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Posts Tagged ‘Lord's Supper’

First_Thanksgiving2We believe and confess, that our Savior Jesus Christ did ordain and institute the sacrament of the holy supper, to nourish and support those whom he hath already regenerated, and incorporated into his family, which is his Church.

Now those, who are regenerated, have in them a two-fold life, the one corporal and temporal, which they have from the first birth, and is common to all men: the other spiritual and heavenly, which is given them in their second birth, which is effected by the word of the gospel, in the communion of the body of Christ; and this life is not common, but is peculiar to God’s elect. In like manner God hath given us, for the support of the bodily and earthly life, earthly and common bread, which is subservient thereto, and is common to all men, even as life itself. But for the support of the spiritual and heavenly life, which believers have, he hath sent a living bread, which descended from heaven, namely, Jesus Christ, who nourishes and strengthens the spiritual life of believers, when they eat him, that is to say, when they apply and receive him by faith in the spirit.

Christ, that he might represent unto us this spiritual and heavenly bread, hath instituted an earthly and visible bread, as a sacrament of his body, and wine as a sacrament of his blood, to testify by them unto us, that, as certainly as we receive and hold this sacrament in our hands, and eat and drink the same with our mouths, by which our life is afterwards nourished, we also do as certainly receive by faith (which is the hand and mouth of our soul) the true body and blood of Christ our only Savior in our souls, for the support of our spiritual life.

Now, as it is certain and beyond all doubt, that Jesus Christ hath not enjoined to us the use of his sacraments in vain, so he works in us all that he represents to us by these holy signs, though the manner surpasses our understanding, and cannot be comprehended by us, as the operations of the Holy Ghost are hidden and incomprehensible. In the meantime we err not, when we say, that what is eaten and drunk by us is the proper and natural body, and the proper blood of Christ. But the manner of our partaking of the same, is not by the mouth, but by the spirit through faith. Thus then, though Christ always sits at the right hand of his Father in the heavens, yet doth he not therefore cease to make us partakers of himself by faith. This feast is a spiritual table, at which Christ communicates himself with all his benefits to us, and gives us there to enjoy both himself, and the merits of his suffering and death, nourishing, strengthening and comforting our poor comfortless souls by the eating of his flesh, quickening and refreshing them by the drinking of his blood.

Further, though the sacraments are connected with the thing signified, nevertheless both are not received by all men: the ungodly indeed receives the sacrament to his condemnation, but he doth not receive the truth of the sacrament. As Judas, and Simon the sorcerer, both indeed received the sacrament, but not Christ, who was signified by it, of whom believers only are made partakers.

Lastly, we receive this holy sacrament in the assembly of the people of God, with humility and reverence, keeping up amongst us a holy remembrance of the death of Christ our Savior, with thanksgiving: making there confession of our faith, and of the Christian religion. Therefore no one ought to come to this table without having previously rightly examined himself; lest by eating of this bread and drinking of this cup, he eat and drink judgment to himself. In a word, we are excited by the use of this holy sacrament, to a fervent love towards God and our neighbor. Therefore we reject all mixtures and damnable inventions, which men have added unto, and blended with the sacraments, as profanations of them: and affirm that we ought to rest satisfied with the ordinance which Christ and his apostles have taught us, and that we must speak of them in the same manner as they have spoken.— Guido de Bres, Belgic Confession (1561)

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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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