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7 practical questions about the Lord’s Supper

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7 practical questions about the Lord’s Supper
Posted on November 1, 2019  - By Dr. John Sypert

In this article, I will address seven practical questions about the Lord’s Supper. These are questions we may not have considered, but should do, especially if we are pastors or leaders in the church.  

  1. What gathering should celebrate the Lord’s Supper? Many of us have not considered this question and thus assume that the Supper can be celebrated by any Christians at any time.  But Scripture says that the gathered church observed the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:17, 18, 20, 33-34). In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul addressed what was happening when the church in Corinth “came together as a church” (v. 18). The implication is that the Supper was happening when the whole church gathered together. 1 Corinthians 10:17 tells us that the Supper enacts, or portrays and represents, the unity of the church. So, it makes sense that the Lord’s Supper should be observed when the whole church family is together. The Supper is the church’s family meal and thus, it should be eaten together. This means that doing the Supper in any other context, though probably not sinful, is not authorised by Scripture (e.g. in community groups, on mission trips, with college ministries, at weddings, taken to homebound members etc).  
  2. Who can participate in the Lord’s Supper? I addressed this question in detail in June. The short answer is that the Lord’s Supper is for baptised believers who belong to a church.  This is why, when our church observes the Lord’s Supper, I say something to the effect of, “The Supper is for Christians who’ve been baptised and are a member in good standing of a gospel-preaching church.”
  3. Who should lead the Lord’s Supper? There is no command in Scripture, but it seems reasonable to expect pastors to lead the Supper, for two reasons. First, the Supper is an act of the church and pastors are those who lead the church. Second, the Supper is an acting out, or visible presentation of the Word, and pastors are those set aside to proclaim the Word.  
  4. Should we eat the bread and drink the cup? Yes. This is what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 26:26-28. Intinction, the practice of dipping the bread in the cup, is not what Jesus told us to do. It also minimises the symbolism of Jesus’ blood being poured out for us.
  5. How often should churches celebrate the Lord’s Supper? The Bible does not tell us. It just says we should do it often. “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25). Paul’s reference to the Corinthians doing it when the church “comes together” may suggest they did it each week (cf. Acts 20:7). This may mean that the church should do it every week, but there seems to be some flexibility in the phrase “as often as you drink it.” Churches are free to decide how often they do it, but they should do it “often”.
  6. Should the Lord’s Supper be celebrated in the context of a meal? Maybe. It appears that is how the Corinthians did it, and the phrase ‘breaking bread’ is used in Acts to refer to having a meal together and celebrating the Supper (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7). Does the New Testament require this? No. Jesus only commanded us to eat the bread and drink the cup. A full meal together is not the essence of the Supper, but those two elements are. The benefits of doing it in the context of a meal are that it highlights the fellowship we have with one another in the Lord’s Supper. Sitting down for a meal together also illustrates our acceptance of one another in Christ.  
  7. Finally, what should we do during the Supper? Jamieson encourages us to do four things: look to the cross, look around, look ahead, and look inward and back to the cross. We should look to the cross because the Supper is meant to show us the cross again and again, because we need to be reminded of Jesus’ death for us again and again.
    We should look around because the Lord’s Supper is meant to make the many one. It is not a private devotional experience where a bunch of people do the same thing at the same time. We should not only close our eyes and confess our sins, but also open our eyes and look around us and marvel at all those who Jesus has redeemed. If we have sinned against a brother or sister, we should confess that to them, making amends as soon as possible. At the Supper, divisions disappear as we collectively gaze at the Saviour. As we gaze at Jesus’ cross, we are renewed to yet again love and serve our brothers and sisters.
    We should look ahead because there is a final and ultimate meal coming in the future (Revelation 19:6-9). The fellowship with Christ and each other that we share in the Lord’s Supper is only a foretaste of what is coming. The Lord’s Supper is like an appetiser that gets us ready for the main dish. Just as God made good on His promise to forgive and reconcile His people to Himself, He will also make good on His promise to remake the world, defeat death, and bring us into His presence forever. As you eat the Supper, look ahead to the feast that is coming. God is saving the best for last.
    And finally, we should look inward because we have sin that we need to confess to God. Jesus’ death offers us forgiveness because we need it. We should not let guilt pile up and overwhelm us. The Lord’s Supper tells us that, because of Jesus’ death, our guilt is gone, our sins are removed, our punishment has been taken, and our debt is paid. So, as we look inward we must also look back to the cross.

Each time we observe the Lord’s Supper, may God help us to prayerfully look back, look around, look ahead, and look inward and back to the cross again. 

Dr. John Sypert

About Dr. John Sypert

John Sypert completed his M.Div and Th.M from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and received his Ph.D in Theology and Apologetics from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He currently serves as pastor at Preston Highlands Baptist Church, Dallas, where he lives with his wife and two sons.



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