Heidelbasics: Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. Chuck Muether
75. How is it signified and sealed to you in the Holy Supper that you partake of the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross and all His benefits?
Thus: that Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and to drink of this cup in remembrance of Him, and has joined therewith these promises: first, that His body was offered and broken on the cross for me and His blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup communicated to me; and further, that with His crucified body and shed blood He Himself feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, as certainly as I receive from the hand of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, which are given me as certain tokens of the body and blood of Christ.
76. What does it mean to eat the crucified body and drink the shed blood of Christ?
It means not only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain the forgiveness of sins and life eternal; but moreover, also, to be so united more and more to His sacred body by the Holy Spirit, who dwells both in Christ and in us, that, although He is in heaven and we on earth, we are nevertheless flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone, and live and are governed forever by one Spirit, as members of the same body are governed by one soul.
77. Where has Christ promised that He will thus feed and nourish believers with His body and blood as certainly as they eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup?
In the institution of the Supper, which says: “The Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” And this promise is also repeated by the Apostle Paul, where he says, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, so we being many are one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.
Every time the people of God gather to hear Christ preached and to partake of His body and blood, they not only hear the words that speak to the covenant of grace, but they truly feed upon it.
They are truly nourished by that which represents Christ and His benefits, confirms their interest in Him, marks them as a very holy and separate people, and engages them to that glorious service unto God through Christ.
They hear God’s Word and they eat and drink together, not just as individuals but also as one believing body, and it is a feast like no other. This is because the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is more than a commemoration of the Lord’s death; it is a celebration of saints’ reconciliation with the Father. It is a glorious reminder that they are not left to themselves in their sin and misery–that they are no longer an estranged people with no hope, no comfort, and no peace.
No, the people of God partake of the Lord’s Supper to enjoy the unity they have with each other because of that most wonderful familial connection to the Father due solely to the person and work of the Son.
They are also prompted by the Spirit to partake because they have heard the word of truth, the gospel, and they want to grow in grace, bearing spiritual fruit, individually and communally. They want to be filled with the knowledge of “His will in all spiritual knowledge and understanding” (Col. 1:9).
And from this internal growth, they then can respond externally, walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work, proclaiming the hope that is laid up for them in heaven.
How tragic that some fellowships attempt to use the Lord’s Supper to bring Christ off the throne and into the theatre of death again and again. Quite the opposite, the Lord’s Supper sets the mind to the things above to Him who sits on the throne and on the right hand of God. That’s the point of Hebrews 8:1. “We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.”
How true that Christ was the gracious sacrifice; indeed, that is to what the Lord’s Supper refers; however, the sacrament also boldly points to the One who is High Priest, the One who intercedes on our behalf, the One who is our hope.
The true people of God are spiritually lifted up to meet the hope that rests in Him. They do not partake of the bread and wine as if to remove Him from His place of victory in order to crucify Him all over again, as if grace were dependent upon the efficacy of the man administering the elements or bringing Christ down to us.
Romans 3 states, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”
From this satisfaction of God’s wrath or what is called propitiation and the removal of sin and guilt or what is called expiation, peace between God and the chosen ones is restored. This is what the table proclaims.
Those blessed words, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me,” remind the redeemed that they are the new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). By Him, in Him, through Him do the people of God benefit from the ordinance instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ.
As one liturgical form beautifully summarizes: “The physical elements, representing the broken body and the shed blood of the Savior, are received by true believers as signs and seals of all the benefits of his sacrifice upon the cross. They signify and seal remission of sins and nourishment and growth in Christ, and are a bond and pledge of communion of believers with him and with each other as members of his mystical body. As signs and seals of the covenant of grace they not only declare that God is faithful and true to fulfill the promises of the covenant but they also summon us to all the duties of the children of God, and call us to renewed consecration in gratitude for his salvation.”