Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Lord's Supper: This neglect?

In the late 1630's the religious liberty of Presbyterians in Ireland was so restricted that it was often necessary for them to travel to Scotland in order to receive communion. Rev John Livingstone, then minister at Stranraer, recorded that on one occasion 'over five hundred persons from County Down crossed the sea to receive the sacrament at Stranraer'. What an example that is of the spiritual desire of God's people, that they were prepared to take a boat trip across the Irish Sea for the sole purpose of a communion service. There is no doubt that today the situation has changed dramatically. Whilst there is freedom to worship according to conscience and to remember the Lord's death in a scriptural manner, the Lord's table is neglected by many believers. The attendance at most communion services is but a fraction of the attendence at the preceeding or subsequent Sunday service.

In raising this issue we are not thinking of those who, for legitimate reason, may be unable to remain for the Lord's Supper as often as they would wish. Nor are we dealing with the unconverted. Rather we are concerned with those who have professed faith in Jesus Christ for many years, yet have seldom, if ever, partaken of the Lord's Supper. Many Protestants rightly reject the Roman Catholic sacrifice of the mass, yet sadly many also reject the right and proper commemoration of Christ's death. Sunday dinners and other duties must instead be attended to, taking precedence over time spent thinking upon the atoning death of Christ.

When the Lord Jesus Christ instructed his disciples in Matthew 26:27 to 'drink ye all of it' his emphasis was not on consuming all of the bread and wine, but rather that every one of them would partake of his body and blood. The Lord's table is not limited to the most spiritual of believers, but is for all who are in Christ. With the exception of those who are living in open and public sin, or who are under church discipline, every born again Christian should find themselves at the Lord's table on a regular basis.

If our attitude towards the Lord's Supper is one of indifference, and if we are noticeable by our absence at this service, the question must then be asked, what do you think of the death of Christ? 'Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?' The deliberate and regular omission of this ordinance by believers is evidence of a low view being held of the Lord's Supper, and consequently a low view of Christ's death. Is the death of Christ not something which we ought always to hold in remembrance? Is it not of such importance to us that we would regret those opportunities when we cannot remember it in His own appointed fashion?

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion the sacraments (of which the Lord's Supper is one) are described by John Calvin as 'mirrors in which we may contemplate the riches of grace which God imparts to us, for in the sacraments, as we have already observed, he manifests himself to us as far as our dulness is capable of knowing him'. The Lord's Supper was insituted by Christ that we might regularly think on his death and that we might grow in grace thereby. Let us not neglect this feast, but let us always be remembering.

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