"Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup." (1 Cor. 11:28)
Westerners tend to be reductionistic in their thinking: everything should be reduced to one all-encompassing idea. So we say things like: "Worship must be joyful." "Worship must be serious." "Worship must be God-centered." In fact, worship is all of those things, and many more.
As Christians, our thoughts should be expansive. Our thoughts should expand to be as wide and full as God's word would have our thoughts be.
This helps us know how to answer the question, "How should I come to the Lord's Supper?" The Lord's Supper is for believers in Christ who have professed their faith and are members of true Christian churches. But how should believers come to the Supper? Here's a brief, but expansive, list of answers to that question:
I should come in faith: I come believing that Christ has ordained the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, that Christ is present (by the Spirit) at its administration, that he feeds me on himself as I partake of the bread and the wine, and that Christ truly feeds me as surely as I eat and drink in faith.
I should come thoughtfully: I cannot "remember" Christ's death unless I consider the work that he did for my redemption. And I also give thought to the fact that he will one day come again to host the marriage supper of the Lamb—with me as a guest! "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes" (1 Cor. 11:26).
I should come soberly: Before the elements representing his body broken and blood shed for my sins, I must do an honest self-examination. "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat" (1 Cor. 11:28). It is sobering to realize that carelessness here caused many people in one of the early Christian churches to become sick and even to die under God's judgment, rather than being strengthened by this sacrament (see 1 Cor. 11:30).
I should come gratefully: Despite my remaining, indwelling sin, Jesus bids me to "Do this in remembrance of (Him)." Because he gave himself for my sins, he himself bids me, through the minister, to take, eat, and drink. How grateful I should be for such amazing grace!
I should come joyfully! This Lord's Supper is a foretaste of the banquet I will enjoy in Jesus' physical presence after his return! To enjoy, I must (and I will) come to the Supper with joy!
The author is pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Franklin Square, New York. He quotes the NKJV. Reprinted from New Horizons, March 2008. First article in series. Index.