East of Eden 25: Self-Examination in the Lord's Supper

Self-Examination and the Lord’s Supper

East of Eden considers the Theology and experiential application of Jonathan Edwards’s sermon “Self-Examination and the Lord’s Supper” from 1 Corinthians 11:28–29 and delivered first March 21, 1731.


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East of Eden devotes each episode to a work of Jonathan Edwards’. Several Edwards experts discuss the key features of the work in order to draw out Edwards rich biblical and systematic theology. Browse more episodes from this program and learn how to subscribe.

9 Responses

  1. I take exception to Edwards’ thoughts on the punishment in that text. The judgment that some of the Corinthians incurred by eating/drinking unworthily was not damnation. Paul says that God punished them so that they would NOT be condemned with the world. With that in mind, the unworthy partakers were in fact believers.

  2. Glen,

    I think that I might agree with you. Paul does say, “When we are judged, it is that we may not be condemned with the world.” It seems to be severe Divine chastisement, rather than punitive judgment. Thanks.

  3. Here is the citation to which we referred:

    “They were wont to have the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in the primitive church very often, by all accounts of ecclesiastical history. And it seems by the account of holy Scripture that they were at first wont to celebrate this ordinance daily, as Acts 2:46, “and they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and in breaking bread from house to house”; afterwards weekly, every sabbath day, Acts 20:7, “and upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread.”

    And it coming so frequently, the Corinthians it seems were wont to improve it for a profane use, viz. for the same end as they did their meals in their own houses, viz. to satisfy their hunger and thirst and to nourish their bodies. And therefore the Apostle says, “What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?” (v. 22). Your own houses and not the house of God is the place where you ought to eat and drink for bodily refreshment and nourishment.

    And then it seems they did not merely profane this ordinance by making use of the elements of it as ordinary meat and drink, but they profaned it by intemperance, especially in drinking, as the Apostle intimates in v. 21. They did not profane it by gluttony or in being intemperate in eating that bread, for there is scarcely any room for a temptation to be gluttonous in eating bread simply. They were excessive in their drinking wine.”1

    1. Edwards, J. (1999). Self-Examination and the Lord’s Supper. In M. Valeri & H. S. Stout (Eds.), Sermons and Discourses, 1730–1733 (Vol. 17, pp. 264–265). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

  4. Oh boy, is this the standard understanding of the Lord’s Supper ? I sure hope not. Because this is just works righteousness if it is.

    Amend before you come ? This is worse than roman catholicism, or about the same, where instead of doing penance to qualify for mass you have to amend your life which of course is impossible to do. If I could amend before I come what’s my need for coming ? Stop sinning before I go to the Lord’s Supper ? Impossible if I could stop sinning I would not need the Lord’s Supper. Examine if I am nursing a sin or have a habitual sin ? Of course I have plenty of habitual sins and nurse plenty of sins, the Old Adam loves sin. Now I can truly see how so many lutherans are so frustrated with the Reformed and say the differences are not small. As I said the Reformed understanding of the Lord’s Supper is like the roman catholic mass where there is no comfort for the sinner but doubts about his salvation. In lutheranism the only condition to come to the Lord’s Supper is that you reckon yourself a sinner in need Christ’s forgiveness, you come to the Lord’s supper for one reason, to receive the forgiveness of sin. Christ does not want you to stop sinning, Christ does not want you to fix yourself before the Lord’s Supper, no quite the opposite Christ loves those that come broken by sin to the Lord’s Supper so He can forgive their sin (fix them). There is no amending of the sinner prior to the Lord;s Supper, as a matter of fact quite the opposite the sinner knows he’s incapable of any amendment, and this is why he comes to Christ to receive his true body and shed blood for the remission of sin. What a difference between the reformed and the lutheran, in the former you have to amend before you come while in the latter you come because you cannot amend and therefore need thee free remission of sins (the body and blood of Christ in the Supper). Now yes after receiving the Lord’s Supper lutherans would argue that your faith is strengthened and fruit of the holy spirit will follow, but any amending (like the strengthening of your faith) in lutheranism would come after the Lord’s Supper, never before. I cannot believe that Edwards understanding of the Lord’s supper is the standard understanding, because it is complete works righteousness, as bad as the roman catholic mass from that perspective.

  5. Further to my post I’d say that Edwards understanding of the Lord’s Supper is certainly nor Reformed, at least it is radically different from Calvin’s who saw the Lord’s supper as a means of grace. As Mike Horton put it, we need to remind church members that they cannot excommunicate themselves. Or put it otherwise they cannot refuse to attend the Lord’s Supper because of perpetual habitual sin that they have in their lives, otherwise no christian would qualify for the Lord’s supper. The Lord’s Supper is a means of grace and is specifically designed for perpetual habitual sinners, once again we need to remember, that christians are simul justus et peccator, i.e. simultaneously just and sinners. And communion as Horton puts it is for every church member, unless you have been excommunicated then you cannot attend communion but barring excommunication every christian should partake in the Lord’s Supper instead of trying to amend their lives on their own before they qualify themselves for the Lord’s Supper. A Christian is qualified for the Lord’s Supper because of Christ has done, so he is sinless a perfect Saint because of Christ’s imputed righteousness, and this and solely this qualifies him for the Lord’s Supper. Good works or lack of known sins does not qualify anybody for the Lord’s Supper, and no amount of habitual sinning can ever disqualify a christian from the Lord’s supper.

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