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Lord’s Supper

(19 posts)

And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” —Luke 22:19–20 Memo to Dr. Luther and all my Lutheran friends, whom I love: There have been several different understandings of what Jesus meant by taking the bread and saying, “This is my body, which is given for you” (Luke 22:19) and by taking the cup and saying, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Was he saying that the cup and the bread were signs of his body and blood, or that they somehow were transformed into the very body and blood of Jesus? It was natural then, and it is natural today, to point to a representation of something and say that the representation is the thing. For example, I look at a photograph of our house and say, “This is our house.” It would not enter anyone’s mind to think I mean that the photograph was transformed into my house. If Jesus stooped down and drew a camel in the sand, He would say, “This is a camel.” The drawing doesn’t become a camel. It represents a camel. We know he used language this way because in the parable of the four soils, he interprets the images of four kinds of people with these words: “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy” (Matt. 13:20). He means the rocky ground represents a kind of person. There is nothing modern or strange about this way of thinking, and it is the most natural way to understand Jesus’ words. The cup and the body represent his blood and body. Moreover, if we insist on saying that “this is my body” and “this is my blood” must refer to the physical body and blood of Jesus, what becomes of the statement, “This cup . . . is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20)? Are we to say that the cup is the new covenant in the same way that the cup is the blood? Surely, “this cup . . . is the new covenant” means “this cup represents the new covenant that will be purchased and inaugurated by my bloodshedding tomorrow morning.” Therefore, it seems wise to understand the words “this is my body” and “this is my blood” to mean: “The cup and bread represent my physical body and blood offered up for you in death as a sacrifice for your sins.” —John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World (Crossway, 2006), 347–348. This post is among several that have been lost. Thanks to Google and the elephantine memory of the internet, I was able to restore it. I am not able to restore comments to their normal place, so, since this was an unusually good discussion, I have reproduced them below. Christina What of the rest of the passage? What of Jesus' clarification that "My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink?" What of the fact that Jesus lost many followers after this meal, followers who just "could not accept" Christ's teachings? Piper's explanation focuses on just one sentence made by Christ when in reality, He said much more that night. David Kjos Christina, Short answer: 1) What of any number of other figurative expressions in the Bible? 2) You're confusing the Lord's last supper in the upper room with the Jesus' Bread of Life sermon in John 6. Longer answer: John 6:48 "I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh." 52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" 54 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever." Jesus said he was bread, then he said his flesh was food, and his blood drink. Then he said he was bread again. Elsewhere, he said he was the light (John 8, 9), the door and the good shepherd (John 10), and the vine (John 15). Is he really bread? Light? A door? A vine? Are we really branches, or sheep? Finally, that "as a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore" is a commentary on the nature of their faith. Regarding the question at hand, it is neither here nor there. Christina Thank you for your reply. I did not mean to imply that the bread of life sermon and the Last Supper were one and the same. Obviously however, Christ's words on the subject are connected. Though Christ used many metaphors in his teaching, he seems to go out of his way to emphasize that this teaching about bread and wine is not metaphorical. As for his followers' deserting Jesus, John 6:60-66 is very, very explicit with the fact that he was deserted for this specific teaching on Christ's flesh and blood: "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" Jesus replies, "Does this offend you?" This was not a general disagreement in overall beliefs here - the followers found something upsetting about this specific teaching. It seems strange to me that the followers would balk at a simple metaphor if that is in fact what Christ's language implies. Anyhow, I thank you for the commentary and for your response. David Kjos I should assume, then, that you believe that Christ intended his disciples to actually eat his flesh and drink his blood, not to eat and drink bread and wine and understand it metaphorically as flesh and blood. Otherwise, you are admitting it is metaphor. Was Jesus buried, resurrected, and ascended into heaven in the flesh, or did his disciples eat him? Something in this equation is figurative. If it isn't food/blood/eat, I'd like to know what it is. (A metaphor, as you apparently don't know, is an analogy drawn between two different things or actions by saying that one is the other, e.g. "I am the door." Compare to simile: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed . . .") And again, regarding John 6:60ff, your insistence that the response of some to Jesus' teaching in any way interprets the teaching begs the question. Your interpretation depends on the a priori assumption of your interpretation. Your argument can be expressed by the following syllogism: Jesus said a. a was unacceptable to many. Therefore, a means b. How did we get to "a means b"? By assuming it in advance, obviously. The fact that Jesus' teaching offended some is no interpretation of the teaching itself. We are not told, "They understood him to mean _____, and since they couldn't accept it, left him." We aren't told what they thought he meant, only that they couldn't accept it. And even if we were, that would be no indication of the actual meaning of Jesus' words, but only of their understanding of them. David So Jesus can't be present in the bread and the wine? David Kjos David, That's the wrong question. The question is not what can be, but what is. The question is also not is Jesus present, but is the bread and wine actual flesh and blood, or representative of flesh and blood. The point of this post is to answer Lutherans who want to find a middle ground between those two options. The plain meaning of the text eliminates that dilemma. When we read the text literally (recognizing literary form), the metaphor becomes obvious. Can Jesus be present, and if so, in what sense? The answer to that is somewhat complex, and I don't have time to answer that here and now. I suggest consulting R. C. Sproul, Kingdom Feast (particularly lecture 6, The Presence of Christ) for a good answer to that. David Hello David, Paul writes in 1 Cor 10: 16The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 'participation/sharing IN the blood of Christ', and 'participation/sharing IN the body of Christ'. 'is it' is estin. Paul could have used a different term if he wanted to convey signifies, but he doesn't. He looks to me to be convinced (but misled you might say) that the churches of the saints were participating IN the body and IN the blood. How are you going to explain that away? In greek it can be translated as 'is it not the blood' and 'is it not the body' and no other translations seems to be available. You ask in what sense can Jesus be present? We say, 'in with and under'. It is a mystery, but that doesn't make it any the less implausible. what is implausible, is that Jesus would institute anything as solemn as this communion, and it clearly was, and it was his last act with the apostles, with the words that He has used, that translate freely from the Greek, and have it seen as a mere memorial. This IS my body. 'Is' could have been said as 'signifies', there are alternatives. Would Jesus have it that we battle over the word 'is'? It is clear, but it is spiritual. We see things in a physical sense, our minds battle against spiritual things. 'Is'! No it can't be. How can this bread, this wine, be 'is'? I became a Lutheran in 1993 and it has taken me until this year, to finally agree with Luther. My understanding HAD to be based on scripture, but it also had to be based on whether or not 'is' should be seen as 'signifies' or 'is' as in 'it is hot'. The following is from The guy may be RC, but I don't see his reasoning as being anything but impartial. 'From a linguistic perspective I would consider it problematic to represent the Greek word esti in English with the word "signifies." Esti (which sometimes appears with a nu after it as "estin") is just the Greek equivalent of "is." It's the verb "to be" in the third person singular form (present tense, active voice, indicative mood), and it would translate as "(he/she/it) is." Esti works just the same way that "is" does in English. In both languages, the verb "to be" can be used to signify existence (as in "God is") or predication ("the grass is green") or equivalence ("Bruce Wayne is Batman"). It can also be used literally ("Jesus is the Son of God") or figuratively ("King Herod is a sly fox"). The latter seems to be a special case of equivalence. We do see passages in the New Testament where esti is used figuratively. For example, in Revelation 17:9 John is told, "the seven heads [of the beast] are seven mountains on which the woman is seated." The word for "are" here is "eisi(n)" which is just the plural form of "esti(n)," the way that "are" is the plural of "is." Here we have a figurative use of "is," and the seven heads do signify seven mountains. However, I would resist translating eisi as "signifies." That's not what the word means in Greek. What it means is "are." It's being used to convey the idea of signification, but that's its connotation rather than its denotation. It would be legitimate to use the connotation of a word as a translation if the receptor language can't express the same thought any other way (e.g., in languages that don't have the verb "to be"), but if the receptor language (English in this case) has exactly the same usage of exactly the same verb (it does) then the thing to do is translate the word according to its actual meaning, which is "is." To render esti in English as "signifies" is not actual translation. It's paraphrase. Paraphrase is warranted when actual translation is impossible or when it would be misleading, but when the receptor language accomodates a straightforward translation, it should be used. We otherwise run the risk of the translator's own biases distorting the message in the original. Whenever possible the original should be presented to the reader in the receptor language, and he should be allowed to determine the connotation of what is being said.' Your thoughts? David Kjos David, Having been raised Lutheran, I'm fairly familiar with the Lutheran position, and the confusing "in, with, and under" language. But you're still missing the point. There is no question about the correct translation of words here. The word is "is." We know that. If there was no "is" (or other form of "to be"), we could not call it a metaphor. Translation is not the issue. The issue is interpretation. The literary form in this case, a is not a, is metaphor. To ignore that is to fail to interpret literally. David Hello David, I thought I did get the point, hence the long reply regarding what 'is' is. This is not a case of a drawing or a photograph representing anything. The confusing 'in with and under' is a way of describing the mystery of how God works through bread and wine. Sacrament itself is based on the greek mysterion, recognising that we can't understand how such a thing as 'This is my body' is to be understood to be fulfilled. John Piper admits it when he says: 'Therefore, it seems wise to understand the words "this is my body" and "this is my blood" to mean: "The cup and bread represent my physical body and blood offered up for you in death as a sacrifice for your sins." ' He doesn't know. He's applying human wisdom to something unfathomable. 'Is' is used by Jesus Christ, not 'signifies', not 'represents', not 'is a picture', not 'is a drawing'. We say, let God be God, when we hit things that are beyond our puny wisdom. For John Piper to write 'it is wise to understand . . .', he is placing human wisdom onto a simple 'is', because we don't get it. 'to ignore that is to fail to interpret literally'. That 'is' means 'is' is a failure to interpret literally? Interpreting 'is' as 'represents' is not a literal interpretation. David Kjos David, I have stated very clearly that I know what "is" means. But words don't stand alone. When the verb "to be" is placed between two distinctly different nouns, that is a metaphor, and we do not insist that the one thing actually is the other. This is what it means to interpret literally. We have to recognize the literary genres and devices used by the author: simile, metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, hyperbole, etc. If you don't do that, you are not interpreting literally. If you persist in ignoring the metaphor here, I'll have to assume that you believe Jesus is made out of wood, steel, or maybe fiberglass, and has hinges on one side and a lock on the other, because he said "I am the door," and "am" means "am." But it goes without saying that such an interpretation is obtuse. It is not interpreting literally; it is, in fact, failing to interpret at all. If you don't like "represents," that's fine; there are other, possibly better, ways it could be expressed. How the metaphor should be interpreted may be open for debate, but what absolutely cannot be denied is the fact that it is a metaphor. David Hello David, Sorry I haven't replied earlier, other things ... Where do you get 'to be' from in the scripture surrounding 'This is my body'? 'Is' does not correspond with 'to be' ... there's a line there but I won't take it:) In regard to Jesus' I am statements, he continues beyond I am the door, by explaining the metaphor e.g. No-one comes to the Father except through me. ditto with Light, Shepherd, etc. Jesus also says, 'I am working', which is clearly not a metaphor, and nor does he need to explain it to the disciples. He explains metaphors. Please don't suggest I am a fool because I disagree with you. Like yourself, there have been many from both sides of the coin (about HC) who we would both admire for their faith,and works, even if there are aspects about their understanding that we might disagree with. To suggest that I am of such a low intelligence that I cannot recognise an obvious metaphor is indicative of frustration on your part. I get the same from premillenialists. David Kjos David, I haven't suggested you're a fool, and if I do, it won't be for disagreeing with me; it will be for being unteachable. What I have done is attempt to correct your ignorance. I also have not suggested that you are "of such low intelligence" that you cannot recognize an obvious metaphor; my impression, i.e., that you stubbornly refuse to acknowledge one, is actually much less complimentary than that. Now, obviously you need a little grammar lesson: English conjugation of "to be" Infinitive: be Present Participle: being Past participle: been 1st person singular: I am/was 2nd person singular: you are/were 3rd person singular: he/she/it is/was 1st person plural: we are/were 2nd person plural: you are/were 3rd person plural: they are/were "I am working" is not a metaphor. The structure of a metaphor is subject [to be] predicate nominative. "Am working" is the predicate; "am," in this case is an auxiliary, or helping, verb. In a metaphor, [to be] is the lexical, or main, verb. That structure is what indicates a metaphor. Whether or not they are explained--and they usually are not--they are metaphors. "This is my body/blood" has the structure of a metaphor. Is it? Unless you believe that the bread of the Lord's Table is actual muscle from the incarnate body of Jesus, and the wine is actual blood from his veins, you must answer, "Yes, it is a metaphor." Then, you can go on to consider how the metaphor is to be taken. David Hello David, Thank you, sincerely, for your reply. I am going to take some time to construct a reply, so please don't think me rude for not giving you a fuller response right now. David Hello David, I agree that we are not dealing with actual muscle and blood, and therefore, to consider Jesus statements as metaphor is a natural and logical response. Before I go any further, and possibly waste our time, what do you believe occurs with Holy Communion? Do you agree with Calvin? or Zwingli? or some other understanding. Piper holds that Jesus Christ's body and blood are experienced spiritually when the bread and wine are eaten. Is this your understanding? David Kjos David, I agree with Zwingli's position as far as I understand it. I'm not aware of any significant difference between Calvin and Zwingli on this, though there might be. Calvin said that Christ consecrated the bread and wine as symbols of his body and blood, and so I believe. In his Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, he wrote This is my body. As to the opinion entertained by some, that by those words the bread was consecrated, so as to become the symbol of the flesh of Christ, I do not find fault with it, provided that the word consecrated be understood aright, and in a proper sense. So then, the bread, which had been appointed for the nourishment of the body, is chosen and sanctified by Christ to a different use, so as to begin to be spiritual food. . . . Christ declares that the bread is his body. These words relate to a sacrament; and it must be acknowledged, that a sacrament consists of a visible sign, with which is connected the thing signified, which is the reality of it. I would further stipulate that Christ's body and blood are metonymies (a figure similar to metaphor) for his death. That is, there is no unique value in the actual flesh and blood of Jesus--it is no different from yours or mine, and to think otherwise is papist superstition. So the spiritual benefits of the Lord's Table are through faith in the substitution of Christ for us on the cross. The sacrament is the symbol of Christ's death. Our participation in it is the symbol of the reality expressed in Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." David Hello David, Zwingli: "To eat the body of Christ sacramentally, if we wish to speak accurately, is to eat the body of Christ in heart and spirit with the accompaniment of the sacrament...You eat the body of Christ spiritually, though not sacramentally, every time you comfort your heart in its anxious query 'How will you be saved'...When you comfort yourself thus, I say, you eat his body spiritually, that is, you stand unterrified in God against all attacks of despair, through confidence in the humanity he took upon himself for you. But when you come to the Lord's Supper with this spiritual participation and give thanks unto the Lord for his kindness, for the deliverance of your soul, through which you have been delivered from the destruction of despair, and for the pledge by which you have been made sure of everlasting blessedness, and along with the brethren partake of the bread and wine which are the symbols of the body of Christ, then you eat him sacramentally, in the proper sense of the term, when you do internally what you represent externally, when your heart is refreshed by this faith to which you bear witness by these symbols" (Zwingli's Fidei Expositio in "Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries pp.190-191). Z rationalises; there is no action by God. Calvin (from: also wrote: "We begin now to enter on the question so much debated, both anciently and at the present time--how we are to understand the words in which the bread is called the body of Christ, and the wine his blood. This may be disposed of without much difficulty, if we carefully observe the principle which I lately laid down, viz., that all the benefit which we should seek in the Supper is annihilated if Jesus Christ be not there given to us as the substance and foundation of all. That being fixed, we will confess, without doubt, that to deny that a true communication of Jesus Christ is presented to us in the Supper, is to render this holy sacrament frivolous and useless--an execrable blasphemy unfit to be listened to." Calvin admits the necessity of the presence of Christ. Paul writes 1Cor 11: 29For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not discern the body [Christ] rightly. If Z is right, what on earth is Paul writing about? He's clearly mad! How could simple bread and wine cause a person to 'eats and drinks judgment if he does not discern the body rightly'? David, the early Christians were accused of cannibalism by the Romans because of these words and their belief regarding them. They were killed for not withdrawing their belief. It wasn't until the 13th century that the RC invented their belief of physical change. The didache states: You must not let anyone eat or drink of your Eucharist except those baptized in the Lord's name. For in reference to this the Lord said, "Do not give what is sacred to dogs". Sacred? Baptised? for a memorial? The didache also states: On every Lord's Day--his special day--come together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure. Anyone at variance with his neighbor must not join you, until they are reconciled, lest your sacrifice be defiled. For it was of this sacrifice that the Lord said, "Always and everywhere offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is marveled at by the nations." Why confess your sins prior to the Lord's Supper, why reconcile with your neighbour, why is it called a 'sacrifice' by us, if it is JUST a memorial? It is incredible, that such simple words, in Greek, or Aramaic, or English, 'This(is) my body' can't be accepted at face value. How much more simpler could my Lord Jesus have put it? David Kjos David, I'm not going to defend Zwingli, as I don't know him well enough to know that I want to. Since I never quoted him in the first place, you're wasting your time refuting him here. And the Didache--seriously? I think we had best stick to Scripture. I only quoted Calvin because you asked if I agreed with him; I looked up what he said regarding the text in question so I could answer your question accurately. Now, I haven't said that Christ is not present. As we gather together to "do this in remembrance of [him]," what could be a more perfect example of the reality of Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst"? Certainly he is present, but it is a spiritual presence. The presence of Christ will always be spiritual until he returns in the flesh (this is a fact dictated by the indivisibility of the two natures of Christ). You ask, "How could simple bread and wine cause a person to 'eats and drinks judgment if he does not discern the body rightly'?" Remember, as I said in my last comment, not only are bread and wine symbols for body and blood, body and blood are symbols for death: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26). When one does not rightly discern (understand) the death of Christ and what it accomplished, i.e. the atonement, he brings judgment upon himself. It is akin to taking the Lord's name in vain: the Lord will not hold him guiltless who does so. Final points: We don't believe, and I haven't said, that the Lord's Supper is just a memorial, so I won't go down that trail. The Romans accused the Christians of cannibalism because they misunderstood the words "this is my body" in the same way papists do, which is similar to the way you are understanding it. Finally, we do take the words "this is my body" at face value. What in the world can you mean by that, having already admitted that "body" is not actual meat? I think I've covered what that face value is. I think I've gone as far as I care to go with this. If you really want to understand this, I encourage you to get Sproul's Kingdom Feast, which I recommended above. If you still don't get it then, I'm sure I can't help you. David Hello David, Take care. Enjoyed the debate.--In Christ David

Hymns of My Youth II: According to Thy Gracious Word

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. —1 Corinthians 11:23–26 According to Thy Gracious Word According to Thy gracious word, In meek humility, This will I do, my dying Lord, I will remember Thee. Thy body, broken for my sake, My bread from Heaven shall be; The testamental cup I take, And thus remember Thee. Gethsemane can I forget? Or there Thy conflict see, Thine agony, and bloody sweat, And not remember Thee? When to the cross I turn mine eyes, And rest on Calvary, O Lamb of God, my sacrifice, I must remember Thee; Remember Thee, and all Thy pains And all Thy love to me; Yea, while a breath, a pulse remains, Will I remember Thee. And when these failing lips grow dumb And mind and memory flee, When Thou shalt in Thy kingdom come, Jesus, remember me. —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

Lord’s Day 4, 2014

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” —Luke 5:31–32 Hymn LIII. Welcome to the table. William Cowper (1731–1800) This is the feast of heav’nly wine, And God invites to sup; The juices of the living vine Were press’d, to fill the cup. Oh, bless the Saviour, ye that eat, With royal dainties fed; Not heav’n affords a costlier treat, For Jesus is the bread! The vile, the lost, he calls to them, Ye trembling souls appear! The righteous, in their own esteem, Have no acceptance here. Approach ye poor, nor dare refuse The banquet spread for you; Dear Saviour, this is welcome news, Then I may venture too. If guilt and sin afford a plea, And may obtain a place; Surely the Lord will welcome me; And I shall see his face. —Olney Hymns. Book II: On Occasional Subjects. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

A Lively Resemblance

George Swinnock’s summary of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper: When the blessed Saviour was taking a doleful farewell of an ungrateful world, as a lively resemblance of his sufferings for his, and as an undeniable evidence of his love to his, he instituted this supper: As a lively resemblance of his passion for his people. A crucified Christ is the sum of the law, and the substance of the gospel; the knowledge of him is no less worth than eternal life. Now as he was crucified by the Jews and soldiers actually, and by unbelieving Gentiles, who live amongst us, interpretatively, so he is crucified in the gospel declaratively, and in the sacrament representatively. ‘This cup,’ saith Christ, ‘is the New Testament in my blood,’ 1 Cor. xi. 25. The Old Testament was sprinkled with the blood of beasts, but the New Testament with the blood of Christ, Heb. ix. 15, 19. This precious blood, which was the costly price of man's redemption, which is the only path to eternal salvation, which was promised to Adam, believed by the patriarchs, shadowed in the sacrifices, foretold by the prophets, and witnessed in the Scriptures, is drunk, received, signified, and sealed in the supper. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:173.

Examine Yourself (1)

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. —1 Corinthians 11:27–29 George Swinnock describes the offense given by unbelievers at the Lord’s Table: First . . . Thy duty is to examine thyself in general, concerning thy regeneration or spiritual life. The sacrament is children’s bread, and it must not be given to dogs; dogs must be without doors, not within, snatching the meat from the table. Men must prove their right to the purchase before they take possession. He must have an interest in the covenant of grace who will finger the seal of the covenant. It is high treason to annex the king’s broad seal to forged writings. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:181–182

Examine Yourself (2)

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. —1 Corinthians 11:27–29 Participation in the Lord’s Table requires knowledge. Thy duty is to examine thyself in particular also of those graces which are specially requisite in a communicant, of thy knowledge to discern the Lord’s body. There is a competency of knowledge needful if thou wouldst receive acceptably. Dost thou know the threefold estate of man?—his innocency, apostasy, and recovery; what a pure piece he was, how holy, when he came out of God’s hands; what a miserable polluted creature he hath made himself by disobeying God, and hearkening to the tempter; what a glorious remedy God hath provided to restore man to his primitive purity. Dost thou know God as he discovereth himself in his works, but especially as he is represented in the glass of his word? Dost thou know Jesus Christ, his two natures, his three offices, how he executeth them, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation? Dost thou know the nature and end of the Lord’s supper? An ignorant person can no more discern Christ’s body than a person stark blind can discern the bread. God hath expressly forbidden lame and blind sacrifices, Mal. i. 8. The hypocrite’s sacrifice is lame, for he halteth in God’s way. The ignorant person’s sacrifice is blind, for he can give no account of his own work. . . . Do not say, though thou art ignorant, yet thy heart is good, when God himself saith, ‘Without knowledge the mind is not good.’ —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:183–184 To those not familiar with catechetical language, it may seem as though Swinnock is demanding a high level of theological education, but these questions are really quite basic. Do you know your sinful condition and how you came to that state? Do you know who Christ is, and what he has done and is doing to reconcile you to God? Those questions are so fundamental, they could be summarized with “Do you understand the gospel?” If you do not know these things, you cannot “know the nature and end of the Lord’s supper.” It is meaningless.

Examine Yourself (3)

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. —1 Corinthians 11:27–29 Participation in the Lord’s Table requires faith. Examine thy faith. This grace is thy spiritual taste, without which thou canst relish nothing on the table. This is the bucket, and if it be wanting, I may say to thee, as the woman to Christ, ‘The well is deep, and thou hast nothing to draw with.’ This is the hand to receive Christ, John i. 12. This is as the arms whereby we embrace Christ; they ‘embraced the promises’ by faith, Heb. xi. 13. As loving friends that have been a great while asunder, when they meet together, hug and embrace each other in their arms; so the Christian who longeth to see Jesus Christ in the promises, when at a sacrament he meeteth him, huggeth and embraceth him in the arms of faith. Examine not so much the strength as the truth of thy faith. The wings of a dove may help her to mount up towards heaven, as well as the wings of an eagle. Try whether thy faith be unfeigned, 1 Tim. i. 5. What price dost thou set upon Christ? ‘To them that believe, Christ is precious,’ 1 Pet. ii. 7. An unbeliever, like the Indians,* seeth no worth in this golden mine, but preferreth a piece of glass, or a few painted beads, mean, earthly things, before it; but a believer, like the Spaniard, knoweth the value of it, and will venture through all storms and tempests that he may enjoy it. Dost thou prize the precepts of Christ, the promises of Christ, the people of Christ, the person of Christ, (is that altogether lovely in thine eyes?) and the passion of Christ? Is thy greatest glory in Christ’s shameful cross? Dost thou esteem it above the highest emperor’s most glorious crown? . . . God forbid,’ saith Paul, ‘that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ,’ Gal. vi. 14. Doth thy faith purify thine heart? ‘Having their hearts purified by faith,’ Acts xv. 9. The hand of faith, which openeth the door to let Christ into the heart, sweepeth the heart clean. Faith looks to be like Christ in glory, and faith labours to resemble Christ in grace. An unbeliever . . . though he keep the room of his life a little clean, which others daily observe, yet he cares not how dirtily those rooms of his inward man lie, which are out of their sight; unbelieving and defiled are joined together, Tit. i. 15. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:183–184 * To those who might take offense at this simile: consider the times (1627–1673) before making any anachronistic judgments.

Examine Yourself (4)

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. —1 Corinthians 11:27–29 Participation in the Lord’s Table requires love—love for Christ, and love for his body. Examine thy love. The primitive Christians kissed each other at the supper, which they called Oscidum pacis, A kiss of peace. They had their ‘feasts of charity,’ Jude 12. ‘The bread which we eat, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?’ As the bread is made of many grains, and the cup of wine of many grapes united, so is the body of Christ of many members, united under one head. Eating together was ever a sign of love and friendship. Joseph hereby shewed his love to his brethren. . . . Now, reader, what love-fire hast thou for this love-feast? Dost thou love the brethren as brethren, because they are related to God, and because they have the image of God? Or dost thou love them only for the natural qualities in them, and their courtesy to thee? This fire I must tell thee is kitchen fire, which must be fed with such coarse fuel; the former only is the fire which is taken from God’s altar. Dost thou love Christ in a cottage as well as in a court? Dost thou love a poor as well as a rich Christian? Dost thou love grace in rags as much as grace in robes? Is it their honour or their holiness which thou dost admire? —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:185

Examine Yourself (5)

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. —1 Corinthians 11:27–29 It does little good to examine ourselves without the proper standard of measure. If we compare ourselves to our friends and neighbors, husbands and wives, or any other worldly standard, we are likely to pass most tests. But Christians have a more pure standard. But be sure thou compare thy heart and life with the law of God. Oh how many spots will that glass discover! When the woman hath swept her house and gathered the dust up altogether, she thinks there is none left; but when the sun doth but shine in through some broken pane of glass, she seeth the whole house swarm with innumerable motes of dust floating to and fro in the air. The light of God’s law will make innumerable sins visible to thee, which without it will lie hid. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:186

Meditate on Thy Corruptions

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. —1 Corinthians 11:26 Since the purpose of the Lord’s Table is to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes,” it behooves us to understand well why he died. Therefore we ought to Meditate on thy corruptions. As his love was the inward moving cause, so thy sins were the outward procuring cause, of his sufferings: ‘He was wounded for thy transgressions, he was bruised for thine iniquities; the chastisement of thy peace was upon him,’ Isa. liii. 5. When thou art at the sacrament, which fitly representeth Christ’s sufferings, consider with thyself, What was that which brought the blessed Saviour into such a bleeding condition? It was my sin; I was the Judas which betrayed him, the Jew which apprehended him, the Pilate that condemned him, and the Gentile which crucified him. My sins were the thorns which pierced his head, the nails which pierced his hands, and the spear which pierced his heart. It was I that put to death the Lord of life: he died for my sins; he was ‘made sin for me, who knew no sin; ‘his blood is my balm, his Golgotha is my Gilead. Oh, what a subject is here for meditation! He suffered in my stead, he bore my sins in his body on the tree, he took that loathsome purging physic for the diseases of my soul. When he was in the garden in his bloody agony, grovelling on the ground, there was no Judas, no Pilate, no Jew, no Gentile there, to cause that unnatural sweat, or to make his soul sorrowful unto death; but my pride, my unbelief, my hypocrisy, my atheism, my blasphemy, my unthankfulness, my carnalmindedness, they were there, and caused his inward bleeding sorrows, and outward bloody sufferings. Ah, what a heavy weight was my sin to cause such a bloody sweat in a frosty night! My dissimulation was the traitorous kiss, my ambition the thorny crown; my drinking iniquities like water made him drink gall and vinegar; my want of tears caused him to bleed; my forsaking my Maker made him to be forsaken of his Father. Because the members of my body were instruments of iniquity, therefore the members of his body were objects of such cruelty; because my soul was so unholy, therefore his soul was so exceeding heavy. O my soul, what hast thou done? —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:201–202

This Is Repentance

This is what repentance at the Lord’s Table (or anywhere else) looks like: It was the glory of Alexander, that, as soon as ever he had opportunity, he slew the murderers of his father upon his father’s tomb. Truly, reader, a sacrament day is a special opportunity, and thou wilt shew but little love to thine everlasting Father if thou dost not now put his murderers to death, upon those monuments of his passion. Now thou art at the table, think of thy unthankfulness, ambition, hypocrisy, covetousness, irreligion, and infidelity, and the rest, how these ‘crucified the Lord of glory,’ and resolve through the strength of Christ that these Hamans shall all be hanged, that these sins shall be condemned and crucified. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:211

The Cup of Blessing

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. —1 Corinthians 11:26 As we think on what the Lord’s Table means, we ought to be filled with profound gratitude for the grace it preaches. The cup in the sacrament is called the Eucharistical cup, or ‘the cup of blessing; ‘let it be so to thee. Let thy heart and mouth say, ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who hath visited and redeemed his people,’ Luke ii. Canst thou think of that infinite love which God manifested to thy soul without David’s return, ‘What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits?’ His heart was so set upon thy salvation, his love was so great to thy soul, that he delighted in the very death of his Son because it tended to thy good. ‘It pleased the Lord to bruise him,’ Isa. liii. 10. . . . Surely the mind of God was infinitely set upon the recovery of lost sinners, in that—whereas other parents, whose love to their children in comparison of his to Christ is but as a drop to the ocean, follow their children to their graves with many tears, especially when they die violent deaths—he delighted exceedingly in the barbarous death of his only Son, in the bleeding of the head, because it tended to the health and eternal welfare of the members. Friend, ‘what manner of love hath the Father loved thee with?’ He gave his own Son to be apprehended, that thou mightest escape; his own Son to be condemned, that thou mightest be acquitted; his own Son to be whipped and wounded, that thou mightest be cured and healed; yea, his own Son to die a shameful cursed death, that thou mightest live a glorious blessed life for ever. ‘Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good will to men.’ Alas, how unworthy art thou of this inestimable mercy! Thou art by nature a child of wrath as well as others, and hadst been now wallowing in sin with the worst in the world, if free grace had not renewed thee; nay, thou hadst been roaring in hell at this hour if free grace had not reprieved thee. Thy conscience will tell thee that thou dost not deserve the bread which springeth out of the earth, and yet thou art fed with the bread which came down from heaven, with angels’ food. O infinite love! Mayest not thou well say with Mephibosheth to David, ‘What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am? For all my father’s house were as dead men before my lord, yet didst thou set thy servant among them that did eat at thine own table.’ Lord, I was a lost, dead, damned sinner before thee, liable to the unquenchable fire, and yet thou hast been pleased to set me among them that eat at thine own table, and feed on thine own Son. Oh, what is thy servant, that thou shouldst take notice of such a dead dog as I am? —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:212–213

At the Lord’s Table (1)

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. —1 Corinthians 11:26–29 Under the heading of A good wish about the Lord’s supper, George Swinnock summarizes his teaching on the preparation for and reception of the ordinance of the Lord’s Table. This is the first of three parts: The Lord’s supper being one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian religion, a lively representation of my dearest Saviour’s bleeding passion and blessed affection, and a real taste of that eternal banquet which I shall hereafter eat of in my Father’s house at his own table, I wish in general that I may never distaste the person of my best friend by abusing his picture; that I may not go to the Lord’s table as swine to their trough, in my sin and pollution, but may receive those holy elements into a clean heart. Oh that my lamp might be flaming, and my vessel filled with oil, whenever I go to meet the bridegroom! I wish, in particular, that my soul may be so thoroughly affected with Christ’s special presence at this sacred ordinance, that I may both prepare for it, and proceed at it with all possible seriousness and diligence. Oh let me never be so unworthy and impudent as to defile that holy feast before the author’s face. I wish that my heart may have an infinite respect for the blood of my Saviour, the stream in which all my comforts, both for this and a better world, come swimming to me, which hath landed thousands safely at the haven of eternal happiness, one drop of which I am sure is more worth than heaven and earth; that as all murder is abominable, being against the light of nature, so Christmurder may be most of all abhorred by me, as being directly against the clearest light of Scripture, and the choicest love which ever was discovered to the children of men. Good Lord, whatever I jest with, let me never sport or dally with the death of thy Son! Let me not give him cause to complain of me, as once of Judas, ‘He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish is the same that betrayeth me! ‘Let me never buy a sacrament, as the Jews the potter’s field, with the price of blood. ‘Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, God, thou God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy loving-kindness.’ I wish that true self-love may be so prevalent with me, that since I believe the profanation of the most precious things will be most pernicious to my soul, as the whitest ivory is turned by the fire into the deepest black, and the sweetest wine becometh the sharpest vinegar, I may tremble and fear before I receive, lest I should poison myself with that potion which is intended for my health, and cut the throat of my precious soul with that knife, wherewith I may cut bread, feed on it, and live for ever. I wish that I may prepare my heart to meet the God of Israel at this holy ordinance; and to this end, that I may be impartial in the search and examination of my soul, whether I come short of the grace of God or no. . . . I desire that both by my tongue and hand, by my words and works, I may know the state and condition of my heart. In special, my prayer is, that I may never fail to try my faith, which is to the soul what the natural heat is to the body, by virtue of which the nutritive faculty turneth the food into nourishment, but may make sure of an interest in the vine before I drink of the fruit thereof. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:218–219.

At the Lord’s Table (2)

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. —1 Corinthians 11:26–29 This is the second of three parts of George Swinnock’s A good wish about the Lord’s supper: I wish that before I go for a discharge, I may look into the book of my conscience, cast up my accounts, and consider how infinitely I am indebted to my God, that I may consider whence I am fallen and repent, and . . . rend my garments, my heart I mean, with godly sorrow and self-abhorrency. Oh that my soul might be so searched to the bottom that none of my wounds may fester, but all may be discovered and cured. I pray that I may not dare to turn the table of the Lord into the table of devils, by receiving the sacrament in the love of any known sin, but may go to it with a hearty detestation of every false way, and a holy resolution against every known wickedness. I wish that after all my pains in preparing myself, I may look up to Christ alone for assistance, as knowing that I am not sufficient of myself so much as to think anything, but my sufficiency is of God; blessed Saviour, be thou surety for thy servant, and bound for my good behaviour at the last and loving supper. I wish that when I come to the table I may, like the beloved disciple, behold the wounds of my Saviour, and see that water and blood which did flow out of his side; that as in the Gospel I read a narrative, so in this ordinance I may have a prospective of his sufferings: how he emptied himself to fill me, and to raise my reputation with his Father, laid down his own; how he humbled himself, though he had the favour of a Son, to the form of a servant, and though he were the Lord of life and glory, to the most ignominious death, even the death of the cross. I wish that in his special passion I may ever take notice of his affection, and esteem the laying down his life, as the hyperbole of his love, the highest note that love could possibly reach. Ah! how near did this high priest carry my name to his heart, when he willingly underwent the rage of hell to purchase for me a passage to heaven! ‘I will remember thy love more than wine.’ I desire that when I see Christ crucified before mine eyes, in the breaking of the bread, and pouring out of the wine, I may not forget the cause, my corruptions, but may so think of them and my Saviour’s kindness, in dying to make satisfaction for them, that as fire expelleth fire, so I may be enabled by the fire of love to expel and cast out the fire of lust. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:219–220

At the Lord’s Table (3)

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. —1 Corinthians 11:26–29 The last of three parts of George Swinnock’s A good wish about the Lord’s supper: I wish that however my body be attired, my soul may by faith put on the Lord Jesus Christ at this heavenly feast; that I may not only look up to him, as the cripple to Peter and John, expecting an alms, but may receive him by believing, and so banquet on his blessed body, and bathe my soul in his precious blood, that my spirit may rejoice in God my Saviour, whilst I am assured that though the pain were his, yet the profit is mine; though the wounds were his, yet the balm issuing thence is mine; though the thorns were his, yet the crown is mine; and though the price were his, yet the purchase is mine. Oh let him be mine in possession and claim, and then he will be mine in fruition and comfort, ‘Lord, I believe; help mine unbelief!’ I wish, since love is the greatest thing my Saviour can give me, for God is love, and the greatest thing which I can give my Saviour, that his love to me may be reflected back to him again, that my chiefest love may be as a fountain sealed up to all others, and broached only for him who is altogether lovely, that I may hate father, mother, wife, child, house, and land, out of love to him; that many waters of affliction may not quench this love, but rather like snuffers make this lamp to burn the brighter. Beasts love them who feed them. Wicked men love their friends and benefactors; my very clothes warming me are warmed by me again, and shall not I love him who hath loved me, and washed me in his own blood! . . . When my soul has been thus feasted with marrow and fatness, Lord, let my mouth praise thee with joyful lips. Ah, what am I, and what is my father’s house, that when others eat the bread of violence, and drink the wine of deceit, I should eat the flesh and drink the blood of thine own Son? ‘What is man, that thou art so mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou dost thus visit him?’ I wish that I may shew my thankfulness to my God and dearest Saviour for these benefits—the worth of which men and angels can never conceive—by the love of my heart, the praises of my lips, and the exemplariness of my life. At the sacrament Christ gave his body and blood to me, and I gave my body and soul a living sacrifice to him . . . Shall I pollute that heart which was solemnly devoted to God, and profane that covenant which I have seriously contracted with the most High? . . . Oh let me never start aside from my vow like a deceitful bow! Lord, I have sworn, and will perform, that I will keep, through thy strength, thy righteous judgments. Lastly, I desire that I may not only . . . deny sin at present, but afterwards defy it; that I may not only be faithful to my oath of allegiance, but also fruitful in obedience; that as Elijah walked in the strength of one meal forty days, I may walk in the strength of that banquet, serving my Saviour and my soul all my days. In a word, I wish that I may ever after walk worthy of my birth, having royal, heavenly blood running in my veins; worthy of my breeding, being brought up in the nurture of the Lord, fed at his own table with the bread of heaven, clothed with the robes of his Son’s righteousness; and that my present deportment may be answerable to my future preferment. Oh that I might in all companies, conditions, and seasons, walk worthy of him who hath called me to his kingdom and glory! Amen. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:220–222

Hypostasis and the Real Presence

In the previous post, the reason was given for the burning of the English Reformers under Queen “Bloody” Mary: their denial of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Their conflict was with the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which claims that, in the Mass, the bread and wine are substantially changed into the actual body and blood of Christ. I try not to make unfair connections between Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism, but the implications of this for Lutherans are unavoidable. Lutherans teach that the Lord’s Supper “is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and drink” (Small Catechism) and that “the true body and blood of Christ are really present in the Supper of our Lord under the form of bread and wine” (Augsburg Confession, Article X). They are careful to distinguish their doctrine from the Roman, using the language of “in, with, and under,” but that doesn’t avoid the problem of the two indivisible, inseparable (Definition of Chalcedon) natures of Christ, divine and human—fully God, and fully man. Most Lutherans—most Christians of any stripe, for that matter—probably have not considered this, but while God the Father is omnipresent, the Son, being incarnate, is not. He took on human flesh at the incarnation, and ascended bodily into heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father (Romans 8:34). Consequently, he cannot be physically present with us, and therefore, neither can he be spiritually present, because of the hypostatic union of his divine and human natures. In short, Christ cannot be divided. He, fully God and fully man, is either here or there. He cannot be both. This is by no means a new or controversial doctrine. It was settled by the Council of Chalcedon in 451, long before the Roman Catholic apostasy, more than one thousand years before Luther, Calvin, and the Reformation, and is accepted by all orthodox Christians today, including Lutherans. It is the reason that both the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation and the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation must be rejected. The Council of Chalcedon: Serious Theologians in Funny Hats Addendum: “Whereas it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the Holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved; It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine thereby bodily received, or unto any corporal presence of Christ’s natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here: it being against the truth of Christ’s natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.”—Rubric at the end of the Communion Service in the Book of Common Prayer. —in J. C. Ryle, Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 46–47.

Not Even In, With, and Under

As previously posted, the primary offense of the English Reformers was their denial of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. They were responding, of course, to the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Following that post, I explained why the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation must also be rejected. It was interesting, then, to encounter Archbishop John Hooper rejecting the Lutheran language (without so identifying it) also. The following is from Hooper’s A Brief and Clear Confession of the Christian Faith. I believe that all this Sacrament consisteth in the use thereof: so that without the right use the bread and wine in nothing differ from other common bread and wine, that is commonly used: and, therefore, I do not believe that the body of Christ can be contained, hid, or inclosed in the bread, under the bread, or with the bread; neither the blood in the wine, under the wine, or with the wine. But I believe and confess the very body of Christ to be in heaven, on the right hand of the Father (as before we have said), and that always and as often as we use this bread and wine according to the ordinance and institution of Christ, we do verily and indeed receive His body and blood. . . . I believe that this receiving is not done carnally or bodily, but spiritually, through a true and lively faith; that is to say, the body and blood of Christ are not given to the mouth and belly, for the nourishing of the body, but unto our faith, for the nourishing of the spirit and inward man unto eternal life. And for that cause we have no need that Christ should come from heaven to us, but that we should ascend unto Him, lifting up our hearts through a lively faith on high, unto the right hand of the Father, where Christ sitteth, from whence we wait for our redemption. —in J. C. Ryle, Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 95–96.

Where is Christ, as man?

I suppose I’ve already posted enough on the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Table, but at the risk of beating a dead horse, here is one more. We know that Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, was, and remains, both God and man. These two natures, divine and human, are complete—that is, he is not half-God and half-man, but fully God and fully man. Consequently, his two natures cannot be divided. Therefore, the issue of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Table can be put to rest by the answer to one question: But where is Christ, as man? That is the point. Where is the body that was born of the Virgin Mary? Where is the head that was crowned with thorns? Where are the hands that were nailed to the cross, and the feet that walked by the sea of Galilee? Where are the eyes that wept tears at the grave of Lazarus? Where is the side that was pierced with a spear? Where is the ‘visage that was marred more than any man, and the form more than the sons of men’? (Isa. 52:14). Where, in a word, is the man Christ Jesus? That is the question. I answer in the words of Scripture, that ‘Christ is passed into the heavens’,—that he ‘has entered into the holy place,’ that,—’He has entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us’,—and that ‘the heavens must receive him until the time of restitution of all things’ (Heb. 4:14; 9:12–24; Acts 3:21). Let us mark this well. Christ, as man, is in heaven, and not in the grave. . . . If ever there was a fact proved by unanswerable evidence in this world, it is the fact that Jesus rose from the dead!—That he died on a Friday, is certain. That he was buried in a sepulchre hewn out of rock that night, is certain. That the stone over the place was sealed, and a guard of soldiers set around it, is certain. That the grave was opened and the body gone on Sunday morning, is certain. That the soldiers could give no account of it, is certain. That the disciples themselves could hardly believe that their Master had risen, is certain. That after seeing him several times for forty days, they at last were convinced, is certain. That, once convinced, they never ceased to teach and hold, even to death, that their Master had risen, is certain. That the unbelieving Jews could neither shake the disciples out of their belief, nor show Christ’s dead body, nor give any satisfactory account of what had become of it, is equally certain. All this is certain, certain, certain! The resurrection of Christ is a great, unanswerable, undeniable fact. There are none so blind as those that will not see. Once more let us mark this point. Christ, as man, is in heaven and not on the Communion Table, at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. He is not present at that holy sacrament under the form of bread and wine, as the Roman Catholics, and some Anglicans, say. The consecrated bread is not the body of Christ, and the consecrated wine is not the blood of Christ. Those sacred elements are the emblem of something absent, and not of something present. The words of the Prayer-book state this fact with unmistakable clearness: The sacramental bread and wine remain still in their very natural substance, and therefore may not be adored (for that were idolatry to be abhorred of all faithful Christians); and the natural body and blood of our Saviour Christ are in heaven and not here, it being against the truth of Christ’s natural body to be at one time in more places than one.—Rubric at the end of the Communion Service. Let these things sink down into our hearts. It is a point of vast importance in this day, to see clearly where Christ’s natural body and blood are. Right knowledge of this point may save our souls from many ruinous errors. Let us not be moved, for a moment, by the infidel, when he sneers at miracles, and tries to persuade us that a religion based on miracles cannot be true. . . . Ask him to grapple, like a man, with the greatest miracle of all,—the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Ask him to explain away the evidence of that miracle, if he can. Remind him that, long before he died, Jesus Christ staked the truth of his Messiahship on his resurrection, and told the Jews not to believe him if he did not rise from the dead. Remind him that the Jews remembered this, and did all they could to prevent any removal of our Lord’s body, but in vain. Tell him, finally, that when he has overthrown the evidence of Christ’s resurrection, it will be time to listen to his argument against miracles in general, but not till then. The man Christ Jesus is in heaven, and not on earth. The mere fact that his natural body and blood are in heaven, is one among many proofs of the truth of Christianity. Let us not be moved by the Roman Catholic, any more than by the infidel. Let us not listen to his favourite doctrine of Christ’s body and blood being ‘really present’ in the elements of bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper. It is his common argument that we should believe the doctrine, though we cannot understand it; and that it is a pleasant, comfortable, and reverent thought, that Christ’s natural body and blood are in the bread and wine in some mysterious way, though we know not how. Let us beware of the argument. It is not only without foundation of Scripture, but full of dangerous heresy. Let us stand fast on the old doctrine, that Christ’s natural body and blood ‘cannot be in more places than one at one time.’ Let us maintain firmly that Christ’s human nature is like our own, sin only excepted, and cannot therefore be at once in heaven and on the Communion Table. He that overthrows the doctrine of Christ’s real, true, and proper humanity, is no friend to the Gospel, any more than he that denies his divinity. Tell me that my Lord is not really man, and you rob me of one half of my soul’s comfort. Tell me that his body can be on earth and yet in heaven at the same time, and you tell me that he is not man. Let us resist this mischievous doctrine. Christ, as man, is in heaven, and in heaven alone. —J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied (Banner of Truth, 2016), 247–272, 275.

The Substance of the Sacraments

The atonement is described as the substance of the sacraments. They have neither significance nor value, except as they presuppose the great fact of a vicarious sacrifice for sin; and to keep the atonement perpetually before the eye of the Church, as the one fact on which our entire salvation rests, not only at the commencement, but also during the course of the Christian’s pilgrimage, the Lord deemed it fitting to institute these two sacraments in the Church. Thus the Christian disciple sees the atonement everywhere, and finds it in every Church institution. It is the one great fact from which he starts, and to which he ever returns. a. We shall notice this fact, first in connection with baptism, which is by no means limited to the idea that it is a sign of reception into the Christian Church. If nothing further than this were implied, there could be no reference to the atonement. But it involves much more. Not to adduce the subsequent statements of the apostles, which affirm that they who are baptized into Christ are baptized into His death (Rom. vi. 3), the Lord’s own sayings upon the point are not obscure. Thus, when He speaks of His disciples baptizing in His name, as well as in the name of the Father and of the Spirit, He plainly alludes to a peculiar relation to Himself in His official capacity (Matt. xxviii. 19); and when He said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it is accomplished!” (Luke xii. 50), He gave His own authoritative exposition of the meaning and import of John’s baptism, as it was administered to Himself. It was a symbol of the way in which Christ was to pass under the heaviest sufferings; and He submitted to the symbol as a token of the readiness with which He submitted to undergo the reality. The baptismal water was an emblem, in Christ’s case, of the punitive justice of God, under which He passed. Christ, the surety, was baptized in His official capacity, and His people are considered to have undergone this punishment in Him for the remission of sins. The water of baptism is a symbol of the shed blood of the crucified surety on whom the curse no more rests. It is blood that has passed through death and the application of which takes away the guilt of sin. The symbol can mean nothing else but this, that His death was ours; the only difference between John’s baptism and that of the Christian Church being, that the former was a baptism for a suffering yet future, while the latter is a baptism into that which is finished. Baptism intimates a fellowship with Christ in His death. The grand fundamental idea of baptism, though not to the exclusion of other allusions, is, that His death was a propitiatory death, and that His people died with Him; and this is specially developed by the apostles (comp. Rom. vi. 4; 1 Pet. iii. 21). b. The same thing holds true of the Lord’s Supper, intended to keep alive, through all the ages till the second coming of Christ, the great fact of His expiatory death. Its primary design was not to commemorate His office as a teacher, but to commemorate and to symbolize His great sacrifice, when He died to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. The words used by Him in connection with it are so express and clear to this effect, that no doubt as to their meaning remains on any mind interpreting words according to their precise significance. They who have a right to the Supper eat and drink spiritually of the body and blood of the Lord, not as He was still laden with the guilt of sin and still under obligation to fulfil the divine law, but as having purged our sins and now entitled to all the glory which falls to Him and His redeemed as the reward of His agony. They identify themselves with Him as passing through death for them. When Christians receive the bread and wine by faith, they are supposed to be made partakers of His vicarious death, and are regarded as united to Him, and as having undergone, in and with Him, all that He endured. Thus, according to the purpose of Christ, both these symbolic actions of the Christian Church refer to the atonement; and they are meant to attest it, whenever they are solemnized. As they perpetually return in the services of the Christian Church, they keep before the eye of believers this great fundamental truth till the Lord come. The meaning of the atonement, its nature, and effects of every kind, the utility of the atonement and its necessity, are all proclaimed anew by every repetition of these sacraments, which are appropriate to the different stages of the Christian life, the one to its commencement, the other to its progress. These provisions keep up a constant remembrance of the cross, shewing that the eye is never to be turned away from the crucified substitute, and are accompanied with the word given to explain them. Hence we may see the rank and place that belong to the atonement. —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 393–396. Related: Baptism in 1 Peter 3


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