Self-Examination and the Lord’s Supper

To celebrate the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner, so that we can expect the blessing of the Lord, it is necessary to examine ourselves. It is of the utmost importance that we take the examination of ourselves seriously, The apostle Paul found occasion to impress this upon the minds of the members of the congregation at Corinth. He wrote: “Let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup.” He found it necessary to admonish the congregation, because, though there were serious sins prevailing in the church, communion was held without doing anything about them. The apostle warns that it is possible to partake of the broken bread and the poured out wine unto judgment.

Because we are prone to wander from the ways of the Lord, the admonition to examine ourselves is always in order. And especially in our day, we should pay attention to it. It is well known that many in our time take their religion for granted. There is a general lack of sin-consciousness. Of course, everyone in the church is ready to admit that he or she is far from perfect. There are, however, many who know little or nothing about Paul’s experience when he lays his burdened soul bare in the words: “Wretched man that I amI who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?” There is today a spirit of self-righteousness, which is far removed from the prayer of the publican: “God, be thou merciful to me, a sinner.”

To celebrate the Lord’s Supper it is necessary to be deeply conscious of our sin and accursedness. Looking upon ourselves and within ourselves, in the light of God’s commandments, we should “abhor ourselves and humble ourselves before God.” This is strong language and, sad to say, unacceptable to many who confess Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Yet without the frank acknowledgment of our sin and accursedness and the self-abhorrence of which our Form for Communion speaks, we cannot properly celebrate the Lord’s Supper.


The Lord’s Supper is a reminder of our sin and accursedness, of God’s wrath and justice. The joy of salvation, which prompts us to celebrate, is rooted in the knowledge of that which made salvation necessary and in an understanding of the manner in which it was accomplished.

To come to the Lord’s Supper and receive a blessing it is necessary that we come as sinners. This means far more than the acknowledgment that we are not perfect and often do things which we ought not to do. There are very few people who are not willing to say this about themselves. As a matter of fact, I do not remember that I ever met anyone who was not willing to admit that he made mistakes and often did the wrong thing.

It is not sufficient to acknowledge that we commit sin; we must know ourselves as being sinful. We must be able to repeat the words of the psalmist in application to ourselves: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We should recognize the fact that the seeds of all sins are found in us. This is indeed very difficult to do. We are not inclined to acknowledge our sinful nature. It is almost impossible for us to say with the apostle Paul: “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” Lips can easily form these words; but to be convinced of this so deeply that we are filled with abhorrence and loathing when we study ourselves is something else. It is this we should seek. Our soul should not cease to be filled with amazement that the holy and righteous God is willing to stoop down to one who is so utterly unclean.

This feeling of amazement should increase in the realization that God is a consuming fire over against sin. When we come to the table of the Lord we cannot come as one who, though characterized by a great deal of imperfection, nevertheless can also boast of having done all manner of good things. The true self-examination does not consist in putting our sins on one side of the balance and all the good we can find on the other side. We should come in the knowledge and with the conviction that in ourselves we are accursed by God, the Judge of heaven and earth, and that his judgment is right.

In no other way can we approach the table of the Lord rightly. The cross speaks first of all of God’s wrath and of his justice. It is this which needs to be emphasized today. Man is prone to find excuse for his sins and sinfulness. We must learn that there is no excuse for sin in any way.

Only then will we appreciate our deliverance from the curse of God. This leads us to the second part of the true self-examination in which we should engage before we come to the table of the Lord. We must search our hearts whether we truly believe that God, for the sake of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, has forgiven us all our sins. Again, let us be on our guard and not imagine that it is easy to believe this. This teaching of the Scriptures, that the only way in which salvation can come to us is by means of a Substitute, who takes our place before the judgment-seat of God, is not pleasing to our sinful nature. We are always inclined. to find at least some of the reason for our salvation in ourselves. Acknowledging that we, if left to ourselves, would have perished, we must confess that our righteousness is not our own; that it is the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us freely by God, which enables us to have fellowship with God as the objects of His favor. It is in this faith that we find freedom for celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

The confession that Jesus Christ was “wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed,” leads us to the final area of investigation. We should search our hearts and lives and determine whether we are truly thankful for this salvation which God has provided in his Son, our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Again let us not say to ourselves that such gratitude is a matter of course. The parable of the ten lepers ought to be a warning to us. Ten lepers were healed, and you may be sure that they were all happy; but the sad fact was that only one of the ten was thankful There is only one way to test and measure our thankfulness, namely, by our readiness and eagerness to heed all the commandments of God and to live a life of true obedience to him.

It is well known that we live in a lawless age. There is a revolt against all authority. You can find it in the spheres of education, polities, labor, art, and many others. This need not surprise us. Man is at heart a rebel. Only the working of the Holy Spirit can change him. We must inquire whether this change has come into our own life. Jesus has emphasized this: if ye love me, ye will keep my commandments.” The question is never what we think is right or wrong; never what the verdict is of public opinion. The rule for our conduct should always and ever be: What does God say? And the will of God should be the rule of our life not as a burden, but as giving us welcome opportunity to show God that we love him, and that we find a delight in his law, because we want to please him.