What color should altar cloths be?


What color should altar cloths be?


Part and parcel of the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that there is no longer an altar and thus no need for an altar cloth. In a church not enslaved to tradition but submissive to Scripture alone, the table used for celebrating the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:23-26) is not an altar. It is a family supper table. It is a table before which the visible church gathers for a covenantal meal (Matt 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23). The table contains the elements bread and wine, which are for remembrance (1 Cor 11:23-25), spiritual nourishment (John 6:53-58), and an intimate spiritual union with our ascended Lord (1 Cor. 10:16-17).

It is important to understand that when one celebrates the Lord's Supper, Christ is not being offered again or in any sense being re-sacrificed. Christ has already made the once-and-for-all sacrifice for every one of the sins of his elect. It was a sufficient loving sacrifice (Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 26, 28; 10:10, 12; 1 John 4:10). It is finished (John 19:30). Because of the total sufficiency and absolute finality of Christ's eternal sacrifice, an altar — and therefore a colorful altar cloth — is necessarily excluded from genuine worship before God.

I said above that there was an intimate union during the Lord's Supper, but you may wonder how it can be intimate if Christ is in heaven and we are still on earth. First, Christ is very God of very God and is not bound/limited by space, distance, or even walls, etc. (John 20:26; cf. Mark 16:12, 14; Luke 24:36). Second, believers are "in Christ" (Rom. 8:1; Eph. 1:4, et. al.) [1] and therefore in union with him (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1). God is transcendent (apart from), but he is also immanent (existing within). So, location doesn't make a difference, but there is truly a genuine, intimate, mysterious union taking place at the Lord's Supper. Please see "How can I be seated with Christ in the heavenly places if I'm still sitting upon the earth?" below.


[1] The expressions "in Christ," "in the Lord," and "in him" occur 164 times in the letters of Paul alone. John Stott, "In Christ," The Meaning and Implications of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. C.S. Lewis Institute.

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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).