Guarding the table
In our discussion of Jesus, Judas, and the first communion, a Calvinist pointed me to an article by a Calvinist author. The article was said to refute the idea that Judas was commanded to partake of the first Lord’s Supper. I have already answered the first challenge using the inspired words and grammar from Scripture on my post here. In this new post, I will deal with another challenge that was included in the article by the Calvinist author who claims that Jesus would have guarded the table to keep Judas away from communion.
Guarding the communion table happens when people do not believe that Jesus died for all. It also happens when people believe that leaders have the responsibility to keep the sacrifice of Jesus away from those who are not part of their denomination or from those they consider insincere.
Did Jesus guard the table?
Because of the claim that Jesus would have kept Judas away from the communion table, it is important to look at any warning that Jesus gave before He commanded His twelve disciples to partake. We can look very carefully at all four of the gospels and find nothing that would prohibit any of the disciples from partaking. Jesus did not warn them not to partake and in fact, He did the opposite. Jesus commanded them all to partake of the elements of communion. In Mark 14:22 the term “take” is an imperative. An imperative is a command.
Did Jesus Conduct the table properly?
The article by the Calvinist author asks this question.
(3) Did Jesus conduct the Table properly?
Does Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 11 change the Lord’s supper from the way that Jesus first established it with the twelve disciples? I believe that Paul changed nothing about Communion, and instead, he upheld the original way it was given.
Jesus established that the meal was for all just as His death was for all.
Paul agrees with Jesus. Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthians about Communion was primarily about the exclusion of people. The Corinthians were not coming together in unity to celebrate but were being divisive and exclusive.
Paul identifies that their coming together as a church brought divisions.
1 Corinthians 11:18 (NASB) For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it.
Within the one body, there were divisions and factions and in celebrating the meal, they were excluding and separating themselves.
1 Corinthians 11:20–21 (NASB) 20 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
In this separation, Paul declares this is not the Lord’s Supper (verse 20.) The Lord’s Supper is for all. What the Corinthians were doing was not a remembrance in unity. It was an each-for-their-own meal without regarding the unity they have in Christ. One who has nothing is excluded from partaking, and this produces a selfish attitude from those who do have the Lord’s meal. Paul says that treating the Lord’s sacrifice in this way is eating and drinking in an unworthy manner. Note that Paul does not say that they themselves are unworthy of the celebration of the Lord’s sacrifice. He said that the MANNER they were eating it is unworthy.
1 Corinthians 11:27–28 (NASB) 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
What is a worthy manner compared to an unworthy manner?
Paul said that the manner we take the Lord’s Supper is so important, that if we eat in an unworthy MANNER, we are guilty of sinning against the sacrifice that was made for us. What is the unworthy MANNER that the Corinthians were practicing that Paul was against? The manner was that of division and factions and withholding the symbol of the sacrifice from some as if Jesus did not die for all. Some of those who were excluded from participating were those who were slow, and the celebration was over before they arrived. For others who were on time, they were excluded because they were not given a share to eat. Paul’s instructions are clear in the proper way to eat together Paul said:
1 Corinthians 11:33 (NASB) So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
Paul shows what qualifies as eating and drinking in a WORTHY manner. It is to WAIT for ONE ANOTHER. Unity and including your brothers is defined as a worthy manner. Being together in unity and accepting that Jesus died for all of the “one another”s is so important.
What is an unworthy manner that brings judgment? Does judgment happen because the person is not sinless enough to partake? No! Paul said:
1 Corinthians 11:34 (NASB) If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come.
Paul said that being hungry can bring judgment! How is that possible? Because being hungry would tempt one to partake of the celebration bread and wine without waiting for one’s brother. The division that was happening was taking what is a universal symbol of Christ’s death and making it a me-only limited symbol. Paul tells the Corinthians how they can stop from experiencing judgment. He said they should eat at home first so that they can wait for one another. Paul also writes that one must examine oneself.
1 Corinthians 11:28 (NASB) But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
Paul said that a man must examine himself. Notice that one is to examine oneself, not a judgment call on the part of another person to examine your worthiness. No one is told to “guard the table!” They are told to examine themselves. Why? So that they can partake in a worthy MANNER. What makes their manner unworthy? Are they excluding others? Are they leaving others out and going ahead as if Jesus did not die for the ones that they had divided themselves against? These are issues in partaking in a worthy MANNER. Notice also that the purpose of the examination is so that “he is to eat of the bread.” The purpose is not to stop a man from eating and drinking. The purpose is so that he can partake without incurring judgment on himself. The purpose is to keep the unity with all and not exclude anyone from the sacrifice of Jesus.
Paul said that a man must examine himself. Notice that one is to examine himself. It is not a judgment call on the part of another person to examine your worthiness. No one is told to “guard the table!” They are told to examine themselves. Why? So that they can partake in a worthy MANNER. What are they to examine? Are they excluding others? Are they leaving others out and going ahead as if Jesus did not die for the ones that they had divided themselves against? These are issues that must be considered in partaking in a worthy MANNER. Notice also that the purpose of the examination is so that “he is to eat of the bread.” The purpose is not to stop a man from eating and drinking. The purpose is so that he can partake without incurring judgment on himself. The purpose is to keep the unity with all and to exclude no one from the sacrifice of Jesus.
Jesus treated His Lord’s Supper this same way. Jesus did not exclude anyone, not even Judas. And Jesus made it clear that He would give His life as a ransom sacrifice for sinners, even Judas, the very one who would betray Him.
Paul said that the worthy manner of taking the Lord’s Supper is to do it in unity and to wait for one another. Paul said that taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner is eating on your own and not waiting for one another. The unworthy manner is allowing others to have nothing to partake of the Communion elements. This despises the church of God and shames those who are not able to partake.
1 Corinthians 11:22 (NASB) What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.
The Lord’s Supper is not set up to separate people and exclude some as unworthy. The Lord’s Supper is set up just as Jesus set it up. It is to honor the sacrifice of His death for the world, and Jesus included Judas.
Are you a sinner? Do you feel unworthy of Jesus? If so, you qualify as one for whom Jesus died. Jesus’ death was for sinners, and it is His desire that the church shows the universality of that sacrifice and lift it up so that we do not guard the table and keep people away from His atonement. Jesus did not send Judas away so that he was not qualified to receive the sign of the new covenant in Jesus’ blood. Jesus’ death was for ALL sinners.
Questions for Calvinists:
1. Can you give me a single Scripture that says the Church is to guard the Communion Table to keep people away?
2. Can you give me a single Scripture that says people are themselves unworthy to partake of communion rather than the MANNER that they partake?
3. If Jesus died for Judas (see my article here), and He commanded Judas to partake of the sign of the new covenant in His blood, who is unworthy enough that you would exclude and keep them away from the communion table?