Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
The Lord’s Supper is for Weak and Weary Christians
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28NKJV
This morning we look at Westminster Larger Catechism Question 172, which asks, “May one who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation, come to the Lord’s supper?” It gives the answer, “One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof; and in God’s account hath it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity: in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians) he is to bewail his unbelief, and labour to have his doubts resolved; and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord’s supper, that he may be further strengthened.”
Doubt is the enemy of faith. Since the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace, the benefits of which I receive by faith, should I be excluded from the Supper if I doubt? Does not James warn the Christian not to come to God in prayer if he comes with doubts (James 1:5-6)? That he who doubts “ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:7)? Does this fact not imply that for anyone who doubts it is wrong to take Communion? Such a conclusion is refuted by today’s Catechism Question! In fact the truth is just the opposite: God has ordained the sacraments as signs and seals of His promised salvation precisely because we are so weak in our faith. The most mature and sanctified Christian is liable to struggles of doubt and uncertainty concerning his “interest in Christ.” If Paul could despair “even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8), if Elijah could ask God to kill him (1 Kings 19:4), then surely any Christian can struggle with the assurance of his salvation.
Therefore, when James admonishes us not to pray with doubts in our hearts he is not talking about the doubts that we all wrestle with at times due to our being weak of faith. He is speaking about the “double-minded” man (James 1:8); the man who says one thing to God but means another, who asks God to deliver him from temptation to sin while still holding on to that same sin in his heart. He is double-minded, double-souled. He has not made up his mind to truly desire the thing he is asking for and so he halts between two opinions. The other kind of “doubt” of which James could be speaking is doubting God. It is one thing to be unsure of whether or not I am truly trusting in the salvation purchased for me by Christ; it is another altogether to doubt whether or not Jesus did enough to save me. The former is a doubting of my own heart, the latter is doubting the Word and works of Jesus Christ. The former could be seen as a sin of weakness, the latter must be categorized as a sin of great presumption.
Provided that we are certain that Jesus Christ is able to save us to the uttermost, that He has marvelously and perfectly accomplished all that was necessary to save the vilest sinner from the wrath of God, what should we do when we recognize our doubts? How should we address our weakness of faith? We must fully admit and confess our doubts to God! That is the best and only way to deal with honest doubt as a Christian; to cry out with the father of the demon-possessed child, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23). And then to receive and humbly make use of those means of grace, those secondary instruments that God has ordained to help us to confidently believe, which are most especially: the Word, the sacraments, and prayer. As a true means of grace and salvation, the Lord’s Supper has been appointed by God to be used especially by weak and doubting Christians! God never rejects anyone on account of weakness. He only rejects those who pretend they are not weak. Thus, the sacraments, just like the gospel itself, are not for the strong but for the weak.
God promises us salvation in His Word and then with His sacraments He adds His seal to it. Seals are marks of authenticity. I know that this medicine is good because there is a seal on it. No one has corrupted the contents of the bottle. It will do what it is supposed to do if I take it as instructed. So also in the Supper we have God’s visible and tangible seal to His Word. God promises us in His Word that He will save us from His wrath which we deserve on account of our sins. Then in giving us the Lord’s Supper He adds His seal of authenticity to His promise. So that if you take the Supper the right way, admitting and not hiding your sins, admitting and not denying your unworthiness, then you can be certain that His promise to you is kept. Your sins are forgiven. Your salvation is certain. Know for certain that the Lord’s Supper is for weak and weary Christians to find assurance, to confirm their interest in Christ. Come to the Supper considering not your weakness, but His strength, and find rest for your weary soul!