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Question 81. For whom is the Lord’s supper instituted?

Answer. For those who are truly sorrowful for their sins, and yet trust that these are forgiven them for the sake of Christ; and that their remaining infirmities are covered by his passion and death; and who also earnestly desire to have their faith more and more strengthened, and their lives more holy; but hypocrites, and such as turn not to God with sincere hearts, eat and drink judgment to themselves.



There are three things to be explained in the exposition of this Question:

  1. For whom has the Lord’s Supper been Instituted?

  2. What do the wicked receive, if they come to this Supper?

  3. What is the lawful use of the Supper?



The questions who ought to come, and who ought to be admitted to the Supper, are distinct and different. The former speaks of the duty of communicants; the latter of the duty of the church and ministers. The former is more restricted; the latter is broader, and more general: for, as touching the former, none but the godly ought to come to the Supper; whilst, as it respects the latter, not only the godly, but hypocrites also, who are not known to be such, are to be admitted by the church. Hence all that ought to come, ought also to be admitted; but not all who ought to be admitted, ought to come: but only those, 1. Who acknowledge their sins, and are truly sorrowful for them. 2. Who trust that their sins are forgiven them by and for the sake of Christ. 8. Who earnestly desire to have their faith more and more strengthened, and their lives more holy: that is, those only ought to come to the Lord’s supper, and they alone are worthy guests of Christ, who live in true faith and repentance. It is in these things that a true examination, in order to a profitable approach to the holy Supper, consists. Paul speaks of this, when he says, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” (2 Cor. 11:28.) To examine one s self is to see if we have faith and repentance, as it is said, “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith, and whether Christ is in you.” But how shall a man know that he possesses these things? 1. By having confidence in God, and peace of conscience. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” “Hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us.” (Rom. 5:1, 5.) 2. From the effects of a true faith, or from the beginning of a true obedience, being both internal and external, and from a sincere desire and purpose to obey all the commandments of God. Those who have the consciousness that they possess those things; or, to express it in other words, those who have faith and repentance, not only in possibility, but actually, ought to come to, and partake of, the Lord’s supper. Infants are not capable of coming to the Lord’s supper, because they do not possess faith actually, but only potentially and by inclination. But here actual faith is required, which includes a certain knowledge of what God has revealed, and an assured confidence in Christ; it also requires the commencement of a new obedience, and purpose to live godly; and also an examination of ourselves, with a commemoration of the Lord’s death.

Hypocrites, and such as have no true faith and repentance, ought not to come to the Lord’s supper, 1. Because the sacraments were instituted merely for the faithful, and such as turn to God with sincere hearts, that they might seal unto them the promise of the gospel, and confirm their faith. The word is common both to the converted and the unconverted.  It is preached to those who are converted that they may be confirmed thereby; and to the unconverted that they may be converted. The sacraments, however, belong to the faithful alone; and as to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, Christ instituted it in the presence of his disciples alone, as he said, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you.” (Luke 22:15.) We, therefore, conclude from the nature and subject of sacraments as follows: What God has instituted for his household and children, that hypocrites and aliens from the church ought not to receive. 2. Paul forbids hypocrites and all wicked persons to come to the Lord’s table, in words which admit of no controversy, when he commands, “That every one examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.” (1 Cor. 11:28.) 3. Because, when hypocrites and such as turn not to God with sincere hearts come to the Lord’s table, they eat and drink judgment to themselves, and are guilty of the body and blood of Christ. “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (1 Cor. 11:29.) 4. To these considerations we may yet add the general testimony of Scripture, which forbids unbelievers to come to the Lord’s supper, and condemns the use of the sacraments on the part of those who are unconverted.  “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother.” “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man.” “If thou be a breaker of the law thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.” (Matt. 5:24. Is. 66:3. Rom. 2:25.)

Obj. But God commands all to observe the sacraments, and Christ says, “Take, drink ye all of this.” Therefore, the ungodly do not sin by coming to the Lord’s table. Ans. We reply to the antecedent that God does, indeed, command all to observe the sacraments; but then he requires that they be used lawfully, to do which there must be faith and repentance.  God commands all to be baptized, and to observe the supper: but he also commands them to repent and believe. “Repent and be baptized.” “Let a man examine himself.” (Acts 2:38. 1 Cor. 11:28.)

Obj. 2. We are all unworthy. Therefore, none ought to come to the Lord’s table. Ans. We reply to the antecedent, that we are all unworthy by nature, and in ourselves; but we are made worthy by the grace of Christ, if we come with faith and a good conscience. Augustin says: “Come with boldness; it is bread and not poison .” No one ought, therefore, to absent himself because of his unworthiness, seeing that all who come with faith and penitence are counted worthy guests. “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembeleth at my word.” (Is. 66:2.)

Obj. 3. Those who keep from profaning the supper act properly. Those now who stay away from the Lord’s table on account of being at enmity with some one, and for other sins, keep from profaning the supper. There fore, their conduct is such as is right and proper. Ans. We reply to the major proposition by making a distinction: Those who keep from profaning the Lord’s table act properly, if they keep from it in such a way as they ought, viz: by repenting of those sins which render them unworthy; but they act unwisely and wickedly, who, when they absent themselves from the Lord’s table, continue in sin, hypocrisy, and a state of enmity with their neighbor, for they add sin to sin, and contempt to profanation. We must not do evil, that good may come.



Hypocrites, and such as turn not to God with sincere hearts coming to the Lord’s supper, receive not the things signified, viz: the body and blood of Christ, but the naked signs of bread and wine, and these to their condemnation. This is proven,

1. From the definition of eating. To eat Christ is to be made a partaker of the substance, merit, efficacy and of all the benefits of Christ, as it is said, “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him; even he shall live by me.” (John 6:56, 57.) But the wicked and unbelieving are not made partakers of Christ. Therefore, they do not eat Christ.

2. From the manner and means of eating. Christ’s body is eaten by faith alone, because we receive him with all his benefits by faith only.  The body of Christ is the food of the soul and not of the belly, of the heart and not of the mouth, as it is correctly expressed in Luther's catechism: “These words, FOR YOU, require believing hearts.”” But the ungodly and hypocrites have no faith. Therefore, they do not receive the body of Christ.

3. Christ offers his body in the supper, to be eaten by them alone for whom he offered himself upon the cross. But he offered himself upon the cross only for those that believe, and not for the ungodly or for hypocrites.  “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.” “This is my body which is given for you.” (John 17:9. Luke 22:19.)

4. The body of Christ is the vivifying bread, which, whosoever receives, receives life at the same time; for Christ’s Spirit is not separate from his body. “He that eateth my flesh dwelleth in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56.) But the ungodly in receiving the signs do not receive life.  Therefore, they receive the signs without the things signified.

5. The ungodly eat and drink judgment to themselves. Therefore, they do not eat and drink the body and blood of Christ. This argument is of force according to the rule of contraries. For to eat judgment to themselves is, through unbelief and abuse of the sacraments, to be driven from Christ and separated from him and all his benefits; or, it is grievously to offend God by abusing the sacraments by receiving them without faith and repentance, and so to bring upon themselves temporal and eternal punishment if they do not repent. To eat Christ, on the contrary, is to be made a partaker of Christ and of all his benefits by faith; for no one can eat Christ, and yet not be made at the same time a partaker of his merit, efficacy and benefits. Hence, no one can at the same time eat Christ, and also condemnation to himself.

6. When Paul says, 1 Cor. 10:21, “Ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils,” he affirms that there is something in the Lord’s supper of which the ungodly cannot partake. But they do partake of the signs of bread and wine at the Lord’s table. Therefore, he excludes them from a participation in the body and blood of Christ, the things signified in the supper. To this it is objected that when the Apostle says ye cannot, he means ye cannot partake with a good conscience, and unto salvation. But this is a false gloss; because the Apostle does not reason from what is unprofitable, but from what is impossible. Ye ought not to partake with them that sacrifice to idols. Why? Because this is to partake with devils. But it is impossible that ye should at the same time be partakers of the Lord’s table and of the table of devils; because it is impossible to serve two masters at the same time, as Christ says, “No man can serve two masters. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” (Matt.  6:24.) It is in the same sense that the Apostle here says, “Ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.”

7. Christ says, (Matt. 15:26,) “It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to dogs.” The body of Christ is the children s bread, that is, it is the bread of the faithful. Therefore Christ does not cast his body to dogs, meaning the wicked, contrary to his own doctrine. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine,” &c. (Matt. 7:6.)

8. From the authority of the Fathers, who taught the same thing in reference to this subject. See Augustin lib. 21, cap. 25, de civit. Dei., and in Johan. tract. 26, arid 59, and in sent. Prosper! cap. 3, 39. Ambrose says of the Supper: “Although the sacraments suffer themselves to be taken or handled by those who are unworthy; yet those persons cannot be partakers of the Spirit , whose unbelief or unworthiness contradicts so great holiness” And a little farther on he says: “And as for those who are present at these sacred mysteries with cold hearts and souls, and who even partake of these gifts, they do indeed lick the rock, but they neither suck any honey or oil from it; because they are not enlivened by any sweetness of charity, nor by the sanctity of the Holy Spirit: they neither judge themselves, nor make any distinction in regard to the sacraments, but use these holy gifts without any reverence, as if they were common food, and impudently push themselves to the Lord’s table with unclean garments, for whom it had been better if they had been cast into the sea with a mill-stone tied about their neck, than to receive with their unclean consciences one morsel at the hands of the Lord, who even to this day creates, sanctifies, blesses and distributes to godly receivers his most true and holy body”

The reasons, on account of which unbelievers, and such as are ungodly bring upon themselves condemnation by eating and drinking, are, 1. Be cause they profane the signs, and by consequence the thing signified, by taking to themselves those things which were not instituted for them, but for the disciples of Christ alone. 2. Because they profane the covenant of God, by taking to themselves the signs of the covenant. They desire to appear in covenant with God, when in fact they are in league with the devil and not with God, whom they endeavor, as far as they can, to make the Father of the wicked. 3. Because they do not discern the Lord’s body, and trample his blood under their feet. God does, indeed, offer his benefits to them, but they do not receive them by faith, and so mock God, whilst they profess to receive the benefits of Christ, inasmuch as they neither do, nor will any thing less, and thus they add this new offence to their other sins. 4. Because they condemn themselves by their own judgment; for in coming to the Lord’s table they profess that they approve of this doc trine, and that they believe that there is no salvation out of Christ. And yet, in the meanwhile, they are conscious that they are hypocrites, and so condemn themselves.

Those, therefore, who argue that if the ungodly eat to themselves condemnation, they must eat the body of Christ, reason falsely. Yea, it may be said that the contrary is rather true; for if they eat to themselves condemnation, they do not eat the body of Christ. For to eat Christ and to eat condemnation are contraries, which cannot hold true at the same time.  But, say our opponents, they eat unworthily; therefore they nevertheless eat. We grant that they do indeed eat; but they merely eat bread, and not the body of Christ; for it is expressly said, Whosoever shall eat this bread unworthily. But, say they again, Christ is not only a saviour, but also a judge; to which we reply, that he is not a judge of those by whom he is eaten, but of those by whom he is despised; for it is said of them that eat, “He that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” (John 6:57.) And of those that despise Christ, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:23.) As the gospel is the savour of life unto life when it is believed, and is the savour of death unto death when it is despised, so Christ, when he is eaten, quickeneth, and when he is despised, judgeth.  Christ now is despised, when he is offered to the unbelieving in the word and sacraments, and is rejected by their unbelief. But it is still further objected: The ungodly are guilty of the body of Christ; and therefore must eat it. But the cause of their guilt is not the eating of Christ, but the eating of the bread without Christ; because it is said, Whosoever shall eat of this bread unworthily, &c. An abuse of the sign is a contempt cast upon Christ himself; as an injury done to the charter or seal of a king is an injury done to the king himself, and is an offence against his injured majesty. But how, it is asked, can the ungodly eat judgment to them selves, and be guilty, when it is a good work to receive the sacraments?  We reply, that the receiving of the sacraments is in itself a good work, and when it is accompanied with the true and lawful use thereof; otherwise it is a work which God does not command, but forbids, as he himself says: “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man,” &c. (Is. 66:3.) So Paul says: “This is not to eat the Lord’s supper,” &c. “If thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.” (1 Cor. 11:20. Rom. 2:25.) If this were not true, we might thus conclude: The receiving of the body of Christ is a good work; therefore the ungodly cannot by this receiving be guilty of the body of Christ.



The lawful use of the Supper is, when the faithful receive in the church the bread and cup of the Lord, and show his death, so that this receiving may be a pledge of their union with Christ, and an application of the whole benefit of our redemption and salvation. It consists in these three things:

1. In retaining and observing the rites and ceremonies instituted by Christ. This, too, must be done, not ludicrously, nor by one person privately, but in a regular assembly of the church, whether great or small.  The rites which Christ has instituted are, that the Lord’s bread be broken, distributed and received, and the Lord’s cup be given to all the communicants, in remembrance of his death. 2. When the rites are observed by those persons for whom they were instituted by Christ; that is, when the bread and wine are received by those whom Christ designed should receive them; which persons are not his enemies, but his disciples the faithful. The observance of these rites without faith and repentance, is not the use, but the abuse of them. 8. When the supper is received, and the whole transaction is directed to the end for which it was instituted by Christ, viz: in remembrance of the Lord’s death, which is for the confirmation of our faith, and the rendering of true gratitude.


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