As we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s Supper tomorrow in our little congregation, I have been reading and reflecting on some things that I read in Philip Ryken’s book, The Communion of the Saints. As with all of his books that I’ve read, it is full of insight and I thought it worthwhile to share a few things here that have been beneficial to me. In chapter seven, entitled “The Communion Table”, Ryken writes:
The Lord’s Supper is a solemn ordinance, and there are a number of potential dangers to receiving it. One is unworthy participation, which results in sickness and death. The apostle Paul warns that those who are not worthy to eat and drink the Lord’s Supper will eat and drink condemnation to themselves by not discerning the Lord’s body. This is why many of the Corinthians were “weak and sick,” and why some had died.
Whether a Christian is worthy to take part in the Lord’s Table is not easy to determine. The prodigal son said that he was not worthy to participate in the father’s household and asked only to be made a servant (Luke 15:19). The Roman military officer who built a synagogue for the Jews considered his house unworthy to entertain Jesus when the Lord came to heal his servant (Luke 7:6). Yet both of these men received grace. What makes us truly worthy is a correct understanding of our unworthiness before God, together with a firm resolve to obey him irrespective of the cost. This is how Calvin summarized the worthiness that God requires:
[L]et us remember that this sacred feast is medicine for the sick, solace for sinners, alms to the poor; but would bring no benefit to the heatlhy, righteous, and rich — if such could be found. . . . [T]his is the worthiness — the best and only kind we can bring to God — to offer our vileness and (so to speak) our unworthiness to him so tha this mercy may make us worthy of him; to despair in ourselves so that we may be comforted in him . . . moreover, to aspire to that unity which he commends to us in his Supper; and as he makes all of us one in himself, to desire one soul, one heart, one tongue for us all.
Notice how Calvin concludes: by emphasizing our commitment to be united to all the saints in Christ.
Just in this little section I found some beautiful nuggets. The statement by Calvin (and elaboration by Ryken), that it is our proper understanding of our unworthiness that allows God to work in us to make us worthy recipients of His grace was very good. But the end of the quote, and Ryken’s additional emphasis regarding “our commitment to be united to all the saints in Christ” is excellent. I shared this with a brother last night and we both felt convicted, confessing that we have both always thought of taking the Lord’s Supper more with regards to our communion with Christ, underemphasizing in our minds (and our hearts) the communion with those saints with whom we get to share this marvelous feast. Instituted by our Lord, not only to draw his disciples closer to Himself, but to bond them even moreso to one another, it was at the feast of the last passover, after the bread had been broken and the wine had been poured, and the disciples had partaken that John records these words of Jesus:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
What grace. We have a Saviour, who not only died for our sins, brought us from death to life, ransoming and redeeming us from the dominion of darkness, but who also graciously grafted us into the body of His bride. We have forgiveness in Christ! We have life in Christ! We have redemption in Christ! We have fellowship with the saints in Christ! HALLELUJAH! WHAT A SAVIOUR!