The Efficacy of the Lord’s Supper

There was a point in time that being pur­pose­ful­ly exclud­ed from the “Lord’s Sup­per” was a mean­ing­ful pun­ish­ment for believ­ers who sin.

I’ve nev­er heard of any­one los­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty to par­take of the meal for any rea­son in any of the church­es I’ve been involved with. I won­der, though, is that pun­ish­ment at all effec­tive anymore? 

If not, I con­jec­ture that it is due to what I see as a fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence between New Tes­ta­ment Lord’s Sup­pers and those of the con­tem­po­rary church:

What was once an inti­mate remem­brance meal among believ­ers has become over­whelm­ing­ly rit­u­al­ized. Like­wise, the ele­ments which are meant to rep­re­sent the flesh and blood of the Son of God have been reduced to a tiny wafer and half an ounce of grace juice.

The more I think about this, the more it both­ers me. Am I right to be annoyed by some­thing like this?

6 thoughts on “The Efficacy of the Lord’s Supper”

  1. Rick,

    I think the prob­lem you’ve iden­ti­fied lies more with the treat­ment of the Lord’s Sup­per by the par­tic­u­lar church (and with our own view of it), and less with the ele­ments. It’s only in recent years that I’ve seen this pre­sent­ed clear­ly as an activ­i­ty for believ­ers — and believ­ers only:

    - Par­tic­i­pa­tion is manda­to­ry for Christians
    — Self exam­i­na­tion is required, with the con­fes­sion of sin, before participation
    — Sin (or a “bad week”) is nev­er an excuse to skip par­tic­i­pa­tion, as that entire­ly avoids the point of sub­sti­tu­tion­ary atonement
    — Unbe­liev­ers are nev­er to par­take, as this is a dec­la­ra­tion of one­ness with Christ, and par­tic­i­pa­tion as an unbe­liev­er is mak­ing a false claim for Christ

    Hav­ing the impor­tance and sym­bol­ism out­lined before each tak­ing of the Lord’s Table has helped turn what used to be a bor­ing event for me into a mean­ing­ful event — I can now joy­ful­ly act in obe­di­ence to Christ.


  2. Ryan: I whole­heart­ed­ly agree with your points, and I’m not deny­ing that many church­es, at least most of the hand­ful I’ve been involved with, do bring those points to light.

    None of those things, in my mind, excuse the use of com­mer­cial­ized bags of wafers and the like. He seemed none too pleased when His tem­ple was com­mer­cial­ized; how much more should we guard that which rep­re­sents not only His pres­ence but His body?

  3. True … we use Won­der­bread, I think. Cost­co grape juice in dis­pos­able plas­tic cups (sor­ry Gree­nies). AND a clear dec­la­ra­tion that there is noth­ing spe­cial about the bread and juice — that they don’t become some­thing else, but remain bread and juice act­ing as sym­bols to remind us of Christ’s death and the new covenant.

  4. My church sounds very sim­im­lar to RFK’s. It’s not irrev­er­ent, but real­ly in mem­o­ry of Christ’s sac­ri­fice and in reflec­tion of our depen­dence on him, noth­ing more fan­cy than that. I think it’s good to have full meals togeth­er some­times as well. We’ve had din­ner with a short talk instead of church a cou­ple of times and often hang out for din­ner after church. I think wafers or super­mar­ket bread are about prac­ti­cal­i­ty… It’s a bit eas­i­er to have an inti­mate meal with 12 or 13 than with 50 or more.

  5. I had meant to include this in the pre­vi­ous com­ment, but was out of time last night when writing.

    We have a month­ly “Fel­low­ship Lunch” at our church which is essen­tial­ly a giant potluck fol­lowed by the Lord’s Sup­per. Beyond that, we’ll meet for the Lord’s Sup­per again on anoth­er Sun­day dur­ing the month dur­ing our evening service.

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Rick Beckman