfied that those who come possess some "minimum" of apprehension as to the meaning and substance of this sacrament. Which discernment, it seems from the passage, is a requirement for participation. A person must be a member of Christ's church and under his rule through his ministry; this membership should be formal and admitted as such on both sides. He must be baptized. He must not secretly and impenitently cherish any sin. He may have sinned very recently in a back-sliding way; but if he sincerely hates and loathes that sin and repents of it unto God, he is then worthy. "Take it, woman. Take it; it's for sinners!" (attributed to Rev. John "Rabbi" Duncan).

As for the warrant to guard the table, I would look to Heb.13:17, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account," That is a sobering realization, for as 1Cor.11 testifies, some careless persons have died for lack of discernment.

So, we should understand that admission to the table, as much as the refusal of it, is a matter of church discipline.

As for the question of frequency: biblical arguments for specific, regulated celebrations are not on the surface of any text. And this matter is generally left to the discretion of the Session. If the Supper be not held week-to-week, then reasonably some form of preparation by way of a reminder of the duties associated with participating (especially self-examination) seems in order.

Best and most succinct explanation I have heard on this.
Ever think of gathering your PB quotes and publishing a book?;)
 

Warren

Puritan Board Freshman
a part of me thinks that just like hearing the word we should always be prepared to partake of the Lord's Supper.

I concur. We administer the Lord's Supper each week and encourage people to prepare for it just as they prepare for worship on the Lord's Day. I know there are many godly denominations that administer the Supper sparingly and have lead-up times of preparation weeks in advance. I understand their reasoning and do see wisdom in it. However, I think this practice leaves the churches who do this at least a little open to the charge of elevating some Lord's Days above others in a kind of nouveau church calendar.
I think we see in scripture, that the Lord's Table was part of weekly liturgy. Being so, when told to prepare for the Table, the apostles were really saying, "prepare yourself for church." I don't think they envisioned a church w/o communion, and the "however often you partake" speaks more to the difficulty of meeting each week.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
In regards to the frequency. Say a person who partakes of the Lord's sparingly at his church visit another church who is partaking the Lord's supper. Would you say he has a legitimate reason to refuse the Sacrament because he wasn't prepared? a part of me thinks that just like hearing the word we should always be prepared to partake of the Lord's Supper.

If the fellow were to ask me if I think he's well-enough prepared in spite of not having advance warning of the Supper, I would tell him that it doesn't usually take weeks of special preparation to be ready. He's is welcome to participate if he meets the qualifications stated when the table is fenced.

But if he still feels unready, even if this is due to a too-rigid examination practice in his home church, I would encourage him to honor his conscience in that matter. In fact, I would be understanding and would congratulate him for his high regard for the table and for self-examination. There's no good reason to criticize a visitor or try to change his mind in such an instance.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Is there any standard fashion Presbyterians handle the question of just who can takre Communion then? As we Baptists notmally allow for open, in that just require the person is a Christian, and walking in Christ as he ought. Know some other groups are cloed to just that church membership, water baptized....
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
Is there any standard fashion Presbyterians handle the question of just who can takre Communion then? As we Baptists notmally allow for open, in that just require the person is a Christian, and walking in Christ as he ought. Know some other groups are cloed to just that church membership, water baptized....
You would have to refer to the denomination's procedural documents, as in the BCO of the PCA: http://www.pcaac.org/resources/bco/
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
1. Does this mean simply that for one to partake in the Lord's Supper, he must have a spirit of repentance and an understanding and acceptance of what Christ did for him?

2. Also, does this text give us, as church officers, warrant to "supervise" the Lord's Table? I.E. Interviewing visitors before they can partake?

3. Thirdly, does this warrant the partaking of the Lord's Supper sparingly (4-6 times a year) with prepatory services before hand?

These questions aren't answered verbatim by this particular text. They require a broader biblical understanding of the subjects. Under question 1, Scripture directs us in the duty of self-examination in general, and these directions ought to be applied in particular with a view to partaking of the sacrament. Under question 2, what is the authority of church officers as overseers of others to whom is committed the keys of word, sacraments, and discipline? Under question 3, Scripture teaches the primacy of the Word and sets forth a wholesome pattern of administering the sacrament including the importance of preaching and meditation on the One to be spiritually fed upon.
 

Abeard

Puritan Board Freshman
Say a person who partakes of the Lord's sparingly at his church visit another church who is partaking the Lord's supper. Would you say he has a legitimate reason to refuse the Sacrament because he wasn't prepared? a part of me thinks that just like hearing the word we should always be prepared to partake of the Lord's Supper.
I suppose you would be wise to leave the matter to the man's conscience. Your Session invited/admitted him, but he declined.

If he took an attitude of superiority, or took it upon himself to instruct your elders in the matter, that's hard for the welcoming church to address as the man was a visitor. The host church should have it's own clear conscience; and the comments offered on their practice should not wound the innocent.

Do you think we give too much weight to the conscience? I agree its important for one to think for himself; but our goal as shepherd's is to make sure that their conscience is grounded in scripture.

I believe there is a duty to partake the of the Lord's Supper when it is offered by a Biblical, Christ Centered Church. It is not only for our benefit but it is also a Sacrament that ties us together as believers. When someone refuses to partake they are communicating that; 1. There is unrepentant sin in their life 2. They have no communion with the church they are attending with 3. A misunderstanding of the gospel

Please correct me if there is any misunderstanding on my part.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Do you think we give too much weight to the conscience? I agree its important for one to think for himself; but our goal as shepherd's is to make sure that their conscience is grounded in scripture.

But that is better the work of the elders in that fellow's home church if he is regularly neglecting the Supper there. Butting in and correcting a guy who's a one-time visitor at your church, and who's trying to follow the practices taught by his elders at his church, is out of line. The matter is not serious enough to warrant that kind of meddling, nor to push a man to change his conscience on the spot.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
So that means that each individual Presbyterian church group would have its own bylaws governing this then? So one church group sees it this way, another Presbyterian church group another way?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
So that means that each individual Presbyterian church group would have its own bylaws governing this then? So one church group sees it this way, another Presbyterian church group another way?

The doctrine is defined in the WCF and closely identified confessions. That standard continues to serve the historic and confessional Presbyterian denominations. The same confessions set limits regarding the practice. Certain practices, if a Presbyterian church or congregation do them, are contra-confessional. An example is paedo-communion.

Particular denominations have further refined that body's practice in certain ways, whether by making explicit that church's practice of some aspect across the board; or giving guidance as to form. Presbyterians have historically been opposed to the imposition of forms, but welcoming of the Directory for Worship which provides a guide to consistency throughout the church. Compare to the Dutch Reformed tradition, which has prescribed a form or forms for the sacraments. You might think of the difference here as bottom-up uniformity or top-down uniformity.

Finally, whatever has not been made explicit by the doctrinal standard and its practical limits; and further refined or clarified by the denominational instruments for unity--e.g. frequency, manner (are the elements passed in pews? are they delivered in one location? do the people rise to sit at a literal table? etc.), and other circumstances--these matters are properly determined by the local leaders.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
So would there be the liberty to ssay have one group state only baptized members can partake, another only saved persons required?

Do they allow for say a Baptist to partake of the communion with them, or would they have to be "like minded?"

Curious, have had Angican coomunion, Lutheryn, but was told by Pastor after tken that I was wrong to do such, as not "like minded", as was a Baptist Christian?
 

Abeard

Puritan Board Freshman
Do you think we give too much weight to the conscience? I agree its important for one to think for himself; but our goal as shepherd's is to make sure that their conscience is grounded in scripture.

But that is better the work of the elders in that fellow's home church if he is regularly neglecting the Supper there. Butting in and correcting a guy who's a one-time visitor at your church, and who's trying to follow the practices taught by his elders at his church, is out of line. The matter is not serious enough to warrant that kind of meddling, nor to push a man to change his conscience on the spot.

There was no butting/meddling/pushing. We had a wonderful conversation after church about what the Lord's Supper means for us personally and what it means for the church. He challenged my thinking and I challenged his. If we throw out the "conscience" flag every time we have a disagreement we won't learn from one another.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Do you think we give too much weight to the conscience? I agree its important for one to think for himself; but our goal as shepherd's is to make sure that their conscience is grounded in scripture.

But that is better the work of the elders in that fellow's home church if he is regularly neglecting the Supper there. Butting in and correcting a guy who's a one-time visitor at your church, and who's trying to follow the practices taught by his elders at his church, is out of line. The matter is not serious enough to warrant that kind of meddling, nor to push a man to change his conscience on the spot.

There was no butting/meddling/pushing. We had a wonderful conversation after church about what the Lord's Supper means for us personally and what it means for the church. He challenged my thinking and I challenged his. If we throw out the "conscience" flag every time we have a disagreement we won't learn from one another.

Well, that sounds helpful and appropriate, then.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
So would there be the liberty to ssay have one group state only baptized members can partake, another only saved persons required?

Do they allow for say a Baptist to partake of the communion with them, or would they have to be "like minded?"

Curious, have had Angican coomunion, Lutheryn, but was told by Pastor after tken that I was wrong to do such, as not "like minded", as was a Baptist Christian?

Just so we're clear, I'm stating here what I believe is normative in Presbyterianism; and there are congregations that do not cleave to the norm, but practice what they please.

1) It's fine to distinguish conceptually between the saved and the baptized; that's a necessary distinction. But... Who do we treat as members of the church which is the visible body of Christ? And what are the privileges of that membership? The baptized are the outwardly identifiable members of the church, those whom the church has enfolded and acknowledge are citizens of the heavenly kingdom.

Therefore, how is it possible for an unbaptized person to have a legitimate seat at the table? The place at the table is reserved by baptism; it is not reserved by conversion. There will be various reasons for someone not taking a seat, in spite of his reservation. But those whose function it is to set the table and run a disciplined service operate by a clear set of biblical requirements. A person walks in; the servants are not mind/soul readers: they need data, a claim. And they have information to share: invitation and warning; a verbal, and sometimes even a literal "fence," depending on their level of concern for gate-crashers.

Are there Presbyterian churches and congregations that practice virtually no discipline whatever for admission to the table, or at most negative discipline? Sure; and I'd say that's an example of ducking responsibility. But there is an accounting to Christ for every act of conduct.

2) Most Presbyterian churches with which I'm familiar will commune a Baptist. I think there are some that won't; and there are a few quite-serious Reformed churches that, because of their membership standard (which includes agreement to the church's Confession) cannot conscientiously admit someone to their table who does not adhere to that Confession without reservation. Presbyterians generally require only their officers to own the Confession, and set the bar lower for ordinary members: requiring public witness of faith in Christ alone for salvation, belief in Scriptural authority, and submission to the teaching of Scripture in their church.

The Baptist, by communing, is in a real sense admitting legitimacy of those ordinary-member elements, yet in a secondary context (to his home-church) in this Presbyterian church. He must be a baptized and enrolled member in his own regular evangelical assembly, which substitutes for local membership with these Presbyterians. Scripture's authority will be asserted over his conscience in worship; or he probably should flee that place and not be at ease witnessing a common faith at the Supper.

The Lutheran pastor was uncomfortable with the knowledge he had carelessly communed a Baptist (yourself) who presumably denies articles of his faith that are non-negotiable. Communion is THE issue that divides them confessionally from the rest of the Protestants. They are exceeding literal on the matter, and if you are a typical Baptist, your "memorialist" opinion of the Supper is seriously at odds with their teaching. The Anglicans, by contrast, are traditionally quite latitudinarian in their practice of table-fellowship.

Presbyterians tend to fall between the extremes of closed and open--some form of "close." The general attitude of the sober-minded seems to be: Do you appear to be a member in good standing of a recognizable, evangelical (in the old sense) church, and hold the Bible as the final authority in matter's of faith and practice? And are you capable of following instructions, understanding the warnings, and mature discernment in things pertaining to the Christian faith?
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
David, the confessional Presbyterian churches are generally going to make the invitation to believers who are repentent of their sin AND are in good-standing at a Bible-believing church. This recognizes the catholicity and authority of Christ's church.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
thank you so much for this!

My church practices your last paragraph, as you ould be welcomed to partake with us, as thoigh may differ on exactly whatthe communion represents, would see you as one in Christ...
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Would your church accept bible believing churches are those who hold to aConfession of faith, or all conservative churches in general?
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
Would your church accept bible believing churches are those who hold to aConfession of faith, or all conservative churches in general?

Assuming this question was meant for me (apologies if it wasn't): as far as I understand my church's practice, if an individual sought open communion in one of our congregations he would be examined on his own profession, experience and walk rather than on the denomination of which he were a member. Perhaps his denomination might be a factor (e.g. if it was known as a liberal denomination) but based on those examples of open communion I'm aware of, the decision would be on an individual basis. Furthermore, generally the individual would probably need to be known by a number of the elders (so that his profession could be validated in his known conduct). Other factors could come into play as well.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Is the discussion with the person receiving Communion done right when getting adminisrtered? If a larger size congregation, how long does that take?

And do you know if there is a Church of Scotland that holds communion only once a year?
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
Is the discussion with the person receiving Communion done right when getting adminisrtered? If a larger size congregation, how long does that take?

And do you know if there is a Church of Scotland that holds communion only once a year?

We hold communion seasons in our denomination so opportunity is given after the Saturday service (there is just the one service on the Saturday, as well as a prayer meeting) for those wishing to become members or receive open communion to meet with the session. Immediately after the service tokens are distributed to those intending to go to the table who have already been granted the right to go (i.e. members), and then those wishing to go for the first time can meet with the session privately.

In the Church of Scotland the traditional practice is to have communion four times a year, following (so I learnt) the practice in Geneva under Calvin. In my denomination, and in the other Presbyterian denominations, each congregation tends to only have communion twice a year and some small congregations might only have it once a year. However, because of the practice of communion seasons and the tradition of travelling around communion seasons, there is plenty of opportunity to take communion more than the twice (or once) a year one's own congregation holds it. Of course one should consider whether it is profitable to be constantly going to lots and lots of communions.
 
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