Ask A Pastor: What Exactly Is Self-Examination Before The Lord’s Supper?
Hello and thanks for taking my question! I have a question regarding self-examination the week prior to the Lord’s Supper. Could you please help me understand the difference between this kind of examination as opposed to the self-examination that Christians do in their everyday lives in a effort to be more Christ like. What are some ways that the two are different? What does self-examination look like practically in the week before Lord’s supper? Thank you for your time!
Thanks for the excellent question(s). It’s encouraging when young people want to practice what they hear they should do. Self-examination is important for everyone. We are to examine our spiritual state (whether we are lost or saved): “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor. 13:5). We are to examine our spiritual condition (how we are living and what is living in our heart at present): “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD” (Lamentations 3:40). The purpose of self-examination is to lead us to repent of our sin and turn to God for mercy, as well as come to recognize God’s grace when He has given it to us. These aspects are the same throughout life and before the Lord’s Supper.
Lord’s Supper self-examination is not a different type, but more intense. It is also focused on being prepared for a blessed celebration of the Supper. The Lord commands this practice in 1 Cor. 11:28: “but let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread & drink of that cup.”
We need to examine ourselves for several reasons:
We must examine whether whether we are believers because the Lord’s Supper is only for believers. We must be spiritually alive to be able to feed at His table. If we are still lost, we are despising Christ and warned: “he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Cor. 11:29; cf. 1 Cor. 11:27).
We must consider the holiness and excellence of the Lord’s Supper which calls for reverence, humility, love, and trust. A believer can also be guilty of a careless approach to God at the table. Self-examination leading to renewed repentance and faith is the only right way to attend.
We need to be stirred to hunger hunger for the food of the Supper. One way is to consider our sin and worthiness of curse. When that leads us to loathe ourselves, we will not be able to do without the Christ who reveals His grace at His table.
We are prone to avoid self-examination. By calling for it, God does not let us live long without being stirred up to examine ourselves.
In terms of the practice, let us examine ourselves:
Personally. The call is “let a man examine himself,” rather than others. Also, don’t rely on the opinions of others about you. Examine or ask yourself questions and test your heart and life.
Scripturally. Test everything by God’s Word. Compare your heart and life to what God’s law requires to discover your sin. Compare yourself to what God’s grace works in those whom He saves (e.g. the beatitudes in Matt. 5:3-11, the three things we need to know to live and die happily, the fruit of the Spirit) to see whether these things are present as evidences of His saving grace.
Prayerfully. We easily deceive ourselves and draw wrong conclusions about ourselves. Pray: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psa. 139:23-24).
Christ-centredly. Focus not simply on yourself, but Christ Jesus. Read of His greatness, grace, and work. Ask yourself: What does God’s description of Christ mean to me? Peter says: “to you who believe, he is precious” (1 Peter 2:7).
A preparatory sermon guides in self-examination by applying God’s law as well as providing marks of grace which must be experienced to be a welcome guest of the Supper. Those who do not have these marks are warned not to attend and urged to flee to Christ. Timid ones are encouraged with the grace in Christ shown in His Supper designed to strengthen weak faith. Assured ones are humbled through fresh views of what they lack in themselves and comforted with what they have in Christ. And you are…?
Adapted from G. R. Procee et al, His Changeless Truth Confess