This coming Sunday, 7 June, we will be celebrating the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Grace Church continues in the practice of our former Evangelical and Village congregations, as well as the tradition of the church through the centuries, in making preparation for coming to the Table of the Lord. This will be the first time since we have met together that I will bring the Communion Sermon and the first time I have had an opportunity to address the issue of our proper preparation for participating in Communion.
I would have us consider the phrase from 1 Corinthians 11:27, “Therefore whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty…” We are not to think that the Holy Spirit is directing that only worthy people can partake of the Lord’s Supper. None of us is worthy to partake of the Lord’s Table since we are all sinners saved by grace alone (Romans 3:23). None of us can boast before the Lord that we deserve a place at Jesus’ table. We all must come shamefaced and with great humility that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. In truth we have not loved God, rather He has loved us and has sent His Son to satisfy His wrath against us. No, none of us is worthy. It is Christ Himself who makes us worthy. It is by coming in faith to the sacrifice of Jesus, which is symbolized by the bread and wine that we are made worthy to partake. It is by acknowledging our unworthiness that a seat at the table is reserved for us; the self-righteous have no seat at the table. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.
The Holy Spirit through the apostle does not rebuke us for our unworthiness in this passage in 1 Corinthians 11:27, but rather for the unworthy manner that many have when they participate. It is not our unworthiness, but our manner that is of concern here. In context this unworthiness consisted of members getting drunk during the Communion meal (21), taking of the super as if it were a private meal (21, 34), and disregarding the other members of the body of Christ (29). It is therefore when we lose sight of the sacredness of the meal and that it is a means of grace and act of worship together that we partake unworthily.
I have known some to come to the table of the Lord while being in clear violation of the Ten Commandments. To come to the table as, for example, a practicing adulterer without confession and repentance is to eat unworthily. To come as an adulterer who has confessed, repented, and is trusting in Christ is to come to the table worthily. While we are all unworthy to eat of the table it is the unrepentant unworthy who eat unworthily and incur Christ’s displeasure at the table. It is the unworthy who confess and repentant who eat worthily.
I have also know some who were not in any clear violation of the Ten Commandments, but with¬held them¬selves from the table because they had tender consciences and were overwhelmed by their unworthiness. Yet, these are the ones that should come to the table. Their feeling of unworthiness and desire to turn away from that which pains them properly prepares them for the table and the grace bestowed by the gracious Lord who will not break a bent reed or put out a smoking flax, as it is put in the gospel (Mat¬thew 12:20).
I pray that these thoughts will help us to see that our unworthiness does not bar us from the table, but our unworthy manner does. Let us get rid of the unworthy manner and so rejoice at our place at the table as God’s adopted children who have received Jesus by believing on His name having been born of God (John 1:12-13).
Pastor Gary Englestad