The Elements of Public Worship Part VII
The Due Administration and Right Receiving of the Sacraments Instituted by Christ
Pt. 2 of 2
“Q 169: How hath Christ appointed bread and wine to be given and received in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper?
A 169: Christ hath appointed the ministers of His Word, in the administration of this sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, to set apart the bread and wine from common use, by the word of institution, thanksgiving, and prayer; to take and break the bread, and to give both the bread and the wine to the communicants: who are, by the same appointment, to take and eat the bread, and to drink the wine, in thankful remembrance that the body of Christ was broken and given, and His blood shed, for them.” – The Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 169
Previously we discussed what a sacrament is, and, in particular, we looked at the Sacrament of Baptism. Now we will be examining the other Sacrament that Christ gave to the Church: the Lord’s Supper.
The first recorded celebration of the Lord’s Supper was when Christ first instituted it in the upper room (Mat. 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19). In this act of Christ’s we have a visible reminder of His incredible love for His sheep, for we must remember that even as He was contemplating the incredible sacrifice He was to make on the Cross, He was appointing this sacrament to be perpetually observed in His Church, until His return, as a means of grace by which His people might have their faith strengthened and grown.
The purposes of the Lord’s Supper are fourfold:
Firstly, by its observance we remember the awesome sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf, willingly laying down His life to make atonement for our sins and establish our righteousness.
Secondly, it is a seal of the Covenant of Grace, whereby Christ obliges Himself to fulfill the promise of the covenant to true believers and that by their receiving this seal, they oblige themselves to be the Lord’s, and to be true and faithful unto Him.
Thirdly, as we have mentioned, it is a means of grace so that just as bread and wine physically nourish our body, the Lord’s Supper has been appointed as a means of spiritual nourishment and growth in Christ to those who partake of it in faith.
Fourthly, it is bond and pledge of the believers’ communion with Jesus, and with each other, as members of His mystical body.
The elements of the Bread and Wine do not physically become the body and blood of Jesus Christ when they are set apart by a minister in the Lord’s Supper, and yet, we have the assurance of Christ that He is spiritually present to the faith of believers in the Supper, so that when they outwardly partake of the bread and the wine they also inwardly, by faith, spiritually receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all of the benefits of His death upon their behalf.
The Supper is only rightly observed when it is celebrated before the congregation and is thus properly described as the communion of the church. It is not rightly observed when the elements are carried to someone who did not participate in the service, or when it is celebrated privately.
This Sacrament is always a blessing to those true believers who receive it in faith, but for those who are outside the body of the Lord, who unworthily come to the table, it is a curse (1 Cor. 11:29). For this reason it is required that those wishing to partake first enter into the visible church of Jesus Christ and be examined and approved by the elders, whose concern is for their spiritual welfare.