LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 248

Reflections on the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689

23 Aug 14 began a perhaps unbroken, orderly, and personal journey through my favorite written confession of faith. These are my personal reflections on this beloved historic Particular Baptist confession of the Christian Faith.


Chapter 30. Of the Lord’s Supper. Paragraph 8: “All ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Christ, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and cannot, without great sin against him, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto; yea, whosoever shall receive unworthily, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, eating and drinking judgment to themselves.”

I wrote last time a little bit about what I thought it meant to be a “worthy partaker” of the Lord’s Table. I’d like to begin tonight by saying how sure I am that while we can indeed come in a proper manner, that no one’s actually “worthy” of such an honor. Worthy of the Cross?! We’d as soon be worthy of having all of creation bow down and sing our name, or to sit on God’s own throne! I come because he bids me to, and as he bids me to, but not because I feel worthy of such a thing. It’s a high and holy honor to partake of the Lord’s Table. I believe that part of the miracle of what the Bible calls “glorification” will be that we’re no longer ashamed of our unworthiness to stand with God. We’ll never be able to even come close to losing the distinction I’m sure, but when sin is no more, it will be something else altogether. Then it will be fully made known that, “…perfect love casts out fear…” 1 John 4:18. I pray you too await that day today as you read this. Philippians 3:12. Until then, we come to the Table fully aware of the blessing it is to raise us up to him as we wait. At this Table, even the lowest seat puts one far above all earthly royalty. We’re “worthy” when we approach it as children by faith. As children of God partaking in our memory of his love and gracious redemption expressed chiefly outside Jerusalem nearly two-thousand years ago.

Should we “police” such a Table in our churches? My short answer is “yes, definitely.” The question is how best are we to do that? Should we never permit people to come that we don’t know? I don’t think so. And there are differing answers. Please allow me to say just a little. An answer may present itself in a large church differently than it would in a small church. In a church of thirty people a pastor knows everyone present with him. In a large church, transient persons may present a unique challenge. In many settings, we might ask then, “How open should communion be?” What sort of protection should we offer it and our partakers? For example, as a chaplain in the US Army at work in military chapels (which are not churches) I once faced lesbians coming to the Lord’s Table. I would not serve them. Their immorality is open rebellion against God and that makes anyone actively engaged in such unworthy of the uplifting ordinance. I would also be sinning myself- knowing this- to serve them at the Table. I’d love nothing more than to serve them if they wanted Christ, but God demands repentance. We changed the way we executed the Lord’s Table and prepared to confront the ladies privately, but they never returned. The Table is for the repentant sinner, thus for all of God’s children, but it is not for a sinner seeking to falsely sanctify his or her sins. Someone in bondage to a sin and unwilling to repent shouldn’t be knowingly served at the table of freedom. We must somehow police it being fully aware that only God knows the heart. It may suffice, aside from knowing of someone in need and in private counseling asking them to abstain, to simply offer a warm warning to all to not come lightly and to leave it to God. To remind the people that the Table is just for believers who are already freed from sin in their justification. In short, we want the right sinners at the Table with us, the right sinners. We wanted righted sinners. We want redeemed and sober sinners. We want sinners who know their sins are already dead in Jesus’ death and yet being put to death in their life by his living. Preambles must be given in every setting, I think. Clear religious warnings not to come lightly. To consider oneself before accepting. To pray to God. To repent. To hold a spouse’s hand if necessary. Some time should be given for reflection. Communion should never be a flippant addition to a day of worship. It should be focused. Profound. The Gospel proclaimed with it, etc. A sobering call. That if for any reason someone who may otherwise be quote “worthy” to partake chooses not to on any given day that it’s not to be judged as anything other than perhaps a wise and holy thing. That perhaps that person knows there’s some sin they have to deal with first before partaking again, etc. Simple statements that over time shape our people to know 1) how we’re ever “worthy” to come to this spiritual Table in the first place, and 2) what to do if we feel that we’re not on a given day. Acknowledgement by the leaders of a church that one can in fact eat condemnation unto themselves if they eat of the Table without true faith and true repentance is the only loving thing to do. Once this is given it may be all that’s needed. We can sometimes explain the difference between that state of sin from which we were rescued when we partake, and that sin we’re at war with in our salvation still. We cannot truly police up people’s hearts, but preachers can lay theirs out before the people as a guide. In any case, we must love them enough to warn them that God does not take this ordinance lightly. What if a youth partakes with mockery? What if someone refuses to deal with sin in their life and eats in soft rebellion? We can’t prevent it all, of course, but what is our responsibility as ministers in that this one and only on-going corporate ordinance be upheld as holy? We’d as soon strike the rock twice than to help one remember Calvary with contempt or disdain, I hope. What was Eli’s duties to his sons? No, we must uphold the Lord’s name before the people. That means in part that at the Table we help people gauge their minds before the Lord’s Cross. Of course, we deny the superstitions of magic changes in the elements. Easy. We do not have an unfinished salvation who have any salvation to speak of at all! No, we have a Savior to proclaim, but we must also work to prevent Protestant frivolity. A warm yet stern warning as given to the Corinthians that God may kill those who play with this truth mixed in with lessons all over the word will suffice, I think, along with the tool of disciplining people not to take if in private counsel it’s deemed they shouldn’t, to protect the Table and convey its intended blessing to the sheep.

Communion should be like a meal that could feed a man for a year. A strength to him. A reminder of the Sabbath. A sustenance of remembrance. A blessing of taste and scent. A treat of a foretaste. A reminder that he dines at a table of billions yet all directly next to Jesus. Knowing all of this makes us to handle it responsibly. We don’t give this meal to the dogs.

Listen to God’s words on the matter:

“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.” 1 Corinthians 11:27-30.
Again, God says, “this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28.

And again, God says, “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” Hebrews 10:29.
We protect the covenant, and the hearts of those we love, to warn believers to come in sober self-examination. Then we recess and leave it to God where it all belongs. We should give them time just prior to believe, and then to cultivate an environment through the whole of our churchwork that ultimately celebrates the Table. It is a remembrance of our eternal life married to our senses. We should come with reflective and very glad hearts in sincerity to partake, repent of all that God has us to, and then partake with expectant souls and great joy! We look forward to seeing him and dining one day with him, with the triune God, when we look back to the Cross at his Table. “We” do this as a body, a family with priestly duties to each other in it all as he said to eleven men that “they” were all to do. Jesus didn’t dine alone that night.

God bless!

Joseph Pittano

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