Let us remember that this sacred feast is medicine to the sick, comfort to the sinner, and bounty to the poor. To the healthy, the righteous, and the rich (if any could be found) the Lord’s Supper would be of no value. For Christ is given us for food in the Supper, and we perceive that without him we fail and waste away, just as hunger destroys the vigor of the body. As he is given to us for life, so we perceive that without him we are certainly dead.
We are joined today by John Calvin, a minister from Geneva, Switzerland, whose best-selling book, The Institutes of the Christian Religion is quickly spreading across Europe. We asked him to explain to us how we can prepare to eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner, knowing that the Apostle Paul said, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:27)
Here’s what Calvin had to say about this:
In seeking to prepare for eating the Lord’s Supper worthily, men have often dreadfully harassed and tortured miserable consciences, and yet have failed to reach their goal. They have said that you must be “in a state of grace” in order to eat worthily. What does it mean to be in a state of grace? They have interpreted this to mean being pure and free from all sin. By this definition, all the men that ever have been, and all who are on the earth now, are barred from the use of this sacrament. For if we are to seek our worthiness from ourselves, it is all over with us; only despair and fatal ruin await us. Though we struggle to the utmost, we will not only make no progress, but we would only be more unworthy after we have labored most to make ourselves worthy.
To cure this ulcer, they have devised a mode of procuring worthiness: After having, as far as we can, made an examination and taken an account of all our actions, we are to be cleansed of our unworthiness by contrition, confession, and satisfaction. I say that such things, at best, give poor and fleeting comfort to alarmed and downcast consciences, struck with terror at their sins. For if the Lord admits only the righteous and innocent to partake of his Supper, every man would have to be very cautious before feeling that he had righteousness of his own which God requires.