Finding Grace in the Lord's Supper

As we head into worship this Sunday I wanted to encourage those of us who will be sharing in the Lord's Supper together. It is easy to work through the motions of this ordinance with little expectation of spiritual benefit. To help us look ahead to the Lord's Supper I want to share some thoughts from Bishop J.C. Ryle. Below are some quotes and summaries from Ryle's Practical Religion.

Let us settle it firmly in our minds — that the Lord's Supper was not given to be a means either of justification or of conversion. It was never meant to give grace — where there is no grace already; or to provide pardon — when pardon is not already enjoyed. It cannot possibly provide what is lacking, with the absence of repentance to God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an ordinance for the penitent, not for the impenitent; for the believing, not for the unbelieving; for the converted, not for the unconverted.


The simplest statement of the benefit which a truehearted communicant may expect to receive from the Lord's Supper, is the strengthening and refreshing of our souls — clearer views of Christ and His atonement, clearer views of all the offices which Christ fills, as our Mediator and Advocate, clearer views of the complete redemption Christ has obtained for us by His substituted death on the cross, clearer views of our full and perfect acceptance in Christ before God, fresh reasons for deep repentance for sin, fresh reasons for lively faith — these are among the leading returns which a believer may confidently expect to get from his attendance at the Lord's Table. He who eats the bread and drinks the wine in a right spirit — will find himself drawn into closer communion with Christ, and will feel to know Him more, and understand Him better.

J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion

Bishop Ryle then goes on to explain that those receive the Supper in faith can expect 4 effects upon the soul.

The Lord's Supper Humbles

The bread and the cup, representing the death of our Savior, remind us for the heinousness of our sin, for nothing other than the death of the Son of God could atone for it. "Never should we be so "clothed with humility," as when we receive the Lord's Supper," for here we see both out sin and God's love.

The Lord's Supper Cheers

In these "emblems" we are reminded how perfect and full our redemption is. Ryle says, "They press on us the mighty truth — that believing on Christ, we have nothing to fear, because a sufficient payment has been made for our debt." When we take the Lord's Supper we are encouraged to know that through Christ's death for us we are fully reconciled to God.

The Lord's Supper Sanctifies

This sacred tradition given to us by Jesus is truly a means of grace, for it is a preaching of the gospel. When we receive it by faith we are resting in grace, not our effort, but we are also stirred to follow and obey. For Christ died for us "to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." (Titus 2:14 ESV)

The Lord's Supper Restrains

The believer who receives the bread and the cup are reminded of the the bigness of our salvation, and the serious nature of the Christian life. Christ laid down his body to save sinners, and by that sacrifice we are made saints. Therefore we ought to glorify God in our bodies.  "The man that goes regularly and intelligently to the Lord's Table finds it increasingly hard to yield to sin and conform to the world."

We praise God for this sacred tradition, this gift to the church, where we have the gospel preached to us in elements, not words. Christian, go to the table this weekend believing the promises of God in Jesus, repenting of your sin, expecting grace to overflow in your life.

You would do well to read more Ryle. You can pick up Practical Religion and Holiness (one of my favorite books) at WTSBooks.