Self-examination before Holy Communion (Sept. 15)

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Since we will gather for worship on Sunday and partake of Christ’s body and blood given and shed for the remission of our sins, it is indeed good and right that we examine ourselves in accord with 1 Cor. 11:28-29: “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”

We do so this week on the basis of God’s commandment: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).

We are no longer required to observe any certain day, as St. Paul teaches us in his epistles:

  • Romans 14:5-6 – “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.”
  • Colossians 2:16-17 – “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

And Jesus, Himself, said: “ The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).

So, how are we to observe this commandment? Luther explains it: “We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.”

Therefore, we see that God desires us to set aside time to gladly hear and learn God’s Word, time to remember Him and His ways and all He has done for us to give us life and salvation.

God says in Isaiah 58:13-14: “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”

Already under the Old Covenant when God’s people were commanded to rest on the seventh day, the purpose was to take time and refrain from doing the things we desire and to consider the LORD God and His Word. And, under the New Covenant, God commands us to regard God’s Word as holy and to take the time to gladly hear and learn it, for it is the Word of God which makes us “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

We are not to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is” (Hebrews 10:25); but are to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

Despising the preaching of God’s Word, as Luther explains it, does not mean that we hate it; rather, it means that we do not esteem and value it enough to put it before our own pleasures and desires and to gladly hear and learn it and to willingly support it.

Have we broken God’s commandment? We may say, no, because we are no longer required to rest on Saturdays, but have we always regarded the reading and hearing of God’s Word as the greatest treasure? Have we valued the preaching and teaching of God’s Word enough to put it first and foremost in our lives and set aside all our own pleasures and desires that we might hear it and consider the LORD God and His ways? And do we treasure the preaching and teaching of God’s Word enough to support it as God’s Word commands: “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things” (Galatians 6:6); and, “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14)?

When we examine ourselves in the light of this commandment of God, we see our utter failures. How often we have not esteemed God’s Word and the faithful preaching and teaching of it as the greatest treasure – the means by which God creates and preserves faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and gives us salvation! How often we allow other cares and concerns of life come before the hearing of God’s life-giving Word! This commandment, as well as the others, reveals the sinfulness of our hearts and condemns us. We are guilty before God and deserve nothing but His wrath and punishment. The Bible says: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10).

But Jesus Christ, God’s Son and true man, fulfilled this commandment perfectly in our stead. Even at the age of 12, He so loved God’s Word that He continued in the temple to hear it and learn it (Luke 2:41ff.)! And our Lord Jesus took our sins – your sins, my sins and the sins of all – upon Himself and suffered our punishment when he died on the cross. God tells us in His Word: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13); and, “Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2).

And so, I ask you before God: Have you sinned against God by despising and neglecting God’s Word in your thoughts, desires, words and actions? Have you sinned by neglecting to read and study your Bibles? By putting other things before attending the services of God’s house? By neglecting to support the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word? And do you desire, with the help and aid of God the Holy Spirit, to amend your life and treasure the hearing and preaching of God’s Word, regularly attend the services of God’s house and do all in your power to support the faithful preaching of the Word?

If this is your sincere confession, I announce unto you the grace of God in our Lord Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John :29); and I, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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