Baptist Distinctives: The Lord’s Supper

The Scripture cites two ordinances. One of those ordinances is Baptism and the other is the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper was instituted during the Passover time and on the night prior to the betrayal and ultimate crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 26: 18-29; Mark 14: 12-26; Luke 22: 7-20;

1 Corinthians 11: 17-34). Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are important parts of true “fellowship” in the local church. They are actually acts of worship.  In the Corinthian account regarding the Lord’s Supper, Paul is reminding the church that they were observing it in the wrong way. There were “divisions” (1 Cor. 11: 18-19) among them. They were rude and inconsiderate (20-21). They had turned the church into a “social club” (22). This is an example of how not to observe the Lord’s Supper.

The real purpose of the meal is to periodically remember the death of Jesus Christ, in which He secured forgiveness of sin for those who trust in Him as Lord and Savior. (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21) There are those denominations that believe that the elements of the Lord’s Supper are actually transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ. This view is called “Transubstantiation.” Other faiths hold that the elements represent the “invisible and mystical presence of Christ that is present in, with, and under” them. This view is known as “Consubstantiation.” Baptists view the elements and this ordinance as  symbolic in nature. There is nothing in the elements themselves that carry or provide any salvation or any saving effects to the participant. You can read a synopsis of our belief in the “Baptist Faith and Message, Article VII” entitled Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We see the symbolic nature of the Lord’s Supper  revealed in the following ways (1 Corinthians 11:23-34):

  1. It is a memorial meal remembering the Blood Atonement. (24)
  2. It is a thanksgiving meal, and as such, should be a joyful time. (24)
  3. It is a fellowship meal, not for a divisive church. Divisiveness between members in a church should be handled according to Matthew 18: 15 – 20.
  4. It is a testimonial meal, in that we are “proclaiming His death” and His certain return. It is a sermon in pictures. (26)
  5. It is a prophetic meal, anticipating the time when we will sit at the “Marriage Supper” of the Lamb (26; Revelation 19:9)
  6. It is an examination meal. We should take time to ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and ask the Lord to cleanse us and take away everything unacceptable to Him. (Psalm 139: 23-24; 27-29)

This meal is for those who have trusted in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation and have followed Him in believer’s baptism (Acts 2:41-42)

How Should We Prepare to Observe the Lord’s Supper?

Before participating in this ordinance, we should:

  1. Examine ourselves based on God’s Word (1 Corinthians 11:27-28)
  2. Confess any sin to God. (1 John 1:9)
  3. Recommit ourselves to Him. (Romans 12:2)
  4. Restore any broken relationships. (Matthew 5:22-24)

When and How Often Should We Observe the Lord’s Supper?

Jesus never said when or how often a church should observe this ordinance. He instituted it on the night before His Crucifixion. It should be observed often enough so as not to forget the significance of Christ’s shed blood on the cross for our sins. It should be offered with time to remember what Jesus did for us on the Cross, as well as taking time to examine our lives in light of His life.

I have found that the observance of the Lord’s Supper has been some of the sweetest times of worship our church has experienced together. God uses it to bring our body closer together in fellowship and closer to Him, as we remember His sacrifice on the Cross for our sins. It has a way of deepening my personal desire to glorify Him, which is our purpose in life. (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17)