Truly eating and drinking

My view till recently was that in the Supper we receive the benefits of the Lord’s passion and resurrection, namely, justification, the Holy Spirit, and so on.  But the text does not say that we receive the virtue (power) and benefits of the Lord’s passion and glorification, but the Lord himself.

Turns out this is the traditional Reformed position!

Say what?

No, really.  This from Calvin’s eucharistic rite:

that we may with a constante and assured fayth, receave bothe hys bodye and bloude, yea, verelye CHRIST himself wholye.  (William Huycke’s English translation, 1550).

Dudley Fenner, one of the Westminster Divines, expalined the sacrament as :

.. an instrument whereby truly is communicated by the work of the Holy Ghost to our faith, the very body and blood of Christ. (The Whole Doctrine of the Sacramentes).

This is of course the doctrine of the Book of Common Prayer 1662, and was the view of Thomas Cranmer its author, who teaches us that Christ’s body and blood are truly communicated to us in the Supper, not just the sign of them.

The Reformed doctrine differs from Rome’s in denying the transubstantiation of the elements and the sacrifice of the Mass.  But it agrees with it in teaching that Christ’s body and blood is truly and really communicated to the believer.

This is done by the Holy Spirit.  There is a deep mystery here, since Christ is absent from us on earth, because he is in heaven, and not omnipresent in his humanity, being truly man.  Christ may be present in his deity, but certainly not in his incarnation.  

Nevertheless the Holy Spirit achieves this mystery, and we believe it, because the Bible teaches a true feeding upon the actual human body and blood of Christ.

This is the Reformed doctrine of the Real Presence.

Now pick up your jaws from the floor and think about it.


2 thoughts on “Truly eating and drinking

  1. Great post. I’ve been looking into this same topic lately.

    In the sacrifices prescribed in Leviticus, the animal represented the worshiper. There were 5 main steps involved:

    1. Laying of hands (substitute)
    2. killing the animal (death in our place)
    3. presentation of blood (proof that death has taken place)
    4. burn animal/turn to smoke (ascension into God’s presence)
    5. meal (communion)

    When we think of Jesus’ sacrifice we stop at step three. However, the symbolism of the sacrifice doesn’t stop with the death of a substitute though. After the forgiveness of sins, the believer is then brought into God’s presence (i.e. the smoke rising) and then eating in God’s presence.

    When we minimize the significance of God’s presence at the supper and the fact that we are communing with God by feeding on Christ’s body and blood, we are leaving out a full half of what his sacrifice was all about. Just as the smoke of the substitute actually ascended to God, in Christ we are brought onto God’s Holy Mountain. Just as the believer actually ate the substitute with God, we are actually feeding on our Sacrifice with God at his table.

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