The Westminster Standards on the Administration of the Lord’s Supper

Notice specifically the Standards direction for using a common cup and coming to and sitting at a table.

This was in accordance with the Solemn League and Covenant’s (1643) directive that the worship of the three kingdoms be reformed according to “the example of the best reformed Churches,” namely the Scottish Church, which tenaciously, out of Biblical conviction, practiced using a Common Cup and Sitting at a Table.  See the Adopting Act for the Directory of Public Worship below.



Confession of Faith


“The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to declare his word of institution to the people, to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to a holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.

Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone; as likewise the denial of the cup to the people; worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use; are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.”



“Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament, yet they receive not the thing signified thereby; but by their unworthy coming thereunto are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to their own damnation. Wherefore all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with him, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto.”

[This coming is not only a spiritual coming, as is clear from the Directory of Public Worship below, but a physical coming as well.  The two concepts are complementary, the physical showing forth the spiritual, and should not be divorced from each other.  Thus, the reformers literally guarded the literal table from those unworthy to eat of it]



Shorter Catechism


“What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s supper?

It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.”



Directory of Public Worship

The Adopting Act of, 1645

“Provided always, That the clause in the Directory, of the administration of the Lord’s Supper, which metions the communicants sitting about the table, or at it, be not interpreted as if, in the judgment of this kirk, it were indifferent, and free for any of the communicants not to come to, and receive at the table; or as if we did approve the distributing of the elements by the minister to each communicant, and not by the communicants among themselves…”

[The last phrase conveys that the communicants, after receiving the Cup from the minister, are to pass it around to each other, showing the spiritual principle of fellowshipping as one Body in the Lord’s Supper, 1 Cor. 10:16-17,21]


The Preface

“Sundry good Christians have been, by means thereof, kept from the Lord’s table…”

[While many reformed churches acknowledge that a physical table is a part of the Lord’s Supper, the question is if it should be used.  See below.]


Of the Celebration of the Communion

“Where this sacrament cannot with convenience be frequently administered, it is requisite that public warning be given the Sabbath-day before the administration thereof: and that either then, or on some day of that week, something concerning that ordinance, and the due preparation thereunto, and participation thereof, be taught; that, by the diligent use of all means sanctified of God to that end, both in public and private, all may come better prepared to that heavenly feast.

Expressing the inestimable benefit we have by this sacrament, together with the ends and use thereof: setting forth the great necessity of having our comforts and strength renewed thereby in this our pilgrimage and warfare: how necessary it is that we come unto it with knowledge, faith, repentance, love, and with hungering and thirsting souls after Christ and his benefits: how great the danger to eat and drink unworthily.

Next, he is, in the name of Christ, on the one part, to warn all such as are ignorant, scandalous, profane, or that live in any sin or offence against their knowledge or conscience, that they presume not to come to that holy table; shewing them, that he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment unto himself: and, on the other part, he is in an especial manner to invite and encourage all that labour under the sense of the burden of their sins, and fear of wrath, and desire to reach out unto a greater progress in grace than yet they can attain unto, to come to the Lord’s table; assuring them, in the same name, of ease, refreshing, and strength to their weak and wearied souls.

After this exhortation, warning, and invitation, the table being before decently covered, and so conveniently placed, that the communicants may orderly sit about it, or at it, the minister is to begin the action with sanctifying and blessing the elements of bread and wine set before him, (the bread in comely and convenient vessels, so prepared, that, being broken by him, and given, it may be distributed amongst the communicants; the wine also in large cups,) having first, in a few words, shewed that those elements, otherwise common, are now set apart and sanctified to this holy use, by the word of institution and prayer.

[It is acknowledged that parts of the administration of the Lord’s Supper are indifferent, and thus we have liberty over them, as long as no spiritual principles are removed from Christ’s institution.  Thus, for large numbers of communicants multiple large cups are suitable.  This preserves the spiritual principle of communing from the same cups and fellowshipping together as they are passed around]

To profess that there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ, by whom alone we receive liberty and life, have access to the throne of grace, are admitted to eat and drink at His own table, and are sealed up by his Spirit to an assurance of happiness and everlasting life.

The elements being now sanctified by the word and prayer, the minister, being at the table, is to take the bread in his hand, and say, in these expressions, (or other the like, used by Christ or his apostle upon this occasion:)

In like manner the minister is to take the cup, and say, in these expressions, (or other the like, used by Christ or the apostle upon the same occasion:)

“According to the institution, command, and example of our Lord Jesus Christ, I take this cup, and give it unto you; (here he giveth it to the communicants;) This cup is the new testament in the blood of Christ, which is shed for the remission of the sins of many: drink ye all of it.”




Related Pages

The Administration of the Lord’s Supper

The Common Cup

Sitting at the Table

The Interpretation and Defense of the Original Westminster Standards