Earlier, we learned that Jesus is the head (or leader) of the church. And the church, if you remember, are all the men and women who have repented of their sins and believed the gospel. As the head of the church, Jesus gave them two “ordinances,” orders about special things he wanted them to do. He didn’t give the ordinances to everybody in the world – just to the people of his church. So it makes sense, then, that the Lord’s Supper isn’t a meal for everyone.
The bread and wine are signs that point us to the good news of Jesus. The bread reminds us of Jesus’ body, broken for us. And the wine reminds us of Jesus’ blood, shed so our sins can be forgiven. Knowing this, it would certainly be strange for someone to eat the Lord’s Supper if they don’t actually believe the good news that the Lord’s Supper points us to!
It also doesn’t make sense for someone to eat the Lord’s Supper if they haven’t been baptized. After all, baptism is the ordinance that marks the beginning of our life in Jesus’ church, while the Lord’s Supper is a celebration of remaining in the church. It’s pretty obvious that a person should begin with baptism! If a believer wants to obey Jesus’ order to eat the Lord’s Supper, then we should encourage them to first obey Jesus’ order to be baptized!
Finally, a person shouldn’t eat the Lord’s Supper if they are holding unforgiveness in their heart toward someone. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus teaches, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
What does this have to do with the Lord’s Supper? Jesus talked about someone who wanted to do something good, offering a sacrifice to God. If that person has been arguing with someone else, if they still have anger and unforgiveness in their hearts, they should immediately stop the good thing they are doing (offering a gift to God) and go do something better (find their friend and forgive them). They can always come back later to give their gift to God.
With this in mind, it would be a bad idea to celebrate the Lord’s Supper if we have hatred and unforgiveness in our hearts towards another person. After all, the Lord’s Supper is a meal that reminds us how God forgave us! Rather than angrily eat the bread and drink the wine, Jesus would rather we find our friend and forgive them first!
It’s a dangerous thing to eat the Lord’s Supper when you shouldn’t. In 1 Corinthians 11:28-30, the apostle Paul warns us, “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”
A person should examine themselves before they eat the Lord’s Supper. They should ask themselves, “Do I believe the good news of Jesus? Am I repenting of my sins? Is there anyone I refuse to forgive?” Paul warns us of the consequence of eating the Lord’s Supper when we shouldn’t. Some people became weak and sick. And some had even “fallen asleep,” a nicer way of saying they died!