Come, eat and drink (LD 30 q&a 81-82)


The Lord’s Supper is a spiritual banquet. Our host is the Lord himself. The food and drink on the table are the communion with Jesus himself and his sacrifice on the cross. There he gives us strength for our spiritual life and grows our faith. We now consider the guests at the table. In the words of the catechism (q&a 81): Who are to come to the table of the Lord?

In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus told a story about a wedding feast. In this story we learn, on one hand, about an extremely generous invitation. “Go to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find,” says the host; and the servants went out and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good (v. 9-10). On the other hand, one of the guests ends up being thrown out because he has no proper wedding clothes (v. 11-12). In this story, Jesus teaches us how generous God is in inviting us to his salvation; but also that we must come with the proper attitude. This is true for salvation in general, as well as for the Lord’s Supper, which is a sacrament and sign of that salvation.

Come, eat and drink

1. A sinners’ table
2. A Christian table
3. A holy table

A sinners’ table

The Bible tells us that God saves sinners, and does so generously. Even in prophecies full of judgment and warning, he kept inviting his people to repent and be saved. One wonderful example is Isaiah 55:1ff:

Come, everyone who thirsts,
  come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
  come buy and eat!
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
  and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
  and delight yourselves in rich food.

Just as in the Lord’s Supper, food and drink are used here as images of salvation. The Lord makes clear that he hands out his salvation to all who want it, and for free. From this Old Testament prophecy we can draw a line directly to our Lord Jesus, who exclaimed (John 7:37):

If anyone thirsts, let him come and drink.
Whoever believes in me, … “Out of his hear will flow rivers of living water.”

Many more examples can be found, in which God extends a gracious invitation of salvation, to all who would like to come, without restriction. He does this, knowing full well that we are sinful people. But the compassion and grace of our Lord are greater than our sin; he does not hesitate to enter into a relationship with people who are just as wretched as the rest of the world. God’s covenant of grace is not made with those who are worthy, but with unworthy sinners.

In his earthly ministry, Jesus showed this pointedly by having fellowship and meals with the worst sinners in town: with prostitutes and tax collectors and others with a bad reputation. When people complained about this, the Lord said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Salvation has come for the lost, for sinners, for those who are thirsty and badly need to drink, for those who are miserable and really need saving. The same is true for the Lord’s Supper, which is a picture of our salvation. It is not a table for good people, for advanced Christians, for holier-than-average believers. It is a table where sinners are invited. The catechism asks: Who are to come to the table of the Lord? and in its answer mentions sins and weakness.

In some churches the generous invitation to salvation and to the Supper has been lost. Only a few members dare come and participate in the sacrament. The others don’t think they are not worthy because of their sinfulness and the weakness of their faith. It is good that they know how great their sin and misery is; but they don’t understand that God’s grace is even greater.

A Christian table

The Lord’s Supper is a meal for sinners. But more must be said: it is a meal for sinners who expect their salvation from the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper is not about the people who sit around the table, but about the bread that is broken and the wine that is poured, as sacraments of Christ’s body.

When the Lord invites us, he invites us specifically to have communion with Jesus Christ. If you participate in the Supper, you must do so for the right reason and with the right attitude. You don’t come patting yourself on the back for being a pretty good person. You come in amazement that God has invited even you. You don’t partake because you’re so worthy, but because God in his grace declares you worthy.

So the Lord’s Supper is for sinners who believe in Jesus Christ. It is for his disciples. It doesn’t matter whether you are a beginning disciple or an advanced disciple; but you have to be a committed student of Jesus. Specifically, this means that you work seriously to learn two key lessons. First, to deny yourself; second, to follow him. Q&a 81 in the catechism fleshes out both of these points.

Who are to come to the table of the Lord? Indeed, sinners—but sinners who learn to deny themselves, who admit that they are nothing and Christ is everything. Those who are truly displeased with themselves because of their sins. People who do not want to hold on to their sin, but know their sins and trust that these are forgiven them. The invitation is for the spiritually weak, but only if they believe that their remaining weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ.

Find your justification not in yourself but in Jesus alone; deny yourself. That is the first lesson. The second lesson is: follow Jesus. Imitate him. Learn to have the attitudes he showed, put into practice what he did. Sanctification, growth in holiness. The catechism says: who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and amend their life. 

Are you in that learning trajectory? Are you eager to put off your old sinful self and put on the holiness of Jesus? Then you are certainly welcome at the Lord’s table. But you are not welcome if you don’t want to be a disciple, if you don’t want to deny yourself and don’t want to live as Jesus lived. If you are merely a pretender, coming only for show—a hypocrite—you have no right to be at the Lord’s Supper. If you are not willing to repent, to leave your sinful life behind you and become holy as God himself is holy, you should stay away from the table. It is only for disciples of Jesus.

Let’s make this very practical. Jesus taught that sin is not only in big things such as murder and theft, but in small actions and in thoughts and attitudes. So if you hate a fellow church member, you are no less a sinner than if you murdered him. If you are so angry with him that you can’t look him in the eye or stand his company, you have work to do before you may come to the Lord’s Supper. Repent! Patch up your relationship, reconcile with your brother, learn to love your enemy—and then come to worship at the table.

At the Lord’s Supper we eat and drink Jesus Christ, and that implies a change of our lives, a transformation to be more like him. To even love our enemies. To be willing to lay our life down for others. To learn to be the last rather than the first.

A holy table

It is a terrible thing to pretend to be a disciple of Jesus and join at his Supper without really meaning it. The Apostle Paul wrote: such people eat and drink judgment upon themselves. The Lord’s Supper is a holy celebration, and therefore deserves our greatest respect.

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul chides a church for not respecting the Lord’s Supper properly. Their celebration of the sacrament was part of a communal meal. An excellent opportunity to share, where the rich could bring food to feed the poor! Instead, people brought their own food, without sharing. The rich ate more than their fill, the poor were still hungry. Clearly, this church had not learned that believers ought to love one another, by sharing and being generous. They had not understood that they all belonged together as brothers and sisters. They had to learn, as Paul goes on to explain in 1 Cor. 12, that as the church they are the body of Jesus Christ on earth, in which all parts support each other.

The church in Corinth failed to discern the body, in two ways. They did not discern the church as the body of Christ, for if they did, they would generously share with each other; and they did not discern the Lord’s Supper as the body of Christ, which was broken for their sins, for if they did, they would not gorge themselves on food but humble themselves.

The error of the church in Corinth was serious. If you use the Lord’s Supper without respecting the holiness of Christ and his church, you eat and drink judgment on yourself. In Corinth this judgment was direct and practical; Paul writes: “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep”—that is, some in the congregation had even died!

This is a serious warning for us. When the Lord invites us to his feast we should come with the understanding that this is all about Jesus. In the parable of Mat. 22, the wedding guests all wear wedding garments, representing the righteousness and holiness of God’s people, which is ours through faith in Jesus. But one man in the parable did not wear these garments; and so he was thrown out. If you don’t want to wear the clothes of Jesus, if you don’t want to wear his righteousness and put on a new self of holiness, the Lord will not tolerate you at his table. You may come if you are a sinner, but not if you wish to remain a sinner.

We must respect the holiness of the Lord’s Supper individually, but also as a congregation. If we admit those to the table who by their confession and life show that they are unbelieving and ungodly, we dishonour God who is our host. The catechism says: then the covenant of God would be profaned and his wrath kindled against the whole congregation. Together, as a church, we have the responsibility of reminding each other of the holiness of the sacrament, based on the holiness of our Lord. A swimming pool often has a fence with warning signs, to make sure that those who can’t swim don’t accidentally fall in. In the same way, we put a fence around the Lord’s Supper.

This fencing happens in a number of ways. First of all, we examine ourselves before coming to the Lord’s Supper. Do we come with the right understanding and purpose? Do we recognize that in ourselves, we are unworthy sinners? Do we look for our salvation only to Jesus? Do we sincerely want to live a Christian life? 

Second, we fence the table verbally. Before the Lord’s Supper, we read a form that clearly tells people to stay away if they don’t repent of their sins. We warn them that participating for the wrong reason will invoke God’s judgment.

We also fence the table by requiring that those who come have dedicated their lives to Jesus, usually by making public profession of faith. It is debatable how old one must be to make this choice; but the principle is that the sacrament is only given to those who are deliberate in following Jesus.

Finally, the elders fence the table by withholding those who refuse to repent of their sins. Such people may not be allowed to partake of the sacramental body of Christ until they repent. The catechism tasks the church with excluding such persons by the keys of the kingdom of heaven until they amend their lives. Withholding from the Lord’s Supper is the first step of a formal discipline process, which we will discuss later.

We fence the Lord’s Supper table because it is holy. In the end, only the Lord knows the heart; if you go to the table as a hypocrite, it is between you and the Lord. But as a church we do our due diligence to keep the table holy. By explaining clearly what it is about, and that only Jesus’ true disciples may come.


The Lord’s Supper is a profound, holy sacrament. In ourselves, none of us is worthy to come. Yet the Lord invites sinners to sit around the table and enjoy the life of his Kingdom. Only let’s make sure to come for the right reasons. We come to celebrate the grace of Jesus, to receive his resurrection life, and to dedicate ourselves to serving him. If that is our intention, we certainly may come—no, we must come and have communion with our Lord. Then his life becomes or life, his holiness our holiness, his glory our glory.


  1. Who is invited to come and eat in Isaiah 55:1?
  2. Is the Lord’s Supper for sinners? Explain.
  3. With what attitude should you come to the Lord’s Supper?
  4. What was the problem with the church in Corinth, in 1 Cor. 11?
  5. What serious warning applies if you participate at the Lord’s Supper?
  6. What is “fencing the table”?

Suggested Bible reading schedule

MondayIsaiah 55. How is this chapter an invitation? What does it promise? Why is it urgent?
TuesdayLuke 18:1-17. Who is welcome in the Kingdom of God, according to these three stories?
WednesdayMark 2:1-17. Who did Jesus come to call? What does this tell you about attending the Lord’s Supper?
ThursdayMatthew 22:1-14. In this parable, who are represented by (1) those invited first, (2) those invited later, (3) the man who is cast out?
Friday1 Corinthians 11:17-34. What was the sin of the Corinthian church?
Saturday2 Peter 2. If v. 13 is a reference to the Lord’s Supper, what does this passage teach?

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