By Larry R. DeVore
The Lord’s supper is a solemn occasion to remember the death of our Lord and the great sacrifice he made for us on Calvary. It ought to be observed with the serious- ness and dignity that befits the occasion. I do not imply that the partaking of the Lord’s supper is more important than any other act of worship. They are all equally important. The Christian is to participate in each activity in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). The death of Christ was a propitiation (atoning sacrifice, 1 John 2:2) for us, that God might be able to forgive us our sins and put us into a covenant relationship with him. No other act except the death of the sinless Son of God on the cross could accomplish this.
Consider the Purpose of the Lord’s Supper
The apostle Paul tells us that the purpose of the Lord’s supper is to remember his death. In 1 Corinthians 11:25- 26. “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (NKJV). We see in verse 25 that the Lord’s supper is a remembrance; a memorial if you will, of the Lord’s sacrifice of himself for us. Man builds memorials and monuments of stainless steel, granite or marble; material he hopes will endure. The Son of God built a memorial that has lasted 2000 years; assembled each week from perishable elements. Unleavened bread and grape juice are not enduring materials. They will mold and become stale. Yet these very elements, prepared weekly by faithful hands, become by faith the body and blood of the Lord in the communion service every first day of the week. The Lord’s supper is a lasting memorial, for the purpose of observing (looking back on) the Lord’s death on Calvary, and faithful Christians will continue to par- take of it “until He comes.”
The Frequency of Observing the Lord’s Supper
The “when” of partaking the Lord’s supper is found by example of what the early church did. “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7). There is no other example of the early church partaking of the Lord’s supper on any other day of the week. Those who claim they can do so need to cite their authority from Scripture. Divine silence eliminates every day but the first day of the week. We see also that the Lord’s supper is a congregational function, rather than an individual one. It is something done “when the disciples came together.” I believe this eliminates carrying the communion to shut- ins in hospitals, and private or nursing homes. If one cannot assemble, then he or she is excused from partaking. We can do many things individually; we can sing and pray; study and teach others. But the Lord’s supper (and the giving of one’s means) is a congregational function or activity. Let us be dedicated to observe the Lord’s supper with other disciples, upon the first day of the week.
The Manner of Observing the Lord’s Supper
The manner in which a Christian observes the Lord’s supper should be the attitude he would display in engaging in any act of divine worship. The apostle Paul tells us we can control our thinking (Phil. 4:8). So as we observe the Lord’s supper, we need to concentrate on Jesus’ death for us on Calvary; the suffering, the anguish he went through in order to secure our salvation. Try to block out external distractions, that we may meditate on the greatest sacrifice the world has ever known. A few well-chosen remarks by the one presiding at the table will help each disciple to meditate on Calvary.
Duties of the One Presiding at the Communion Service
The brother who presides at the serving of the Lord’s supper can do a great deal to make the service meaningful to the participants. This should involve something more than simply reading Matthew 26:26-29 or Luke 22:17-20, where Jesus instituted the supper. This is fine, but tells us little or nothing about why he was instituting the supper. There are many passages that dwell on his suffering and death that would be more appropriate for the communion service. Some of these would be: Psalm 22; Hebrews 2:9-17; 7:22-27; 9:24-28; 1 Peter 1:18-21; 2:21-25. The one in charge, or “presiding” at the service should be neatly dressed and well prepared to lead the congregation in a meaningful participation of the Lord’s supper.
Duties of Those Who Serve the Communion
Those who serve the congregation are important to an orderly and meaningful communion service. They should also be neatly dressed in their best. A tee shirt and jeans are not appropriate attire to appear before the congregation (unless that is all one has to wear). We are in the spiritual presence of the Son of God, not attending a foot- ball game. Neat, clean clothing is essential. The brothers serving should strive to serve the communion in an orderly manner, seeing that no one is overlooked. Those who are serving should not partake of the communion first, but serve themselves last, at the rear of the auditorium, or where it has been decided in advance. Good judgment and common sense should prevail. The congregation is to be served first, themselves last.
Praying at the Serving of the Lord’s Supper
A few words need to be said regarding the prayers offered at the table for the bread and the fruit of the vine. Too often, a brother will pray for everything and anything, and sometimes nearly forget to give thanks for the elements involved. The observance of the Lord’s supper is not the time to ask for forgiveness of sins, or to pray for the sick, or for safe travel, etc. These items should be taken care of in the opening prayer. The prayers at the Lord’s table should be brief and to the point.
The prayers offered at the Lord’s table should keep the congregation’s thinking focused on Calvary, and what was accomplished by Jesus on our behalf. The brethren who pray and serve the communion service are vital to making the service meaningful to each disciple. Don’t consider this a “little duty” or chore to be carried out. Your faithful service here is extremely important to the proper partaking of the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week.