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The Lord’s Supper

September 4, 2006

I knew a man who was once quite emotional about the Lord’s Supper. Apparently, when the topic was introduced over dinner, he began crying as he stated, “I just love the Lord’s Supper.” Paul also gets emotional as he corrects the Corinthians about the practice of the Lord’s Supper. As he speaks to them, he points out that in their practice, they actually were NOT eating the Lord’s Supper.

When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. (1 Corinthians 11:20)

By telling the Corinthians that they were not eating the Lord’s supper, he was saying that what they were doing was wrong and because of their practice some had gotten sick among them and even died. The problem of the Corinthians was that they came together to celebrate a feast, to have a supper, but they thought it was their supper and that they could do whatever they wanted at the supper. The eating and feasting got so out of hand that God had to judge them.

Because of the specific problems the Corinthian church had, we no longer have those problems when observing the Lord’s Supper. When we come together, it is to eat the Lord’s Supper. I believe, though, that we must beware of the same danger the Corinthians gave in to. They thought it was their supper. It is the Lord’s Supper. We do not own it. He is the Host. He is the one that sets the table and feeds us there. And he does feed us at His supper.

We should recognize that in that title there are two words. ‘Lord’ and ‘Supper.’ Here we have spiritual and physical. Many that claim Christ’s name try to make the supper completely spiritual. They will even go so far as to say that the elements of the supper undergo some fantastic or magical transformation into the actual body and blood of our Savior. That’s too spiritual. Others, in reaction, claim nothing spiritual is taking place at all. The supper is purely physical and only a memorial.

Both of these are Gnostic problems. But we are not Gnostics. The Gnostic separates the physical from the spiritual. The Bible believer sees both present all the time. To the Christian, there is no difference between the secular and the sacred. All ground is holy ground. We don’t pick ‘A’ or ‘B.’ We see ‘A’ and ‘B.’ How does all this relate to the Lord’s Supper? If God commanded us to observe His supper in remembrance of Him, there must be some spiritual benefit to obeying Him, if only just the act of obedience. As we discuss the other titles of His supper, we’ll see other spiritual benefits to this Christian ordinance. Is His supper a way of receiving grace? Yes. Saving grace? No. Nonetheless, Christians also need grace. We are to grow in grace, be strong in grace, and more. One of the ways a Christian does that is by partaking in the Lord’s Supper. It’s not just the lost that need grace.

The Lord’s Supper is His supper celebrated with thanksgiving in communion with other believers because of our fellowship in Christ. We show loyalty to the Lord’s Table as we remember His broken body and shed blood, which washes away our sin.

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Categories: Lord's Supper, Voegtlin
  1. Pastor Gray
    September 4, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    The statement you made in your article “The Lord’s Supper is His supper celebrated with thanksgiving in communion with other believers because of our fellowship in Christ..” sounds like a statement coming from a believer in Open or Close Supper. Although there is fellowship at the Lord’s Table it is restricted to fellowship with the particular members of a particular Church.

  2. tjp
    September 4, 2006 at 2:30 pm

    Bro. Gray: [Although there is fellowship at the Lord’s Table it is restricted to fellowship with the particular members of a particular Church.]

    tjp: On what passage of Scripture do you base this express prohibition?

    Just wondering.

  3. Sonya Prophet
    September 4, 2006 at 9:17 pm

    Perhaps it’s all the gobblygook from years of denomination hopping.. But I remember the Catholic’s calling the little round wafer the host. The remnants of false teaching have prevented me from seeing a beautiful truth.. Christ is the Living Host at His Supper. Praise God for using His hammer to chisel away false teaching.
    Thank you for your post and the express reminder that Christ does feed us at His Supper. And, it is only through His invitation that I am able to come to His table. May my heart be prepared and ready to eat at His invitation.

  4. September 5, 2006 at 8:30 am

    Pastor Gray, are you saying that someone who believes in Closed Supper could not make the statement I made?

    Since you pointed it out, I re-read the statement and I’ll admit that it seems generic (that any of the three viewpoints could agree with it). That’s probably because the issue of Open/Close/Closed Supper was not the main point of the article.

    I am curious as to your response to my question and tjp’s. I think I know the line of arguement for Closed Supper (I’m using that term because you did, I’ve normally heard it called Closed Communion), but I also would like to know if there is a particular passage of Scripture that expressly teaches the belief in Closed Supper.

  5. September 5, 2006 at 9:46 pm

    Perhaps you were using Socratic method or something to draw us out, and I believe there is a specific passage, but we have a month on this, and probably a whole article will be written on it.

  6. tjp
    September 6, 2006 at 12:06 am

    Hammer Time: [I believe there is a specific passage.].

    tjp: Great. Please cite it for me.

  7. September 6, 2006 at 6:37 am

    The Bible teaches Close (ie. to those of like faith and practice – and I would say in right fellowship with the Lord) Communion – not Closed (ie. just restricted to those of a local church). The apostle Paul did not just partake of the Lord’s Supper in Antioch, we also find him doing so in Troas (the main passage that comes to my mind): Acts 20:6-12.

    6 And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.
    7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
    8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.
    9 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.
    10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.
    11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.
    12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

    Verses 7 and 11 refer to this group of believers breaking bread. If verse 11 is referring to the apostle Paul (which the context seems to indicate – rather than Eutychus – verse 10 says Paul went down, and verse 11 says he was come up), then we see him breaking bread with these Christians – which was not his own local church, but was a church of like faith and practice.

  8. September 6, 2006 at 12:52 pm

    We will answer this in future articles, since what Jeff Voegtlin wrote was not on this theme, that is, the closed, close, and open issue. I look forward myself to answering these points though. 🙂

  9. tjp
    September 6, 2006 at 1:59 pm

    Bro. Kent,

    I’m looking forward to your article. I’m sure it’ll be a good one. But in the meantime, please cite the specific passage you said proves closed communion.

  10. September 6, 2006 at 3:13 pm

    1 Corinthians 10:16,17

  11. tjp
    September 6, 2006 at 3:32 pm

    Bro. Kent,

    Thanks. Yes, that’s a great passage. Yet I fail to see “closed communion only” within its framework. Perhaps it is there and I’m just not seeing it.

    At least on the surface, I don’t find any word, phrase, clause, or sentence that specifically enjoins closed communion only. And I must confess, too, that I fail to see any prohibition against other forms of communion mentioned within the passage.

    I’m sure your upcoming article will clarify things. Again, I’m looking forward to it.

  12. September 6, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks for your comments. My very next article won’t be on that particular subject, but I’m sure that one is coming this month. I’m glad you’re interested.

  13. michael mcneilly
    September 6, 2006 at 10:16 pm

    Great idea. How does the power feel to close threads?

  14. September 6, 2006 at 11:43 pm

    I’m clumsy with this new power, but I’m sure I’ll learn, Michael.

  15. Pastor Gray
    September 10, 2006 at 5:01 am

    To Jeff and tjp: Sorry so long getting back with you, it has been one of those 100 hour weeks! You asked about any specific scripture pertaining to the Closed Supper. Any doctrine of our Lord builds upon and strengthens all other scriptural doctrine. The following is a basis of the Closed Supper teaching: It is a Church Ordinance, the only type of church is the local church. The (CLOSE) teaching treats it as a denominational supper, and not a local church supper. The demands to observe the table without any division within the body requires the oversight of the Pastor and the Local Church, for the spiritual state of the people partaking in the supper can only be known by the church they are a member of. Also the closed supper stand is the only one that enforces the purpose of church discipline. One may agru that it is up to the individual to judge himself worthy, i.e. the manner in which it is taken, but clearly the church is the one responsible for the over sight of the ordinances.

  16. September 10, 2006 at 8:36 am

    Pastor Gray, if the Scriptures only teach “Closed” supper, what do you do with the fact that the apostle Paul partook of the Lord’s supper with other churches that he had started – he was not part of that local church any longer, but when he came visiting them, he partook of the Lord’s Supper with them. We see a clear example of this in Acts 20, when Paul was in Troas.

    From what I understand of the terms used:

    Open means open to any professing Christian, regardless of their beliefs or denominational affiliation – of course, I believe this is wrong and would be disobeying all the commands regarding separation.

    Close means that those who are members of a likeminded church and practice can partake of it – which it seems to me exactly what Paul did.

    Closed – only those of a local church that are in right fellowship (ie. that are not currently being disciplined for some sin) with their church can partake. In light of my point with Paul, I cannot see how this one fits more than the other. Of course, if I visited a likeminded church and this was their policy, I would observe and not partake – but Scripturally I do not see a problem with partaking if the option was there.

  17. September 10, 2006 at 2:37 pm

    Maybe a pertinent question is:

    Who fences the Lord’s Table? The church through its pastors, the Christian through self-examination, or the Lord Himself (many are weak and sickly among you)?

  18. September 10, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Seems to me, the Bible teaches all three. The pastor makes it available to those who are able/allowed to participate; the Christian is commanded to examine himself; and the Lord sets the rules and disciplines His children who do not partake of the Lord’s Supper with a clean heart.

  19. Pastor Gray
    September 13, 2006 at 7:24 am

    Jerry and tjp: getting back to you. Jerry you asked about the occurance of Paul parktaking of the Lord’s Supper with other churches, and referred to “the breaking of bread”. My studies have revealed that the phrase “breaking of bread” was used as a common meal, refer I believe it is Mark 6: 41. There are some that says it is sometimes used in reference to the Lord’s Supper. But one must have futher qualifying guides to determine if that is so. I came to a biblical understanding of the Lord’s Supper and its importance once I fully understood the doctrine of the Local Church, Church Disipline, and the church’s responsibility in the over sight of the Lord’s Table. There is absolutely no way that the requirements set forth by our Lord in approaching the Lord’s Table could be fully met by members of other “like faith” churches coming together, i.e. no division, same mind, in proper fellowship with the church. How can one church truly know if someone who is not a member of the church observing the supper is of like mind and in proper standing with their church. This responsibility can not be given over to the individual, because it is a church ordinance and thereby the responsibility belongs to the church. Have a great day

  20. tjp
    September 13, 2006 at 10:28 pm

    Bro. Gray,

    It sounds as if you’ve given this whole issue a thorough going over. However, I think you’ve read more into the “church’s responsibility in the over sight of the Lord’s Table” than is either necessary. In fact, I must admit I shook my head at some of your comments.

    As I understand it, it’s the local church’s responsibility both to observe the Table and to remind others to partake worthily. The local church does not own the Table. It’s not theirs; it’s the Lord’s. And He invites believers to it. I find it strange you would exclude other believers from the Lord’s Table whose only sin is their being members in a church of like faith.

    For the local church to legislate the Table, admitting some believers and denying others, and doing so on the tenuous grounds that one is not a member or is not in unity as the preacher sees it, boarders on the sacrilegious. Such beliefs, as I see it, suggest a new kind of error, even that of Baptist Popery.

    I think it’s taking the Lord’s Table in a completely wrong direction when preachers and other church leaders set themselves up as an all-discerning, all-divining prophetic body who can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart and can even bring Table sanctions against a believer who may or may not be in harmony with a particular issue within the assembly. This I find disturbing.

    Again, as I see it, it is the Lord’s Table, and He enjoins us to personal reflection and repentance as we approach it. Among other things the Table emphasizes our self examination. Perhaps I’m missing the boat here, but I never find where we must submit to either an ecclessial or pastoral examination before observing it. While communion is certainly a corporate matter, it is also a deeply personal one. And no church or preacher has a right to deny the experience of that sacred relationship on the grounds of non membership.

    Years ago I heard of a church that zealously pursued this matter of restricting communion not only to its members but also to those who, the leadership felt, were in good standing with the church, and of course “good standing” meant being in lockstep with the preacher and his program. In fact, before every communion service this church would publish an “approved” list of communicants; and before every communion service, they would invite all non members to leave. Think of it! Inviting earnest believers to leave instead of partake! Unbelievable.

    Personally, I think it disgraces other earnest believers not to permit them to enjoy the Lord’s Table especially at another church of like faith. To say non members of like faith cannot partake of the Lord’s Table simply on the strength of their not being members or their not being in “unity” is a huge disservice to the cause of Christ and a poor reading of the NT. Besides, it manifests that sectarian spirit which is everywhere spoken against in the NT.

    Further, it is a bold stroke to say like mindedness concerning unity within a local assembly is identical with like mindedness in the Lord. All true believers have unity in Christ. Our union with Him guarantees this. And because we possess true unity in Christ, we therefore possess unity with one another. Christ is our common denominator; He is our unity, whether we belong to the same local church or not. All believers are unified in Him. Again, our unity lies in our union with Christ, not with our local church membership. Ideally, local unity should spring from the larger unity we all enjoy in Christ. If this is the case, I see no reason why two believers from two different like churches cannot sit down together and recall in unison the great facts of the gospel that makes them one.

    Brother Gray, you ask, “How can one church truly know if someone who is not a member of the church observing the supper is of like mind and in proper standing with their church.” But my question is, Why fret over such a thing? If a believer visits your church during communion and tells you he’s in good standing with his own local assembly, why not take him at his word and invite him to the Table? Besides, who gave you the right to determine who is and isn’t like-minded? And where did you get such amazing insight from? Unless you’re omniscient, I’ll bet many who partake of your closed communion are not as like-minded as you think, unless of course you have a very peculiar kind of like mindedness and how it works.

    The church doesn’t run a Gestapo. All things being equal, it shouldn’t worry itself if someone partakes of the local Table as a non member or even unworthily. That’s the individual’s problem, not the church’s or the preacher’s. Who made you lord over the Table? God requires a man to examine himself, and that should be sufficient, no? He doesn’t require you or your church to ride high over a man’s conscience or his right to the Table, if indeed he’s not practicing those sins what would otherwise omit him.

    I must admit I was taken back by several statements of yours. For instance, you said, “This responsibility can not be given over to the individual, because it is a church ordinance and thereby the responsibility belongs to the church.”

    Wrong! The Bible does lay the responsibility for observing the Table squarely on the individual’s shoulders. Doesn’t Paul say, “Let a man examine himself”? It appears the local church, as you conceive it, has inserted itself where it doesn’t belong. You’re correct, of course, in saying the Table is a church ordinance. But how that becomes the local church’s Table–and even an exclusionary Table–is a mystery stranger than crop circles.

    Well, I’ve rambled enough. Forgive me if I’ve come off too strongly. But some of your ideas I find dangerous.

  21. Pastor Gray
    September 19, 2006 at 5:48 pm

    to tjp; You said “For the local church to legislate the Table, admitting some believers and denying others, and doing so on the tenuous grounds that one is not a member or is not in unity as the preacher sees it, boarders on the sacrilegious. Such beliefs, as I see it, suggest a new kind of error, even that of Baptist Popery.” The restriction to the table is the Lord’s Restriction, not the pastor’s! Every church body restricts certain priviledges to those who are members of that particular church, that is unless you believe in the invisible or universal church theory. If that is the case then I fully understand why you don’t understand the closed position. You are right the Lord does command every person to self-examine themselves, but was that command not given to the Church of Corinth? A church is made up of a local assembly of baptised believers who have come together to keep the commands and commission of Christ. It is the Lord’s Table, and through the Apostle Paul Christ delievered the observance commands to each Local Church. There must be unity in the church before it partakes, and that can only be known by knowing the members, and the faith they stand for. I never suggested a so called list of approved attendants.

    You also wrote; “Further, it is a bold stroke to say like mindedness concerning unity within a local assembly is identical with like mindedness in the Lord. All true believers have unity in Christ. Our union with Him guarantees this. And because we possess true unity in Christ, we therefore possess unity with one another. Christ is our common denominator; He is our unity, whether we belong to the same local church or not. All believers are unified in Him. Again, our unity lies in our union with Christ, not with our local church membership.”

    –All the saved are in Christ, and Christ in them, but all the saved are not dauily in union with the Lord! Daily Union (relationship) comes through obedience to Christ’s Commands (John 14) and that surely would include doctrinal unity of the one faith Paul preached and also mentioned in Eph. 4. Furthermore, we are commanded to separate from every brother because of doctrinal differences in the Romans 16: 17.

    And as far as who made me a ruler over the table. I do not call myself a ruler, by Christ called me to be an overseer. An overseer who must give an account of how I lead the church Christ placed in me. Our differences clearly are caused either by a different understanding of the Church, or the seriousness of the responsibility of being a pastor. Study it out and you will find the Lord instructed Paul to deliver to faithful men those things he had been taught. The pastor is very much so involved in the oversight of the church, but he is not the Head.

  22. September 19, 2006 at 10:54 pm

    All the saved are in Christ, and Christ in them, but all the saved are not daily in union with the Lord! Daily Union (relationship) comes through obedience to Christ’s Commands (John 14) and that surely would include doctrinal unity of the one faith Paul preached and also mentioned in Eph. 4.

    For the sake of clarification, I would change the bolded word to “fellowship”. Our relationship with the Lord is based on our adoption as sons through faith in Christ – our fellowship is based upon our obedience with him.

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