Who Should Be At The Lord's Table?

Charles Henry Mackintosh

As to the matter of reception at the Lord's table, we must remember there are two sides to the question, the Divine and the human. As to the Divine side, there is a place at the table for every member of the body of Christ. But as to the human side, we have to bear in mind we are not in Acts 2, but 2 Timothy. In Acts 2 the Lord added to the Assembly such as should be saved. All was clear and unmistakable. But, in 2 Timothy, we have the great house, vessels to dishonor, false professors, all sorts of errors, evils and difficulties. Hence, if we would be "meet for the Master's use," we must "PURGE" ourselves from dishonorable vessels; "FLEE youthful desires," "TURN AWAY" from false professors. All this demands constant exercise of heart and conscience and the greatest vigilance and care as to the reception at the Lord's table.

I have, of late, been much interested in the study of 1 Cor. 11. There were schisms in the Assembly at Corinth, and the apostle says, "There must needs be heresies that they which are APPROVED may be made manifest." He does not say, "That they which are CHRISTIANS may be made manifest." I believe the "approved" ones were in contrast with the "heretics," or self-willed ones. The meaning of the word "heresy" is self-will, which is the root of schism. Hence he says, "Let a man APPROVE himself, and so let him eat." It is not "examine" but "approve" - the same word as in verse 19. He does not say, "Let a man be a Christian and so let him eat."

When "heresy" or self-will is working, and "schisms" are apparent as the result, we have to "approve" ourselves, as regards our moral and spiritual condition, and so take our place at the table of the Lord, where the most prominent is, not OUR rights and privileges or those of others, but the claims of Christ, as head of the body.

I can never, by the grace of God, accept any ground of fellowship, save the glorious truth set forth in Eph. 4, "There is one body." The Lord's table is not a place for paying compliments to people, or for the display of OUR great liberality, breadth of mind, or catholicity of spirit. No; it is a place where the claims of Christ are to be maintained; where truth, holiness and practical righteousness are to be the grand characteristics [1].

1 Corinthians 9 demands our most careful consideration, especially what it teaches on the subject of "heresy." The usual idea attached to the word is false doctrine. In church history, a heretic is one who teaches something contrary to the orthodox faith. But the real meaning of the word "heresy" is self-will; and wherever it works, its direct tendency is to produce a sect or a schism in the Assembly. It may be as to a matter of doctrine or a matter of practice; but whatever it is, self-will is divisive in its effect. Man has no right to exercise his will in the Assembly of God; if he does, he is a heretic, and the fruit of his work will be a schism in the Assembly.

Now, we must remember that the epistle to the Corinthians was addressed not merely to a local assembly, but to "ALL that IN EVERY PLACE call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." Hence it applies to us, and therefore we are called to consider this weighty question of self-will, and to see how far we are seeking to "approve" ourselves in the midst of the sects and schisms of Christendom.

[1] The table is not ours but the Lord's. This is a weighty fact demanding our serious consideration. It is His prerogative, not ours, to set forth the characteristics of those who are to sit down at His table.