Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Who Would Jesus Invite to the Supper?

When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper he invited only the Twelve. He had expressed a desire to eat the Passover with His closest followers one last time before His death, and Passover was essentially a family meal. So it makes sense that He included this small, intimate group. In our own time it is not uncommon for some to theorize about who Jesus would invite to the Supper in our current celebrations, the intended result being to show that common restrictions to the meal stemming from fellowship are inappropriate. After all, Jesus was all-inclusive, right? How could He willingly exclude any who professed a belief in Him?

Answering the question of "Who would Jesus invite?" thankfully is taken care of in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. We can trust, I believe, that Paul knew the mind of Christ on this matter, so we need not conjecture on this issue in a vacuum. Using 1 Corinthians as a template for our inquiry, we can deduce the following:
1.) Paul was concerned about divisions in the Church and looked for unity of confession and practice. He addressed the party spirit in Corinth that separated people into groups, some of which were counter to Christ (chapters 1 & 3).
2.) Paul was concerned about the morality and spiritual life of the members and whether they were repentant (chapters 5, 6, 7). His call for discipline on the unrepentant is clear and firm.
3.) Paul was concerned about fidelity to the Faith and the inappropriateness of attempting to serve more than one religious conviction (chapter 10).
4.) Paul was clear about the real presence of Christ in the Supper and the need for those who communed to recognize and believe this (10:16; 11:29).
5.) Paul understood the need to come to the Supper with a truly repentant heart (11:28).
6.) Paul recognized that the church is a body where equal concern for all was important (chapter 12).
7.) Paul understood that doctrine is important and that the various teachings of the church are related. For example, he understood that a denial of the Resurrection of the dead was ultimately a denial of Jesus (chapter 15.)

Given these brief observations, what might Paul then say to the question of "Who would Jesus invite to the Supper?"?

He would stress, as we have long done so, that those who commune together should come with a true faith in Christ, a clear understanding of His real presence, a repentant heart, and unified in a common confession. Would Jesus be pleased to see those who came to the Supper kneeling together with an indifference to the Truth? One would hardly think so, yet many do. In fact, there exists a kind of "Gospel reductionism," of sorts, when it comes to the Supper. Belief in Jesus is necessary, some might say, but beyond that we shouldn't be too particular. Baptismal regeneration? Infant faith? Sanctity of the life of the unborn? Are such issues critically related to true faith in Jesus? Or are they incidental?

All doctrines of the Bible are ultimately related to Christ. Take one apart and you end up denying something about the truth of Christ. Yet herein lies a stumbling block for the wider world of Christendom today. And until that is solved, issues of fellowship will be problematic and divisive and the question of "Who would Jesus invite to the Supper?" will continue to generate a variety of different and competing answers.

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