Who should observe the Lord's Supper?
1 Corinthians 11:23-29
All true believers are to observe this blessed ordinance regularly. It is the Lord's Table, and the Lord's Table is open to all the Lord's children (Acts 20:1-2). The practice of restricting the Lord's Supper to the members of a single local church, or denomination, or even to those who meet certain requirements legislated by a church, is altogether without foundation in the Word of God. Each believer is to examine himself, and having examined himself, he is to eat the bread and drink the wine. It is not the prerogative of the pastor, elders, deacons, or the church to examine those who receive the Lord's Supper. Not only is the Lord's Table open to all the Lord's children; but all his children are commanded by him to eat the bread and drink the wine (Matt. 26: 26-27). This ordinance is no more optional than the ordinance of baptism.
Many of God's children have been taught to fear coming to the Lord's Table. Many seem to think they show great reverence for the ordinance by not participating in it! This attitude is not really reverence at all, but irreverence, for it is disobedience to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many refuse to receive the Lord's Supper because they feel unworthy. But our worthiness is not in ourselves, but in Christ. We come to the table not with personal perfection, but with personal faith. By eating the bread and drinking the wine, we show our confidence in the finished work of Christ to make us accepted in God's sight. In all things, our only worthiness to approach and draw near to the holy God is Christ (Heb. 10:19-22; Eph. 1:6; 1 Pet. 2:5). Our worthiness to pray, sing praises to God, give, preach, eat the Lord's Supper, or do anything else towards God is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and the blood of Christ applied to us. Our only acceptance with God is Christ (Col. 2:9-10). Those who are united to Christ by faith are worthy to receive the bread and wine, because they discern the Lord's body. They know their need of a substitute and understand how that Christ accomplished redemption by his incarnation and obedience unto death.
Clearly, there are some people who should not be partakers of this ordinance. Paul gives strong warning to those who might be so brazen as to come presumptuously to the Lord's Table to eat and drink unworthily (1 Cor. 11:27-29). The question is: who is unworthy? Unbelievers are unworthy to eat the Lord's Supper. Their unworthiness lies in the fact that they do not discern the Lord's body; that is to say, they do not know the meaning and value of Christ's incarnation, his righteous obedience to God as our Representative and his sacrificial death as the sinner's Substitute, because they have no faith in him.
However, every true believer may and should come to the Lord's Table. I do not pretend to understand fully Paul's statements about unworthy recipients of the supper in 1 Corinthians 11. But I do know this: the Lord's Table is open to all the Lord's children. The practice of excluding members of other churches from the table has neither precept nor precedent in the New Testament. All God's children in this world are welcome to sit with his saints in any place where they gather to observe the Lord's Supper. Every time we eat the bread and drink the wine we are confronted with our sin, comforted with a sense of blood-bought pardon, and cheered with the hope of Christ's glorious second advent.
Paul makes it perfectly clear that the person receiving the Lord's Supper is responsible to examine himself (1 Cor. 11:28). Each person must examine him or herself. Are you a believer? Do you discern the Lord's body? Do you see the value of Christ's incarnation, life of obedience, and sin-atoning death? Do you rest your soul upon Christ by faith? If you do, this blessed gospel ordinance is for you, but if you refuse to trust the Son of God, you must not presume to take the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper.