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Giving Thanks
At The Lord's

Giving Thanks At The Lord's Table
By Paul O. Nichols

Published in
The Christian Informer
July  2008

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[This is a most needed lesson. Please read it carefully and thoughtfully– R.N.]

IT IS APPARENT TO MANY that something needs to said, and teaching needs to be done with regard: appropriate thanksgiving at the Lord’s table (Luke 22:30). After all, Jesus our Lord set the example and said, “This do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). New converts are bound to be confused when they hear thanksgiving offered in so many different ways often inappropriately. And most of the time a person who makes the mistakes receives no correction, and over and again the same mistakes are made. Often brethren who have received no instruction, either from the pulpit or privately, are asked to serve at the Communion table. Some have never learned correct and appropriate thanksgiving. It is no wonder mistakes are made and the thanksgiving is mis-worded.

The elements in the Lord’s Supper are nothing more than common bread and grape juice in a common drinking vessel until they are sanctified through prayer and blessed by the Lord. Even our daily food is “sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4). When Jesus instituted the Communion, the Scriptures tell us He blessed the elements. Then He declared, “this is my body,” “this is my blood” (Matthew 26:26,28), “this cup is the New Testament in (ratified by) my blood” (Luke 22:20).

Jesus was not telling the apostles that the elements had become literally His body, His blood, and literally the new covenant God made with His people. The word “is” is a copula of “symbolic representation.” These elements were symbols of what they represented. (Yes, they are representatives; not literally the body and blood of Christ). They were symbolic only after they were sanctified by thanksgiving of Jesus (set apart for a particular use). They became significant by divine arrangement and recognition. They are of spiritual purpose and value and must be received as such, otherwise, we eat and drink damnation to ourselves “not discerning the Lord’s body” and are “guilty the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27,29). This is serious!

When our Lord gave His apostles the Communion, He set the example for them and for us, and He said, “This do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Jesus “took bread, and gave thanks” (Luke 22:19). I have actually witnessed brethren serving at the table who failed to offer thanks. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians “the cup of blessing which we bless” (1 Corinthians 10:16). This is fundamental. To follow the example of Jesus we offer thanks. For what? We offer thanks for the elements that comprise the Lord’s Supper. After we offer our thanks, the next thing in order is to ask the Lord to “bless or sanctify” the bread; to “sanctify the cup of blessing.” When we do this, the bread becomes symbolically the body of Jesus and the cup with its contents becomes symbolically the “cup of the Lord” (1 Corin- thians 11:27).

Our thanksgiving is directed to God through the name of Jesus. But I have heard, more than once, a brother waiting on the table make the error of thanking God for shedding His blood for us. God did not die for us. God sent Jesus to become our sacrifice for sin (John 3:16). It was Jesus who died on the cross and shed his blood for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:27).

There are brethren who seem to think they have to explain to God the meaning of the elements. They say, “We thank thee for this bread which is the body of Jesus.” And again, “We thank thee for this fruit of the vine which is the blood of Christ, and this cup which is the New Testament.” God knows the significance and meaning of the elements. The true meaning of the Communion should be taught to the members of the Church before the observance; not in the prayer. We who commune need to understand before we partake, so as to do it without eating and drinking damnation to ourselves.

In (1 Corinthians 10:16) the apostle Paul says, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” In this Paul reminds us that we are to give thanks for “the cup of blessing” which is the “communion of the blood of Christ.” He also tells us that the bread is the “communion of the body of Christ.” He reminds us that this is what we give thanks for. And when the thanks are given and the Lord sanctifies these elements, they have spiritual significance; they have sacred purpose. If we use scriptural language in our thanksgiving, we can’t go wrong.

All our prayers are addressed to God. “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ...” says the apostle Paul (Colossians 1:3). In giving thanks at the table of the Lord it is appropriate to thank God (1) “for the bread which to us is the communion of the body of Christ” (2) “to ask the Lord to bless (sanctify) it for its intended use or purpose.” It is also appropriate to solicit His help to partake of it in the right way. There is no reason to embellish the prayer nor to lengthen it unnecessarily. It is not a time for a long prayer or flowery speech, nor the exercise of a large vocabulary.

When one offers thanks for the cup, he can say, as an example, (1) “We thank thee for this cup of blessing” (which language is scriptural and covers both the container and its contents). (2) “Please bless it for its intended purpose.” (3) “Help us to partake of it in the right way and with the right attitude,” or words to that effect. And every time we partake, it is for the purpose of reminding us of the greatest sacrifice ever made–the crucifixion of the Son of God and all that He suffered to purchase our redemption and to give the hope of eternal life. It is a memorial service. We do this to show His death till he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Let the man who officiates at the “table of the Lord” be absolutely sure to offer prayer that is scriptural and appropriate. For he has an awesome responsibility of wording an acceptable prayer to God for his own benefit and the benefit of the assembled saints, in order for the observance to be acceptable to the Lord. “This do in remembrance of me,” said Jesus.
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By Paul O. Nichols

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, the Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod, and some other religious sects believe and practice “closed communion.” And now we have members of the Church of Christ who are advocating this practice. To some, the term “open communion” means open to anyone, saint or sinner; anyone who wants to partake is welcome to do so. The term “closed communion” means it is only open to the ones whom they judge to be worthy, and closed to others... and they have the authority to make the determination. Neither of these positions is correct.

The fact is, the Lord’s supper belongs to the Lord, and only He has the authority to either open or close it. No man has been delegated such authority. We have been given an example and all the instructions we need to observe it in the way that pleases Him. These instructions apply to all alike. Jesus is our King, and if we are given an invitation to the King’s table, it is His doing, and we are His guests, invited to eat and drink with Him and with one another. If we eat and drink without His invitation or in a way which displeases Him, it is He who will deal with us; not the other guests. They have no such control. It is the “Lord’s table” (1 Corinthians 10:21).

Only Christians are supposed to partake of the Communion, that is, only those who have “obeyed from the heart that form or doctrine” (Romans 6:17). When a person is baptized, no one but the Lord knows whether he does it from the heart. And if he does not, the Lord makes no mistake by adding him to the church. That person has only gone down into the water a dry sinner and come up a wet sinner. He is not a Christian.

If a member who is not living a Christian life partakes of the Lord’s Supper without God’s approval, no one but that person is held accountable. Other Christians will not be condemned for his sin. He communes to his own damnation (1 Corinthians 11:29).

The word of God teaches that we must worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23,24). To worship in spirit means to be sincere of heart and spiritually minded. One cannot simply go through a form or ritual, and call it worship. This has to do with the “inner man.” To worship God “in truth” is to worship according to what He has specified in His word. The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). Ours is a spiritual service, done according to God’s directions. Each worshiper is responsible for his own attitude in his service to God. If he does not worship in spirit, his worship is vain. But no one else is condemned for his wrongdoing. In the instructions for the proper observance of the communion the apostle Paul taught the Christians at Corinth that each person was to scrutinize himself (1 Corinthians 11:28).

The communion service is a congregational duty (1 Corinthians 11:18, 33). We do it in memory of Christ, because He died for us and we believe He is coming again (1 Corinthians 11:26). While it is a congregational observance, yet each communicant is to “examine” himself’ before participating. Paul warns that if one eats and drinks “not discerning the Lord’s body “that he does so “unworthily” and in so doing he condemns himself. Because of the failure to commune in a proper way many of the Corinthians were spiritually weak, some were sick, and others were already dead as far as salvation was concerned (1 Corinthians 11:28-30).

Some people misunderstand and therefore misapply what the apostle teaches in first Corinthians chapter five. No where in this chapter is Paul teaching about the Communion in particular. He is giving instructions about fellowship and personal association in general. The terms “not to company” (v. 9) and “not to keep company” (v. 11) and “with such an one no not to eat” all have reference to the same thing. That is, associating and socializing with unruly members of the church (and the writer specifies certain sins), which might suggest to them that they are acceptable in their sinful state. A person has control over his own table and whoever eats there, and can invite whomsoever he will. But what person in a congregation is authorized to examine other people who partake of the Lord’s Supper? The only authority anyone has in this matter is the Lord Himself.

A man may refuse to eat with one he thinks is unworthy, but in so doing he deprives himself of the blessing of communing with the Lord and with his fellow Christians. If an individual unscripturally partakes of the Communion, he alone is accountable to the Lord. No one in a congregation has the authority to control another person’s partaking. “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth” (Romans 14:4). “So then everyone of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another anymore...” (Romans 14:12,13). “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28).

The Lord’s Supper is a serious and sacred matter, and everyone should be properly instructed before the observance. All need to understand who is and who is not eligible and scripturally qualified to sit at the King’s table to commune with Him and with His faithful servants who are all citizens of His kingdom. Concerning this matter the apostle says, “For if we judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31). Amen.

Paul O Nichols
14217 Rosehill
Overland Park, KS 66221-2839

[We appreciate the above articles and commend their teaching. Far too many brethren are either unaware of the need or simply not concerned enough to study for themselves and strive to "do Bible things in Bible ways"].