Posts Tagged ‘Communion’

That Christ would desire to hear our prayers is a thought sometimes quite staggering and unbelievable to us. “O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely” (Song 2:14). John Owen comments on this verse:

As if to say, ‘Do not hide yourself as one that flees to the clefts of the rocks. Do not be timid and fearful like one that hides in the secret places and is afraid to come out. Do not be cast down at the weakness of your prayers. Let me hear you sighing and groaning for me. They are sweet and delightful to my ears. Let me see your spiritual face seeking for and desiring heavenly things. A look from your brings great joy and delight to me.’ […]

And yet, it is not only that Christ desires our fellowship. His act of love enables us, and opens our hearts, to commune with him in return.

The soul loves Christ for his beauty, grace and all-sufficiency. The soul sees Christ as far to be preferred above all other beloveds whatever (Song 5:9). To the soul, Christ is ‘altogether lovely’ (Song 5:16)… The soul constantly prefers Christ to all else, counting everything else that seeks to possess the heart but rubbish in comparison to him. Beloved peace; beloved human relationship; beloved wisdom and learning; beloved righteousness; beloved duties are all but rubbish compared to Christ.

But this communion only takes place in light of the gospel. In fact, it is the message of free justification, apart from works, which allows us to come freely to Christ. Apart from this, there is no communion. And as we continue in the faith, the relationship of free justification remains the continual basis of our communion.

The soul willingly accepts Christ as its only Husband, Lord and Savior.  This is called ‘receiving’ Christ (John 1:12). This does not mean a once-for-all act of the will, but a continual receiving of Christ in abiding with him and owning him to be our Lord for ever. This is when the soul agrees to take Christ on his terms, for Christ to save him as and how he will and says, ‘Lord, I would have had you and salvation in my own way and on my own terms, partly by my own efforts, by my own good works, but now I am willing to receive you and to be saved in your way, merely by grace. I would have walked according to the dictates of my own mind, yet now I give up myself to be wholly ruled by your Spirit, for in you alone I have righteousness and strength. In you alone I am justified, and in you alone to I glory.’ In this way the soul has continual abiding communion with Christ in grace. This is what it means to receive Christ in his beauty and supreme glory. Let believers exercise their hearts abundantly in this communion. What joy they will find! – John Owen, Communion with God, (abridged version), 57-60.

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“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Sustain me with raisins; refresh me with apples, for I am sick with love.” – Song 2:4-5

John Owen comments:

This fellowship is like a delicious banquet. ‘He brought me to the banqueting house’ or ‘house of wine’. This fellowship is described under the images of the greatest sweetness and most delicious refreshment. ‘He entertains me,” says the Shulamite, ‘as if I was some great person’. Great persons, at great entertainments, are brought into the banqueting house, the house of wine and excellent food. These are the provisions of grace and mercy, love and kindness, and everything that is promised in the gospel, preached in the assembles of the saints, and revealed by the Spirit.   This ‘love is better than wine’ (Song 1:2). It is ‘not food and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’. Gospel promises are delicious morsels. Whether these houses symbolise the Scriptures, the gospel or the ordinances, or any wonderful revelation of special love, as banqueting is not done every day, nor used in ordinary entertaining, it does not matter. Wine that cheers the heart of man, that makes him forget his misery, that gives him a cheerful appearance is that which is promised (Prov. 31:6,7; Gal. 4:9, 12). The grace shown by Christ in his ordinances is refreshing, strengthening and full of comfort to the souls of the saints. Woe to such souls who loathe these honeycombs! But in this way, Christ makes all his assemblies banqueting houses. There he gives his saints rich entertainment. – Communion with God, (abridged version) 42-43.

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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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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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