It’s Meant for Sinners
by Luke Stamps
One of the benefits of celebrating the Lord’s Supper more regularly than the quarterly pattern that many of our churches observe is the influence that the Supper exerts on the other worship activities of the Lord’s Day. My own church celebrates the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of every month, and I could see the benefit of doing so even more frequently. Knowing that we will come to the Lord’s Table at the end of a worship service gives added significance to the prayers, readings, songs and sermons of our corporate gatherings. The Supper looms large in the worship service as a reminder of our sin and God’s provision of forgiveness in Christ.
Recently, our pastor’s sermon text was Luke 12:35-48, where Jesus warns his disciples to be ready for his return. Jesus’ words seemed especially relevant as we prepared our hearts to receive the Lord’s Supper: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them” (Luke 12:37). Isn’t this astonishing? The Master returns, not to recline at table and be served, but to dress himself for service, to have his servants recline at table, and to serve them! This shocking reversal of roles characterizes the very heart of Christ’s mission: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
And isn’t this exactly what the Lord’s Supper is all about? As Michael Horton has pointed out, the covenant ratification that takes place in the Supper does not involve God’s people standing in his presence and promising that they will serve him (as at Sinai; Exodus 24). Instead, it involves God himself, in the person of his Son, sitting his people down and girding himself to serve them. The blood of the New Covenant doesn’t ratify our words—“All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 24:7)—but Christ’s—“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). The Supper isn’t about our giving, but about Christ’s: “This is my body given for you” (Luke 22:19). As such, it is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet which the church, as a sanctified bride, will one day share with her Messianic groom.
This emphasis on the Lord’s giving can sometimes be obscured by the way that we approach the Lord’s Table. Taking our cue from 1 Corinthians 11:28, we rightly wish to “examine” ourselves so that we do not take the Supper in an “unworthy manner.” But we distort this passage if we begin to think that it calls for worthy recipients, rather than worthy participation, at the Lord’s Table. Some might be so trained to think of the Supper as an occasion for introspection that they dread the meal. In previous centuries, some churches were so fearful about taking the Supper in an unworthy manner that few would actually participate when the elements were distributed. Surely something is amiss when believers who are perhaps most in need of grace are hesitant to receive the sanctifying grace of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Examination is good. But being overly-introspective is counter-productive, because it diverts us from the very gospel of grace that is displayed before us at the Lord’s Table.
After hearing Christ’s Word and receiving Christ’s Supper on that Lord’s Day, I was reminded once again of the astounding mercy of God to give sinners like us these means of grace. I was also reminded of the story, relayed to me by one of my seminary professors, of the old Scots minister who once noticed a young lady in his congregation so gripped by guilt over her sin that she hesitated to take the Lord’s Supper. The minister’s counsel to her is worth remembering every time we come to the Lord’s Table: “Take it, Lass. It’s meant for sinners.”