Thursday, March 16, 2006

Eating and Drinking Unworthily

In perhaps the ultimate example of the modern evangelical church forgetting about the purpose of the worship service, Christianity Today has republished an article by Jack Hayford. He is writing about including non-Christians in the worship service.

He writes at length about making the non-believer feel welcome and helping him to interact within the service. He then moves into providing ways for non-Christians to "commit." Here is where he gets on incredibly shaky ground, writing:

A less traditional means we use to encourage commitment is the Lord's Supper. We invite all the people to gather around the Lord's Table and partake in small groups. We believe it is the Lord's Table we are invited to, the Lord is doing the inviting, and no one is excluded. To us that means unbelievers are invited, as well.

We explain clearly, of course, what we are doing, and what an unbeliever is doing by partaking: making a commitment to Christ. We stress the gravity of the event to reflect the serious nature of faith in Christ.

At the same time, we want people to know that they are welcome. For example, I might say, "If you are visiting with us today, you are not only welcome to participate, you are urged to. If you were at my house and it came dinnertime, I wouldn't leave you sitting in the other room while I went to the dining room. And if you said, 'Well, I'm not really hungry,' I'd say, 'Come in and sit with us anyway.' Now, as we come to the Lord's Table, join us. And when the bread is served, take a portion."

After everyone is served, I continue, "Everyone here who knows the Lord Jesus might thank him for " and here I'll encourage them to thank God for something that relates to the morning's teaching. "If you've never received Christ," I continue, "you might say, 'God, I know I can't earn salvation by partaking of this. But in receiving this, I'm telling you I'm opening myself to your life.' " If they are not ready to take that important step and partake of Communion, they are encouraged to sit with us at the table while we partake.

So the Lord's Supper is not only a significant time for the church body, we also use it as a way to incorporate non-Christians into the service, and some into the body.

We recognize using Communion as an evangelistic opportunity troubles many people, and for understandable reasons. We're not arguing that every church should do it, or that it is necessary for churches that want to include unbelievers in their services. But it is one of the ways we incorporate unbelievers into our service.

It is the Lord's Table and no one is excluded? That is incorrect. It is disfellowship from the table that is the focus of church discipline. We don't invite those who have been excommunicated. If we don't invite Christians who are living like the world, why would we invite the world?

Hayford then says that they explain to the non-Christian who partakes exactly what he is doing in partaking: making a commitment to Christ. WOW! So a person who is dead in his sin and totally separated from God can "make a committment" to God by eating bread and drinking wine. He goes on to say later that this can't save but it is nonetheless a very misleading exercise to allow people to think they are making some spiritual advance in the kingdom by this ritual.

He even leads the sinner to say "I am opening myself to your life." What exactly does that mean? Is this what he means by "making a commitment?" Does this equal conversion? What of repentance, sin, wrath, hell? The two are not equivalent!

He uses the faulty analogy of using good manners towards people dining in his home. There is a lot of difference between Hayford's table and Hayford's meal and the Lord's table and the Lord's meal. Besides, his analogy is false. It is not Jack's table, it is the Lord's. A better analogy is for Hayford to come to my house and become dissatisfied with my guest list and then to go and invite whomever HE wants to MY party. The Lord determines who sits at the table, not us.

There is so much here that my mind can't type fast enough. The Bible tells us that light has no fellowship with darkness. Eating together (breaking bread) is a biblical image of fellowship. The Bible also says to not associate (or even eat with) a person who calls himself a Christian but lives like the world (I Cor 5:9-12). So, why is it acceptable to eat the Lord's Supper with one who openly proclaims his affiliation with the world due to his non-acceptance of the gospel? Paul says that God judges the one "outside the church" but that is different from inviting to the table.

Hayford then makes a very strange comment, writing that "the Lord's Supper is not only a significant time for the church body, we also use it as a way to incorporate non-Christians into the service and some into the body." They incorporate non-Christian into the Body of Christ?

At least he recognizes that "many" are "troubled" by this idea. For good reason! Paul writes in I Corinthians 11:

27Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

Can an unbeliever judge himself rightly? If he could, he would realize immediately his need for salvation through Christ alone? The fact that he cannot recognize that fact is convinving fact that this practice of Hayford's church is in error.

Furthermore, if it is dangerous (eating and drinking DAMNATION) for the believer, how much more dangerous is it for the person who is not regenerated and still has the old stony heart encased inside the old self? How can someone who does not believe that the Messiah died and rose again and is coming again take part in a service that is expressly designed for that very purpose?

There are two ordinances the Lord instituted for the Church: the Lord's Supper and baptism. Is baptism next? As another has written elsewhere, I could say, "When you come to my house and we decide to go swimming, I'm not going to ask you to sit by the pool and watch us have fun."

This is a simple case of doing everything we can to center our services on man. The worship service is not supposed to be about us. It most certainly is not about the lost. It is all about God. To build our worship service around the hope that the lost individual is comfortable and can participate with us in worship is to attempt to do the impossible: a lost man can not and will not worship the Holy God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

1 comment:

Jim Pemberton said...

The Lord's Supper was instituted by Christ at Passover and the Passover lamb is recognized as a type of Christ (albeit not according to STRICT hermeneutical rules used to determine "types of Christ"). The Lord's Supper proclaiming the death of Christ is derived from the account of masses of Hebrew slaves huddled behind closed blood-stained doors gulping down a lamb that had been slain according to precise instructions given by Moses. It is necessarily exclusive.

Furthermore, if the Lord's Supper is evengelistic, then the message is one given by the faithful to the non-believer. The message is not the bread and the wine, but the body and blood of Christ - and what is the body and blood of Christ, but His Church. Therefore, it is not a message that can be told by an unbeliever and I suggest that the message is distorted when an unbeliever partakes of it, because the unbeliever has no part in the body of Christ.