What is Meant by the Lord's Table?

In response to our invitation we have received letters regarding the paper entitled, "What is Meant by the Lord's Table?" which appeared in our June issue. The question that has raised most enquiry is, "Is it possible to put a person away from the Lord's Table?" And about this we feel that something more needs to be said. Our readers will readily agree that it is both safe and wise in an enquiry of this sort to discard phrases and terms, no matter how long honoured, and take up in their stead words of Scripture, especially so as in this very epistle (1 Cor.) we are told that the Apostle unfolded these things "not in the words that man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth" (chap. 2:13).

Instruction as to putting away a wicked person is given in chapter 5; the Lord's Table is the theme of chapter 10; and we must not overlook the fact that the Lord's Table is not mentioned in the former chapter, nor has putting away by the assembly any place in the latter, and we believe that the confusing of the two has led to the weakening of the lines of truth in both.

Chapter 5 brings out the solemn truth that the Christian company is an unleavened company (v. 7), sanctified in Christ Jesus (chap. 1:2). A company set apart for God, Christ Jesus being the measure of that sanctification. But in order to this all the evil that they had done, and all that they were as to their former sinful state (chap. 6:9-11) had first to come under God's unsparing judgment, and this took place when Christ our passover was slain for us. They had appropriated this judgment to themselves when they believed the gospel, but it had to be kept up by them continuously, they had "to keep the feast … with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." Having become the temple of God, which temple is holy (chap. 3:16-17), they had to maintain their separation from the evil of the flesh and the world. Their sense of this had become dulled, or had never been truly awakened. They were not alarmed or grieved at the outbreak of sin in their midst, hence the need of the tone that the Apostle adopts towards them as to their own state. But there was more than this; he commands them with Apostolic authority, and as inspired by the Holy Ghost to "put away from among YOURSELVES that wicked person" (v. 13). The continued presence of this evil-doer with them as one of themselves was a denial of the holiness of God's temple, which temple they were, and a falsification of the fact that they were "called saints," and "sanctified in Christ Jesus."

This command to put away such a one holds good to this day; no plea of weakness or the divided state of the assembly of God can relieve us of this solemn obligation when need arises; and where there is indifference to it, or wilful disobedience of it, there is an association that is virtually denying the truth that "Christ our passover is slain for us" — the truth that lies at the very threshold of our relationships with God and one another.

The man put away according to this word would be put away from all privileges that Christians share in common, that is, assembly privileges. He would be put away from all his former intercourse with those who partake of those, as being unfitted by his state and conduct for such intercourse; he would be "without" and not "within." Thus would his brethren express towards him their abhorrence of evil, and maintain what was due to the Lord's name.

But the substitution of the term "put away from the Lord's table" for "put away from among yourselves," has led to the false thought that one so dealt with was merely to be deprived of participation in the Lord's Supper, but might still be allowed to maintain all other kinds of intercourse with the saints, and the inevitable consequence of this, to those who come under this judgment of their brethren, is that the seriousness of their position is not felt, and they have not been brought to that deep repentance and abhorrence of their sin as was the man of 1 Corinthians 5. And the saints themselves have failed to realize, not the holiness of the Supper merely, for that does not come in here, but the holiness of the Christian company, what they themselves are as an unleavened company, sanctified in Christ Jesus. This latter is of the greatest importance, and should cause us much exercise of heart.

If the necessity for maintaining practically the unleavened character of the Christian assembly had been realized the church of God would have been delivered from that indifference to true holiness that has defiled it. On the other hand, if the seriousness of such action as is here commanded were seen, how that it is not merely discipline, which word has a more general use, but JUDGMENT — the last act of the assembly in regard to a person who has proved himself to be unfit for Christian intercourse, it could not be treated in a light-hearted way, or meted out to those to whom it does not apply.

Chapter 10 presents another side of the truth. Our communication with one another is not the prominent thought here, but our identification with the Lord. In chapter 5 "among you," "yourselves" and "keeping company" occur, but here it is "the Lord," "the cup of the Lord" and "the Lord's table." It is not here a question of the assembly clearing itself of an evil-doer when need arises, but the Lord's own jealousy as to what is due to Himself and in consequence His direct dealings with His own.

The Apostle begins by citing Israel as typical of the Christian position. They were all identified with Moses in the cloud and sea, and did all eat of the manna and drink of the spiritual Rock which was Christ. They were maintained by the bounty of the Lord, and yet they perished when they were unfaithful to their covenant with Him. They moved the Lord to jealousy by their conduct, and He did not call upon Moses or the congregation to judge them, but He did it Himself. Do we not get an example of this judgment of the Lord exercised in chapter 11:29-32? "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you and many sleep." Exception has been taken to the statement, "We cannot put away from the Lord's table and God won't," and the latter part of the statement is probably open to question, for those who were removed by the Lord's hand in death were removed from His table — which undoubtedly means identification with Himself, and participation, in common with all His members, in all the blessings that His death has secured for them here upon earth. We shall not have the Lord's table in heaven. It is in the midst of our enemies, and His, that He has spread it for us.

Others are writing on the subject, and so we proceed no further, our object in these brief notes being, not to explain what the Lord's table is, but to show the difference between 1 Corinthians 5 and 10.