What I would have said about the Lord’s Supper if I’d had time…

July 29, 2009

After last Sunday’s sermon (Removing the Obstacles of Legalism from Taking the Lord’s Supper), I’ve been amazed at how many people have shared with me how they have struggled with taking the Lord’s Supper. The guilt, the unworthiness, even the fear and dread of taking it. On the one hand, I’m glad that people take it so seriously, but on the other hand, I’m convicted by how many of those serious-minded worshippers I’ve had a part in discouraging in the act of taking. I pray that Sunday’s message will be a tool for bringing a whole lot of grace-induced liberation to hearts bound by condemnation.

My heart is still rejoicing to hear of the burdens that were lifted. Praise the Lord!!

Some have asked about who then is to be “fenced” away from the Lord’s Table. The short answer is this: those who are unrepentant about sin should not partake, since, THAT is a state of rebellion, or as Luther said, a lack of DESIRE to receive the grace given in the ordinance.

So, we should fence the table from 3 kinds of people: unbelievers, the unrepentant and the self-righteous. Everyone else is invited to come.

Luther had really good pastoral advice in his Larger Catechism. I had planned to use this in the sermon, but simply ran out of time. I wanted to find a way to share it with you so I’m posting it here. This is really good, so I’m giving you all of it.

Notice specifically the distinction in who should and shouldn’t come to the Lord’s Table in the first few paragraphs (paragraphs 2-4 in particular). Luther’s use of the term “desire” is the key here. (underlines and bracketed comments are mine)

Luther in the Larger Catechism:

But if you say: How if I feel that I am not prepared? Answer: That is also my scruple, especially from the old way under the Pope, in which a person tortured himself to be so perfectly pure that God could not find the least blemish in us. [This is a Catholic approach to the Lord’s Supper!] On this account we became so timid that every one was instantly thrown into consternation and said to himself: Alas! you are unworthy!

But if you are to regard how good and pure you are, and labor to have no compunctions, you must never approach.

We must, therefore, make a distinction here among men. For those who are wanton and dissolute [deliberately intend to continue in sin] must be told to stay away; for they are not prepared to receive forgiveness of sin, since they do not desire it and do not wish to be godly.

But the others, who are not such callous and wicked people, and desire to be godly, must not absent themselves, even though otherwise they be feeble and full of infirmities… For no one will make such progress that he will not retain many daily infirmities in flesh and blood.

Therefore such people must learn that it is the highest art to know that our Sacrament does not depend upon our worthiness. For we are not baptized because we are worthy and holy, [or] …because we are pure and without sin, but the contrary, because we are poor miserable men, and just because we are unworthy; …

But whoever would gladly obtain grace and consolation should impel himself, and allow no one to frighten him away, but say: I, indeed, would like to be worthy; but I come, not upon any worthiness, but upon Thy Word, because Thou hast commanded it, as one who would gladly be Thy disciple, no matter what becomes of my worthiness.

But this is difficult; for we always have this obstacle and hindrance to encounter, that we look more upon ourselves than upon the Word and lips of Christ.

We must never regard the Sacrament as something injurious from which we had better flee, but as a pure, wholesome, comforting remedy imparting salvation and comfort, which will cure you and give you life both in soul and body. …

those who are sensible of their weakness, desire to be rid of it and long for help, should regard and use it only as a precious antidote against the poison which they have in them. For here in the Sacrament you are to receive from the lips of Christ forgiveness of sin, which contains and brings with it the grace of God and the Spirit with all His gifts, protection, shelter, and power against death and the devil and all misfortune.