Pastor Arthur Gonçalves
Apr 26, 2022
REACH + RESTORE + REPEAT
I recently had a conversation with my wife regarding the ordinance of communion in the local church. After discussing the importance of having all members present for communion, I quickly realized that I had not yet communicated effectively to our Church, from Scripture, why being present together on the Lord's Day, around the table, for the Lord's Supper is so vital for the health of the church. I'm sure that it's more important than most of us have ever considered.
I'm confident that I'm not the only elder or pastor who has had this conversation with elders, lay leaders, and specifically, in this instance, my wife, who serves alongside me. We asked ourselves if it was important for ministry leaders, serving outside of the main service, to be present for the Lord’s supper. Specifically, we discussed children's ministry leaders teaching our children on the Lord's Day. Should they stop what they are doing and come into service? Should they keep teaching? Should they take communion before or after service? All good questions and, I'm sure, questions many ministry leaders and elders have asked. This caused me to turn to the Word of God and provide our church with three important reasons and reminders why covenant members should be present for the ordinance of communion during service.
1. Being present for the Lord's Supper reminds us of what Christ has done for us.
When instructing the Church at Corinth, Paul says," For, in the first place, when you come together as a church..." (1 Corinthians 11:18) Don't miss it! Using the Greek word "synerchomai," which means to come together and assemble as an "ekklēsia," a gathered assembly of God's covenant people, Paul is prompting the believer to remember what Christ has done for the Church! In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul is exhorting the Church in Corinth and His purchased bride 2,000 years later to remember His perfect life, His substitutionary death, and His glorious resurrection that made it possible for the Church to, not only have a covenant with a Holy God, but to have a covenant with one another. To not be present at the Lord's table with the local covenant family can cause us to fall into the trap that Jesus died for "me" and not "us." Jesus lived, died, and was raised to make us a people who were once not a people, to make us a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for his own possession. (1 Peter 2:9-10 paraphrase). Ensuring that the covenant body of Christ is present at the Lord's table, regardless of one's ministry responsibilities,reminds the purchased bride that we are "living stones that are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.''(1 Peter 2:4) It is easy to fall into the trap of expressive individualism. Coming together around the table, reminds each one of us that Christ died not just for “me” but also for the body of Christ with whom I have covenanted before the Lord.
2. Actively participating in the Lord's Supper reminds us of the covenant we have made to one another.
"But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the Church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.' (1 Corinthians 11:17-22)
You must do a theological dance to separate the Lord's supper from God's covenant people. We live in a time where Christians without a church are revered and praised while covenant Christians who commit to a local body are slandered as legalists, foolish, misinformed, and as fundamentalists of sorts. One cannot read the instructions of Paul to the Church at Corinth regarding communion and not see the importance of covenant membership. When we partake in the Lord's supper, it reminds us of the covenant that we have not only made to God but also to His glorious bride. In the local church, love grows through covenant commitment to one another. Much like a marriage, we develop and thrive under our vows. We sense Paul's deep concern in 1 Corinthians for accountability. It is so easy to serve in a ministry such as the greeting team or children's ministry (and many others) while hiding our personal sins and lack of faithfulness to our covenant commitments. Paul is quite plainly stating here that the Lord's table is the place where we, not only remember what Christ has done to make us a people, but where we also remember the covenant we have made to each other to fight sin together and to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must challenge our people and re-arrange our services to allow those serving outside of the main service to come in and remember Christ, their covenant to Him and to His body.
3. Sharing in the Lord's Supper is a beautiful display of unity.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
There is no more outstanding picture of biblical unity, love and commitment to Christ and His cause than communion. The chief purpose of God's people gathered to partake in the Lord's supper is to display to the world that we are unified around our greatest love and treasure, Jesus Christ our Lord! When we plan our services around the Lord's table, we communicate, especially to those outside of the covenant family, that Christ is our unity. There will always be ministry needs and lesser things vying for our attention on the Lord's Day, but O, how important it is to stop all that we are doing, to intentionally walk over to the assembling of God's people, to be washed with the Gospel together, to be confronted with the covenant we have made to each other and then to walk together to the table to remember that in Christ's body and by His blood, He made true peace and unity possible! Nowhere else can peace and unity be found but in Christ! We proclaim this glorious reality and truth when we gather around the Lord's table.
As I have considered the Lord’s supper, it has caused me to also consider the central focus and purpose of our Sunday gatherings. As a church planter, I strive, by God's empowering grace, to order our Lord's Day gatherings around the ordinary means of God's grace trusting that this will help our church, by God's Spirit, to center our lives around the precious and powerful Gospel that we preach, that we have received, in which we stand, and by which we are being saved. May we center our services and lives around the Gospel that is beautifully depicted and remembered at the Lord's table.