Archive for the ‘Lord's Supper’ Category

How often should the Church administer the Lord’s Table? Some helpful thoughts over at Underdog Theology.

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Reading through Michael Horton’s book, A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of God-Centered Worship, I came across a section where he describes “The Benefits of the Supper.”

When received in faith, the Supper’s benefits are, in substance, the same as those communicated through preaching and baptism: Christ and all his benefits. The person and work of Christ are received and enjoyed.

I likely response to this might be, “Why do I need to receive Christ and all his benefits again and again? I accepted Christ once and that’s sufficient.” One might further wonder, “What if a believer doesn’t take the Supper on a given occasion. Is that person somehow less forgiven, less united to Christ?” These are great questions. But comparing the Supper to the preached Word is helpful here, as it was in considering baptism.

I have never heard anyone say, “Because I accepted Christ years ago, I have no need of hearing the gospel in a sermon.”

Saints and sinners at the same time, our faith is never so strong that it can stand without the supports God has given it. One can never reach a point in the Christian life where the gospel is sufficiently understood and embraced that the preaching of God’s good news is no longer required. Faith is not just a matter of having all our facts right but of being inwardly persuaded of their truth as the Holy Spirit witnesses to his Word. Even if we could amass sufficient information, our faith would be weak apart from God’s constantly persuasive rhetoric.

Precisely the same is true of the Supper. Although baptism is a sign and seal never to be repeated, the Supper is often repeated because it conveys the same gospel. If baptism is a means of initiating grace, the Supper is a means of persevering grace–not because it gives us an additional ingredient or a power not present in preaching or baptism but because it is a perpetual ratification of God’s peace treaty with his people. Faith is created by the preached gospel and confirmed and strengthened by the sacraments. God works supernaturally thought natural, created things. (p. 119)

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The sacraments. Are they law or are they gospel? Are they something we do, or something that is done for (or upon) us? Calvin talks of the “nature of the sacraments,”

which God so instituted that believers, poor and deprived of all goods, should bring nothing to it but begging. From this it follows that in receiving the sacraments believers do nothing to deserve praise, and that even in this act (which on their part is merely passive) no work can be ascribed to them.

Institutes 4.14.26

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Continuing on this topic of the Lord’s Table, I’ve copied here several more questions and answers from the Heidelberg Catechism. These are succinct, and yet I think very helpful for us. How else to better understand what the Reformed faith has taught about this sacrament than by reading through these confessional statements of faith? What’s more, if we come to realize that our understanding of the Lord’s Supper is different (perhaps very much so) than what the Reformed Church has confessed over the centuries, then this presses us to reckon with why that is so.

What do we believe about the Lord’s Supper? Is this even an important question? Is Communion just a memorial service? Is it merely about “remembering” Christ’s death? And is it something we can do individually, when we’re ready to go up and partake?  Would a “glorified quite time” best describe what is going on?

The Reformed Church has confessed clearly that she believes otherwise.  The Lord’s Supper is not just a “memorial” service. It’s not merely about remembering what Christ has done. That’s important to be sure, but there’s more (a lot more) going on. And it’s for our own good as Christians who desire to grow stronger in our faiths and deeper in our sanctification that we value a greater appreciation of this reality.

The Holy Supper

Lord’s Day 28

75. How is it signified and sealed to you in the Holy Supper that you partake of the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross and all His benefits?

Thus: that Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and to drink of this cup in remembrance of Him, and has joined therewith these promises:[1] first, that His body was offered and broken on the cross for me and His blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup communicated to me; and further, that with His crucified body and shed blood He Himself feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, as certainly as I receive from the hand of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, which are given me as certain tokens of the body and blood of Christ.

[1] Mt 26:26-28Mk 14:22-24Lk 22:19-201 Cor 10:16-17, 11:23-25, 12:13

76. What does it mean to eat the crucified body and drink the shed blood of Christ?

It means not only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain the forgiveness of sins and life eternal;[1] but moreover, also, to be so united more and more to His sacred body by the Holy Spirit,[2] who dwells both in Christ and in us, that, although He is in heaven[3] and we on earth, we are nevertheless flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone,[4] and live and are governed forever by one Spirit, as members of the same body are governed by one soul.[5]

[1] Jn 6:35, 40, 47-48, 50-54; [2] Jn 6:55-561 Cor 12:13; [3] Acts 1:9-11, 3:211 Cor 11:26Col 3:1; [4] 1 Cor 6:15, 17, 19Eph 3:16-19, 5:29-30, 321 Jn 4:13; [5] Jn 6:56-58, 63, 14:23, 15:1-6Eph 4:15-161 Jn 3:24

77. Where has Christ promised that He will thus feed and nourish believers with His body and blood as certainly as they eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup?

In the institution of the Supper, which says: “The Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had eaten, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He come.”[1] And this promise is also repeated by the Apostle Paul, where he says: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, so we being many are one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.”[2]

[1] 1 Cor 11:23-25; [2] 1 Cor 10:16-17

Lord’s Day 29

78. Do, then, the bread and the wine become the real body and blood of Christ?

No, but as the water in Baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ, nor becomes the washing away of sins itself, being only the divine token and assurance thereof,[1] so also in the Lord’s Supper the sacred bread[2] does not become the body of Christ itself, though agreeably to the nature and usage of sacraments it is called the body of Christ.[3]

[1] Mt 26:29Eph 5:26Tit 3:5; [2] Mt 26:26-291 Cor 11:26-28; [3] Gen 17:10-11Ex 12:11, 13, 26-27, 43, 481 Cor 10:1-4, 16-17, 26-28

79. Why then does Christ call the bread His body, and the cup His blood, or the new covenant in His blood; and the apostle Paul, the communion of the body and the blood of Christ?

Christ speaks thus with great cause, namely, not only to teach us thereby, that like as the bread and wine sustain this temporal life, so also His crucified body and shed blood are the true meat and drink of our souls unto life eternal;[1] but much more, by this visible sign and pledge to assure us that we are as really partakers of His true body and blood by the working of the Holy Spirit, as we receive by the mouth of the body these holy tokens in remembrance of Him;[2]and that all His sufferings and obedience are as certainly our own, as if we ourselves had suffered and done all in our own person.[3]

[1] Jn 6:51-55; [2] 1 Cor 5:16-17, 10:16-17, 11:26; [3] Rom 6:5-11

Lord’s Day 30

80. What difference is there between the Lord’s Supper and the Pope’s Mass?

The Lord’s Supper testifies to us that we have full forgiveness of all our sins by the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which He Himself once accomplished on the cross;[1] and that by the Holy Spirit we are ingrafted into Christ,[2] who, with His true body, is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father,[3] and is there to be worshipped.[4] But the Mass teaches that the living and the dead do not have forgiveness of sins through the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is still daily offered for them by the priests, and that Christ is bodily under the form of bread and wine, and is therefore to be worshipped in them. And thus the Mass at bottom is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ,[5]and an accursed idolatry.

[1] Mt 26:28Jn 19:30Heb 7:27, 9:12, 25-28, 10:10-12, 14; [2] 1 Cor 6:17, 10:16-17; [3] Jn 20:17;Acts 7:55-56Heb 1:3, 8:1; [4] Lk 24:52Jn 4:21-24, 20:17Acts 7:55Php 3:20-21Col 3:11 Thes 1:9-10; [5] Mt 4:10Heb 9, 10

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I’m sure many of you have thought about this. I know I have. What really is the point of the Lord’s Table?  What does it mean to participate in the body and blood of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 10:15-16)? What is it all about? Why do we do this?

The Belgic Confession puts it this way.

Article 35: Of the Lord’s Supper

We believe and confess that our Saviour Jesus Christ has instituted the sacrament of the holy supper[1] to nourish and sustain those whom He has already regenerated and incorporated into His family, which is His church.

Those who are born anew have a twofold life.[2] One is physical and temporal, which they received in their first birth and is common to all men. The other is spiritual and heavenly, which is given them in their second birth and is effected by the word of the gospel[3] in the communion of the body of Christ. This life is not common to all but only to the elect of God.

For the support of the physical and earthly life God has ordained earthly and material bread. This bread is common to all just as life is common to all. For the support of the spiritual and heavenly life, which believers have, He has sent them a living bread which came down from heaven (Jn 6:51), namely, Jesus Christ,[4]who nourishes and sustains the spiritual life of the believers[5] when He is eaten by them, that is, spiritually appropriated and received by faith.[6]

To represent to us the spiritual and heavenly bread, Christ has instituted earthly and visible bread as a sacrament of His body and wine as a sacrament of His blood.[7] He testifies to us that as certainly as we take and hold the sacrament in our hands and eat and drink it with our mouths, by which our physical life is then sustained, so certainly do we receive by faith,[8] as the hand and mouth of our soul, the true body and true blood of Christ, our only Saviour, in our souls for our spiritual life.

The Heidelberg Catechism is also helpful.

81. Who are to come to the table of the Lord?

Those who are displeased with themselves for their sins, yet trust that these are forgiven them, and that their remaining infirmity is covered by the suffering and death of Christ; who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to amend their life. But the impenitent and hypocrites eat and drink judgment to themselves.[1]

[1] Ps 51:3, 103:1-4Mt 5:6Jn 7:37-381 Cor 10:19-22, 11:26-32

82. Are they, then, also to be admitted to this Supper who show themselves by their confession and life to be unbelieving and ungodly?

No, for thereby the covenant of God is profaned and His wrath provoked against the whole congregation;[1] therefore, the Christian Church is bound, according to the order of Christ and His Apostles, to exclude such persons by the Office of the Keys until they amend their lives.

[1] Ps 50:16-17Isa 1:11-17, 66:3Jer 7:21-23Mt 7:61 Cor 11:17-342 Thes 3:6Tit 3:10-11

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