Following the ceremony in which the broken bread and the poured out wine is received by, the communicants, there are yet two things in which the church must take an active and conscious part before the commemoration of the death of the Lord is complete. The importance of this post-communion service must not be minimized, nor should it be omitted as though it were non-essential in instances where the Lord’s Supper is celebrated in both the worship services of a given Lord’s Day. The second celebration, in such cases, is frequently abbreviated as much as possible, with the result that essential parts of the celebration are sometimes omitted. This is not proper. The post communion part of the service should be observed after every celebration of the Lord’s death, because the things contained therein are both beautiful and essential.
In the first place then, the congregation unitedly gives expression to a doxology of praise to God. This is introduced by the words, “Since the Lord hath now fed our souls at this table, let us therefore jointly praise His holy name with thanksgiving, and every one say in his heart thus.”
Emphatically this expression of praise is not to proceed from the lips only, but it must be resident in the heart. The heart is the center of one’s life from a spiritual point of view, and out of that heart therefore all the issues of life proceed. Hence, the joint expression of praise and thanksgiving is not something that is to be momentarily rendered at the communion table, but it must be carried in the heart and expressed continuously through all the issues of our life. Our life must be a manifestation of the life of Christ in the midst of the present world. It is this life that has been fed land nourished at the table of the Lord and in the, strength of that nourishment we must go forth in His service, strong in His might to conquer all evil and stand for the right. In that way His holy Name is praised!
The content of this expression of praise is taken from the 103rd Psalm and the 5th chapter of the Epistle of the Romans. The former is a Psalm of praise in which the Lord is extolled for His glorious work of redemption. Our souls are enjoined to bless Him. Yea, all that is within us is called to break forth in blessing His Holy Name. We are to remember all His benefits to us. That the Psalm here speaks negatively, “forget not all His benefits,” does not imply justification in forgetting “some” of them. The negative form only emphasizes the imperative necessity of remembering all of them. Our heart and mind and soul must be constantly overwhelmed with the spiritual consciousness of the riches of grace that God has given to us in Christ. Only then can we live in communion with Him, and only then will we show forth His praise in all that we are and in all that we do.
This injunction is followed in the Psalm by an enumeration of the benefits God has bestowed upon His people. Quite impossible it would be to mention everything that God has done in one Psalm. A life time is of too short duration to tell this. Neither does the Psalm purpose to do that, but it contains a summary description of the work of God set forth in the Supper that has been celebrated. The emphasis lies upon the mercifulness and graciousness of our God as these virtues are manifest in our Lord Jesus Christ. The mercy and grace of God are without measure. “As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy towards them that fear Him. As far as the East is from the West, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” This mercy of God to us is experienced in the forgiveness of all our iniquities and in the healing of all our diseases; in the redeeming of our life from destruction. God has not dealt with us as we deserve, but He has crowned us with His loving kindness and tender mercy. O God, how good Thou art. Shall we not, in the realization of this unfathomable goodness of our God, bless Him and praise His Name unto all eternity!
The second part of this doxology is taken out of Romans 5. The emphasis here is upon the merciful act of God in which He gave His Son, Christ Jesus, that we might be justified in Him, reconciled to God and saved through His life. Because of this the believer vows: “Therefore shall my mouth and heart show forth the praise of the Lord from this time forth forever more.” These words ofRomans 5 are so rich and beautiful that we should pause in our reading, meditate on them and, if you haven’t already done so, take the time now to commit them to memory. We quote them here:
Who hath not spared His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, and given us all things with Him. “Therefore God commendeth therewith His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; much more then, being now justified in His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him: for, if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son; much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:8-10)
More need not be said. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. His greatness is unsearchable. Let us, the recipients of His wonderful salvation, humbly adore and praise Him forevermore.
Following this the church unites in a concluding prayer of thanksgiving, which is climaxed and ended with the perfect prayer our Lord taught us to pray and: commonly denoted as “The Lord’s Prayer.” A few comments on this prayer will conclude our discussion of this beautiful Lord’s Supper form.
The prayer is addressed to our “Almighty, merciful God and Father.” It is not “Almighty God” and “Merciful Father” although this would also be quite possible. But the two adjectives modify both God and Father. God is viewed in the prayer as our Father in heaven; our Father in Christ Jesus. It is as our Father that He has manifest both His power and mercy in the work of redemption which we have celebrated in the Lord’s Supper. Sovereign power of God was required to establish the basis and foundation of our salvation, and that power, wrought by Christ, the Son of God, was displayed as the manifestation of His mercy; His desire to deliver us from our misery and make us partakers of the joy and blessedness of His own life. To this omnipotent and compassionate God we render our thanks.
The prayer itself may be divided into two main parts. The first part contains a threefold expression of thanks and the second part contains a double petition. In the thanksgiving our gratitude is expressed for the gift of God’s Son, the gift of faith and the gift of the Lord’s Supper. The Son of God is given “for a Mediator and a sacrifice for our sins, and to be our meat and drink unto life eternal.” This is a concise expression of the truth that all of our eternal needs are satisfied in Christ. He is our life and in Him there is no lack or want. He is the Shepherd of our souls. He feeds us in green pastures. He restores our souls. He makes us to lie down beside still waters. He is our Advocate with the Father who does all that is necessary to bring us into the fellowship of the covenant of grace. For all that God has given us in Him we humbly give thanks first of all.
To be the benefactors of this redemptive work of Christ, however, necessitates faith. Without some bond or channel uniting us to Christ we are out of connection with the store of all blessings. We have no strength, ability or means in ourselves to procure these things that are essential unto life eternal. Realizing this we are then also conscious that the means of procuring these things is also a gift of God and therefore we also give thanks for the gift of “lively (living) faith.” As we pray this the words of the apostle Paul resound in our soul: “For by grace are ye saved through faith and that, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) And we confess: “Faith is therefore to be considered as the gift of God, not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted or rejected at his pleasure; but because it is in reality conferred, breathed, and infused into him; or even because God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man should by the exercise of his own free will, consent to the terms of salvation, and actually believe in Christ; but because he who works in man both to will and to do, and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe, and the act of believing also.” (Canons III-IV, Art. 14)
Finally, we give thanks for that Divine pleasure that motivated our Lord Jesus Christ to institute the Holy Supper as the means of grace through which faith and the living assurance of all the blessings of salvation is confirmed in us. Let us ever appreciate and therefore also use with diligence the same means which God has appointed unto this end.
The prayer of thanksgiving concludes with a petition that our faithful God and Father will grant that through the operation of the Holy Spirit the commemoration of the Lord’s death may tend to the daily increase of our faith, as well as the increase of saving fellowship with Him. When we pray this we are consciously aware of the truth emphasized so strongly by the apostle James; who taught us that a dead faith is no faith at all but that faith, saving faith in Jesus Christ, is an active, living, working thing. Faith may not lie dormant, for its very nature is that it grows and develops and this development we experience by the working of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace. And as faith grows in us we become more and more conscious of our fellowship with Christ. Then we walk in the ways of His covenant and enjoy all the blessings of that covenant. It is, therefore, through the means of the Lord’s Supper that the riches and glories of the covenant of grace are made our personal possession, and for all of these we cannot cease to give thanks. With Paul we would cry out, “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.” (II Cor. 9:15)
Can we pray this prayer of communion?
This question we would ask in conclusion, because the answer to it unavoidably reflects upon our entire observance of the sacrament from the preparatory to the actual reception of its benefits. In answering the question then we must be aware that “saving fellowship with Christ” necessitates conflict with the world of darkness, with our own flesh and with the devil and his whole dominion. We cannot walk in fellowship with darkness and still be partakers of the benefits of the Kingdom of light. There is an antithesis here that cannot be bridged. When we walk in fellowship with Christ we must expect and we will unavoidably experience the wrath and opposition of all that is not of Christ in this world. The servant is not greater than the Mater and therefore, what they did to Him we may expect they will do to us. To His disciples the Lord said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” To that cross belongs all the tribulations that the church must suffer for Christ’s sake.
Are we thankful also for these?
Can we rejoice with Peter and John that we have been counted worthy to suffer for the Kingdom of Heaven?
If so, we may indeed pray that God will work by His Spirit in us to increase more and more that blessed fellowship with Christ; that it may not diminish, but that even as the day of His coming approaches and the powers of evil wax stronger, we may grow in grace to be faithful unto death, that no one take our crown