Yesterday was a great day in the church. The brother leading us at the Lord’s Table did an excellent job remindng us of the historical background and theological purpose of our communion together.

We consistently refer to it as “The Lord’s Table.” I’m afraid we just as consistently treat it as the Lord’s altar. The truth is that, as far as we can tell from the witness of Scripture, individualistic receipt of forgiveness is never the emphasis of the Lord’s Supper. Communal participation in the grace of God is always the focus.  

In the Old Testament, the altar witnessed the blood ritual. On it God’s act of atonement took place. It was indeed a necessary step in human redemption and one that we must never trivialize. But it was never an occasion for celebration. The sin offering is never referred to as “a sweet savor.” When the final sin offering was made, the Creator turned His back, the sun hid its light, and our Savior worked His miracle. Hallelujah!

 Now that the once-for-all-time sin offering has been made, the table plays host to the purpose for the altar. The altar enables the table. Without the sacrifice there could be no fellowship (koinonia)—the goal of atonement.

The fellowship offering, in contrast to the sin offering and always observed after the sin offering, was a time for rejoicing and for celebrating the community of God’s people. The Lord’s Supper should be too because I am convinced that the Lord’s Supper is more closely analogous to the fellowship offering than it is to the sin offering.

God intends to commune with a people He calls his own. Each of us has been baptized into fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That new-found relationship is only possible because of the cross of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of that every time we partake.

At the Lord’s Table the Lord’s people commune with the risen Lord and with each other—by faith. As we partake each week, I think we ought to ask ourselves these questions:

  • Are we simply receiving our token of forgiveness in a silent, solemn, individualistic eating of bread and drinking of wine? Or are we a people sitting at the table with each other?
  • Are we sharing our food and our lives with one another?
  • Are we embracing gospel values together as His community?
  • Are we filled with joy as we patiently and expectantly await that final banquet when all things we enjoy now by faith will finally be transformed into reality?

In other words, The Lord’s Supper: is it a table or is it an altar?