There is great danger in fencing the table and distributing the elements in an unworthy manner…
Tomorrow Senior Pastor David Hall is scheduled to preach a sermon titled “Eden and Communion” at Midway Presbyterian Church where his advance sermon notes in the bulletin express the following principle “In Communion as in Eden, God erects a wall to keep us from holy places where we should not be. He loves us enough to wall some things off.”
Such a sermon, as well as taking the sacrament of Communion itself, must be understood in the context of Midway’s current climate of upheaval and the extraordinarily blatant unrepentant nature of Senior Pastor David Hall and his Session that are scheduled to distribute the elements tomorrow during worship. The Midway Guardian warns that given the lack of public repentance for the false charges that they brought, and were overturned, against their brother Ruling Elder Phil Dudt should preclude their participation in the sacrament.
As we will briefly outline below, the Scripture warns us against partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.
Eating and Drinking Judgement
The Lord’s Supper is not for everyone. This is a Biblical truth that the PCA has always highlighted as important. There are two groups in particular that should be discouraged from partaking in this sacrament: the unconverted and the unrepentant. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the latter.
The sacrament of holy Communion is for believers. And yet, the admonition of I Corinthians 11 to Christians is sobering: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”
The true Christian lives a life of constant internal reflection and examination. In this way, the call to forgive and be forgiven can be at the forefront of the believer’s awareness. Quite apparently, the leadership of Midway Presbyterian Church, under Senior Pastor David Hall’s direction, are choosing to deny the grace of repentance and have instead hardened their hearts. They have to date refused to acknowledge their grave sin of bringing false charges against their brother Ruling Elder Phil Dudt, their misuse of their authority as judges in Christ’s court, and in so doing have harbored bitterness toward the Godly counsel and direction of their brethren on the Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA which found their charges unbiblical. The Scripture is clear that those who do not reconcile with others, harbor an unrepentant attitude in their hearts, and neglect the grace of forgiveness should refrain from participating in the Lord’s Supper – lest they eat and drink in a manner that calls forth the discipline of God upon themselves as I Corinthians warns above.
The unrepentant and hardened heart is a condition that Jesus does not desire for His people. Jesus delights to forgive us (Micah 7:18), and so also delights when we forgive others.
Approaching the Lord’s Table in an Unworthy Manner
The Lord’s Supper is for sinners, but it is not for unrepentant sinners. The unrepentant sinner partakes of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. The Apostle Paul warns in I Corinthians 10 that we “cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” While the Midway Guardian in no way suggests that the Midway Session is participating in the meals of pagan ceremony like the Corinthians Paul is addressing, but we are very much highlighting the Scriptural principle expressed: the Corinthians in so doing were refusing to turn away from their sin and yet still approached the Lord’s Table.
This stubborn unrepentant behavior is the exact place in which the Midway Session finds itself. Will Senior Pastor David Hall and his Session succumb to the temptation to follow their stubborn and hard hearts and be unworthy partakers of the sacrament of Communion tomorrow? Or will they, before approaching the Lord’s table, humble themselves, seek the forgiveness of Ruling Elder Phil Dudt and their congregation, fall before the Holy God who delights in forgiveness and in so doing exhibit the atonement that the sacrament commemorates?
Anything less would be to eat and drink condemnation and judgment unto themselves. While The Midway Guardian disagrees sharply with David Hall and his Session, we do not wish for the consequences of the stern warning of I Corinthians regarding approaching Christ’s table in an unworthy manner to befall them.
As David Hall has written himself “In Communion as in Eden, God erects a wall to keep us from holy places where we should not be. He loves us enough to wall some things off” We love David Hall and his Session enough to remind them of the Lord’s warning regarding improperly approaching His table.
“If, however, a man comes to the Lord’s Table with a load of sin without intending to repent of his sins, he ought not to receive it. If you have no purpose of repentance, you lose the purpose of the sacrament. Everyone, therefore, who goes to the sacrament must examine the purpose he has in his heart“R.A. Finlayson: Reformed Theological Writings