Category Archives: Lord’s Supper

A Westminster Divine Opposed Paedo-Communion

Richard Vines was an influential Westminster Divine and he wrote one of the most helpful works on the Lord’s Supper. I hope to supply more quotes from him in the future. But regarding 1 Cor. 11:28, “Let a man examine himself” he had this to say:

Let a man examine himself, which if any one cannot do, as infants, stupid ignorants, men besides themselves, or will not do, because he hates the light which discovers him, or does not do, because worldly employments possess him, or dare not do, lest he create trouble and pain to himself, then he has not performed the proviso, which is, And so let him eat of this Bread, &c.”[1]

The Lord’s Supper requires that the believer exercise his faith as well as examine himself. An infant cannot do that. The Lord’s Supper is not a “medicine” that simply works by itself. The benefits of Christ’s body and blood are truly and spiritually “present to the faith of believers” (WCF 29:7) in the Lord’s Supper. The Larger Catechism states, “spiritually present to the faith of the receiver” (LC 170). An infant cannot exercise faith knowingly during the Lord’s Supper nor can he examine himself.

[1] Richard Vines, A Treatise of the Right Institution, Administration, and Receiving of the Sacrament of the Lords-Supper (London, 1657), 354; cf. 190, 193.

The Larger Catechism #172

The Larger Catechism

Question 172

172.     Q. May one who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation, come to the Lord’s supper?    

A. One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof;[1102] and in God’s account hath it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it,[1103] and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ,[1104] and to depart from iniquity:[1105] in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians[1106]) he is to bewail his unbelief,[1107] and labor to have his doubts resolved;[1108] and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord’s supper, that he may be further strengthened.[1109]

Scriptural Support and Exposition

[1102] Isaiah 50:10. Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God. 1 John 5:13. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. Psalm 88. O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee: Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry; For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength: Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah. Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth. Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: LORD, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee. Wilt thou show wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah. Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee. LORD, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off. They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together. Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness. Psalm 77:1-4, 7-10. I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak…. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah. And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. Jonah 2:4. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. [1103] Isaiah 54:7-10. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee. Matthew 5:3-4. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Psalm 31:22. For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee. Psalm 73:13, 22-23. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency…. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. [1104] Philippians 3:8-9. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. Psalm 10:17. LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear. Psalm 42:1-2, 5, 11. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?…. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance…. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. [1105] 2 Timothy 2:19. Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. Isaiah 50:10. Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God. Psalm 66:18-20. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me. [1106] Isaiah 40:11, 29, 31. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young…. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength…. But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Matthew 11:28. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 12:20. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. Matthew 26:28. For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. [1107] Mark 9:24. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. [1108] Acts 2:37. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Acts 16:30. And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? [1109] Romans 4:11. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also. 1 Corinthians 11:28. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.


This question ranks as one of the best in the whole Larger Catechism because of its great tenderness and deep spiritual concern. I am not saying that the other questions lack such characteristics but this one stands out for its pastoral insight. All of us have struggled with our doubts before partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Doubting believers can and should partake of the Lord’s Supper. The answer offers helpful guidelines and most doubting believers will be able to see themselves described in the answer.

Before looking at the LC answer point by point, we need to dispense with an idea found among some Presbyterians in our generation. Some have argued that we should not ask ourselves the preparatory inquiries set forth in the previous LC question. They believe examining oneself as described in the previous question only fosters the concerns raised in this LC question that is before us. In short, they argue that LC 170 breeds unhealthy introspection and that creates the scenario envisioned in LC 171 (doubting believers). To obviate this supposed problem, they teach that as long as you are a communicant member in good standing, you need not concern yourself with any preparatory inquiries. Since you have been admitted by the church, you should partake of the Lord’s Supper each week without any serious scruples. Rather than querying about your spiritual state, take comfort in the objective reality that you are a member of the church of Jesus Christ. That is what some have proposed.

Differing nuanced positions have been advanced by these proponents but in general terms, I believe the above paragraph fairly summarized their viewpoint. In answer to this, let me offer four responses. One, their view diminishes the gravity of the Lord’s Supper. As we have shown, believers fellowship with their Lord through the Lord’s Supper. Since we participate in the body and blood of our Lord, we cannot haphazardly approach the Lord’s Supper. Those preparatory questions help the believer to seriously consider what comes before him. To assume all is well because one is a church member fails to consider what the human heart can do. These preparatory questions challenge the heart. Remember, the Corinthians were members of the visible church and look happened to some of them (1 Cor. 11).

Two, their view jeopardizes the souls of those partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Since we do commune with our Lord through this appointed means of grace and since the fullest recorded account of the Lord’s Supper after its institution highlighted the devastating abuse of the Corinthians and the subsequent judgment from the Lord, we should not hazard the souls of those partaking of the Supper by presuming all is well because of some formal profession of faith. Too much remains at stake; the souls of the partakers may fall under God’s judgment.

Three, their position fosters a misplaced sense of security. To assure the anxious inquirers by notifying them that they are members of the local church would lead them to place their trust in their membership in a visible church rather than helping them to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather than encouraging them to place their faith in Jesus Christ, the focus shifts toward an external marker, namely, their membership in a local church. This can only breed formalism and will not foster earnest piety or deep godliness.

Lastly, their teaching kills the soul. Because the person ends up relying on his membership and focusing on his formal connection to the visible body of Christ, there is little to stir him to maturity. Man’s wicked heart always tends toward formalism and this view engenders it in spades. Their view can only have a deleterious impact on the soul and the longer the person remains in that situation, the greater his spiritual decay. Paul never wrote to the churches encouraging them to remain content because they were part of the visible church. Exhortations, challenges, encouragements, rebukes, etc. abound in his writings. Our souls grow from such teachings.

The Westminster divines believed that a godly man could receive the Lord’s Supper unworthily. Just like those circumcised Jews who found themselves “unclean” and unable to participate the Passover (though they may be have been godly), so the Corinthians “contracted epidemical judgments” because of “their undue and unfit coming to the Lord’s Table…” wrote Richard Vines † (1599/1600-1656).[1] The divines would have found the above position an affront on the sacrament itself.

For those who lack assurance and remain hesitant about participating in the Lord’s Supper, the LC encourages them to participate but not without some specific provisions. Again, this answer reveals their true pastoral insight which encourages the weak and does not encourage the hypocrite.

Lack Assurance

The answer first addresses those who lack assurance. “One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof… may and ought to come to the Lord’s supper, that he may be further strengthened.” Some believers struggle with their assurance and wonder if they are truly in Christ and others believe they have not properly and sufficiently prepared for the Lord’s Supper. They conclude that perhaps they should not partake of the Lord’s Supper.

The LC answer intimates that the person in question may have erred in assessing his true estate. He “may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof.” Assurance is not of the essence of faith, that is, a sense of assurance need not be present in order for a person to truly have faith.[2]

Numerous examples in Scripture reveal that true saints have doubted their relationship with God. They felt deserted, bereft of God’s comfort and care. We find the best example of this in Psalm 88 (the divines cite the entire Psalm as one of the proof texts for this LC question). The Psalmist cries out, “O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?” (v. 14) He lists his plight before the Lord, “I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.” (vv. 15-18) He prays to God complaining that God was destroying him and had cast him off. The last three verses just cited end the Psalm. Of this Psalm, Derek Kidner says, “There is no sadder prayer in the Psalter.”[3] Spurgeon said, “Assuredly, if ever there was a song of sorrow and a Psalm of sadness, this is one.” In the Psalmist’s bleak position, he still cries out to God, the very God from whom he feels estranged and the very God who seems to be destroying him. William Nicholson † (1591-1672) said of Ps. 88:14, “Even the best of God’s servants, have been brought to that strait, that they have not had a sense of God’s favor: But conceived themselves neglected, deserted by him, and discountenanced.”[4] The Psalmist did not believe God favored him but believed God opposed him and hid his face from him. He was in doubt as to his own standing before God and yet still he pled with God (cf. Jonah 2:4). The only place where he implies some relationship with God is the beginning of the Psalm, “O LORD, God of my salvation…” (v. 1). He never says, “My God” or “My LORD”. One finds a similar lament and feelings of destitution in Ps. 77:1-4, 7-10.

A person can feel deserted by God and yet still be united to Christ: “So in the derelictions that a believer is subject unto, there may be a separation in regard of the comfortable manifestation, and shining forth of the beams of God’s love, but no interruption in regard of his union with Christ.”[5] A believer may sense the separation “in regard of the comfortable manifestation” and yet his union with Christ will not be affected. Isaiah 50:10 serves as the general guide to those who remain doubtful: “Who among you fears the LORD and obeysthe voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” That is, even though you lack light and seem to be walking in darkness and doubt, nonetheless trust in the Lord, rely upon Him. Scripture gives examples of those who lack assurance and yet sought the Lord and called upon Him. So, lacking assurance does not automatically disqualify the person from partaking of the Lord’s Supper. In fact, Vines added that the “worthiest communicants are to their own eye the worst” and that “a proud confidence… [is] a greater cause and sign of unworthy receiving, than humble fear and sense of imperfection…”[6] In a sense, one should not be surprised if most believers feel most unworthy to partake of the Supper.

May Have True Interest in Christ if…

Not all doubters should be lumped together. Some doubters remain indolent and use their doubt to justify neglect. They wait for something to happen to them (suggesting that God must do something to them before they will take any steps towards Him). This passive approach denies their responsibility to use the appointed means of grace with all diligence and in turn implicitly fault God for their condition.  Other doubters occasionally get serious about their condition and tend to the means of grace but with very little diligence and earnestness. The divines did not have them in mind. The doubters the divines had in mind are those dear tender Christians who doubt but nonetheless continue to do what God calls them to do. They list three indicators that point to the reality of their genuine faith: “and in God’s account hath it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity…” The phrase “in God’s account hath it” means that these doubters do “have true interest in Christ” because of the following three indicators. If they exhibit these three characteristics, then “in God’s account” they have a true interest in Christ. They put those signs or indicators of being a true believer in conditional terms, “if he be…

One, if the person is “duly affected.” The phrase “if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it” means that the doubting individual really desires to be assured. It truly disturbs him because he lacks assurance. He prizes assurance and earnestly desires it. He genuinely wants to know that he truly is in Christ. Many doubters simply do not care and remain content with their ambivalence. Our Lord did say, “Blessed arethe poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Mt. 5:3-4) The doubter’s mourning fits what the beatitude teaches. The doubting person mourns over his lack of assurance. Jeremiah Burroughs † (1601-1646)[7] encourages such people to look to the promises of the Gospel offered to them so they could gain some comfort. In fact, he states that the Gospel “has a power to draw the heart” and that there “is a quickening in the grace of the Gospel when it is beheld.”[8] That is, as the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, it also has the grace to quicken the souls of those who believe and look to the Lord in faith. God uses the truth and the power of His Word to quicken their souls. That concern, that distress over not being fully assured or not knowing his true interest in Christ points to a work of God’s grace in the soul. It indicates that he has a true interest in Christ.

Two, if the poor individual “unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ.” This second indicator should be obvious to all readers. The doubting individual really wants to be united to Christ. Such a person is like Paul who wanted know Christ and to “be found in Him” (Phil. 3:8, 9) or the Psalmist who panted after God (Ps. 42:1-2). This desire does not come from nature but from God’s grace. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (Jn. 6:44) The person’s desire to be united to Christ can only happen by the work of God in his or her soul.

Three, if he “unfeignedly desires… to depart from iniquity.” The phrase “unfeignedly desires” should go with the second infinitive (“to depart”). Many things could be said about this third point. Let me just make only a few points. The divines recognized that our love for sin changes once we are united to Christ. As Obadiah Sedgwick †(1599/1600-1658) said, those who have truly embraced Christ “will let all your sins go, and yourselves go so that you may have Christ.”[9] That effect can only happen from being drawn to Christ. Though numerous motives may compel an individual to want to leave sin (fear of judgment, consequences, fatigue and weariness, shame, etc.), one who has been truly affected by God’s grace desires to leave sin ultimately for Christ’s sake. Paul said to Timothy, “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”” (2Tim. 2:19) Departing from iniquity means the person has truly embraced Christ. The doubting person knows God will not hear those who regard iniquity (Ps. 66:18-20).  Though the doubting believer cannot perfectly desire to depart from iniquity, he earnestly desires it — it remains uppermost in his affections.

The very influential Westminster Divine Richard Vines said that “grace is more apt to see sin than itself”,[10] that is, true humble believers tend to be more aware of their failures and sins than the true work of grace in their lives. They do earnestly wish to depart from their iniquities and grieve deeply over the fact that they have progressed so little. Vines believed such a person should partake of the Lord’s Supper.

For the Relief Even of Weak and Doubting Christians

The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper has been instituted to grant relief to all kinds of believers. The answer shifts from the condition of the doubting believer to what they must do in their condition. Before detailing that, it makes a positive statement about one of the purposes of the Lord’s Supper: “in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians)…” That is, the Lord’s Supper has been instituted to help weak and doubting Christians. This point is deduced from the kind and tender nature of our Lord Jesus Christ who feeds His flock and would renew the strength those who wait for Him (Is. 40:11, 29, 31). He beckons those who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him (Mt. 11:28). As the meek and tender Lord, he will not break those who are as a bruised reed nor will he quench the smoking flax (Mt. 12:20). The blood that was shed was for the forgiveness of sins to which the Lord’s Supper points (Mt. 26:28). If our Lord is so tender and meek, then surely He will have regard for those weak and doubting believers. Surely He instituted the Supper while being perfectly mindful of the weak and doubting! Our Lord’s tenderness did not abate at the institution of this sacrament. As Richard Vines said, a “sick people may be nourished and strengthened with that meat which they cannot taste or relish in their mouth”[11] so weak and doubting believers can be nourished and strengthened as they partake by faith.  

Obadiah Sedgwick †, in another treatise, encourages the doubting person to “be in the ways of strength.” That is, use the means that strengthens their faith. He says, the way God strengthens us “is revealed in his ordinances; for God does not call us, nor change us, nor strengthen us, nor save us without means.” Of course, one of the means of strengthening believers are the sacraments. Sedgwick illustrates the importance of strengthening those who doubt with the example of a baby. “A child which cannot stand when it is born, may yet go by the use of the breasts; but that person who is weak, and wants [lacks] strength, if he feeds not, will abate more, and before long will want life itself.”[12] That is, a weak baby can get strength by feeding on his mother’s breasts and those who do not feed will get weaker and could actually die. So a doubting believer should partake of the Lord’s Supper to feed his soul. To neglect it can only weaken him. Remember, the answer spells out the purpose of the Supper: “that he may be further strengthened.

Bewail and Labor

So if the above three characteristics can be found in the doubting believer, he should do two things before he comes to the Lord’s Supper: “he is to bewail his unbelief, and labor to have his doubts resolved; and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord’s supper, that he may be further strengthened.” The doubting believer must “bewail his unbelief” like the father who cried out to Christ in behalf of his son, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mk. 9:24) Unbelief is not good and it should never be tolerated, excused, or nursed. We should decry it and beg the Lord to help us to believe. Vos says, “Lack of assurance is not to be complacently tolerated; we are always to strive to attain and retain the full conscious assurance of our personal salvation. Doubts may be unavoidable, for the time being, but we are never to regard them as legitimate tenants of our mind.”[13]

The answer also says the person should “labor to have his doubts resolved.” Some effort should be made to resolve the doubts. Those convicted under Peter’s sermon asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) and the Philippian jailer cried, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) So the doubting individual should ask and make effort to resolve his struggles. Read a good Christian book that deals with the issue, like Obadiah Sedgwick, who offers fourteen “cures” to resolve doubt.[14] The true believer who doubts will not rest content but will avail himself of all the God appointed means to overcome this. To despair and give up will only deepen the dejection. Once again, Johannes Vos’s comments help us here:

Spiritual doubts are very real to the person who has them. They cannot be disposed of by a wave of the hand and a pat on the back. Such a person should face his own troubles frankly and seek relief Study of God’s Word, prayer, and conference with godly, experienced Christians will help. And as the catechism rightly affirms, the Lord’s Supper itself is intended for the spiritual help of weak and doubting Christians.[15]

The divines assumed that these doubting people were quite earnest though fearful. This exhortation to resolve their doubts did not apply to everyone. Thomas Ridgley adamantly argued that these exhortations must not be applied to those who are indifferent and uncaring.

This advice is not given to stupid sinners, or such as are unconcerned about their state, or never had the least ground to conclude that they have had communion with God in any ordinance,—especially if their distress of conscience arises rather from a slavish fear of the wrath of God, than from a filial fear of him, or if they are more concerned about the dreadful consequences of sin, than about the intrinsic evil of it; I say, this advice is not given to such. But it is given to those, who, as formerly described, lament after the Lord; earnestly seek him, though they cannot, at present, find him; and have fervent desires for his presence, though no sensible enjoyment of it; and appear to have some small degrees of grace, though it be very weak.[16]

After bewailing and laboring, the answer says, “and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord’s supper, that he may be further strengthened.” He may come to the Lord’s Supper because he finds those biblical requirements in him and has subsequently bewailed his unbelief and labored much to overcome it. He also ought to come because if he is so qualified, why would he avoid it? To partake would only strengthen him: “that he may be further strengthened.” The Word of God said, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” (1 Cor. 11:28) He has examined himself and so he should eat and drink!

[1] Richard Vines, A Treatise of the Right Institution, Administration, and Receiving of the Sacrament of the Lords-Supper (London, 1657), 285-286.

[2] See William Spurstowe † (d. 1666), The Wels of Salvation Opened: Or, a Treatise Discovering the Nature, Preciousnesse, Usefulness of Gospel-Promises, and Rules for the Right Application of Them (London, 1655), 170ff. Spurstowe develops the point that assurance is not the essence of faith.

[3] Derek Kidner, Psalms 73–150: An Introduction and Commentary, TOTC (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1975), 348.

[4] William Nicholson † (1591-1672), David’s Harp Strung and Tuned (London, 1662), 254

[5] William Spurstowe, The Wels of Salvation Opened, 173-174.

[6] Vines, A Treatise of the Right Institution, 287-288.

[7] Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn dates Burrough’s birth to be 1601 (when baptized) but remains uncertain. Other references have his birthdate to be 1599.

[8] Jeremiah Burroughs, The Saints Happinesse (London, 1660), 137-138. Burroughs says that even though the person feels unsure, he should by faith cling to the promises: “though thou hast it not in sense, thou mayest have it in faith, and therefore exercise faith, and fetch it in that way, set faith on work in the promise” (111).

[9]Obadiah Sedgwick, The Fountain Opened (London, 1657), 425.

[10] Vines, A Treatise of the Right Institution, 288. Cf. Vines contributed a lot to the Assembly, see Chad Van Dixhoorn, ed. The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-1652, 5 Vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 1:141-142.

[11] Vines, A Treatise of the Right Institution, 288.

[12] Obadiah Sedgwick, The doubting beleever (London, 1641), 131-133. Sedgwick deals with doubting believers in this treatise. The section cited does not directly deal with the Lord’s Supper but the point he is making applies to what the LC teaches.

[13] Johannes G. Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2002), 498.

[14] The doubting beleever, 110ff.

[15] Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism, 498.

[16] Thomas Ridgley, A Body of Divinity, vol. 2 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1855), 537.

Chapter 10, When will we stop eating the Lord’s Supper?

We will now cover the last part of our little study.  The question before you is a very simple one. When will we stop eating the Lord’s Supper? Well, this, of all the questions, is the easiest.

We are told in 1 Cor. 11:26, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” As we celebrate the Supper, we are proclaiming His death until He comes.

So we will continue to have the Supper until either we die or until our Lord comes back. This is a practice which we will celebrate for the rest of our lives or until history as we know it ends (which ends when Christ comes back). Most people will have little problem with any of this. They will say, “Of course we do it until He comes back or until we die.” Yet, is there any significance to this?

Having the future in mind

The Lord’s Supper is closely tied to the past event (the Supper represents what Christ did), to the present (the present fellowship we have with Him at the Supper), and also to the future. It is something we easily overlook. “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)

We sometimes focus so much on the present benefits of the Supper that we fail to consider how they relate to the future. We are to remember that He is coming back. Each time we celebrate the Supper, we are reminded that what we experience now will not continue indefinitely. The joy, sorrows, pain, pleasure, etc. will all come to an end. Christ is coming back.

We are not communing with Christ at the Supper only to just get along in this life. The present fellowship at the Supper is also a reminder that one day, we shall see Him face to face. The sacrament will give way to reality; the sign to the person to whom it pointed.

I will not drink again… until that day (Mt. 26:29)

When our Lord commanded that the Supper be celebrated (that is, when He instituted the Supper), He 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.” (Mt. 26:29) This was Jesus’ way of saying farewell to them (though they didn’t fully realize it at the time) since He was about to die. But He was also promising them something. He will have table fellowship with them in the future. Their present fellowship will be renewed in our Father’s kingdom.

So, at the Supper, we have the promise that one day, we shall fellowship with our Lord face to face in our Father’s kingdom. Each time we celebrate, we are not only recognizing that He will return but that Supper is also an emblem of the future fellowship we will have with our Lord. Of course we have present sweet fellowship with Him at the Supper but we must also remember that this present fellowship is only a taste of the great table fellowship to come.

This promise is made several other times. The Bible speaks of the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9), reclining at the table with Abraham (Mt. 8:11), and reclining at the table of the kingdom of God (Lk. 13:29). Table fellowship is the picture of the great intimacy we have with our Lord.

We should yearn for the great Supper to come. As we enjoy the sweet fellowship with our Lord at the Supper, we should also remember that this is just a small taste (albeit satisfying) of the great Supper to come.

In the mean time…The Cross

With the future in mind and with the promise of the future fellowship in our hearts, we are to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” What characterizes the Supper and our lives is the importance of the death of Christ for our present lives.

The death of Christ is our food, our nourishment. It sustains us as we wait for the coming of our Lord. It is the subject of our preaching. From it come the benefits of the Lord’s Supper. Because of Christ’s death, we live and because of its rich worth (its sufficiency), we have peace with God.

One of the important things about the Supper is that it makes Christ’s death central to our lives. Our Lord wants us to continually look at the past event for our present benefit. He has done it all. At the Supper, we come empty because His death has paid everything for us. Our hunger is satisfied by the benefits of His death.

Because the death of Christ has fully accomplished our redemption, we are reminded of it over and over again each time we have communion. As we proclaim His death until He comes, we are at the same time reminded that the one who loved us not only died for us but that He will come back to us because He loves us.

Not in Heaven

Needless to say, there will be no need for the Lord’s Supper in heaven because everything that the Lord’s Supper points to and gives (signifies and exhibits), we receive in the person of Christ in heaven. The Lord’s Supper is temporary but necessary. It is like a lifesaver one wears when shipwrecked. Once we reach the shore, we no longer need it.

What this means is that the Lord’s Supper is the next best thing to heaven. Here in the Supper, we fellowship with Christ truly and spiritually. In heaven, we fellowship with Him personally, really, and perpetually. The same Christ is received but we get Him that much better in heaven.


In the Supper, the Lord gives Himself to us. What more can we ask? Let us prepare well, receive well, and afterwards, by faith reflect well. This will fill our course of life until we die or until Christ comes back.

If we cannot enjoy Christ at the Supper, then what are we looking for? If He is our chief delight and we enjoy genuine fellowship with Him at the Supper, then we are assured that this Supper will turn into the final Supper. What we have received by faith shall fill our souls by sight. Come Lord Jesus!


1. How long will believers partake of the Lord’s Supper?

2. What does the future have to do with the Lord’s Supper?

3. What did the Lord promise about the future when he instituted the Lord’s Supper?

4. What does it mean to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”?

Chapter 9, What should I do after the Lord’s Supper?

If there is any energy spent on receiving the Lord’s Supper, it is usually expended before and during the Supper. That we would expect. Yet, there are still things that we can do after the Supper that can still help and encourage us.

In a normal meal, hunger creates a desire for food. As we sit for the meal, we find pleasure and delight as we eat. But what about “after” we eat? Don’t we feel satisfied because we ate? Don’t we derive benefits because of the nutrition we received? Are we not usually happier because we consumed a delicious meal? Yes, a good meal always satisfies us.

Something like that should happen to us after we have the Lord’s Supper. After the Supper, we should have been spiritually satisfied. Our souls should have been nourished and our love to Christ should have deepened. If we indeed have communed with Christ, we are much better for it.

We ought not to leave the table empty but filled. The One who serves the Table never disappoints. He promised to fellowship with us as revealed in His Word. So we must consider what happened and if indeed we received much from the Supper. If we neglect this, then are we not moving on with our lives with little concern for this matter?

The worst thing to do

I think many of us, myself included, give the least attention to this part of the Lord’s Supper. We prepare for the Supper and try to be as focused and serious as possible during the Supper. After that, we leave, at times mindful of what happens but quite often, we simply move to the next activity of our lives.

How would you respond if you shared something very important and personal with your friend who afterwards walked away and sat down in the living room to turn the TV on and acted like you never spoke her? You would wonder if she either took you seriously or if she understood what it was you shared. You expected your close friend to respond in a certain way that showed that they understood the seriousness of the conversation.

If we leave the Lord’s Supper and we don’t think about it or reflect on what happened, then what good was it? To walk away from the Supper without spiritually thinking about it and meditating on it with thanksgiving is to act as if we simply took medicine. When we take medicine, it doesn’t demand too much from us. We might not think about the medicine or even act as if we took it. Yet, it still affects us and does us good. But the Lord’s Supper is not like that at all. Its continued benefit assumes the exercise of faith.

The worst thing to do is to leave the Lord’s Supper without giving it a second thought. If we walk away with little reflection and spiritual meditation on what just happened, then we shortchange our spiritual growth. But what makes it worse is that we are by our actions saying that it was only good for that moment and not much more.

Paul’s example to the Corinthians

When we read 1 Cor. 11, we see Paul analyzing how the Corinthians acted at the Supper. He was reflecting on their behavior. They obviously did not do it so he does it for them. He is telling them how they behaved at the Supper and why it was they received judgment at the Supper.

We have noted already that the Corinthians behaved badly at the Supper (11:20ff.). He also exhorts them to change their behavior and to do the very opposite. First he said, “[W]hen you come together it is not for the better but for the worse …When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat.” (11:17, 20) He is rehearsing how they acted at the Supper and rebuking them. At the end, he exhorts them by saying, “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another…so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.” (11:33-34)

This is our example. We should look back and rehearse how we acted. We should wonder if our coming together with the saints was for my good. Did the Supper benefit my soul? Did I really come to Christ with a hungry soul to receive Him? Though Paul can’t write to us, we can reflect back with God’s Word and reflect on how we behaved.

I didn’t get anything

There may be occasions when we (for various reasons) did not truly benefit from the Supper. How then should we respond? Should we simply say, “Well, maybe it’ll be better next time?” If we leave it that way, will we really profit from it? If we do not ask serious questions, then why do we expect it to be better next time? If I am not able to fit into a particular pair of pants today, does that mean if I simply try it on the next day that it will work? Of course not! Why couldn’t I fit in? Was it my pants? Do I need to lose weight?

My young son once came to me asking for a belt because the pair of pants he was trying to wear was way too big. There was considerable room in his pants and I simply could not understand why they were so big and why my wife had given him these to wear. He went to his mother for help only to find that he was trying on his older sister’s pants. He made a mistake and picked up the wrong pair of pants. He could have tried the pants on every day for a few years and they still would not have fit him. In finding out the problem, he was able to get the right pair of pants.

So we should not respond by thinking that it will be more beneficial to us next time simply because we come to it again later. We should ask ourselves serious questions. Was I in a carnal frame of mind? Was I thinking about the world? What were my desires during the Supper? How well did I prepare? Did I stay up too late the night before wasting time or filling it with vain and silly things? Are there sins I need to confess? Am I harboring bitterness?

Some Causes

Remember, in Corinth, there was a specific reason why judgment came to the Corinthians. There are some things we can do to see if indeed we may be the cause. This, of course, is only a guide and is not meant to be a complete list:

Lack of preparation — The Corinthians did not properly prepare themselves. They ate and drank and sought to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Their actions indicated that they did not prepare and remedy the problem before the Supper. So, ask yourself, did you adequately prepare? Did you review your life? What about your choices, words, actions, etc.?

Worldly or carnal mind — Sometimes believers have wasted all their previous efforts and let their hearts and minds wander through the Lord’s Day in the morning and especially during the worship service. Maybe the sermon did very little for you so you let your heart wander and you began to fix your mind on unworthy things. If this was the way you acted during the Supper, you should repent and call upon the Lord for such ways during the precious time.

Sin against someone — It is not uncommon to find that some in the service may actually be sitting there with bitterness in their hearts against someone in the church or somewhere else. They have repeatedly let the sun go down on their anger (Eph. 4:26, 27) and somehow assumed that all is well because they do not feel the heat of their anger or bitterness during the Supper. This is a dangerous situation and the Lord’s holding back His blessing may only be a step towards something more harsh. You should quickly and humbly repent and seek reconciliation.

Presumption or superstition — Our hearts can get used to “rituals” and assume that like always that if they just go through the motions, everything will work out well. Other people think of the Supper superstitiously and look to it as magic. Instead of exercising faith in Christ, they are looking to the elements to do something in them like medicine. Against these things, we must continually fight. For these sins we must beg the Lord’s forgiveness.

To these things, the Larger Catechism says, “if they see they have failed…they are to be humbled, and to attend upon it afterwards with more care and diligence.” Go to Christ at the Supper that much more.

Thomas Doolittle asked, “What if you find no good by the sacrament?” The Christian is to respond, “I must examine what was the cause, be humble for it, forsake the sin, pray to feel the benefit of it when I have come away, better prepare myself, and humbly wait upon God therein for another time.”

What if I can’t honestly find the problem?

There may be occasions (perhaps quite often) when we simply cannot pinpoint it. Let us not grow discouraged. If our conscience is clear as we honestly and humbly review the matter, then we must continually seek the Lord and more earnestly seek Him at the Supper. Christ has promised to commune with you — will you not go to Him with those truths and pray earnestly that He will benefit your soul at the Supper as He so promised?

Many good men have pointed out that the blessings of the Supper may not come during the Supper but sometime after because you may have mourned more and seriously yearned more after Christ hours after the Supper.


Our Larger Catechism (#175) says that we should seriously consider how we behaved and see if we had success. If we did, then we should “bless God for it, beg the continuance of it, watch against relapses, [and] fulfill their vows…” Surely God ought to be blessed for the benefits we derived from the Supper. Did you thank Him? Did you bow before Him in gratitude?

Also, let that blessing be a serious occasion to resolve to please Him more and live in a manner that is more consistent with our calling. You should bless Him for the assurance, comfort, and the real sense of His love for you. Such hearty thanks can only glorify God and make your heart glad with purity.

Furthermore, your lifestyle, your speech, your desires, etc. should be different and better. The Lord has been good to your soul and it should become evident in your behavior.

No Pride

Spiritual comforts can easily turn into spiritual pride. We may have received much and our souls may rejoice. “We ought especially to watch against the workings of spiritual pride after” the Supper; “for our wicked and deceitful hearts are most ready to be lifted up with the great favors and honor here conferred upon us.”[1]

If Satan could not trip us up before and during the Supper, then he’ll meet us after. Did not Satan enter Judas’s heart after the Supper (John 13:27)? If he cannot cause us to forsake the Supper, then he will use the Supper to cause us to forsake Christ by tempting you to be proud. Never say with the Laodiceans, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” (Rev. 3:17) Don’t let your satisfied soul become the occasion for pride (cf. Deut. 8:11ff.). You still need your soul and any benefit you derived should be the occasion for thankfulness and humility.

Let us never trust our hearts. We came to Him dependent upon His grace and let us leave dependent upon Him. Let us not sin away His blessings by thinking more of ourselves than we ought. Surely, Christ’s grace came to us at the Supper on account of His tender mercy and grace. “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7)


1. What is the worse thing to do after taking the Lord’s Supper?

2. What does the Bible teach regarding examining yourself after the Supper?

3. What should you do if you did not profit from the Supper?

4. What are some of the causes for not profiting from the Supper?

5. What should you when you profit from the Supper?

6. Explain why you should be aware of spiritual pride after the Supper?

[1] J. Willison, A Sacramental Catechism (1720; repr., Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2000), 268.



Some Presbyterians and many high liturgists have resorted to intinction in the Lord’s Supper. Intinction was a minority practice in the early church in which the consecrated bread was dipped into the wine. The bread was often served on a spoon to prevent the possibility of dropping or dripping the elements.

The Eastern Church appears to practice this. On the other hand, the Western church has quite uniformly resisted this. Julius I (337-352) forbad this practice because he believed it was not biblical. The first Council of Braga (675) also decreed against it. Pope Urban II (1088-1099) similarly prohibited it except in cases of necessity and so did his successor Pascal II (1099-1118). The Convocation of Canterbury (1175) similarly condemned the practice. The Western church has always opposed this practice. A few however, tried to argue for its practice. Rolandus of Bologna (a twelfth century divine) argued pragmatically that it was easier to serve a larger congregation.

The reason why intinction should be permitted, according to Roland, is that it is an easier way to administer communion than by the host and chalice separately. The fear of dropping the host, or of accidentally spilling the contents of the chalice, he notes, may make some communicants anxious. This anxiety may undercut the proper state of devotion and receptivity which they need to bring to the sacrament. Their worry, indeed, may keep them away from communion altogether. And so, for practical pastoral reasons (curis secularibus) intinction should be allowed.[2]

The Western church did not believe that both elements were necessary (contra communio sub utroque specie = communion under both kinds, that is, both the bread and wine were required in order to have communion). Intinction also ran afoul against the growing doctrine of concomitance (which taught “that Christ exists wholly in each of the elements, so that those who receive the consecrated host, partake of his blood no less than of his body.”)[3] This theory of course assumes the doctrine of transubstantiation. So the Western church argued for communion sub una specie. She has consistently prohibited the practice of intinction.

When we read the Bible, we find that only one person received the sacrament by intinction (if we count it as such), i.e., Judas: “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me.” (Mk. 14:20) But the practice appears to be unique to the institution. In Mark, the words of institution came after the dipping.

In Mark 14:22, Jesus blessed and broke the bread and said, “Take; this is my body.” It is a separate act to v. 23 which says, “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.” They did not eat of the cup but drank from it. Eating and drinking are separate acts. The commands are to eat (Mt. 26:26, “Take, eat”) and to drink (“Drink of it, all of you.” Mt. 26:27). The practice of intinction therefore cannot comply with our Lord’s words of institution.

[1] [This short post is taken from my lectures notes on ecclesiology. Some have asked me about this practice in our denomination so I have uploaded my preliminary thoughts on the topic.] References used for this are the following: McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature; A Catholic Dictionary, ed. Donald Attwater; Schaff’s History of the Christian Church; Hagenbach’s History of Doctrines; various theological reference works. Other related concepts are “concomitance” and communio sub utroque specie, etc.

[2] Marcia L. Colish, Peter Lombard (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), 570.

[3] Hagenbach’s History of Doctrines, § 195.

Chapter 8, What should I do during the Lord’s Supper?

When we are invited to our friend’s house for dinner, we go there to eat with him. Yet, it is more than just sitting down to eat dinner. We relish the fellowship and relationship we have with our dear friend and we want to be with him more than simply eating the meal. The dinner time becomes special not because the food is good but more so because the friendship is delightful. It is the friendship and fellowship that makes the evening wonderful. What makes the Lord’s Supper so wonderful is not the bread and wine nor the seriousness that surrounds the celebration. Fellowshipping with Christ is what makes the whole Supper so delightful.


During the Lord’s Supper, we must consider the high privilege and the great blessings we are about to receive. We must also be aware of Satan’s presence during the Supper. Remember, Satan was at the first Supper. “Then after he [Judas] had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him.” (Jn. 13:27)

He will accuse you and bring to your mind many things you have done wrong. He will distract you, inject wicked thoughts into your minds, etc. If he can rob you of any of the spiritual blessings, he will. So pray against him and cling to Christ by faith. If the work to be done is good and holy, then Satan will be most active during that time. Resist him firm in your faith.

Basic stuff

We all know that we should fix our minds on what we are about to do. We should fight against wandering thoughts and against careless mannerisms. We do not wish to undo all our good preparations by mindlessly going to the table of the Lord.

We have all seen little children looking around and grabbing at things during the Lord’s Supper. We excuse that behavior because they are so young. We would say, “What do you expect? They don’t understand and that is why they act that way.” We also recognize that they also cannot take the Lord’s Supper because they do not understand what to believe or how to act.

Would it not be horrible if you understood all these things regarding the Supper and yet you acted as that child? Yes! Be focused and pray. Ask the Lord to help you focus on Him. You are commanded to do this in remembrance of Him and not in remembrance of something silly!

One and Ten

Robert Murray McCheyne said, “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ.”  It is easy to focus on ourselves during the Lord’s Supper. McCheyne’s advice should be heeded. It is true we must be aware of our sins but we must also remember we are not coming to the supper because we are perfect and healthy. We need the supper for our spiritual nourishment because we are weak and sinful. It is the Lord’s table and not our own. He invites us to it because it is for our spiritual benefit. By faith, we look to Christ recognizing that His death has fully paid for all my sins. You are not coming to the table because you are “good enough,” you come because Jesus is your Savior and you partake in remembrance of Him!

Faith in the face of your personal sins

You might have committed particular sins through the week that you did not rightly handle. You never really confessed them or you merely mouthed words of repentance. Anyway, you feel guilty. Whatever the sin, confess and repent. At the same time, look to Christ in faith.

Christ has died on the cross for your sins and this sacrament remembers that deed — you “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” The wine represents the blood of his covenant “which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt. 26:28) As you drink the wine, believe that as certainly as that wine is taken in, your sins have been forgiven.

The Lord’s Supper is not merely a memory recall but it is also fellowshipping or communing with Christ. You are to feed on Christ by faith, receive of his fullness, and trust in His merits (LC, 174). You by faith receive and apply to yourself Christ crucified and all the benefits of his death (LC, 170). This is where the benefits of his past finished sacrifice on the cross become a present benefit to your soul.

Faith in the face of your dullness

If you are not well aware of your personal failures and sins, you might be appalled by your dullness of heart. How can you feel so indifferent to what is going on? You might fear greatly because your heart is so cold. Immediately, you may be tempted to panic and wonder if you should step away from the supper.

You should “bewail your unbelief” (LC, 172), that is, you should call upon Christ and say, “Lord, my cold unbelieving heart – O do forgive me. I want to want you more than I do.” Then partake of the supper while believing there is pardon for you in Christ.

You are doing this in remembrance of what He has done for you. Christ’s death on the cross has secured your salvation and has purchased your forgiveness. Even your dull, cold, and lifeless condition was paid for. You are fellowshipping with Christ’s body and blood (1 Cor. 10:15, 16). As these elements of bread and wine are present to your eyes, so you fellowship with everything those elements represent. Our Larger Catechism says that  “the body and blood of Christ are …spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their outward senses” (LC, 170). In other words, everything that the bread and wine represents are present spiritually to you by faith as certain as the bread and wine are present before your eyes and mouth.

Faith in the face of your accusing conscience

Sometimes you feel “condemned.” You may not be able to put your finger on it. There is a feeling of defeat and unworthiness hanging over your spirit like a dark cloud. You might feel most unworthy and doubt if God really wants you there. You feel reluctant.

This feeling is not uncommon. I recently listened to a brilliant Christian philosopher defend the faith against atheism. He understood all the ins and outs of the Christian faith and defended it very powerfully. During the question and answer session, one asked him if he doubted. He said that he did not doubt the nature of the Christian faith but doubted quite often if God loved him because of his own personal sins and because of his many health problems. I was amazed to see that such a brilliant man could doubt so easily.

Yet, we all doubt and feel condemned at times. The supper seems to hold little benefit for us. How should we respond when the table is served on the appointed Lord’s Day? We must remember that it is for us! “This is my body which is for you.” (1 Cor. 11:24) Christ did not say it is for you because you feel so good or have such a perfect conscience or because you are not cast down. He said it is for you as you are.

When do we go to the doctor? When we are sick, right? Yes. What would you say to someone who said, “I’m going to go to the doctor when I improve and get healthier.”?  Will he really get healthier if he stays away from the doctor? I doubt it. We go to the doctor because we need him. Likewise, we go to Christ because we so need Him and this supper is spread out before us to encourage and nourish us.

Think about it, if you feel condemned and guilty, do you think staying away can help you? Who alone can relieve you of your sad condition? Is it not the Lord Jesus? Will not fellowshipping with Him help you? Will it not cheer your soul and encourage you? In your sad condition, go humbly but expectantly to Him as you eat by faith. Doubt not and remember that Christ has died for you so that you might find life in Him.

While you eat and drink

While you eat the bread and drink the wine, consider and believe that just as you chew the bread and drink the wine, know that Christ is communicating by His Spirit His blessings to you. As certain as you eat and drink those elements, so you fellowship with Christ.

Remember, this eating and drinking has two levels — one by the mouth and the other by your soul. You chew and drink to receive it into your mouth and you exercise faith to receive Christ into your soul. The eating and drinking signify your union and enjoyment of Christ.

Eat and drink with faith. Just eating the bread without faith will do you as much good as if a monkey ate the bread. I have seen some little infants become frustrated because their mommy and daddy were eating the bread and they didn’t receive anything. All they see is the opportunity to eat and put something into their mouths. In the Lord’s Supper, as you already know, it is something more than eating!

Faith in Christ

We cannot forget this one simple truth. Without faith, eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper will be of no benefit to you. You only receive the bread and wine if you do not exercise faith. In addition, you may incur God’s judgment for eating with your mouth without spiritually eating by faith.

Christ is ours by faith and we truly and really fellowship with Him at the Supper — He is “present to the faith of the receiver” (LC, 170) and we are called to “wait upon God” in the Supper (LC, 174). So look to Christ as you eat and drink.

In particular, look to Him regarding all that He has accomplished for you on the cross, and by faith accept the simple truth that you are fellowshipping with Him. The Spirit brings about that special fellowship with Christ. Your stomach may still feel hungry after the Lord’s Supper but your soul will be filled. Remember, it is all about Him — “Do this in remembrance of Me.”


1. How does Satan get involved in the Lord’s Supper?

2. What are some of the basic things you should not do during the Supper?

3. What if you don’t feel worthy to come to the Supper?

4. What if you feel dull before coming to the Supper?

5. What if you feel condemned before the Supper?

6. What is the one thing we must have as we receive the Supper?

Chapter 7, How do I prepare for the Lord’s Supper?

There was a time in church history when believers thoroughly prepared for the Lord’s Supper. Because many of them did not have the Lord’s Supper more than a few times a year, they were considered to be very special occasions. As a result, there were preparatory services or Saturday services in preparation for the Lord’s Supper the following Lord’s Day. They prepared for the Supper. Some had a day of fasting a day or two before the preparatory service.

We do not do that since we celebrate the Supper more often. But that does not mean we should not prepare. In fact, we should prepare more than we do. Since preparing is not a very common practice, we should seek to understand what it is we should do.

The Bible

The Bible is not completely silent on this matter. The 1 Cor. 11 passage of course is very helpful. Two important verses stand out in the section on the Lord’s Supper. One, we are called to examine ourselves: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (v. 28) Then it says, “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.” (v. 31)

The two verses teach the following truths. First of all, we must examine or judge ourselves before we come to the Supper. Second, the individual must examine himself. The Bible requires self-reflection which means each person must ask serious questions about Christ, the elements, the body of Christ, himself, etc. Third, one of the reasons for this is spelled out in vv. 27 & 29. We must examine ourselves to avoid judgment (v. 29) and to not become guilty of profaning the body.

We prepare by examining and judging ourselves before the Lord. What this means is that we must spend some serious private time pondering what we have done and what we have become.

There is good reason for all of this. Surely, we all prepare for exams, important meetings, etc. If we really think through things before a certain event, we are less likely to make mistakes. We respect other people when they are prepared. Should we not prepare for one of the best privileges of our spiritual lives?

Understanding the Supper

We must labor to understand what the Lord’s Supper is and what it means. We do not come to the Supper with an empty mind. An empty mind will leave a person with an empty soul. Our heads and hearts must be filled with the knowledge of what we are about to do and what the whole Supper means.

We have studied what happens during the Supper. As we prepare, we must reflect upon what will happen and examine to see if we are ready. Knowing what will happen should arrest our attention and affections.

You have all heard stories of young couples who were about to get married. Each one carefully prepared each step of the wedding. They figured who they were going to invite, selected which pastor would lead them, chose what events were going to happen, purchased what ornaments they wished to use, etc. The preparation took longer than the event itself. If they did not prepare, the wedding ceremony would have been less meaningful and could have been viewed as being unimportant. In a similar way, our preparation helps us to create hunger and expectation for the Supper. The Supper becomes more meaningful and our preparations indicated how important and seriously we took the Supper.

Since we are about to fellowship with Christ in a sure and beneficial way at the Supper, we should spend time in preparation for that great meeting. If we come in a thoughtless and faithless manner, then we will cheapen the fellowship and possibly bring harm to ourselves.

The Corinthians came together to the Supper “not for the better but for the worse” (1 Cor. 11:17). They were so unprepared and unfocused that Paul says, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat.” (v. 20) Paul would not commend them for what they did at the Supper (v. 22). So, believers can come to the Supper and actually not benefit from the Supper because they came not for the better but for the worse. Our preparation before the Supper helps us to come to the Supper for the better and not for the worse.

In relationship to Christ

Now we will become even more specific about our preparation. Not only should we be fully aware of the fellowship that will be brought about during the Lord’s Supper, we should also (and more importantly) understand who Christ is and what He has done for us.

We are commanded to partake of the Supper “in remembrance” of Christ (1 Cor. 11:24, 25). Christ’s death is proclaimed until He returns (v. 26). We remember what the Supper means and exercise faith in everything that the Supper represents — namely, that Christ has died for the forgiveness of our sins of which the blood represents (Mt. 26:28). His blood at the same time started a “new covenant” (“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Lk. 22:20). That means our relationship with God was all achieved on account of Christ’s shed blood. When we prepare, we are thinking of the grace and depth of Christ’s love for us and of the sacrifice He was willing to offer up on our behalf. Knowledge of those things should stir our hearts.

We should ask ourselves, “How is my relationship with Christ?” “Have I grown at all spiritually?” “How much thought have I given to Him?” “Is Christ my all in all or is He second to other things in my life?” “Do I value what He has done for me?” “How have I shown that I am thankful for His death on the cross in my behalf?” “Do I want to fellowship with Him more closely at the Supper or am I reluctant?”

Since the Supper both represents what Christ did and how we are united or related to Him, we should set aside some time in preparation through the week, especially on Saturdays before the Lord’s Day to warm our hearts to prize that meeting with Christ.

I remember that our soccer coach in college always took us out to eat to an all you can eat place once the season ended. That was something to which we all looked forward.  On that day, many of my teammates refused to eat breakfast and lunch so that they could have empty stomachs for the big and delicious supper that evening. They specially prepared to be hungry that evening so they could enjoy everything in great quantity.

In a very similar way, we should become hungry for Christ by yearning for Him as we read His Word and pray to Him throughout the week. Our hunger to know Him, to fellowship with Him should deepen so that we may truly have our fill of Him at the Supper (spiritually speaking). One writer said that the only requirement for the Lord’s Supper is that you come to the table hungry. What he meant by that was that the poor simple believer should come to the table hungry to meet and have Christ. If our preparations have helped us (by the assistance of the Spirit) to hunger for Him, then we will not leave disappointed from the Supper.

In relationship to my brothers and sisters in Christ

What is easily overlooked in the Lord’s Supper is that the “event” also shows how we are related to one another. We have seen throughout the study that the Corinthians came together divided and selfish.  Some were getting drunk (1 Cor. 11:21) while others were deprived of food and thus leaving the Supper hungry (vv. 21-22). Paul says that the bread represents the oneness we have with each other in Christ: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17) The many become one body.

In other words, the Supper also hints at the unity we have. All of us eat from the one bread and our eating together means we are one in Christ. As we eat, it must mean that we are “all right” with each other. The Corinthians came together to show disunity (1 Cor. 11:18 says, “…when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you”). Their disunity was further manifested in the way they neglected each other.

It would be like a couple exchanging rings during a marriage ceremony while bickering and making rude comments. The whole ceremony was to show their love for each other but their responses to each other revealed their disharmony. So the Supper should neither illustrate nor further disunity but rather, it should indicate that all is well between each believer.

What this means is that when you come to the Lord’s Supper, you should make sure we are not harboring any bitter feelings against someone in the church. You must ensure that your relationship with other members of the church is one of peace. Perhaps you need to make a phone call to your brother or sister in Christ sometime that week before the Supper?

If a brother and sister at home spoke wickedly and harshly to each other and then they get into the car to go to the church with their family, then should they upon arriving at the church partake of the Lord’s Supper? It all depends on if they have worked through the issue with each other. They must quickly and sincerely repent before God and seek to be reconciled before they come together to eat the Supper of the Lord. There is an important principle our Lord taught in His Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:23-24): “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”

We are first told to be reconciled with our brother before we present our offering. How much more in this matter? Shall we fellowship with our Lord while harboring bitterness against one of our Lord’s own servants? Such things ought not to be.

So, when we prepare, we want to understand all that the Supper represents and all that Christ has done for us. In addition, we want to make sure we are in good fellowship with our brothers with whom we will be eating at the Supper of the Lord.

I remember when I was young how unpleasant it was to eat dinner together with my brother just after we had fought. It made the supper less pleasant and the whole atmosphere was uncomfortable.  We pretended everything was all right at the dinner table while knowing that we had sinned against each other minutes before. We should have reconciled before we came together for our family dinner (though I did not live in a Christian family).

This should be the case with each member of the body of Christ. May our coming together be for good and not for harm. If we prepare our hearts and ensure that all is well with each other then when we “come together it will not be for judgment” (1 Cor. 11:34).


1. What do we mean by preparing for the Lord’s Supper?

2. Isn’t just coming to the Supper enough if one has been admitted to the table?

3. What are some of the things one should think about regarding the Supper itself?

4. How should we prepare in relation to Christ?

5. Does our preparation mean that we have to do anything with our brothers and sisters in Christ before we come to the table? Explain.

Chapter 6, What happens during the Lord’s Supper? (2)

We have already explained what happens in the Lord’s Supper. In this chapter, we will expand upon the previous chapter.  Some illustrations will be used to give you some hints into what really is happening at the Lord’s Supper.

The Spirit’s Work

Whatever should happen to us can only happen to us on account of the Spirit’s work. He takes of Christ and makes them known to us (Jn. 16:13-15, cf. 15:26; also, 1 Cor. 2:12-13). That is His role in the life of a believer. Though the Holy Spirit is not specifically mentioned in 1 Cor. 11, He is assumed because the New Testament establishes the simple truth the Lord Jesus is united to the Spirit and that the Spirit’s ministry is united to Christ.

The distance between the believer and Christ in heaven is vast. How do we get this Christ who is in heaven? As we exercise our faith in Christ, the Spirit bridges the gap. Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (Jn. 14:18, 28) How does He come to them? The passage makes it clear that Jesus speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit. He says it is necessary that He go so that the Spirit could come (Jn. 16:7). The Holy Spirit is the one who will bring the things of Christ to believers; to have the Spirit is to have Christ.

The Spirit brings the reality of the person and benefits of Christ to believers. When we eat the Lord’s Supper, those benefits of our Lord are brought home to us by the Spirit. A few illustrations may be of help here.

It is like a handshake and a hug

The Lord’s Supper is like a handshake and a hug. Of course, the Lord’s Supper is something more than a handshake. Yet, a handshake reveals one important truth to help us understand the Lord’s Supper. When we shake hands with a dear friend whom we have not seen for a long time, we are reacquainting ourselves with him. We are also fellowshipping with him at the same time. The relationship we’ve had is both re-established as well as acted out as we hug the friend. That is, we are actually experiencing the relationship as well as re-establishing it. The handshake and hug represents the relationship. The handshake and hug are also the expressions of the reality of the relationship — the friends are experiencing the relationship all over again.

So, the Lord’s Supper helps us to experience the relationship we have with Christ. The Supper not only represents our fellowship with Christ, it also ignites or conveys it as well. The Supper does not only point to the fellowship but we actually fellowship with Him in the Supper.

We get Him better in the Lord’s Supper

We have already said that we get no more in the Supper than what we get in God’s Word. But that is not to devalue the Supper. In the Supper, we get the same Christ we get in the Word but we get Him better. That is, the Word and the Supper end up enabling us to receive the same Christ better because this duty of celebrating the Supper has been appointed by God for that purpose. Let me explain.

We can drink water out of glass. It is quite simple. We can also drink water with a straw and this helps us bring it in faster. The Lord’s Supper is something like a straw in this example. There is still another example that may help.

Farmers used to get milk directly from a cow. It was always available to them and to us but only from a cow. But now, we can also get milk at the grocery store. It is packaged, sterilized and ready to drink. We can get milk either directly from a cow or from the grocery store. Of the two, which is easier? The one, you have to work at it to get the milk and it requires several steps to get it. At the grocery store, the milk is packaged and ready to receive. The Lord’s Supper is like the milk in the container — ready to be received. These are only analogies and like most analogies, they have their limitations.

Union and Communion with Christ

When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we fellowship with Christ. We participate or fellowship with his body and blood (1 Cor. 10:16). The two elements represent Christ and His work. We fellowship with Him and what He has done for us (His person and work).

An analogy, taken from John 15 is helpful here. We are branches abiding in Christ. As we abide in Him, like all branches on the plant, we derive nutrients, sustenance, life, etc. from that connection. Like that, as we partake of the Lord’s Supper, the reality of our relationship to Him becomes more focused. We are drawing from Him by faith all that we need.

Believers are united to Christ by faith and the Lord’s Supper heightens that reality. It does not create it but highlights it. We fellowship with his body and blood. The body and blood both represent Him as well as His sacrificial work on the cross. So when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are communing or fellowshipping with Jesus.

Communion: His Benefits

Let me distinguish between Christ and His benefits though the two should not be separated. Our Confession teaches that “we receive, and feed upon [spiritually], Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death.” The benefits of his death are the blessings that He earned for us (forgiveness of sin, propitiation, access to the Father, etc.).

As we noted, Paul says in 1 Cor. 10:16 we are participants of Christ’s body and blood. As we are united to Christ Himself, we derive from Him all that He has accomplished for us by His death. The Lord’s Supper points to the death because it was at the cross his body and blood was offered up to make atonement for us. In the Supper, we receive “the benefits of his death.” The Supper points to what He did — “we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes ” (1Cor. 11:26).

Communion: Our Strengthening and Encouragement

Anytime believers focus on and exercise faith in Christ, they are strengthened and encouraged. The Lord’s Supper is like a floodlight to Christ and His finished work on the cross. It helps us to zero in on what He has done! As that is done, as faith is exercised, each simple child of God is strengthened in the Lord and encouraged to live and die for Him.

That means the Lord’s Supper should be a source of great joy to us. When we are forced to look at our failures and disobedience at the Supper, we must not stay there. He says that we are to do this in remembrance of Him and not in memory of ourselves. When we do that, being honest, humble, and full of repentance and faith, we are encouraged because the Supper serves as a visible sermon to us — Christ died for me though I’ve act treacherously against Him. I am strengthened by the fact that all my sins have been forgiven and encouraged because He accepts me on account of what He has done.

Communion: Our Obligation

The Larger Catechism (#168) talks about how the Supper renews our “thankfulness, and engagement to God.” As we reflect on what Christ has done, as we by faith look to Him, and as we by faith eat and drink, we are grateful (eucharist) for what He done and are stimulated to follow hard after God.

Certain songs, smells, incidents trigger our memories and experiences. The smell of certain foods causes us to salivate while some songs excite us. The Lord’s Supper, by the power of the Spirit — even as we look to Christ by faith — stimulates our hearts to be thankful and to want to be closer to our Savior and to obey Him. The elements don’t do that but the Spirit takes all that the elements represent and triggers and engenders a thankful heart and a yearning desire to want and obey our Redeemer.

Communion: Love to my Christian Brothers and Sisters

The Lord’s Supper also testifies and renews our “mutual love and fellowship each with other, as members of the same mystical body.” Any anger, bitterness, etc. we might have had before the Supper, we are required to set aside and repent of our sins. The Supper reminds us that all of us are united to the same Savior and that we are untied to one another. As we by faith reflect on these things, the Spirit enables us to love each other that much more.

Again, let us illustrate this. Some married couples remember songs on the radio or certain events or meals with fondness. It “brings back memories” they might say. It can also engender greater love for their spouse at that moment. The Supper does that to believers — the Spirit engenders love for one another — not wrath. This is one of the ways we can know if we have profited from the Lord’s Supper.


1. What is the Lord’s Supper like a handshake or a hug?

2. Explain how the other two illustrations (straw and milk) show that we get Christ better in the Supper?

3. How does John 15 help us to understand the Lord’s Supper?

4. Explain how the Supper can be used by the Spirit to “renew” thankfulness and engagement to God”?

5. What is one of the ways we can know we have profited from the Supper?

Chapter 5, What happens during the Lord’s Supper? (1)

A way of fellowshipping with Christ

Something happens during the Lord’s Supper. It is more than mere thinking. Many believe we are called to merely think about what happened in the past. They think this is the only thing that happens. There is something more than reflecting on the past. Something actually happens at the Lord’s Supper.

In the previous chapter, we mentioned that the Lord’s Supper is a way of fellowshipping with Christ. That is what happens when we partake of the Lord’s Supper. It is much more than a memory recall. Sometimes we might recall an event we experience with our friend. It might put a smile on our face or force us to feel the pain of a bad experience. This recollection may be meaningful but it is not the same as the Lord’s Supper.

Paul says in 1 Cor. 10 that we participate or fellowship with Christ when we partake of the Lord’s Supper. We will unpack what this fellowship means and how it comes about. So the Lord’s Supper is not an empty sign that merely points to the event in the past. It is the appointed means of fellowshipping with Christ.

Without God’s Word, it is useless

John Calvin said, “For whatever benefit may come to us from the Supper requires the Word.” (Institutes, 4.17.39) The breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine do not explain themselves. God’s Word determines both the meaning and benefit of the Lord’s Supper.

God’s Word teaches us what it is about. Jesus commanded that we do this and also explained what the activity is supposed to represent. So if there is no Word of God, then the bread and wine are simply another meal, mere food for the belly. Without the Words of Institution (that is, Christ’s word by which the sacrament is established), the actions and the ceremony would be mindless or useless exercises.

God’s Word also conveys what the Supper represents. That is, it is by means of God’s Word, the Spirit gives us what we need in the Supper. The elements of the Supper (bread and wine) do not by themselves give anything but what is promised in God’s Word is conveyed to us. Calvin also said that in the Lord’s Supper you get no more than what you get in the Word: “Hence, any man is deceived who thinks anything more is conferred upon him through the sacraments than what is offered by God’s Word and received by him in true faith.” (Institutes, 4.14.14).

There is one Christ and you do not get a different Christ in the Lord’s Supper. That is, the Christ we get in the Word is also same Christ we receive in the Supper. Without the Word, we receive nothing from the Supper. It is the Christ of the Word who comes to us through the Lord’s Supper; without the Word, the Supper gives nothing.

An illustration may be helpful here. Let us pretend that your father has been out of the country for a long time on account of his work. You received a letter from your father who promised you that he would take you Disney World when he returns. You cling to the letter and can’t wait until he gets home. You keep his letter close to you and read it over and over again. Now, is the plain sheet of paper itself important? No! Does the paper by itself promise you anything? No! What makes the paper important to this young girl? The written words of promise on the paper are important. Without the written words on the paper, the paper is useless. So, the bread and wine are useless and is invested with no significance except so much as the Word of God is present.

Without faith, it is a dangerous ceremony

Another important thing to consider is also one’s faith. One must believe in Christ and believe what He promises in His Word. The Lord’s Supper is not like medicine. You can take a pill and never think about it. The pill will work in you whether you consider it or not. The Lord’s Supper is not like that. One must be a believer and must believe in Christ’s Word in order to benefit from the Supper.

If faith is not present, then the Lord’s Supper is a mindless religious ceremony. It is no different than a young person listening to a sermon whose mind wanders off thinking about video games. The person did not benefit from the preached word. The Lord’s Supper is for believers only and they must look to Christ by faith as they partake of the bread and wine.

How can we fellowship with Christ when He is in heaven?

Many good men have wrestled with this simple question. How can we have fellowship with Christ when He is in heaven? Some believe that Christ comes down into the bread and wine. Others believe He comes down to become bread and wine. Others think that we are taken up into heaven to eat of Christ’s flesh. Each one of these positions attempted to answer the nature of eating the flesh. Nothing like this is mentioned in the Bible.

In 1 Cor. 10, we are told that when we eat, we fellowship with Christ (more on this in the next section). How can this be? In the New Testament, we learn that all that have of Christ comes to us through the Spirit of God. He (the Spirit) will take of Christ and declare it to us (Jn. 16:14-15). When you have the Spirit, you have Christ (cf. 2Cor. 3:17). We receive Christ and have fellowship with Him through the Spirit.

You don’t eat flesh

The passage already cited many times actually says that we participate in the blood of Christ and the body of Christ (1Cor. 10:16, 17). So doesn’t that mean that we get something different in the Lord’s Supper? Are we not in somehow and in someway eating or participating in Jesus’ literal blood and body?

The word “participate” in 1 Cor. 10 is not left undefined. As the context must always determine the meaning of a word, so the same rule applies here. Look at 1 Cor. 10:16, 17, the word “participate” is the same kind of word used in v. 18 “participants in the altar” as well as v. 20, “participants with demons.” That is to say, when the Corinthians were eating food sacrificed to demons, they ended up participating or identifying with demons. The idea of “partaking” is used in the same way for demons as well as for the Lord: “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” (10:21) It is clear that the meaning of partaking simply means identifying with, giving allegiance to, uniting with, etc. either the Lord or demons. When a person either ate at a pagan ceremony or at the Lord’s table, he was identifying with and participating in everything related to table.

The point was not eating the literal flesh (here on earth or in heaven). The individual was united to the particular person (Lord or Satan) associated with the table, in this case, either to the Lord or demons. So when Paul said that we are participating in Christ’s blood and body, he was simply using a metaphor for Christ’s atoning work on the cross. We participate in what Christ has done for us on the cross as represented by the elements. The body given for us; the blood shed for us — they represent what He did for us. So, in the Supper we participate in Christ’s atoning work! That is what every sinner needs; at the supper, we get the same Christ we initially received when we became Christians. We need the same Christ in order to continue to grow in Him.

You receive Christ

What does Christ give to us at the Supper if not His flesh and blood in the literal sense? We receive Christ himself. Christ is most desirable to needy sinners when He is represented as dying, making atonement for sin, making peace for sinners, as bearing our sins, satisfying the wrath of God and the curse of the law, to draw out our hearts unto faith and love.

In the Supper we receive this Christ as represented in the elements of the bread and the wine. He is received by faith and not by the mouth. Christ and His gracious benefits (to which His blood and body point) are consumed by faith to our spiritual nourishment. That is why Paul changes the language from “blood of Christ” and “body of Christ” (v. 16) to “cup of the Lord” and “table of the Lord” (v. 21) because his concern is not so much over the actual blood and body but over our fellowship with Him! His cup and the table are specific references to the table fellowship we have with Him as opposed to some mysterious intake of his blood and body.

This is what we need more than anything else. We need to receive Christ and the Supper enables us to have fellowship with Him —more specifically, we receive all that had been accomplished by his death!


There is one thing you should seriously consider. Do you want more of Christ? He is offered to us in the Supper. That should be your great concern in the Supper.


1. What does it mean that the Lord’s Supper is more than recollection?

2. What does the Word of God have to do with the Supper? Explain the illustration about the letter from the father.

3. Explain how the Lord’s Supper is not like taking a pill.

4. Do believers receive real flesh and blood at the Supper? If not, explain.

5. Explain how the word “partake” should be interpreted in the 1 Cor. 10.

Chapter 4, What is the Lord’s Supper?

We have spent some time explaining what the Lord’s Supper is not. It is now time to show what it is. It is always good to know why we believe what we do as well as why we don’t believe certain things. Sometimes we can best understand certain biblical truths when we see them compared to other things. What then is the Lord’s Supper?

A Sacrament

A sacrament is something Christ commanded the church to do. It is not up to us to decide or create. He commanded His disciples to do this in remembrance of Him. In addition, the early Christians celebrated the Lord’s Supper in obedience to Him. Though it was not done well, the church in Corinth observed it and fell into sin.

We have already seen that the Lord commanded us to do this. He also commanded us to baptize. We also have examples of this in the church. The sacrament of baptism is once again found in the Corinthian church (as well as in other places). Like the Lord’s Supper, baptism also became a “problem” for that church. They were quarreling among themselves about who baptized whom (1 Cor. 1:10-17).

There are only two sacraments. Some have said that we are to observe foot washing (Jn. 13:1ff.). The New Testament church never practiced it as a religious observance. Clearly the passage is teaching us to be servants (Jn. 14:14). Marriage, priesthood, etc. have also been called sacraments by some. But the New Testament does not command such things. Christ gave only two sacraments to the church and they are the Lord’s Supper and Baptism.

Theologians call the Lord’s Supper a sacrament, which means that it is something Christ commanded us to do and by which the benefits of the new covenant are represented and applied to believers (SC #92). This sacrament must be something “physical” (they used to say “sensible,” that is, it can be seen and touched by our “senses”) that represents the benefits Christ assigns to it and can convey what it represents by means of the Holy Spirit.

Something you can see and touch

Since sacraments have to be commanded by Christ, does that mean everything Christ commanded is a sacrament? No. A sacrament is also a physical thing that points to something spiritual. It is like a sign but something more than a sign. It is something you can see and touch. The Lord’s Supper points to Christ’s death, His body, blood, atonement, etc. If they don’t point, then they cannot be sacraments.

Baptism points to something beyond itself as well. Water represents our union with Christ, cleansing, benefits of being connected to Christ, etc. The Lord’s Supper represents Christ’s body and blood: “Take, eat; this is my body…Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt. 26:26ff.)

So sacraments point to something spiritual and beneficial. They have no power in themselves. It is like (again it is more than this) a simple sign that points you to something. For example, an “exit” sign tells you where to go so that you can get out of the building but it is neither the door nor the exit. It is only a sign pointing to the real exit.

Wouldn’t it be silly if people ran to the sign, read it, and tried to enter into the sign? That would be ridiculous. It would also be a useless sign if it cannot be read. If you cannot understand the sign, then it will not help you. For that reason, our Lord gives us the sign and tells us what it represents.

A Means of Grace

The “special” thing about sacraments is that they are a means of grace. We said it is like a sign but it is also something much more. It can convey what it represents. This means the Lord’s Supper can give the benefits of Christ to each believer who looks in faith to Him.

For example, a car is a means of taking us to the place we wish to go. We often say that a car is a “means of transportation.” It can actually take us to our desired place. The Lord’s Supper is a means of giving us grace.

The Lord’s Supper does not only point to what our Lord has done for us, it can also give us those things. You may wonder how that can be? How does eating bread and drinking wine give anything to our souls? That has been a question over which some of the greatest minds have debated. Sad to say, it should not have been that difficult to answer.

The simple answer (which we will unpack a bit more in our next lesson) is that the Lord’s Supper can affect communion with Christ. Paul teaches us that taking the cup is a means of “participating in the blood of Christ.” The bread that we break and eat is a means of “participating in the body of Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:16) The word “participating” is the word from which we also get “fellowship” or “communion.”

So, when we take the Lord’s Supper, Christ conveys to us by His Spirit His presence and we actually get to fellowship with Him at the Supper. In that way, it is a means of grace, a way of giving to us Christ’s person and benefits. It is a means of fellowshipping with Christ.

For the church

Since the Lord’s Supper is for Christians, it is only for the church. It is not for the world or for unbelievers. It is not something that is automatically given to every person that comes to the church. It is only for the church. Remember, our Lord said, “Drink of it, all of you.” (Mt. 26:27) All of whom? The answer is Jesus’ disciples. Jesus was addressing this to His disciples. He was not saying, “Drink it, it is for everybody.” He did not offer it to the Pharisees or to those who were not connected to Him.

Having said that, we also recognize that not all church members who receive the Lord’s Supper are genuine believers. As a result, unbelieving church members do not receive grace through the Supper. They in fact eat and drink to their own harm.

Represents what Christ did
As the Lord’s Supper is a sign, so it is a sign of what Christ did for us. Regarding the cup, Jesus says, “…for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt. 16:28) He is saying that the cup with the wine represented his sacrificial death. But the elements also represent Christ Himself. The bread represents his body as the wine in the cup represents his blood.

It does not represent the strength of my faith or the goodness of my heart. Too often, as we have mentioned before, we end up focusing only on ourselves. Because the Supper represents Christ, we by faith receive Christ at the Supper. If we focus on ourselves (and only on ourselves), then we will miss Jesus at the Supper. It is like eating with our heads down oblivious to the good company at the table. People have been known to do that, and similar things can happen at the Lord’s table. The Supper is about Him and we need Him at the Supper.

Represents our relationship to each other
The Supper also represents our relationship to one another. The Corinthians failed to recognize that. They were divided and looking out for their own interests in 1 Cor. 11. Paul says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17)

What does that mean? There is only one body of Christ. Christ does not have two or three bodies. All of us, Paul is saying, partake of that one body. We participate with one another since we participate with Christ. When we do that, we are, in effect, joined to one another because we have the same body inside of us. That is the imagery. The great John Calvin said this: “Now, since he [i.e. Jesus] has only one body, of which he makes us all partakers, it is necessary that all of us also be made one body by such participation. The bread shown in the Sacrament represents this unity.” (Institutes, 4.17.38)

The Lord’s Supper therefore points to the significance of our relationship to one another because of our relationship to Christ. One cannot have Jesus without His people and His people without Jesus. That is why we require that a person be a member of Christ’s church. Those who truly believe in Jesus and receive Him will receive His people. If the person won’t receive and join His people, then the person does not have Christ.


1. What is a sacrament?

2. What do we mean when we say that something is a means of grace?

3. What do we receive at the Supper? Is it just bread and wine?

4. Why can’t unbelievers or non-members of a church partake of the Lord’s Supper?

5. How does the Lord’s Supper represent our relationship with one another?