Summary: A discussion of the oversight of the Lord's Supper, focusing on the participants at the Meal and the attitude with which we are to partake of the Meal.

“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.” [1]

The Lord’s Supper is integral to Christian worship. However, among Evangelical churches, this rite is too often treated carelessly as though it is merely a bothersome necessity to be hurriedly dispensed with in order to free us to do what we deem to be really important. The rituals associated with the ordinance are performed without thinking about what we are doing. The Lord’s Table has become mere routine, so habitual and so pedestrian within our churches that we have forgotten a basic truth—this is the Lord’s Supper, not ours. We are not at liberty to invite whom we will to the Table, but rather, it is the Lord Himself who invites whom He wills to share in this Meal.

When you sit down at your dining table, I seriously doubt that you look outside to see if there is anyone wandering by whom you can invite to join you at the table. Most of us are somewhat careful about who we invite to our table. Certainly, we invite family and friends to share in our hospitality. Perhaps we will invite some who are less fortunate than us to join us in enjoying the bounty with which God has blessed us. However, strangers wandering past our home have no right to our table.

It is obvious to most of us that we do not “owe” anyone the right to share in our meal. It is our table; and we invite those whom we wish to bless with our friendship to join us at our table. It is not simply that we are providing food for friends and family, but that we are sharing ourselves. Around the table, we fellowship—we share our very lives at the table, giving something of ourselves to those who join us at the meal and receiving convivial intercourse in return. Because dining together is more than merely an act of ingesting food, we are careful about whom we invite to join us.

Strangely enough, what is obvious in the world beyond the walls of the church is ignored at the Table of the Lord. Here, we grow quite passionate about our right to the Lord’s Table. However, shouldn’t we inquire of the Lord whom He would invite to His Table? If this is truly His Table, then He must have the final word concerning who eats at His Table. Thus, we should ask whether the Bible has anything to say concerning those invited to the Lord’s Table. Indeed, when we ask, we discover that God has addressed this issue, though we have largely ignored what He has said.

We need to clarify the purpose of the Lord’s Table in order to discover who is invited to the Lord’s Table. Then, having established the purpose of the ordinance, we will likely discover God’s instruction concerning those who are to share at the Supper. Ultimately, asking how we arrived at the point now observed within evangelicalism will benefit us through deterring us from continued error. Join me, then, in exploring Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian Christians concerning who is invited to the Lord’s Table.

THE LORD’S SUPPER DEFINED — What is the Lord’s Supper? If we were introducing an individual to the Meal for the first time, how would we explain what we were doing? Those of us who have introduced our children to the Faith have had occasion to explain the rites and rituals of the church at some time as they wondered about what was happening as we partook of bread and drank the juice.

After he had instituted the Passover Meal, Moses was commanded to write, “When your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses’” [EXODUS 12:26, 27]. Israel was also commanded to redeem the firstborn male of all their herds and flocks, as well as redeeming the firstborn son. The ceremony reminded them of God’s grace to them as a nation. However, Moses appended these words, “When in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem’” [EXODUS 13:14, 15].

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