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Question and Answer

Preparation for the Lord's Supper

Question:

How should one properly and earnestly prepare to receive the Lord's Supper from the an OPC perspective? Maybe I am looking too hard into this matter, as I am new to the Reformed faith, and just looking for more ways to increase my knowledge of honoring God's instruction.

Answer:

Thank you for your question regarding preparing to partake of the Lord's Supper and an "OPC perspective" on it.

It's worth asking a prior question: "How should one prepare himself for public worship on the Lord's Day?" The Westminster Confession of Faith (21:8) on keeping the Sabbath, speaks of "a due preparing of [our] hearts." This raises a further question, "Does partaking of the Lord's Supper require preparation beyond such heart preparation?" The Larger Catechism Q. 171 and the Shorter Catechism Q. 97 appear to answer affirmatively; they prescribe self-examination "of ... being in Christ ..." and "of ... knowledge to discern the Lord's body ...," along with litanies of spiritual exercises.

The proof texts for such self-examination are 2 Corinthians 13:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:27-32. The context of 2 Corinthians 13:5 has nothing to do with the Lord's Supper or preparation for Communion. Paul is concerned with a projected third visit to Corinth to deal with disciplinary matters and to defend himself as an apostle of Christ.

As for 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, the apostle Paul deals specifically with scandalous sins that were being brought right to the Lord's table. Flagrant, brazen sins that openly contradicted the mandate of love for Christ and for fellow believers, sins that cried for church discipline (cf. vv. 17-22). The Corinthians were guilty of profaning the Lord's table. And they were professing Christians. The apostle's warning in this passage is directed pointedly to them.

Paul does not issue his warning to unbelievers; rather, it is as though he takes it as a given that the Supper is not for such. So is today's pastor to apply Paul's warning to the members of his congregation? Is he required to tell his people, or some of them, not to approach the holy table? I do not believe so. (In the OPC with which I worship, early in the worship service the congregation audibly confesses our sins and receives the Lord's absolution. Is more "preparation" needed?) In my judgment, it is unconscionable to place believers struggling with doubts and fears under a burden and cloud of guilt. As a minister, I tremble to think of being responsible for a weak, fearful believer keeping himself from God's grace in the sacrament.

Let me quote the comforting question and answer #81 of the Heidelberg Catechism:

"Who are to come to the Lord's table?" Answer: "Those who are displeased with themselves because of their sins, but who nevertheless trust that their sins are pardoned and that their continuing weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ, and who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to lead a better life."

The Lord's Supper is for all such fragile, broken, fearful believers; that is all the "preparation" we need! None of us is ever as "spiritual" as we think we should be. That is precisely the reason for coming to the Supper rather than abstaining! "... and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup." That's both an invitation and a command!

I hope my response to your question and concern proves helpful.


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

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The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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