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Pastor's Corner: Public or private?

Should faith be a public or a private matter? That question comes up in several contexts, but the basic answer is that faith must be both. We can illustrate that point from the practice of the Lord’s Supper.

Since there are only two sacraments, the Lord invested each one with an astonishing depth and richness of meaning. In the instructions given by Paul about the Lord's Supper, it's clear that there is a strongly individual element. Each one is supposed to examine himself (1 Corinthians 11:28). The Table draws each believing participant into communion with Christ.

We are also supposed to wait for one another (1 Corinthians 11:33). Although we enjoy individual fellowship with Christ, we are not alone when we do so, but in company with other saints. There is a strongly corporate aspect to the celebration.

It might seem odd that the same sacrament would be both individual and corporate, that it would require private preparation and public participation. But it really testifies to the Lord's provision for the needs of his people. Each one of us needs individual attention, and each one of us must believe for himself. Paul exemplifies this when he speaks of Christ "who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20).

At the same time, each one of us also needs to belong to something bigger than ourselves, to have a place and a purpose in relation to others. Paul illustrates that when he talks about comprehending "with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height." (Ephesians. 3:18).

Is your faith public or private? Without a private element, faith can be nothing but hypocrisy. Without a public element, it can be just a personal entertainment without connection. Our approach to the Lord’s Table needs to include individual faith, our own repentance, personal love for the Lord Jesus and desire to obey. It also needs to include concern for others and a zeal to do them good. And how we approach the Lord’s Table is a shorthand to how we approach the totality of our faith. We receive blessings as individuals, and as part of a body. We should not forget either aspect.

Rev. Ruben Zartman has been the pastor at Ebenezer Reformed Church in Shafter since 2017.

 

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