• Reuben

The Local Church Ordinance of the Lord’s Table, and What is the Local Church


The Lord’s Table (aka., Lord’s Supper, Communion) illustrated and described in Lk 22:14-20; 1 Cor 10:16-21 and 11:17-34, is a memorial of Christs death in giving His body and shedding His blood for our sins, and our salvation, where we symbolically eat of the bread, His flesh, and drink of the fruit of the vine, which is His blood (Matt 26:26-29; Jn 6:48-58; Pr 9:5). It is a local church ordinance and consequently celebrated by each of Christ’s churches for their own members. Consider some important points on the Lord’s Table, the command for it, what it is, the first Lord’s Supper, for whom is it, the frequency of observation, its importance, and finally a conclusion.


Matt 26:26-29 says,

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”

Paul refers to Christs teaching in 1 Cor 11:23-27,

“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 brake 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, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.”

The Lord’s Table is Commanded.


This special event was ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ with His disciples and commanded by God (Matt 26; Lk 22; 1 Cor 11:23-26). People that love Him will keep it. Local churches will establish it. They will do what He says. It will be an established and ongoing practice in the local church with unleavened bread and unleavened wine (non-alcoholic) and saved people will self-examine prior to partaking. Jesus commanded the local church to keep His Words (Jn 14:15-23). That gets done in part by means of the Lord’s Table. If someone says they love God, they will desire to memorialize His death and shedding of blood.


What Does the Lord’s Table Consist Of?


The two elements of the Lord’s Table are the bread and cup. We know that the unleavened bread represents Christ’s broken body and the unleavened cup symbolizes His shed blood. Grape juice, not alcoholic wine, should be used, as total abstinence from alcohol is to be practiced by believers. “Oinos” isn't even used for the Lord's Supper; just "fruit of the vine.” I contend that “broken body” or bread is substitutionary death and that “shed blood” or cup is sacrificially shed blood. Jesus couldn’t just bleed; neither could He only die in some non-bloody way, like strangulation. Both were necessary.


The blood was not a metonym for death and the Lord’s Supper reminds us of that. This is noted in Col 1:20-22 (applied phrases CAPS): “And, having made peace through THE BLOOD OF HIS CROSS, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In THE BODY OF HIS FLESH THROUGH DEATH, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:” The Lord Jesus Christ reconciled us to God by means of “the blood of the cross” and “the body of his flesh through death.” The second is not just a restatement or metonym, but a separate mandatory aspect of the work of Christ at Calvary.


Our salvation depends both on His death and His shed blood as two entities within the same work of the Lord. Considering His blood, several different types of wounds were opened upon Jesus’s body for Him to bleed profusely. They scourged Him with a cruel whip (Mt 27:26; Mk 15:15; Jn 19:1), pierced His precious head with a hard, sharp, Palestinian crown of thorns (Matt 27:29; Mk 15:17; Jn 19:2,5), struck His beautiful face with hard punches (Lk 22:64), pounded railroad spike-type nails into His hands (Jn 20:25; Col 2:14), and gashed His side with a deadly, Roman spear (Jn 19:34). These details reveal the bloody sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb 9:22).


His blood washes away (Rev 1:5) and cleanses (1 Jn 1:7) sin. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3). He “died for all” (2 Cor 5:15). Heb 9:16-17 says: “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.”


Thus we see that His shed blood was necessary and death was necessary. So we take the cup and we take the bread. Putting the bread of the Table into our bodies through our mouth and drinking the juice of His Supper into our bellies through our lips testify of an ongoing reception of Him and everything that He is.


The English word “communion” is found only four times in four verses in the KJV, but the Greek word translated “communion” (“koinonia”) appears twenty times in eighteen verses. Only one of these refers to the Lord’s Table, 1 Cor 10:16-17—describing the unity of the local church, the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27), pictured through the bread and the cup: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” A church unifies through conjointly partaking of these common elements with their close association with Christ.


The First Lord’s Table.


The first Lord’s Table transpired at the Passover, the evening of the night of Christ’s betrayal. When the Passover was observed, as part of the ceremony the master of the feast offered the sop to those at the table. The sop was a piece of bread dipped in a special sauce. By accepting and then eating the sop, the one at the Table declared his reception of the coming Messiah. It was at this very point of those proceedings that Satan entered Judas and he went out to betray Christ (Jn 13:26-30). He stood up and walked out into the night. It was a fitting moment for Judas to leave. The Messiah truly had come, was seated right next to him, and he would not receive Him.


To top it off, the very Creator of all mankind, the Humble King and Saviour, in humility washed the feet of all 12 disciples (Jn 13:4-12), including Judas! Yet Judas, stood up and left the Bread of life, walked away from the Light of the world, and went into ultimate and utter darkness. How terribly tragic. Jesus said it been better if he’d never been born. Mere hours later, Jesus would speak a final word to him calling him “Friend” (Matt 26:50). Shortly after that, smitten with grief and guilt over betraying the Lord of glory for 30 pieces of silver, he exercised repentance towards self and went and hung himself( Matt 27). The tragic end to a tragic life. Psalm 109 details the life and family of Judas, mentioning his wife, children and parents and who taught him to be unmerciful, and then his interactions with the Messiah.


For Whom is the Lord’s Table?


Who partakes and who doesn’t?


1. Firstly, it’s for the regenerate only, those truly born again, having been regenerated and justified at one moment in time upon their repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thats the bottom line, you can’t or shouldn’t partake of this if you are unsaved. But many fearfully do. They invite even greater curse to their already cursed life. If saved people drink damnation (judgment—as in God’s judgment of chastisement, 1 Cor 11:32) to themselves by drinking it unworthily (resulting in sickness or death, 1 Cor 11:28-30), how much the worst to those who’ve never partaken of Christ’s body and blood at all (Jn 6:48-58) — thus wholly unworthily!


The unsaved are attempting to both “drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils” but the truth of the matter is, “ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.” (1 Cor 10:21). You either sit at one or the other, and only conversion can change that. This is what Judas did, and he was immediately filled with the devil (Jn 13:26-27). The Bible is clear that only those truly born again and baptized (immersed) into the local independent church and thus members of that body of Christ, are the candidates for the Lords Supper for that church. Not visitors or non-member regular attendees, but members only (1 Cor 12:1-27). Yes you need some form of membership to know who are members of that local congregation (Rom 12:4-5).


2. Secondly, saved people must examine themselves prior to partaking. Sin, doctrinal error and unfaithfulness hinders and potentially ruins fellowship; they don’t discern the body of Christ, which is the local church (1 Cor 11:29). They belie the truth of commonality that God requires. We examine ourselves before eating and drinking to ensure this isn’t happening. We are judging ourselves, as 1 Cor 11:31 commands, because not judging ourselves (v 31) brings God’s judgement since we aren’t condemned with the world—whose judgment patiently lingers (v 32). God’s present judging is the “chasten[ing] of the Lord” (v 32), of which only sons, not bastards, are recipients of (De 8:5-6; Heb 12:5-8; Pr 3:10-11).

“[A]s a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee. Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him.” (De 8:5-6).


In the church at Corinth, some of the believers were sick and some died because of their abuse of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:29-30). Fittingly, though quite fearfully, modern Bible perversions have removed the very critical word ”unworthily” from 1 Cor 11:29, completely changing the meaning of the verse. How many in “evangelical” churches are partaking of this solemn Table unworthily, both saved (though the few there might be) and unsaved?


3. Thirdly, though there is controversy over the correct position of communion, whether Closed, Close or Open, the Bible isn’t silent on the matter. Open communion, fair game for anyone, is clearly unscriptural (yet the most popular, especially among evangelicals) and isn’t worth mentioning beyond this. I would say this though; this despicable open practice of communion played a small part in my conversion, though I did not partake. Close communion is where immersed members of a local independent church other than the assembly in which the ordinance is being observed partake along with the host church’s members. Closed communion is where the ordinance is restricted to the members of each particular assembly only.


The Scriptures clearly teach that the Lord’s Supper must be Closed, not Close or Open. The arguments for closed communion are very strong. 1 Cor 10-11 identifies the Supper as the “communion of the body of Christ” (1 Cor 10:16), and the body of Christ is the local, visible assembly (1 Cor 12:27) to which one is added by baptism (1 Cor 12:13). Since the church is a local, visible assembly (the only type of church found in Scripture—there is no such thing as a universal “church”), the ordinance is naturally understood as pertaining to each assembly and its members alone. The ordinance is certainly not embraced by all the church’s of the world put together in some universal monstrosity of invisible “church.”


1 Cor 10:16-17 refers to “the cup” as “the communion of the blood of Christ” and “The bread” as “the communion of the body of Christ” and that the local body of Christ contains many members but is “one bread, and one body” and “all partakers of that one bread.” The cup and bread is the communion (“koinonia,” “fellowship”) of the body of Christ. Only the body of Christ, the local church, fellowships at the Lord’s Table. If we practice open or close, we bring people outside of the body into the Lord’s Table. The Lord’s Table, however, is the fellowship of the body of Christ. That’s it. Close and open involve more than the body of Christ, therefore, do not obey this verse.


This requires a definition of the body of Christ. That’s established in 1 Cor 12:27, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” Notice Paul says “ye,” as in they, not him. Was he not part of the “body of Christ”? He wasn’t if we properly understand the Bible’s teaching on the subject — the church at Corinth was the body of Christ at Corinth and Paul was not a member of that local church. Thats why he said “ye,” and not “we.” Every single word in the Word of God is inspired, right down to the jot and tittle. The body of Christ Paul was a part of, was Antioch. Though he started the church at Corinth, he belonged to Antioch. We should not confuse the Scriptural understanding of the body of Christ with our practice of the Lord’s Table. We do not want to pervert the right view of fellowship.


The Lord’s Table is a communion of each church, not of all believers. Unity and purity is only possible at the local level, of each local independent church, and the Lord’s Table plays a part in that. We must also not devalue church membership, IF we have it to begin with. Without church membership, you can ever have true unity and purity. We worship God at the Lord’s Table and want to regulate our worship based upon what God said in His Word. He says that the true local independent church is the body of Christ, and Paul said the ordinances were delivered to the local church, thus exclusive to the church (1 Cor 11:2). Since the church is local only, then the Table should be limited to only those local church members. By including non-church members, we are redefining the church, and that is scriptural corruption.


Misunderstanding the church dishonours God and causes many related problems. The church is designed to keep the truth (1 Tim 3:15), so people better know what it is.


What about Paul at Troas in Acts 20? He wasn’t a member there. We can’t be sure what “broken bread” is in v. 11, though its likely a meal (see Lk 24:35; Ac 2:42,46; 27:35). Since it is inconclusive, we should follow the clear passage in 1 Cor 10:16-17; 11:20-34. If “broken bread” is the Lord’s Table in Ac 20, then what was Paul doing with a ship full of unbelievers in Ac 27:35? Was he encouraging unbelievers to take the Lord’s Table with him? Of course not. So “breaking bread” is not always the Lord’s Supper; sometimes it’s a meal.


With the absence of any other reason for close communion, we should follow the clear teaching; interpret the less plain (Ac 20:11) in light of the plain (1 Cor 10:16-17; 11:20-34). Local independent churches should practice closed communion. They should exclude the Lord’s Table from everyone except those in the membership of their own church. A local church that doesn’t have church membership at all, or not according to Biblical instruction, is not fit for the Lord’s Table to begin with. They cannot practice closed or close, but God forbid must resort to open. They have much bigger issues that require attention, though they also blatantly disobey the partaking of communion.

How Often do we Observe the Lord’s Table?


The Bible suggests no set day: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor 11:26). Though 1 Cor 11:26 clearly does stress we observe the Table, it is careful to neither tell us when or how often. If there is a set day in Scripture, God was careful to hide it from us. The little phrase “for as often” may mean either daily (Ac 2:46) or even weekly (Ac 20:11) or it could even mean as often as the church decides, which 1 Cor 11:26 suggests. That suggests its frequency is less important than the importance of its observance, both carefully according to Scripture’s precise instructions and faithfully.


Since there is no express command about its frequency or regularity, one should hesitate to set a calendar for the Table. Much of what the early church did as noted in Acts and local church epistles, especially in the way of practice, was descriptive and not proscriptive. I’m sure of one thing though, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup” does not mean “for as often as we come together.” If the latter were the case, the NT churches quickly departed from the command, for it appears they early-on stopped the daily observance, if that’s what they did indeed.


How Important is the Lord’s Table?

The Lord’s Supper is a means by which the gates of Hell would not prevail against the local church. Without this instrument of edification, we lack the necessary means to function successfully. The local church has the Lord’s Supper to enable God’s will. Without it, the local church falls apart. And with that denigration and destruction goes sound doctrine and practice as well. The Lord’s Supper is a tool by which a church may purify itself doctrinally and practically on a regular basis. The Lord’s Table ensures examination which is investigating our lives for disobedience to right doctrine and practice, and purges of sin, error, unsound doctrine, bad practices, etc.


Constant self-scrutiny, by consistent keeping of the Table, results in further discernment and purity, and discernment is key to keeping a church going in the right direction. Purity leads to unity which leads to growth. Practice and doctrine are inexorably connected. Practice affects doctrine. The Lord’s Table helps purify practice so it’ll also effectively aid in keeping doctrine right as well. All of this edifies a church and perfects the saints. A church will grow in depth and in breadth and in unity (communion). The Lord’s Supper is the tool. Observing the Lords Supper right is very important. God gives instructions and they are to be followed precisely.


Conclusion.


The Lord’s Table is clearly a church ordinance from 1 Cor 10-12, and so is properly the domain of the members of each particular local independent church. The Motive is to memorialize Christ’s death, with self-examination and purging out sin and error, for purity and unity. The Method is that of unleavened bread and unleavened wine. The Manner is closed, between members of a local independent church only, truly born again immersed believers walking in obedience post-self examination (1 Cor 11:23-34). Frequency is entrusted to the local church (1 Cor 11:26); however, tenor and tone of Scripture on this matter is fairly clear: we should observe the Table and be consistent in it.

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