A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Lord's Supper in Wesleyan Perspective #2

Response to the Objections Concerning Constant Communion

Wesley answers several objections raised by those who have serious reservations over the practice of the Lord's Supper in a constant manner. Three will be mentioned.

Some object because the Lord's Supper is basically dangerous. Paul tells the Corinthians, "Therefore, whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup in an unworthy manner, eats and drinks damnation upon himself" (1 Corinthians 11:27). Therefore, if participation can result in damnation, it is better not to participate at all, or at least, not too often.

Wesley's response to this is two-fold. First, Paul's words do not refer to being unworthy to partake; he refers to taking the sacrament in an unworthy way: "A rude and disorderly way." Wesley states, "However, unworthy you are to communicate, there is no fear of your communicating thus." Second, Wesley notes that it is precisely our unworthiness that makes constant communion necessary. Certainly Christians should examine themselves and repent before coming to the Table, but failure to do so does not justify failure to come at all. Wesley asks, "Why do you not accept the mercy which God commands you to accept?"

Another objection is that constant Communion diminishes reverence for the sacrament. Wesley's answer is, again, two-fold. First, he believes that if reverence is lessened, God's comand is not abated. We must, out of obedience, constantly commune because Christ has told us to do so. Lack of reverence does not create an exception. Second, if reverence is lost, it is not the kind of reverence we should have for the Lord's Supper in the first place. The type of reverence that can be lost is synonymous for newness, and is not religious reverence. If one has true religious reverence for the sacrament, however, constant Communion will not decrease such reverence, "but rather confirm and increase it."

A somewhat different contention, though related to the previous objection, is that the benefits expected from constant Communion are not proportionate to the act of constant Communion itself. Again, Wesley responds with two rebuttals: First, he restates that Christians should commune constantly because it is the command of God and its benefits are only a secondary consideration. Second, Wesley questions who is at fault if there are no benefits. He observes,

But suppose a man has often been at the sacrament, and yet received no benefit. Was it not his own fault? Either he was not rightly prepared, willing to obey all the commands and to receive all the promises of God, or he did not receive it aright, trusting in God ("The Duty of Constant Communion").

For Wesley, if one is correctly prepared to receive the sacrament, the more one does, the more benefits one will find.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I so much appreciate John Wesley, and his thoughts on The Lord's Suppper. Thanks so much for so helpfully sharing them.

I really find myself in sympathy with Wesley. And find it helpful, as well. Thanks.