The Lord’s Supper, Communion, is one of two sacraments celebrated in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the other being Baptism. A sacrament is a visual aid which illustrates and confirms the spiritual truths and promises contained in the gospel.
In the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the bread represents Christ’s body broken on the cross and the wine His Blood shed for the forgiveness of sin. A sacrament is meaningless without faith. Those who come to the Lord’s Supper should have faith in Christ as the One who has died for their sins.
The Lord’s Supper was established by Christ. Just before the crucifixion Jesus met with His disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover. During the meal he broke bread and shared it with them, explaining that this would remind them of His own body broken for them on the cross. He then offered them wine to drink, to remind them of His blood shed to wash away their sins. This shedding of the blood also sealed a new covenant or commitment between God and all the followers of Christ.
The title the Lord’s Supper takes us back to the Last Supper when Christ first instructed His disciples to observe this special meal. In Irish Presbyterianism, worship services which include the Lord’s Supper are referred to as Communion Service which emphasises our communion or fellowship with God at the Lord ’s Table. Those who meet at the Lord ’s Table are known as communicant members of the church. Some Presbyterian churches also use the term, the ‘breaking of bread’ to describe the Lord’s Supper.
Sharing in the Lord’s Supper is for those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ into their lives. It is for those who have come to Christ for salvation and have committed their lives to Christ and recognise Him as their Saviour.
Admission to the Lord’s Supper is on the basis of a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Kirk Session of a congregation shall admit to the Lord’s Supper only those who have been baptised, who make a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus and whose character is consistent with such a profession. After a period of instruction, new communicants are admitted to the Lord’s Table on profession of faith in Christ. They are introduced to the Kirk Session and formally received into full membership of the church, usually at a pre-communion service.
Sharing in the Lord’s Supper is of great importance but it is only one part of the Christian life. A profession of faith must be accompanied by obedience to Christ in every area of life.
Communicant members should not only be involved in the life of their own congregation, but should also have an interest in the wider work of the Presbyterian Church.
For further information on the Lord’s Supper in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, download ‘Introducing the Lord’s Supper’ a leaflet published by the Council of Mission in Ireland.