Question: When is it inappropriate to take the Lord’s Supper?
Answer: St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:27-32: “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.”
To answer your question, the Word of God teaches that first you have to be born again. I know there are churches or denominations that say you have to belong to their particular church or denomination in order to take Holy Communion, but this is not found in Scripture. It does say in 1 Corinthians 12:3 “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” So first, in order to take Communion, you need to be saved.
Second, if there is unconfessed sin in your heart and life you need to get it right with God. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9) We can tell God we are sorry for our sins, and ask Him to forgive us. This is extremely important, many Christians are litter-bug Christians, they go around with unconfessed sin in their lives and God cannot bless them. Even worse, they go to the Lord’s Supper with this sin in their lives and this can cause a person to be sick or even to die, as it says in the 1 Corinthians passage above. It also hinders our prayers. “If I regard iniquity (sin) in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” Psalm 66:18
If there is something between us and someone else that needs to be confessed, it should be confessed before Communion. “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way, First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23) “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16) “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Basically none of us are perfect, and we will not be until we get to heaven. God knows this, but He does want us to keep “short accounts” with Him and our fellow man. So if we are being convicted of something that we know is sin, we need to confess this to God before we take the Communion. Often the pastor will allow for a time before Communion is taken to confess your sins, I would always take advantage of this, and then go in confidence before God the Father because the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, has already paid for our sins on the cross with His own blood. For us now it is a matter of fellowship. It is like in our own families, if our children sin, we want them to admit that they have done something wrong, but they are still our children. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)
You might like to read the discussion question on Why do Roman Catholics believe the Eucharist actually becomes the body and blood of Christ.
Thanks for the question,
Gary T. Panell