I often joke that Baptists can’t agree on much. Our emphasis on the autonomy of the local Church has resulted in a surprisingly vast array of beliefs within the Baptist denomination. But there are certain Baptist distinctives that are common, even for such an unorganized, fiercely independent denomination. Among those distinctives are two ordinances that are recognized:
The local church should practice two ordinances: (1) baptism of believers by immersion in water, identifying the individual with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, and (2) the Lord’s Supper, or communion, commemorating His death for our sins. Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:23–32
For a Baptist, The Lord’s Supper is not a supernatural experience. It’s remarkably ordinary. It’s not a channel of divine Grace. It’s simply a time to remember Christ’s sacrifice.
That said, we do believe that it’s important. It helps us to remember who we are, who God is, and offers a time for self-reflection. It’s a time to examine our own lives for unrecognized, and un-confessed sin.
The typical ceremony (if you can call it that) starts out with a reading from 1 Corinthians Chapter 11 (the following quote taken from the King James)
23For 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: 24And 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. 25After 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. 26For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 27Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
Our Pastor makes it a point, after reading the above passage, to emphasize the fact that we are not to take the cup unworthily. If we have any unresolved sin, we should not partake of the Lord’s supper. If we have a conflict with another, we should seek reconciliation first, and participate another time.
I said earlier that Baptists see nothing supernatural about the Lord’s Supper. That’s only half true. While we don’t believe that the wafer and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ, we do take verse 29-32 seriously. God knows our thoughts, our hearts, and even sins we’ve forgotten about. Verse 30 tells us that if we partake unworthily, there could be actual physical consequences.
To be honest, there’s a part of me that is a little fearful when I consider this. It puts me in mind of the awesome power of God, and His perfect righteous standard. That line of thought leads me to realize just how far short of that standard I fall.
The purpose of celebrating the Lord’s Supper is to remind us of Christ’s awesome sacrifice. And how can we understand the true mercy inherent in that sacrifice if we don’t first understand just how undeserving we are.
Accepting that fact allows us to truly comprehend the loving-kindness, and forgiving nature of the God we serve. It gives extra emphasis to the message of verses 23-26. That He gave His own body and His blood for us – unworthy sinners.. Wretched beings that we are. The selfless, forgiving, awesome love is understood more fully by recognizing our own undeserving nature.
In short, it’s an opportunity to recognize just how wretched we are, and how awesome is the God we serve. Praise be to God in the highest! Holy, Holy, Holy is His name, and thank you, Lord, for not giving me what I deserve!
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