Question: How are they that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to prepare themselves before they come unto it?
Answer: 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. (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q&A #171)
As both churches have recently voted to merge into one new church, the elders continue to meet to work through all the specific details of accomplishing that great task. As one church member recently noted (paraphrased): “We see so much division all around us with churches fighting and splitting over the smallest of issues; it is wonderful to be able to recognize all that we have in common and join together as one in Christ.” Please continue to pray for this work, that the Lord will greatly bless us and use us for the advancement of our Savior’s kingdom here in Mount Laurel and to the ends of the earth. For our encouragement in Christ, I am once again sending the monthly communion letter so that we might rightly prepare ourselves to come to His Table of grace spread before us in the presence of our enemies.
In the recent May communion letter, I mentioned our Larger Catechism question (above) which instructs us how we ought to prepare ourselves to come to the Lord’s Table. Preparation, commonly understood, means to make oneself ready for some event, service or activity. It often requires that something which is lacking be supplied in order to accomplish one’s goal. For instance, think of the runner preparing herself to compete in her first marathon. The body must be prepared—it lacks the ability to complete the 26+ mile course without training. However, through faithful and often difficult training the body is made ready for the task. Endurance has been increased so that the runner will be able to last the entire race and not fail part-way through. Something the runner could not do before (complete the race), she can now accomplish because of adequate preparation. The runner is now said to be “prepared” to run the race!
It is interesting that when the Larger Catechism talks about preparing ourselves to receive the Lord’s Supper, it does not speak in such a way as to cause us to look to ourselves and our own abilities to be adequately prepared. Notice the emphasis of the answer given above—it is clearly not on making ourselves right through our own efforts and strength. While there are clear actions noted (“faith, repentance, love to God…forgiving…desires after Christ…new obedience…”), it is to be stressed that such actions are properly seen as those graces worked within us by Christ through His Spirit. These actions cannot originate from within sinful creatures who are “dead in transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). That is why the authors of the Catechism began where they did in this answer: “by examining themselves of their being in Christ…” It is only because one is found to be in Christ that such actions—or evidences—can be seen in one’s life. Nowhere does the Bible call believers to go out and make themselves worthy to receive the Lord’s Supper. We can only examine ourselves to see that we have been made worthy by Christ to come and partake together. You see, the focus is always on Him and not on us! If we look to ourselves and our own accomplishments, efforts and good works, we will always be found wanting! But if we look to Christ and the evidences of His gracious work in our lives (Christ and His work are always inseparable), then we are, in fact, adequately prepared and can adequately prepare ourselves!
Prepare yourselves, then, to come this Lord’s Day to His Table. Look to Him alone as the “Author and Perfector of your faith” (Hebrews 12:2); “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). And having found yourselves in Him by faith and He in you by faith, come joyfully to feed upon Him spiritually by faith! In so doing, you will find grace and strength for the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1-3). By His grace, “renew the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.” Heed the wise counsel of our forefathers in the faith as you seek to adorn the gospel in your life with the graces common to those who are in Him. Let us consider Him Who endured the suffering and shame of the cruel cross, so that we will not grow weary and lose heart!
In the Name of Christ, Who has endured the Cross for us,
Pastor Ted Trefsgar