The Lord’s Supper is a wonderful gift from God and is a seal of God’s promises to all who have come to Christ in repentance and faith.
The more you grasp the meaning and significance of the Lord’s Supper, the more you will benefit from it. Here are five ways you can enter more fully into the Lord’s Supper.
1. Look back
“The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11:23-25)
At the Lord’s table, Christ calls us to look back and remember His sacrifice for us on the cross by partaking of the bread and the wine.
Since Jesus and Paul gave distinct significance to both the bread and the wine, it is worth thinking about the significance of each.
The bread speaks of Christ’s body, in which He lived a perfect human life. Jesus lived the life that none of us could ever achieve. He never spoke a sinful word or had a sinful thought. He always obeyed the Father’s will. He always loved, always hoped, always believed.
The body of Jesus speaks of His perfect life that was given for us. He laid down that life of perfect obedience so that we who are so far from the righteousness of God may find in Him what we do not have in ourselves.
When we come to the Lord’s table, we often feel unworthy. But God reminds us in the picture of the bread that our salvation does not rest on the progress of the work of the Holy Spirit in us, but on the completion of the work of Christ for us. None of us has ever offered God perfect obedience and we never will, but when we take the bread, we are reminded that God counts His perfect obedience as if it were our own.
The wine speaks about the blood of Jesus poured out. Blood in the veins speaks of life, but blood separated from the body speaks of death. The bread speaks of our Lord’s obedience; the wine speaks of His sacrifice.
Having no sin of His own, Jesus chose to bear ours. He became our sacrifice, absorbing the judgement of God. And through the shedding of His blood, He released forgiveness for us.
God wants to seal what Christ has done for us into our minds and our hearts, so He tells us to partake of the bread and wine in remembrance of Him.
2. Look In
“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:28)
When you come to the Lord’s table, Christ calls you to ask yourself some honest questions. This is important because Paul says that “whoever… eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27).
What does it mean to drink in an unworthy manner? How do I know if I should take the Lord’s Supper? Here are two simple questions that will help you to examine yourself:
1. Am I believing?
Look at the cross. Consider what God says through the picture of the bread and the wine. Do you believe in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you?
If the answer is ‘Yes’, then you should come to the table and take the bread and the wine. If the answer is ‘No, I am not believing,’ then you need to ask another question: Am I willing to believe in Christ now?
Christ invites you to the table. You can come to Him with all your doubts with all your unresolved conflicts and say, “I need Your grace. I need your help. I need your forgiveness.”
If you are willing, come to Christ in faith, ready to receive from His gracious hand.
2. Am I repenting?
If your answer to that question is ‘Yes’– then you should come to the Lord’s table. This table is for sinners who see their need of Jesus Christ.
“Self-righteous people, who think that they are saved by their own works, have no business to come to the Lord’s table,” wrote J.C. Ryle. “For what do we declare at the Lord’s Supper? We publicly profess that we have no goodness, righteousness or worthiness of our own, and that all our hope is in Christ. We publicly profess that we are guilty, sinful and corrupt and naturally deserve God’s wrath and condemnation… Now what has a self-righteous man to do with an ordinance like this?”
The Lord’s Supper is for sinners who see their need for the grace and mercy of God. If you see your need for God’s mercy today, then come. But if there is a known sin that you refuse to give up, you should not come to the table. Notice, I didn’t say ‘if there’s a sin you find difficult to give up, but if there is a sin you refuse to give up.’ If you are saying, “I know what I am doing is wrong, but I am going to continue doing it” you are shutting yourself off from the grace of God. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa 55:6, 7). God’s grace can be received by any person who is ready to turn from sin and receive it.
3. Look up
The Lord’s Supper began as a meal in which the disciples shared fellowship with Jesus. It is the same for us. Jesus ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. And we share fellowship with Jesus as we draw near to Him by faith. The bread and the wine remind us that Jesus will sustain your soul as food sustains your body.
Imagine going into a fine restaurant. You are seated at a table, and you are given a menu that shows pictures of the food. When the waiter comes, he explains the menu, and recommends his favorite entrees. But suppose you then left the restaurant without ordering or eating any of the food. The whole point of going there would be missed. The reason you go to a restaurant is not to see pictures of the food, or to hear the waiter describing the food, but to nourish yourself by eating the food.
When you come to the Lord’s Table, order what is on the menu. Tell the Lord that you want what He has promised. Tell Him you are hungry for a fresh touch of His love. Tell Him you want to see more of His glory. Tell Him you would like to taste His goodness. Tell Him your soul is dry and thirsty and that you need to be renewed by His Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Table gives us a special opportunity to draw near to Him in faith and to be nourished by Him. So when you come to the Lord’s Table, look up to your risen Savior. Ask and receive from Him.
4. Look around
“This is my body, which is for you” (v24)
The “you” here is plural, and that is significant. You cannot have communion on your own. The Lord’s Supper is for the Lord’s family.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus said to His disciples “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you” (Lk 22:15). Christ wants the whole family to gather at His table. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old, rich or poor, black or white, pastor or lay leader, Bible scholar or Bible novice: We all receive the same invitation. We all need the same Savior. We all come to the same table.
So when you come to the Lord’s Supper, give thanks for the family of God. Pray for other members of the body of Christ. And look for an opportunity to encourage someone who is sitting near to you before you go home.
5. Look Forward
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26)
Some folks have the idea that people who come to church think they are better than everybody else. The opposite is the case. In taking the bread and the wine we are stating openly that our hope of everlasting life is not found in anything we have done for Jesus, but rests entirely on what Jesus has done for us.
We proclaim Christ’s death “until he comes.” After instructing His disciples to drink the wine, Jesus said, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).
When we come to the Lord’s Table, think about the glorious day when all who believe will dine with Jesus in His perfect kingdom, rejoicing in His presence for all of eternity. Looking forward to that day will strengthen you in hope.
Until That Day
One day you will come to the Lord’s Supper for the last time. When Christ calls you home, your faith will be turned to sight, as you are translated from the worship of earth to the worship of heaven.
Until that day, look back, look in, look up, look around, and look forward. Draw strength from your Savior as you partake of the bread and the wine.