Who can and can’t… should or shouldn’t… partake in the Lord’s Supper? Only members of a specific congregation… only members of a specific denomination… only members of the Universal Church… only those who are saved… saved and baptized… saved and baptized by immersion… only those who are “right with God?” (NOTE: Of necessity this post might be a little longer than usual. It might help to skip over the Scripture texts but refer back if/as you read my thoughts.)

Would it surprise you to find out that Jesus did NOT prevent Judas… who was not saved… from partaking in the Last Supper (The Passover which Jesus instituted as the Lord’s Supper to be observed regularly in remembrance of Him)? This is recorded in Luke 22:14-22

And when the hour came, he (Jesus) reclined at table, & the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, & when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, & divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, & when he had given thanks, he broke it & gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”

Jesus did not prevent Judas from participating in what we call today The Lord’s Supper! Judas was betraying Christ… yet Jesus included him in the meal. Judas was not a genuine believer in Christ… what today we’d call a Christian… but Jesus included him in the meal.

Now, how does all this inform and/or direct us when it comes to the Lord’s Supper today? Should a minister ever tell a person they are not to partake? Should a congregation have a policy in place that only members of their denomination or local congregation participate? Or is there a better way to present the ordinance of The Lord’s Supper? These are questions I’ve been mulling over after I was told I shouldn’t partake since I wasn’t at the time an active member of a local congregation where I lived.

Jesus (Knowing what Judas was doing) still allowed him to partake in the Passover Meal (Institution of The Lord’s Supper). Upon pondering this I wondered if Jesus allowing Judas’ participation was somehow related to the Universal Call for salvation. It seemed to me Judas we getting a preview of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Judas still had time/opportunity to repent and believe, though it was determined to happen (Luke 22:22 above). I haven’t been able to get away from the beauty of The Lord’s Supper… Jesus’ universal sacrifice displayed in it… and though the Supper doesn’t save, the event it represents does. So then, is it appropriate to prohibit anyone from participating since Jesus included Judas in the meal?

Along with the passage above, I have been mulling over another passage that is helping me be more informed about the presentation and observation of The Lord’s Supper. It is found in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

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. 18 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, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 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. 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.

Now for a few reflections:

First (And of huge importance), the context is the division taking place in the local congregation between two factions (v 17-22). One group arrived early… overate and got drunk. The other group arrived later to no food and they resented the other group. Both groups were divided and angry with the other and this was one of many problems in the Corinthian congregation. It was so serious that God caused some to be “weak, sick, and some died” (v 30).

Second, the event was supposed to bring the congregation together but the way they partook was causing deep division. The meal was intended to be, among other things, putting others before yourself… even to the point of dying for others. This was not the effect in Corinth. The way the Corinthians were observing the meal was completely opposite of what Jesus did and was symbolized in the meal (v 27).

Third, Paul places the responsibility of whether or not to partake in the meal only and squarely with the attending participant (v 28). Self examination under The Spirit’s leadership is the determiner as to whether or not to partake in the meal. There seem to be two standards: 1) Understanding what the meal symbolizes regarding the life, death, resurrection, and return of Christ as best the person can. 2) {Keeping in mind the context of unity/disunity} The individual believers conduct, attitude, and relationships with other congregants (v 29)! To move outside these two standards may be possible in the mind of some as antecedents of of the standards… but that is dangerous territory to enter.

If the believer’s conscience is quickened by The Spirit regarding either of situations, then they should not partake until the issue(s) are settled according to Scripture.

CHALLENGED: Whether or not a person participates in the Lord’s Supper has nothing to do with: 1) “Membership” in a local congregation. 2) Denominational affiliation. 3) Whether or not they are “In good standing” with any congregation. “In good standing” is ambiguous at best… open to the whims and rationalizations of fallen humans… and strays from the standards in the previous paragraphs. 4) How, if, or when a person was baptized is not addressed in the passage.

Fourth, what IS to be discerned… BY THE INDIVIDUAL BELIEVER UNDER THE SPIRIT’S LEADERSHIP is… Q1: Do I (!) understand, and embrace, Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation? Q2: Have I (!) embraced Jesus Christ as my savior? Q3: Am I (!) at peace with all others in this congregation? Q4: Are all others in this congregation at peace with me? Q5: Is there anyone who is not at peace with me or I with them that needs to be addressed (Mt 5:23-24)? As mentioned above, these situations should most certainly be rectified before partaking in the Lord’s Supper… as led by The Spirit of God.

I am sure there are many who might question or challenge these thoughts. And that’s okay with me. I guess I rest in Romans 14…

1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

(Picture Credit)