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The Lord’s Supper and Fellowship

“The flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning” (v. 15).

- Leviticus 7:11–15

Fewer disagreements between the Protestants and Roman Catholics at the time of the Reformation were more heated than the disagreements over the Lord’s Supper. The Protestants argued strongly against the Roman Catholic idea of the Lord’s Supper as a propitiatory offering. The notion that Christ is offered up by the priest in the supper to atone for sin was held to violate the once-for-all nature of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice (Heb. 10:1–18). To this day, Protestants continue to affirm this position.

Another line of evidence that confirms that the Lord’s Supper is not itself a propitiatory offering is seen also when we consider what happened in the old covenant sacrifices and what happens in the Lord’s Supper. Notably, worshipers under the old covenant could not eat any portion of the burnt offering, which was the propitiatory offering that foreshadowed the final, propitiatory or wrath-satisfying atonement of Christ (Lev. 1). The entire animal was offered to the Lord. However, worshipers did eat of the animal that was offered to God in the peace offerings, sometimes called the fellowship offerings (chap. 3; 7:1–36). Since we feed on the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, this suggests that there is a parallel between the Lord’s Supper and the peace or fellowship offerings.

The fellowship/peace offering could serve many purposes under the old covenant. For example, it could be offered as thanksgiving to the Lord or to signify the fulfillment of a vow (7:13, 16). This offering was also given as a freewill offering (v. 16), or an offering of spontaneous, heartfelt worship of God and praise for His goodness.

It seems reasonable, then, that similar things are going on or should be going on in the Lord’s Supper. We come to the Lord’s Table, covered by the blood of Christ, and partake of His sacrifice for us. In so doing, we should express thanksgiving for our redemption and offer up our praise to Him for who He is. But there is also a vow being made when we eat the bread and drink the wine. We are renewing our pledge of faithfulness to Him and signing and sealing that pledge with a meal that expresses our ongoing fellowship with Him. In Scripture, meals were frequently held to mark covenant fellowship and peace with others (Gen. 31:51–54; Ex. 24:11). The Lord’s Supper is God’s gift to us that confirms the reality of our fellowship and peace with Him when we partake of the bread and wine in faith.

Coram Deo

We do not fellowship over food with our enemies but typically only with our friends and family. Christ invites all who believe in Him to His table. If we have faith in Him alone for salvation, then the eating and drinking signifies that we are at peace with Him and impresses the reality of this peace and fellowship on our souls.

Passages for Further Study

Genesis 26:28–30
1 Samuel 1:21–28
2 Samuel 9
Revelation 19:6–8

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.