I can still remember the feeling that I had when I was a boy upon entering the church’s worship auditorium and seeing the table positioned before the pulpit draped with a white cloth. Immediately, I knew the service was going to be longer on that day. I would sigh inwardly because I knew that it would take longer for me to get home where I could engage in the fun things that I wanted to occupy my time.

Today, when I walk into that very same room and see the prepared table, I feel completely different about it. I’m both excited with anticipation of what that table means—as well as anxious regarding the responsibility as a pastor to properly fence the table and present the gospel of Jesus to the church.

When we read 1 Corinthians 11 and see Paul admonish the church in Corinth regarding their abuse of the Lord’s Supper, we should not read over it too quickly as if it’s not possible to be guilty of the body and blood of our Lord. It would serve as a great spiritual blessing to us personally and to the church corporately if we properly prepared ourselves for the receiving of the Lord’s Supper.

Preparation Prior to Sunday

On a practical level, if your church observes the Lord’s Supper once per month, it would do you well to prepare the week prior in prayer and consideration of the importance, goals, and worshipful purpose of the observance. That would mean that Saturday evening you are thinking about it and praying about it in a more intense way than you would normally pray for your church service—unless you’re receiving the Lord’s Supper weekly.

Such preparation enables you to properly examine yourself leading up to the Lord’s Day. It enables you to focus on sin in your life and hindrances to church unity in a way that might not be attainable in a few minutes prior to the elements being distributed from the front of the room.

Such a focus on preparing before the Lord’s Day sets in our minds and the minds of our entire family the solemnity of the Lord’s Supper. It drives that point home which elevates the Lord’s Day worship and the observance of this solemn feast far above how we prepare ourselves for a family vacation, recreational sport, or any other cultural gathering. At the end of the day, it causes our church to understand that the Lord’s Supper matters.

Preparation Prior to Receiving the Lord’s Supper

As we enter the room and see the priority of emphasis placed upon the Lord’s Supper table—it should be directly connected with the preparation we have set forth in our hearts and minds all week—culminating in that moment upon entrance into the room.

As the pastor properly fences the table—explaining the purpose of the Lord’s Supper and giving clear directions for those who are welcomed to the participate with the church in the observance as well as explaining who is not invited to participate—this is the moment where we are to once again examine ourselves both on a vertical level and horizontal level. Is there any sin that is hindering our worship and service of God in our lives? Is there any sin that is dividing our church or hindering the flourishing of relationships in our hearts and minds? As the pastor properly leads us to bow in prayer—rather than baring ourselves from the Lord’s Supper—we are to engage properly in self-examination and then draw near to God and actually partake of the meal as Christ has directed us.

Notice the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:

1 Corinthians 11:28–34 – Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. [29] For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. [30] That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. [31] But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. [32] But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. [33] So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—[34] if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

In verse 28, Paul commands the church to examine themselves, but then he states, “and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Notice that he doesn’t encourage self-baring from the Lord’s Supper. We are to eat and drink after having properly examined and repented.

The word translated examine is the Greek term, “δοκιμάζω” carrying the meaning “to make a critical examination of something to determine genuineness, put to the test, examine.” [1]  It was George Swinnock who wrote the following about the examination of oneself prior to the Lord’s Supper:

The days of mourning for the death of my dear Savior and everlasting Father are come, and now I will slay my most beloved lusts; now will I be revenged of them for their endeavour to rob me of my spiritual birthright, to wrong me of my eternal blessing. [2]

In the examination process, we should look at our lives vertically, horizontally, internally, and externally.

  1. In a vertical manner, we examine our relationship with God.  Are we in real intimate communion with Him or do we see a separation due to sin (James 4:8)?
  2. In our horizontal examination, do we find any division between us and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (Ephesians 4:32)?
  3. In our internal examination, do we find unconfessed sins, idols of the heart, or private sins that we keep hidden from the public (1 Corinthians 11:28; 1 John 2:15)?
  4. In our external examination, do we find anything that’s preventing us from engaging with our church to reach the neighborhoods and the nations with the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20)?

In a special way, Christ dwells with his people and is honored through the observance of the Lord’s Supper. As followers of Christ and children of the most high King, we should leave the worship of Christ around the Lord’s Table with hearts of joy, gratitude, and thanksgiving—but also with a heart of anticipation for Jesus’ return.

People who are living in sin do not long for the return of Jesus because they don’t long for the day of reckoning and judgment. They don’t have a heart of joyful anticipation based on their sinful state. When we leave the Lord’s Supper, we should anticipate and long for his return like never before.

When that happens, and it should, you will know that you have properly prepared yourself to worship Christ at the Lord’s Supper and the work of grace has had a good effect in your heart and mind. Consider the words of James Montgomery Boice:

At the heart of the present significance of the Lord’s Supper is our communion or fellowship with Christ, hence the term “communion service.” In coming to this service the believer comes to meet with Christ and have fellowship with Him at His invitation. The examination takes place because it would be hypocrisy for us to pretend that we are in communion with the Holy One while actually cherishing known sin in our hearts. [3]


  1. William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 255.
  2. George Swinnock, The Works of George Swinnock, M.A., Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1868), 190.
  3. James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith-Book I,(Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 603.

 

 

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