The Enduring Value of the Participatory Lord’s Supper

CommunionI grew up in a Bible-believing church that celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ once each week in a meeting called “The Lord’s Supper.” It was also know in our family as “The Breaking of Bread” or the “First Meeting.” The meeting is unlike communion services in mainline evangelical churches in that it is a service where men who have trusted in Jesus Christ can stand up sporadically and share something about their Savior from their heart. I heard a lot about the importance of that meeting growing up, often from within the meeting itself. Many people over the years have testified about its’ significance in their life. Some have identified it as the main reason they choose to fellowship at a particular local church. Others qualify that service as the most important hour of their week.

Many have written about the biblical foundation for the participatory Lord’s Supper. That is not the purpose of this article, though it is an area of continued need. Neither do I intend to make sweeping generalizations about the churches that employ this kind of a service, as seems to be popular among some today. In what follows, I simply want to offer seven reasons why I value the Lord’s Supper. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, as if I could in a few words encompass the immeasurable worth of remembering the Savior in this way. While these reasons are very close to my heart, they are in no way exclusive to myself alone. I hope in reading them you also will be moved to marvel at the manifold wisdom of our Lord Jesus Christ for instituting this remembrance meal.

The Lord’s Supper Teaches Biblical Truth
This is a statement that is so often repeated that its effect has been hugely diminished. The Breaking of Bread service teaches the Bible in a vivid and theologically rich way that is not possible in a traditional preaching service. There are several reasons for this. First, though there may be many sub-themes during the meeting, the main theme is always Jesus Christ: His death and resurrection. Whatever else is said, Christ is key. That means when a believer stands up to speak, they talk about Jesus. So Jesus is proclaimed from all of Scripture; Old and New Testaments, well-known passages, and more obscure ones. Speakers, then, are all doing the work of presenting a coherent biblical theology as it relates to Jesus week by week. Second, there are a diverse group of believers reading, praying, rejoicing, and presenting during this meeting. These believers have different styles, different tones and fluctuation, different levels of intensity and excitement. These different styles allow for increased potential in learning among the diverse group that makes up the church congregation, since each individual believer has different learning styles. Simply put, in the participatory Lord’s Supper there is something for everyone.

The Lord’s Supper Demands Individual Reflection
“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup,” (1 Cor. 11:28). There are both communal and individual aspects to the Lord’s Supper. Individually, the service is a time for personal reflection on my spiritual status before God. What has my life been like since I last took the bread and cup? Is there some unconfessed sin I am harboring, some arrogant or unholy attitude of which I refuse to repent? Have I been saturated in God’s word? What about my time in prayer before the Lord? If Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was meant to restore a right relationship between myself and God, these relational questions must be asked and reflected upon before true worship of my Savior can commence. It is often pointed out that the personal examination is not meant to lead to abstaining from the elements in guilt, but rather to reflect, repent, and resume fellowship through taking the bread and cup. In that way our personal reflection mirrors our salvation experience: sin does not have the final word, but is conquered over by our relationship with Jesus Christ through faith.

The Lord’s Supper Adjusts our Spiritual Vision
The world we live in pollutes our minds and hearts and seeks to draw us away from Jesus Christ. From one week to the next, the rampant sin evident all around us can dull our minds, harden our hearts, and deteriorate our spiritual vision. The Lord’s Supper serves to correct that deteriorated vision by speaking truth into our lives. The true nature of mankind is on display each Sunday readjusting our view from society’s positive outlook on humanity to Scripture’s denouncement of our ability to do anything good in and of ourselves. The true nature of sin is proclaimed, shifting our lens from tolerance and enablement in regard to sin to the Christian call to put to death the nature of sin. The true nature of salvation, not as solely social justice, emotional euphoria, or mystical achievement, but rather as freedom from slavery to sin bought by Christ’s precious blood, alters our perspective. The Breaking of Bread acts as a weekly refocusing of the eyes of our hearts.

The Lord’s Supper Creates Opportunities for Trinitarian Worship
As we read the Word together, pray together, sing together, we are given opportunities to worship the Triune God. Since worship has to do with attitudes and motivations, two individuals can be sitting together in the same service, hearing the same words read and prayed, and singing the same songs, and one be worshipping while the other fails to do so. But the opportunities are presented to each individual, and each must take advantage of them. Once a believer ceases to be preoccupied with themselves and instead focuses in on Christ, we see worship directed toward the Godhead in beautiful ways.

Jesus Christ is the center of the Lord’s Supper: it is His meal, instituted by Him. We remember His life, death, and resurrection, and in doing so venerate Him as He asked us to. When we worship Jesus Christ the Son in this service, God the Father is glorified. The Father’s predetermined plan led the Son to become incarnate, suffer, and die in our place. We pray to the Father, praising Him for sending His Son, for giving His only begotten Son over to death, and He hears our prayers and receives our worship. The Holy Spirit is likewise at work in the service. He guides our thinking and reading of Scripture, convicts us of sin, gifts us to encourage and build up one another, and in all things magnifies Jesus Christ as the only begotten God. Thus in our worship service each person of the Trinity is actively involved in multiple and diverse ways, working in us, among us, and through us to build up the one body of Christ.

The Lord’s Supper Demolishes Pride and Arrogance
Confronted weekly with the crucified Savior who died on Calvary for the sins of the world, yes, but more confrontationally for my sins, I see my sin for what it truly is. My arrogance is revealed, the attitudes of my heart no one sees but me, the secret motivations for self-elevation and advancement that war against the Spirit are all laid bare. All these are highlighted against the contrast of the body of Jesus broken and the blood of Jesus shed for me. As Jesus is magnified in the Lord’s Supper, my sin takes on its real, grotesque form. It’s as if in the taking of the bread and the cup I stand before the Savior as He suffers on the cross, and all my self-accomplishments and the things I find worth in apart from Christ are shown to be worthless. I hear the words, “He became sin who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” and pride is eradicated. How can I glory in any part of myself knowing the penalty my sin demands and how undeserving of so great a salvation I am? When I see Jesus while at the Lord’s table, “my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.”

The Lord’s Supper Unites the Hearts of Believers
There is both an individual aspect and a corporate aspect to the Lord’s Supper. Individually, I assess my spiritual state before God, confess sin, and prepare my heart for worship. Yet in being led by others in the meeting to think about Christ in the Scriptures, sing songs of praise and worship to Him, pray prayers of thanksgiving for His work accomplished, a wonderful collective sense of love and gratitude flows from others who are worshipping as well. Our hearts are being united together around a common love for Jesus who is beautified in the meeting, and a common deep appreciation for what has been done on our behalf. Social and ethnic distinctions that exist throughout the week no longer separate us, but people from diverse backgrounds are united in spirit to give praise to the Triune God for the salvific work of Jesus the Son. In this way a beautiful unity in diversity and diversity in unity is displayed among believers as we look on Jesus there.

The Lord’s Supper Transforms the Mind
As our sin is confronted, pride decimated, vision focused on Christ, and hearts united together in love and thankfulness, the Holy Spirit renews our minds, transforming our thoughts and imaginations. The world around us passes away as we set our hearts on things above. Our worries, fears, ambitions, motivations are all brought low before the crucified and glorified Lamb of God. The suffering and exaltation of our Jesus changes how we view the world around us. Seeing Christ seated at the right hand of God the Father silences our worries and fears. The knowledge that He has raised us there with Him eradicates all sinful ambition and motivation. What we are left with is our glorious God and Savior occupying the throne of our hearts and the seat of our affections. If the Holy Spirit is allowed to have His way in the Lord’s Supper, the result is the casting down of all false gods and the magnification of Jesus Christ. Having been transformed by the renewing of our minds, we are ready to again wage war against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

These are seven reasons why I highly value the participatory Lord’s Supper. In a contemporary culture where this service is becoming increasingly unimportant, we would do well to remember the words of the author to the Hebrews: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” (Heb. 10:23-25).


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