The Lord’s Supper: Its Role in Discipline and Judgment

Posted by on Oct 5, 2008 in Rev. Serven

The Lord’s Supper is a privilege, not a right. Explanation of the keys of the kingdom. Matthew 18. Goal of Church Discipline–repentance and restoration. Christ did not shun or reject the Gentiles and tax collectors. He reaches out to them, to bring the gospel to bear in their lives, all the while not excusing their sinfulness. Marks of the true church. Jonathan Edwards and the Lord’s Supper.

Text: Matthew 16:19, 18:17-20

What role does the Lord’s Supper play in discipline and judgment? It’s very simple—exclusion from the Lord’s Supper is a tool the Lord gives to his church to encourage godly behavior. The State utilizes the sword to enforce civil law (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17), and the Family utilizes the rod to enforce parental authority (cf. Prov. 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15, 17). Why then should it surprise us that the Lord has instructed his Church to utilize the keys of the kingdom to enforce proper Christian behavior (cf. Matt. 16:19, 18:17-20)? The Larger Catechism summarizes the point in this way,

    Q. 173: May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s Supper, be kept from it?
    A.: Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s Supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ hath left in His church, until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.

The Reformers rightly understood that participation in the Lord’s Supper is a privilege given to Christians within the context of the local church assembly. The church officers—and not just one man—have the solemn responsibility to exercise church discipline. It is within the local church that the Christian is held responsible for his sinful behavior and urged to repent. Moreover, it must be remembered that the goal of church discipline is reconciliation and restoration. Yet, if the unrepentant Christian refuses correction then it is right for the Church to exercise discipline and exclude him from the Lord’s Table.