As we've been going through what the Bible teaches us about the Lord's Supper, a lot of questions have come up, so I wanted to try to address many of those questions in a series of posts.
What are the benefits of receiving the Lord's Supper?
- Forgiveness of Sins
The chief benefit of receiving the Lord's Supper is receiving the forgiveness of sins, as Jesus said "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28).
But didn't we already receive forgiveness in baptism? And in the service itself, don't we receive forgiveness through the absolution? So, why do we need to receive forgiveness again?
The very life of a Christian is one of repentance. One reason God has given these three ways by which He delivers forgiveness so that we can be assured repeatedly of His forgiveness. We can remember that He claimed us, washed us, and made us His own in Holy Baptism. We can hear the words of forgiveness spoken to us and know that our sins are forgiven. And we can receive the Lord's Supper and know for certain that Christ's forgiveness has been delivered to us.
Our greatest need is forgiveness of sins and through these means God delivers exactly that to us.
Another benefit of receiving the Lord's Supper is for the Remembrance of the death of Christ, as Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). Just because some Christians see only a memorial meal in the Lord's Supper does not mean that we should ignore this important aspect of the Supper. Together, we remember what Jesus has done for us, even as he conveys the benefits of his death and resurrection to us in his meal (Robert Kolb, The Christian Faith, p. 238).
In much the same way that the Israelites were to celebrate the Passover as a remembrance of God delivering them from slavery in Egypt, we too celebrate being set free from slavery...slavery to sin... through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
- Fellowship in Christ and Reception of Christ When we receive the Lord's Supper, we are co-participants in the body and blood of Christ. So when we receive the Lord's Supper, we receive the very body and blood of Jesus that was given and shed for us.
As St. Paul wrote, The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
- Unity with Other BelieversIn the Lord's Supper we are co-participants with everyone else who receives the Lord's Supper. We are sharing in true fellowship in Christ.
When you come to the Lord's Supper you are confessing that you share a common savior and that you share a common confession with the others who are also receiving the Lord's Supper at that altar. Paul speaks of this idea of "fellowship" in 1 Corinthians 10 as you can see in the illustration below.
This is a great encouragement to us to seek to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters in Christ and to ensure that what is being taught and practiced at that church is in line with the Word of God.
- A Public Witness
In celebrating the Lord's Supper we are proclaiming to everyone gathered and to the world that we believe that Christ has given His life as our Savior and that He will come again on the Last Day. 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. (1 Corinthians 11:26-27)
- Abiding in Christ
In the Lord's Supper we receive the body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine and are therefore doing exactly what Jesus indicated we should do when He said,
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
- (John 15:4-6)
- Receiving the Bread of Life
Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35). When we receive the Lord's Supper we receive that bread of life because we receive Jesus. And as we receive the bread of life, we receive the benefits won for us by Jesus on the cross; namely life and salvation.
I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." (John 6:48-51)
- Anticipating the Heavenly Banquet
In receiving the Lord's Supper we have "a foretaste of the feast to come." That is to say, we are anticipating the heavenly banquet feast and able to look forward to the great things God has in store for us in the resurrection as we dwell in His presence for eternity.
- We Remember Those Who Have Died and Are With Christ
There is only one church and it is made up of all believers in Christ from all times and all places, including those who have died and whose souls are with Christ. When we receive the Lord's Supper and Christ comes to us in, with, and under the bread and the wine, we can remember that those who have died and are with Christ are in His presence as well. As we participate in Christ in receiving the elements, they are with Christ and in His presence. Therefore through Christ, we are still joined together with them.
- Jesus Makes Himself KnownAfter Jesus resurrection, He appeared to two of His disciples, yet the didn't know that it was Him. Not until Jesus does the same thing He had done on Maundy Thursday (blessing and breaking the bread) do they recognize Him. Jesus was teaching His disciples that He is found in the Lord's Supper.
When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. (Luke 24:30-31)