Self-Examination and the Supper

When it comes to observance of the Lord’s Supper, and especially when it comes to regular, weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, there are a number of questions that we have to address and answer. One of them is what devout preparation for participation looks like.

Paul teaches us that we do have a duty to examine ourselves. He uses the same word—anakrisis—in a couple of different places. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor. 13:5).

This means that the issue is not whether preparation for the Supper consists of self-examination. Of course it does. The problem is that a great deal of confusion exists over what constitutes lawful and sane self-examination. We must take it as a given that self-examination is necessary for every approach to the Table. We must not take it as a given that we have a good grasp of what healthy self-examination looks like. Too often the people who try to examine themselves give way to morbid introspection, and the people who are not given to morbid introspection are only free of this vice because they have never attempted to obey Paul’s requirement in any way.

When you examine yourself, you are not looking for sin. If the presence of sin disqualified us from the Supper, then no one could partake. What you are looking for is love of sin, devotion to it. If you examine yourselves and find that Jesus Christ is in you, you will not find loyalty to the world, the flesh and the devil. You will see your sins, but you will also see, by the grace of God, your hatred of them.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

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Keith LaMothe
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Keith LaMothe

Thank you for the encouragement. Too often I approach the examination as a time of confession of sin, when I should have taken care of that earlier. I don’t tend toward morbidity, but it’s an order-of-operations problem.

One question. When you say:

> “We must take it as a given that self-examination is necessary for every approach to the Table.”

Does “every approach” include the approach of the youngest participants? My own view of the “qualifications” oscillates between “baptized and weaned” and “baptized and noticing one’s own exclusion”, but how does examination look in either case?

Thanks,

Keith

David Abu-Sara
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Dear Doug, I’m encouraged to see you mention self-examination in the context of partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Am I right to understand that your response to Keith means that those who are unable to self-examine, due to age or infirmity, are welcomed to the Lord’s Table anyway? I’d assume your answer would, yes. If I’m wrong then please correct me. If I’m correct, could you briefly explain when the command becomes incumbent on the child a little more specifically than, “When they’re able.” As I see it that answer leaves too much up in the air. Who determines when… Read more »

PerfectHold
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PerfectHold

David — check the recent audio from Canon Wired for more in depth content from Doug on this topic.
But if I may — would you limit the infant from coming to the service altogether until they know what’s going on?
After all, shouldn’t self-examination occur to engage properly in any aspect of the faith?
So “when they’re able” = they are alway’s able, in different degrees.

David Abu-Sara
Guest

I haven’t checked the Canon Wired audio, but I suspect it’s from the Grace Agenda conference, which I attended. The discussion of this topic was, in part, what I came to hear. But I will check the audio in case it’s something else. And no, I wouldn’t keep the little ones from coming to a worship service or any of the other means of grace, save baptism. I’m a credobaptist. But as I understand the argument about infant-communion the command to self examine is waived, not fulfilled in the case of an infant. Then, at some point in the future… Read more »

PerfectHold
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PerfectHold

The rational about allowing infants without self-examination is as follows: If the shoe fits, wear it. It was not a command to ritualistically engage in an act of self-examination prior to partaking. The command is not to spend time in self-evaluation — unless you need to. It is a warning not to take the Supper in a base fashion — like they were doing by excluding others selfishly. So it IS a general command, David, and applies to all aspects of our association together. Don’t come in here at all if you’re going to dis one-another. Don’t you have your… Read more »

Keith LaMothe
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Keith LaMothe

PerfectHold, thanks for mentioning the Canon Wired piece, I’ll look that up today. > “But if I may — would you limit the infant from coming to the service altogether until they know what’s going on? After all, shouldn’t self-examination occur to engage properly in any aspect of the faith?” Paul says to examine yourself before taking communion, and warns of consequences should this not be done. Is there a similar exhortation and warning concerning worship altogether? I take a paedocommunion stance, seeing the “discerning the body” and surrounding arguments as directed at those unnecessarily dividing the body in the… Read more »

Keith LaMothe
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Keith LaMothe

PerfectHold, I went to Canon Wired and my search-fu has proven inadequate to find anything on the subject in 2015; can you give me a link or a title?

Thanks,
Keith

PerfectHold
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PerfectHold

Keith, The warning is concerning worship together in general, and also our behavior everywhere else. He brings up this general admonition to look in the mirror here because it is especially poignent at communion time — when instead of loving on each other they were trashing each other. This ceremony is all about putting others first & recognizing our joint bodyhood, yes? Yet here they are behaving so badly as to make it the exact occasion to exclude one another. Dudes — you better pay attention to what you are doing. Dudes — spend some time judging yourselves. Now if… Read more »

PerfectHold
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PerfectHold

Similar general worship commands include decency and in order, speak so you’re understood, take the back seat, don’t lie about your gift, support the folks needing support, love each other, …

Sarah Knox
Guest
Sarah Knox

Thanks so much for your insight and instruction on taking the Lord’s Supper. It’s an encouragement!!

Andrew Lohr
Member

Examine yourself to make sure you’re including in the Supper all who should be included. So those who wrongly exclude children from communion are wanting in conformity unto, and guilty of transgression of, the law of God here; they’re examining for every sin except the one specifically warned against, the one they’re in the act of committing. But a child who takes some and hands it on has examined himself in the specifically required sense: he’s including his neighbors.

mikebull1
Member

As one once given to morbid introspection, these have always been welcome words. And I think it was James Jordan who pointed out that the Lord’s questioning of Adam for a confession was a chance to cross the courtroom floor to God’s side, the side of mercy, against himself – a second chance.

Phil
Guest
Phil

Many thanks for this. I grew up (spiritually speaking) in Arminian churches, at least as much as one can grow in Christ under Arminianism. At any rate, these churches were clear that if anyone had sin, or some might say “besetting sin” or something like that, then they should let the elements pass. Every month (we partook monthly) I was left wishing that I could just live, you know, right enough to be able to partake with a free and clear conscience like everyone else who was also partaking. It became a monthly ritual of hurry-up-and-repent-double-quick-and-double-serious-before-the-serving-elements-get-here. They warned us not… Read more »