The Lord's Supper

We are not claiming for a moment that the Lord’s Supper is exclusively ours but in no respect does an assembly meeting differ from its counterpart in Christendom more than our celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Our form of gathering was doubtless devised by those early brethren who met in Dublin nearly 200 years ago.  They were not interested in preaching but in remembering their Lord and this accounts for the form this particular gathering took.

No gathering is more entitled to the name of worship meeting than our celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  The word “worship” is obviously derived from the word “worth”.  Any gathering which is concerned, as the Lord’s Supper is, with the emblems of the Lord’s body and blood just be preoccupied with remembrance and it is this very remembrance which is the fuel for worship.

Worship is the highest spiritual exercise in which a Christian can engage.  It is more than prayer, which is basically concerned with our requests.  It is more than thanksgiving, for that is for blessings received.  It is preoccupation with the Lord Jesus for His own sake, because of His own worth.  It is being “lost in holy wonder.”

This implies that certain other practices should be controlled if worship is to be done properly.  The first is ministry.  Would it not often be far better if brethren would keep that to its proper place?  It seems as if in many places brethren simply take the chance of an open meeting to get little meditations off their chests whether they are suited to a worship meeting or not.  Life’s experience suggests that most ministry on such occasions, especially before the bread is broken, is an interruption of worship rather than an aid to it.  Worship is directed to God so that ministry to the saints simply stops that upward flow.

Neither is the “Morning Meeting” an occasion for giving out favourite hymns.  This was the impression gained by a young visitor from another company of Christians to an assembly in a holiday resort and he promptly announced his favourite.  Well chosen hymns can be an asset in such a gathering but others can be a distraction.

Such gatherings require the participation of all the brethren to reach their maximum profitability.  They are not occasions for the display of spiritual gift but for appreciation of the Lord Jesus.  Surely God expects appreciation from the young as well as from the old.  This has been illustrated from the instructions given about the burnt offering in Leviticus chapter 1.  (The burnt offering is more associated with worship than any of the other offerings in the Old Testament.  There was no compelling reason for it being offered than the simple desire to express one’s appreciation of God).

A reading of that chapter in Leviticus will reveal that there were three grades of burnt offerings, each reflecting the material wealth of the offerer, yet each was accepted by God as “an offering for a sweet-smelling savour” (verse 9, 13 and 17).  The important thing was for each offerer to give what he could without reference to somebody else’s ability to give.  So it is with us.  Naturally God doesn’t expect a young Christian to give in worship what a more experienced Christian would give but He does expect him to bring his offering of worship just the same.

The story is told of those early days when the early giants where still alive that a number of them were present at a week-end conference somewhere.  On the Lord’s Day morning one after another was rising to worship in eloquent terms, but then a young man rose and simply said, “Oh God, what a wonderful Christ.”  It was the general feeling that “he spake more than they all.”  The important thing is to give what we can and what an uplift to the saints it is to hear a young voice express such appreciation of the Lord Jesus.  Don’t be too slow in telling God what you think of His marvellous Son.

This worship is inspired by the remembrance of Christ which is provoked by these emblems, the bread and the cup.  This is the first significance of the breaking of bread and it is in accordance with the Lord’s own request, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:24).

The second great meaning attached to the Lord Supper is that it is the symbol of of our fellowship and communion.  If 1 Cor. 11 speaks of the bread that is broken by each of us on the Lord’s Day as the symbol of the Lord’s literal body chapter 10 speaks of the same bread as the symbol of His spiritual body, the church.  Hence the reason for some denominations call this particular gathering their communion service.  This means that the loaf has become symbolic of the fellowship into which we are fused by the Spirit of God through our connection with the Lord Jesus.  Participation in that celebration is therefore only the privilege of those in fellowship and of suitable visitors who would be if they resided locally.   None of us has any right to invite folks there who would otherwise have no part in that fellowship, whether they are our domestic guests or not.  The self-examination of 1 Cor. 11:28 is for people who are already in fellowship in the local church. 

Yet another symbol of this same fellowship is the Lord’s table, another of the word pictures used in 1 Cor. 10.  This must not be confused with the wooden table on which the emblems are usually placed at the breaking of bread meeting.  This object has become the symbol of the whole fellowship of God’s people and it is a pity that confusion has entered our minds between those tables.  Of course reception is to the Lord’s Table rather than to the Lord’s supper.

Those two symbols have acquired tremendous meaning but they are not magical.  There is no special virtue imparted through eating them.  It is quite foreign  to the Lord’s intention that they should be carried to a person who is in bed sick.  They are symbolic of fellowship, not of isolation.  This means that the adoption of individual cups is a denial of that fellowship as the whole idea is that we should partake of the same cup.  Nor should any special importance become attached to that on which the symbols are placed.

The burden of these chapters is that we should maintain simplicity.  It is no accident that its companion is sincerity.  And sincerity is poles apart from ritual and ceremony.  Don’t let’s fall into these although at all times we must observe reverence.  Ritual only appears to be reverent, but it is a great hindrance to that freedom of the Spirit that ought to characterise spiritual gatherings.  It is so prone to creep into anything that we do regularly.  The original breaking of bread gathering was of a group of men who had handed them bread and wine by which they were to remember their Lord and by which their fellowship with one another was to become symbolised.  Let’s keep it that way.

Those men began to do that on the first day of every week (Acts 20:7).  After all the day had acquired tremendous significance for them.  Had not their Lord been taken up from them and was it not on the first day of the week that he had been restored to them?  So wherever men accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour they would be found on that special day remembering Him to show they owed so much.  It seems strange that Christians should lightly miss such a remembrance for the sake of a long lie or an extra shift or anything else in the world. 


© Douglas Carr 2021