How the Keys of the Kingdom Work in the Lord’s Supper


The only reason any of the Larger Catechism questions under our watchful eye this morning can make sense to us is if something is spiritually happening when we gather together to partake of the bread and the cup in the Lord’s Supper. You need not safeguard anyone from the dangers of Romulans, because Romulans only exist in the mind of Gene Roddenberry, nor should you need to profess the benefits of being nourished by Jesus if it is merely a memorial. However, we make all kinds of necessary provisions against botulism due to the fact that food poisoning is a real-life problem that we need to make every effort to protect our own stomachs, and of those we love, from the inroads of bad bacteria. We do that not only through our knowledge of microbes and their effect on our guts, but through the way we must employ the Lysol to deal with the aftermath.

Without getting too negative part of the reason why we do not take communion as serious as we should is through our unwillingness, or just ignorance, to think through what we are doing at the table of Christ. We take the new covenant sometimes to mean that the mean god of the Old Testament who killed people that touched the ark of the covenant no longer disciplines those whom He loves. Something we learn from the principles of the ceremonial law is that God abhors sin, and that sin tarnishes all that it touches to the extent that every priest needed to be ritually cleansed before he handled the sacrifices of the Temple (Num. 8:6). If we are now the temple (1 Cor. 6:19) and you are a priest yourself (1 Peter 2:9) then how much more are you to likewise take seriously the commands given to those separated unto God? To do the work of self-examination (1 Cor 11:28) means to do that, and not in the minutes while you wait for the elders to complete the distribution of the elements. It means to live a life of assessing, in and through the grace of Christ, your spiritual state, so that when you do commune, you are ready to benefit.

Here are the Q/A’s for today:

Q. 172. May one who doubt of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation, come to the Lord’s Supper?

A. One who doubts of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof; and in God’s account has it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity: in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians) he is to bewail his unbelief, and labor to have his doubts resolved; and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord’s supper, that he may be further strengthened.

Q. 173. May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s supper, be kept from it?

A. Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ hath left in his church, until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.

The first question is a positive encouragement for those struggling and weak. It is a reminder that the Westminster Standards (Confession of Faith and Catechisms) have been unfairly maligned as not as warm or pastoral as some other statements, like the Heidelberg or Second Helvetic. The writers of our testimony cared deeply about the life and blessings of the people in the pew. They especially were concerned about the gentle conscience of young believers whom Satan often will falsely tell are unworthy of coming to the Table. Yet, in the midst of these Q/A’s the other audience are the elders of Christ’s Church who are tasked with the duty of shepherding their people well. They are to be as their Master in not allowing a bruised reed to be destroyed, but are to tenderly witness mercy to those struggling with true faith. There is great comfort in this work.

What other role do the Elders have in the administration of the Lord’s Supper covered here?

Notice the last four words of Q. 173, “. . . be kept from it.” Well, who is keeping who from what? In the botulism example we started out with that responsibility is in the parent, in the case of a child, and in the neighbor in the case of a friend. The elders at Bethany take a vow (ARP Form of Government 8.17.5) that they will, “. . . promise to perform faithfully all the duties of the office” and included in that is (ARP FoG 6.8.C) a call to “Admonish, rebuke, suspend, or exclude from the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper any member of the congregation found delinquent according to the Book of Discipline”. An underappreciated aspect of the work of an elder is that our Lord has granted to them as the Session the keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16:19) in the local church.

What this means is that they are given the primary obligation to protect not only the body from the leaven of unrighteousness infecting the Table blessing of the Supper, but out of godly concern and care ensure that those who are unready or openly disdainful of Christ do not eat and drink judgment upon themselves. To keep a person from hurting themselves is always an act of love. It is never harmful to grab a person running into a fire from burning to death physically. How much more so is that true of those tasked with preventing a human being from feeling the effects of spiritual hellfire here in earth? While some may think it out of style to do something like guarding the table, as our culture is one of niceness and enablement towards self-desire, there is no way we as Christians who confess 1 Corinthains 13 should allow the culture to guide our practice. Our elders, and I as the one who administrates, must give an answer to a higher power (Heb. 13:17).

In closing, as with all discipline in the new covenant, as it was in the old, the goal is repentance and faith. We do the work of protecting to train, teach, and testify so that all may feed on Christ.

One more word:

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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