In this study we will go to the Scriptures to find out what God expects of us as we prepare ourselves to participate in the Lord’s Supper.
What is your normal practice of preparation—or do you prepare at all? For years I have made it a practice to keep short accounts with God throughout the week and, if at all possible, to be quiet on Saturday night. Spending these crucial hours in quiet meditation has been a profitable exercise for me; in my worship and service of the Lord’s Day, it has paid tremendous dividends.
Unfortunately, this solemn and scriptural method of preparation for the Lord’s Supper is the exception rather than the rule. It is common knowledge among us that many of the Lord’s people will, on a Saturday night, watch all kinds of sports, sometimes with a late movie thrown in. Beloved, these activities, while gratifying to the flesh, will not prepare the heart to meet the King on Sunday morning.
A friend of mine was summoned to appear before Her Majesty the Queen. This was one of the greatest days in his life. With the summons came instructions as to how he should dress. He must wear morning dress, which included a gray top hat, tails, striped trousers, and black shoes. When he arrived at Buckingham Palace, he was escorted into a room and given specific guidance as to how he should enter and exit the presence of Her Majesty. He was directed to approach her from the side, then face her, and from that given point, proceed to his designated place before her. At the conclusion of the interview and after presentation of the decoration, he should withdraw backward to a certain point, then walk off to the side. He received strict instructions that under no circumstances must he turn his back on Her Majesty.
Beloved, we do not go to meet Her Majesty the Queen at the Lord’s Supper. We go to meet His Majesty the King of kings and Lord of lords. If it is so important for those who are presented to the Queen to be properly attired and instructed in protocol, how much more important it is for us to be suitably attired and spiritually prepared when we come to worship His Majesty.
In the 22nd chapter of his Gospel, Luke says that Jesus:
Took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave unto them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of Me.” Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you.”
The inference here is that we also drink of the cup in remembrance of Him. In 1 Cor. 11, Paul writes,
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body, which is broken for you. This do in remembrance of Me.” After the same manner also He took the cup and after he had supped, said, “This cup is the New Testament in My blood; this do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
Three times over the phrase is mentioned, “This do in remembrance of Me.”
With these thoughts in mind, let us consider a few truths relative to the purpose of the Lord’s Supper. There are at least “four looks” that we should consider if we are to remember the Lord acceptably:
First, we must “look in.” There should always be a period of self-examination before worship. Second, during our worship there should be a “look back,” a worshipful look at the pre-incarnate glories of Christ, as well as His redemptive work on the Cross. The gold, frankincense, and myrrh aspects of the Lord’s life and character should be constantly under review. Third, we should have a “look up” to where the Christ of God is sitting at the right hand of God, crowned with glory and honor. Fourth, there should be a “look forward” to the Lord’s coming.
We seldom reach these last two points in our worship meetings. We leave with our blessed Lord hanging on the Cross while in reality, He is exalted to the apex of the universe,
God having raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come; and has put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. Eph. 1:20, 23
Paul also exhorts us to remember the Lord “till He come.” When we are gathered together to break bread, we are announcing to the world, to the angels, and to ourselves, that the Lord is coming soon. The Lord’s Supper should not only be a place of sorrow, it should be a time of anticipation and rejoicing:
I am waiting for the coming
Of the Lord who died for me
O His words have thrilled my spirit,
“I will come again for thee.”
I can almost hear His footfall
On the threshold of the door,
And my heart, my heart is longing
To be with Him evermore.
Let us give some further thought to the “look in” part of our preparation. Paul exhorts us to take an introspective look at ourselves when he says, “Let a man examine himself.” It is my considered opinion that it is a veritable impossibility to remember the Lord and worship acceptably unless we have first examined and judged ourselves. There must be self-analysis and an in-depth, soul-searching self-judgment, followed by an uninhibited disclosure of our real selves to God, before there can be true worship. Following this soul exposure, there should be full confession and repentance of all known sin. My beloved, do you know anything of this heart-moving, spiritual exercise before remembering the Lord? We are prone to tell sinners that they should confess and repent of their sins. Now the finger of God is pointing at us. If we have any unconfessed sin in our lives, we should get it out into the open before God, confess it, and repent of it. When we have done this, we are in a fit state to remember the Lord and worship God.
Furthermore, before participating in the Lord’s Supper, we should judge our motives as well as our actions. They should be brought up front and carefully analyzed. This applies to older brethren as well as young men. What is the purpose of our going to the Lord’s Supper? Whom do we remember? In John 12, the crowds did not come to Bethany to see Jesus, they came to see Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from the dead. The wise men came to worship the King. Wise men still come to worship the King. The disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration saw “no man except Jesus.” Do we really come to the Lord’s Supper to see Jesus, and worship Him?
What is the basic purpose for our attending the Lord’s Supper? Is it to be heard? Is it to act on a sudden impulse? Is it simply to share the Word of God with those who are present? There are those who would turn the Lord’s Supper into a sharing meeting. The purpose of this unique meeting is not for sharing; it is wholly and solely for the worship of God, and for remembering Jesus at His own request. With regard to sharing, there is nothing wrong with sharing some experiences with one another, but, in God’s name, let us preserve the unparalleled extraordinariness, the stateliness, the splendor, and the sublimity of the Lord’s Supper and have another meeting at another time for sharing and caring.
In Luke 22, and 1 Cor. 11, the words “remember Me” are mentioned three times directly and once by inference. Why does the Lord want us to attend this unique meeting? It is to “remember Him.” This is the sole purpose of our going to the Lord’s Supper. Everything and everyone must be submissive to Jesus Christ. The incomparable glory, majesty, and the unsurpassed dignity of His person should saturate everyone in the gathering. All human relationships, earthly and worldly, should pale into insignificance. The atmosphere at the Lord’s Supper should be charged with the glory of the Lord Jesus in the same way it was on the Mount of Transfiguration. On this occasion, Jesus Christ stood supreme; not even the best of men could be compared to Him. When Peter equated the Lord with Moses and Elijah, God enveloped the scene in Shekinah glory, and when the cloud was removed they saw “no man except Jesus.” When we attend the Lord’s Supper we, too, should see no one except the Lord Jesus, and we should worship Him alone.
Over the years there has developed among us a tendency to minister the Word at the Supper. More often than not, this ministry is of a general nature, and has little to do with the object of our gathering. I am of the opinion that if ministry is given before the breaking of bread, that ministry should be focused upon the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. As we listen to this Christ-exalting ministry, our hearts are softened and we are drawn closer to Him and our capacity for worship is increased. This kind of ministry is the only ministry that is profitable before the breaking of bread.
There is vast difference between “ministry” and “worship.” Ministry, in its ideal form, comes down to us from God, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit; then it is delivered through the instrument whom God has prepared and gifted for this purpose. This is ministry in its ideal sense. Unfortunately, all ministry does not come up to this standard.
Worship is something altogether different. Worship is generated in the heart. Then it ascends through the Holy Spirit, to the Son, Who then presents it to the Father in all the value of His glorious Person. Ministry descends from God. Worship ascends to God. Since worship is the highest form of service a believer can engage in, we should reach for the Highest.
Our late brother, A.P. Gibbs, differentiates between PRAYER—THANKSGIVING—and WORSHIP. He said, “PRAYER IS A SOUL OCCUPIED WITH ITS NEED.” There are meetings in which it is proper to pray. That’s why the prayer meeting is held. The Lord’s Supper is not the place to pray. The Lord’s Supper is the place to remember the Lord and to worship Him.
“PRAISE OR THANKSGIVING IS A SOUL OCCUPIED WITH ITS BLESSINGS.” There is nothing wrong with being occupied with our blessings. The Psalmist said it was a “good thing to give thanks to the Lord,” but in this sphere one does not reach God’s ideal.
“WORSHIP IS A SOUL OCCUPIED WITH GOD ALONE.” The Father seeketh such to worship Him. Many of God’s dear children, despite their knowledge of the Scriptures, have not been able to burst through the ceiling of praise and thanksgiving and enter through the veil into the uttermost sanctuary, the most holy place, and there worship the Lord in beauty of holiness.
When we are in the Spirit and are being controlled by Him, we can enter into a deep and moving spiritual experience as we worship God, and be nearer to heaven than anywhere on earth.
To worship in spirit and in truth can be costly. It can be costly in time. We may be misunderstood if we absent ourselves from certain activities as we seek to prepare our hearts to worship at the Lord’s Supper. Psalm 45 says, “My heart is overflowing with a good matter, I speak of the things which I have made as touching the King.” The Psalmist’s heart was overflowing with the worship he “had made.” It takes time to generate worship. It takes time to prepare the heart for worship. We do not learn to worship in a seminary or Bible school. We can learn many good things there but they cannot teach a person to worship. No one can teach another to worship. The only place you can learn to worship is in “St. Mary’s College” at Jesus’ feet. Mary learned, wept, anointed, and worshipped at Jesus’ feet.
If you feel you are not close enough to Jesus at His feet, rise a little higher and, like John, lean on the Savior’s breast, and there recline; listen to His every heart-beat; hear the sighs that escape from His lips; relish the words that drop like honey from His mouth; look into His blessed eyes that tell of His deep, deep love; gaze into His face that was marred more than any man’s, dumbfounded at the nail-scarred hands and feet and the riven side. This is where we will learn to worship, but to gain this deep insight into the heart of the Lord can be costly.
For Mary to worship the Lord was a costly but blessed experience. Three hundred pence was a year’s wages for a working man. Mary invested her life savings in that ointment. In giving it all to Him, she showed her boundless love for Jesus. She poured every last drop of that precious and costly ointment upon His blessed person. The Lord Jesus was never more honored in His life.
When we come together at the Lord’s Supper, God does not want our tongues as such, neither does He want our talents. He really does not want our word of ministry, unless it is in the Spirit. The Lord Jesus wants all our love and worship. Mary gave Him both—she gave her all.
Several years ago I watched (on television) some war veterans return to the shores of Normandy. With great emotion, they visited the scenes of former brutal battles. Later, they visited the graves of their friends who had died in battle. Finally, the camera focused on a gravestone bearing the name of a young man, nineteen years of age. Underneath the name was the inscription, “He gave his all.” This young man gave everything he had for us; he gave his all for his King and country. Beloved, what have we given to the Lord Jesus? Have we given Him our lives? Have we given Him our worship? Have we given Him our all? At the Lord’s Supper and at home, we have the opportunity to do this.
Yes, it is costly to worship. It was costly for Abraham. He said to the young men, “Saddle the ass and let us go up and worship God.” At one point the worship of God cost Abraham his son, the son that he loved with all his heart. He was willing to sacrifice his most precious possession in order to worship God. If we would worship God acceptably, there must be preparation of heart; there must be sacrifice and consecration of mind and body. We must know what it means to “have our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” It is in this sublime, spiritual state that we are fit to enter the Lord’s presence and worship Him.
There is also a solemn warning issued to those partaking and participating in the Lord’s Supper. In Lev. 10, we read the story of two young priests who were impetuous and zealous. They rushed into the presence of God and offered strange fire; for doing this they lost their lives. Beloved, we cannot attend the Lord’s Supper, break bread, and partake of the wine in an unprepared state and do and say anything we like.
Paul reminded the Corinthians that they could not gorge themselves with food and drink themselves into intoxication at the love feast, then expect to worship the Lord at His Supper. They were not in a fit condition to discern the Lord’s body and blood in the elements. For this grave error God visited this church in judgment. Some were sick, others were weak, and some had died. Brethren, if God were to visit the church in the same manner today, many would be turned into cemeteries.
When we come to remember the Lord, we come before the Creator, Upholder, and Sustainer of the universe. We come to remember the Lord of lords, and King of kings. We also come to remember the Lamb of God, crucified, and risen. The ascended One, glorified One, and the coming One.
When we come to worship, we should be cleansed from all sin. Our hearts should be tender and our baskets should be filled with first fruits, ready to worship in spirit and in truth.
The time has come for us to consider some of these grave principles. Before participating in worship we should take an introspective look at ourselves, engaging in deep, soul-searching self-analysis, so that when we appear before God, in the holiest of all, our hearts are clean and pure, then like a volcano will burst forth in adoration and worship.