Sunday, March 17, 2013

Should I Voluntarily Abstain From the Lord’s Supper

This is a question that we will address in our Life Groups this evening.

If I am struggling in my faith, where my love for Christ is faint, my love for other believers is hardening, and I’m having a hard time seeing the gospel should I take the Lord’s Supper when it is offered?

Allow me to make that question concrete.  Many pastors have us “examine ourselves” before we partake of the Lord’s Supper.  Typically we are urged to look at our hearts and see if there is a breach of fellowship between ourselves and another believer.  If so, we should make that right before we partake.  We are further urged to look at our life and our heart.  Is there known sin that we are refusing to give up?  If so, we need a serious time of confession before we partake. 

But what do I do if I look into my heart and see some of those really deep and tangled sins?  What if I am struggling in a relationship with another person, but it’s not just as simple as—“make things right”?  What if I find myself much like the man in Mark 9—“Lord I believe, help my unbelief”?  Should I take the Lord’s Supper when my faith is weak, I’m struggling with bitterness, and I’m having a hard time giving myself fully to the Lord?

I find John Calvin’s answer to this question helpful. In his day there was a rampant view that only “those who were in a state of grace ate worthily”.  This was defined as those who are “pure and purged of all sin”.  To such a view Calvin responds, “Such a dogma would debar all the men who ever were or are on earth from the use of this Sacrament”.

This doctrine (very similar to the scenario I mentioned above) Calvin says “deprives and despoils sinners, miserable and afflicted with trembling and grief, of the consolation of this Sacrament”. 

He then goes on to define what it really means to be “worthy” to take the Lord’s Supper. 

Therefore, this is the worthiness—the best and only kind we can bring to God—to offer vileness and (so to speak) our unworthiness to him so that his mercy may make us worthy of him; to despair in ourselves so that we may be comforted in him; to abase ourselves so that we may be comforted in him; to abase ourselves so that we may be lifted up by him; to accuse ourselves so that we may be justified by him; moreover, to aspire to that unity which he commends to us in his Supper…

Calvin continues…

How could we, needy and bare of all good, befouled with sins, half-dead, eat the Lord’s body worthily?  Rather, we shall think that we, as being poor, come to a kindly giver; as sick, to a physician; as sinners to the Author of righteousness; finally, as dead, to him who gives us life.

I appreciate Calvin’s pastoral sensitivity. For those reading this that are pastors, be careful in how you speak to these weak and feeble souls that may cut themselves off from this ordinance. 

For those that are reading this that are those weak and feeble souls, I want to encourage you that when you look into your heart and see darkness, sin, despair, bitterness, and a whole host of other things—your best response is not to run away from the table and try to go fix it.  Your best response is to run to Christ as represented in the Lord’s Supper. 



Originally posted here.


  1. If you count yourself as unworthy...then it is for you.

  2. MIKE, perhaps you are confusing someone who is humble and knows they are unworthy
    and someone is actively, knowingly engaging in sin willfully, which often injures not only oneself but also others
    . . . the two situations are VERY different.

    In my Church there is a prayer we say when we receive Communion, this:

    'Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof,
    but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.'

    That prayer is called the 'Domine, non sum dignus' and was said anciently while striking the breast 3 times as a sign of repentance for sin. It is also connected to the Biblical prayer of the publican that pleased God, as well as the Biblical request of the Centurion who came to ask for healing for his servant. The 'spirit' shown is one of humility AND trusting faith. And it is not something that Our Lord would 'send away' unaided. :)

  3. I know that I am willfully sinning...a lot of the time.

    I know that I purposely don't go to the jails and visit the prisoners there. Not do I spend much time at all seeking out the hungry and needy. I don't live on a thin margin of income and give the rest to the poor. I don't visit nursing homes (hardly at all) to give comfort to the sick and lonely and dying.

    Sin isn't just what we do that we shouldn't...but also the other way around.

    But I repent of all that I ought be doing but am not. I turn away from relying upon what I do, or don't do to make myself right with God...and turn once again to Jesus and His gospel for the forgiveness of sins.

    So I go up and receive His Supper. The gift which He freely gives to sinners...real sinners...who know their great need of a Savior.




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