- General Provisions of the Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated frequently, but the frequency may be determined by each session as it judges most conducive to edification. Where the Lord’s Supper is celebrated less frequently, public notice should be given to the congregation, at least the Sabbath before the administration of this ordinance, and either then, or on some day of the week, the people may be instructed in its nature, and urged to make due preparation for it, that all may come in a suitable manner to this holy feast. In accord with the historical practice of the church, the use of a loaf and common cup is commended as a faithful and rich observation of Christ’s commands for His Table. The senior pastor shall administer the Lord’s Supper. If he is unable, an assistant or associate pastor may administer it.
- The Institution of the Sacrament
The minister shall read the words of the institution and instruction of the Lord’s Supper as found in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 or one of the Gospel accounts (Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, or Luke 22:14-20). In addition, he may read words of instruction from passages such as John 6 and 1 Corinthians 10.
- The Meaning and Nature of the Sacrament
The minister shall then summarize before the congregation the teaching of the Word of God as to the meaning and nature of the sacrament in the following or like words:
Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper as an ordinance to be observed by His church until He comes again. It is not a re-sacrificing of Christ, but is a remembrance of the once-for-all sacrifice of Himself in His death for our sins. Nor is it a mere memorial to Christ’s sacrifice. It is a means of grace by which God feeds us with the crucified, resurrected, exalted Christ. He does so by His Holy Spirit and through faith. Thus He strengthens us in our warfare against sin and in our endeavors to serve Him in holiness. The sacrament further signifies and seals the forgiveness of our sin and our nourishment and growth in Christ. The bread and wine represent the crucified body and the shed blood of the Savior, which He gave for His people. In this sacrament, God confirms that He is faithful and true to fulfill the promises of His covenant, and He calls us to deeper gratitude for our salvation, to renewed consecration, and to more faithful obedience. The Supper is also a bond and pledge of the communion that believers have with Him and with each other as members of His body. As Scripture says, “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” The Supper anticipates the consummation of the ages, when Christ returns to gather all His redeemed people at the glorious wedding feast of the Lamb. As we come to the Lord’s Table, we humbly resolve to deny ourselves, to crucify the sin that is within us, to resist the devil, and to follow Christ as becomes those who bear His name.
- Invitation and Fencing the Table
The minister shall then declare who may come to, and who are excluded from, the Lord’s Table according to the Word of God. He may use the following or like words:
We have heard, my brothers, how our Lord administered His Supper among His disciples, and in this He shows us that strangers, that is, those not of the company of the faithful should not be admitted. Following this rule, therefore, in the name and by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, I excommunicate all idolaters, blasphemers, despisers of God, heretics, and all who form separate parties to break the unity of the church, all perjurers, all those who rebel against their father and mother and against their superiors, all fomenters of sedition or mutiny, quarrelers, fighters, adulterers, fornicators, sexual deviants, thieves, lovers of money, plunderers, drunkards, gluttons, and all those who lead a scandalous life; declaring to those that they are to abstain from this holy table lest they pollute and contaminate this sacred food, which our Lord Jesus Christ gives only to His servants and faithful ones.
Therefore, according to the exhortation of the Apostle Paul, let each one test and examine his own conscience, to know whether he truly repents of his faults and is sorry for them, desiring from now on to live in holiness and in conformity with God; and above all, whether he trusts in the mercy of God and seeks his salvation wholly from Jesus Christ; and whether renouncing all hostility and malice, he has the good intention and the courage to live in harmony and brotherly love with his neighbors.
If we have such a testimony in our hearts before God, let us not doubt in the least that He acknowledges us to be His children and that the Lord Jesus is speaking to us, bringing us to His table and offering us this Holy Sacrament, which He delivered to His disciples.
And since we are conscious of much frailty and misery in ourselves, as well as not having a perfect faith, but that we are prone rather to unbelief and distrust, so that we are not entirely dedicated to serving God and with such a zeal as we ought, but we have instead a battle daily against the lusts of our flesh; nevertheless, since our Lord has granted us this grace of having His Gospel engraved on our heart, so that we might resist all unbelief, and He has given us the desire and longing to renounce our own desires to pursue His righteousness and holy commandments; let us all be assured that the sins and imperfections that are in us will not prevent Him from receiving us, nor from making us worthy to share in this spiritual table. For we do not come insisting that we are perfect or righteous in ourselves, but rather, seeking our life in Jesus Christ, we confess that we are dead. Let us understand, therefore, that this Sacrament is a medicine for poor, spiritually sick people and that the only worthiness that our Lord requires of us is to know ourselves well enough to be displeased with our sins and to find all our pleasure, joy, and contentment in Him alone.
If desired, the minister may exhort the people of God, in the following or other words, to embrace in the sign the thing that is signified:
So let us first believe in these promises, which Jesus Christ, who is the infallible truth, spoke with His mouth, namely, that He truly wishes to make us partakers of His body and blood; that we might possess Him fully, so that He might live in us and we in Him. And since we see only bread and wine, yet we do not doubt that He accomplishes spiritually in our souls all that He demonstrates to us outwardly through these visible signs, namely, that He is the heavenly bread that feeds and nourishes us for eternal life. So let us be grateful for the infinite goodness of our Savior, who spreads out all His riches and goods on this table to distribute them to us. For by giving Himself to us, He testifies to us that all He has is ours. Therefore, let us receive this Sacrament as a seal that the power of His death and passion is imputed to us for righteousness, just as though we had suffered it ourselves. Let us therefore not be so wicked as to pull back from where Jesus Christ so gently invites us through His Word. But considering the worth of this precious gift which He has given us, let us present ourselves to Him with ardent zeal, so that He would make us able to receive it.
Beloved congregation, lift up your hearts from these visible elements even to heaven itself, where Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, from where we look for Him to return and perfect our redemption. All the promises of God are yes and amen in Him. Every spiritual blessing is found in Him. With joyful hearts, in Christian love, partake of His Table, giving thanks for the great love that He has shown to us.
The distribution of the elements shall be preceded by prayer. It is well in such prayer to praise God for His mighty power and grace in bringing salvation; confess our unworthiness to come to the Table because of our own utter lack of righteousness; reaffirm our trust in God’s grace and in Christ’s righteousness and mediation; plead for the Lord to grant the gracious, effectual working of His Spirit in us; thank God for the elements, request Him to use them for their intended purpose; and ask Him to grant that by faith His people may feed upon Jesus Christ, crucified and raised for them, so that, being strengthened by grace, they might live in Him and for Him.
- Partaking of the Elements
Normally, the elements of the Lord’s Supper should be taken in the following manner.
After prayer and thanksgiving, the minister shall take the bread, saying in the following or like words:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His disciples, as I, ministering in His name, give this bread to you.
The minister shall then break the bread and give it to the people; it shall be distributed to the people by church officers, preferably the ruling elders, but in any case male officers. The bread may be eaten either upon reception of it, or in unison when all have been served, as the session may judge most conducive to edification. The minister may continue, before the bread is eaten, saying:
Our Lord Jesus said, “Take, eat, this is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
Having given the bread, the minister shall take the cup and give it to the people, saying in the following or like words:
In the same manner, our Savior also took the cup, and having given thanks as has been done in His name, He gave it to His disciples, as I ministering in His name give this cup to you.
The minister shall then give the cup, as in the distribution of the bread; it shall be distributed to the people by church officers, preferably the ruling elders, but in any case male officers. The minister may continue, before the cup is drunk, saying:
Our Lord Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins; drink of it, all of you.”
- Response of Thanksgiving and Commitment
When all have partaken, prayer or a congregational song should be offered. It is well in such prayer to give thanks for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, through whom we have the forgiveness of sins; recommit God’s people to Christ and to each other; present them as a living sacrifice to God; and plead that the Holy Spirit will make the sacrament effectual to the edifying and strengthening of God’s people.
It is well that the congregation respond by singing a psalm or hymn that focuses on the benefits of Christ’s death and the triumph of the Gospel, bringing forth gratitude and joy and renewed commitment of the believer to His Lord, and that an offering be taken for the relief of the poor or for some other sacred purpose.
The following benediction is particularly appropriate when the Lord’s Supper has been celebrated:
“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
The above exhortations and explanations are in accord with the historic Reformed liturgies.
- 1 Corinthians 10:17. ↵
- From John Calvin’s Lord’s Supper liturgy, 1542, 1566, modernized. See Mark Earngey and Jonathan Gibson, Reformation Worship (New Growth Press, 2018), 326–27. ↵
- Ibid., 327–28. ↵
- This portion of the Lord’s Supper liturgy follows the historical Reformed liturgies of the early Reformation. With the addition of the word “normally,” we do not intend to allow significant departure from this process of partaking of the elements. Intinction—the taking of the elements simultaneously by communicants—or the use of many individual cups does not significantly depart from the outlined process. The significance of both the bread and the cup should be described prior to eating and drinking. ↵
- Hebrews 13:20-21. ↵