Summary: Is the Communion Meal Open to all who profess Christ? Or is it overseen by the congregation hosting the meal and thus restricted to those who are in open fellowship with the assembly? The message is a study of this controversial question.

“In the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognised. When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” [1]

Some practises among the churches of our Lord have become so routine that they are no longer questioned. As an example of unquestioned ritual, consider the ordinance of the Lord’s Table. There are questions begging to be asked and answered. Who belongs at the Lord’s Table? Whom has the Lord invited to participate? After all, this is His Table! It is not the Table of the church, nor is it our table in any real sense. So the question must be asked, Whom has the Lord invited to participate in His Meal offered at His Table? In order to answer this question, we will need to ask and answer the question of the purpose for the rite. All this will require us to look carefully into the Word at the risk of disturbing the status quo (Latin for “the rut we are in”).

We are fortunate to have the response of the Apostle to the Gentiles to a thoughtless, self-centred congregation which was even then abusing the Table of the Lord. Had it not been for the Corinthian Church and their flagrant abuse of worship, we would be deprived of detailed instructions for the observance of this rite. We would have only the account of its institution in the Gospels and what can only be construed as rather vague references throughout the history of the apostolic churches.

Years ago, while living in a Dallas suburb, I became aware of an Evangelical Methodist congregation that was growing rapidly in the community. The pastor was a thoroughgoing preacher in the old-fashioned mode for which Methodists were known for adhering to the Bible as the Word of God.

One day, a close friend, Bob Green, commented, “Did you hear that the pastor over at the Evangelical Methodist resigned? His congregation rebelled against him.” What was revealed was shocking to a young preacher holding to Baptist principles. What grave misdeeds had this pastor participated in? It turned out that he had begun insisting that the Bible meant what it said and that those who wished to participate in the Communion Meal must live a holy life. He had begun preaching Methodist doctrine, and his elders were offended by what he was teaching. Without realizing what had happened, these elders had slipped into a sort of quasi-Christian form of religiosity that was comfortable with a popular form of civic religion.

What happened to that pastor made an impression on me. Preaching what the Bible says invites pushback from casual Christians. As a Bible College dean once warned me after I had delivered a fiery message in the daily chapel service, “If you’re going to preach like John the Baptist, you’d better be prepared to eat what John the Baptist ate.” My response then did not differ from my response today, “John didn’t die from starvation!”

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