Heidelbasics: Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. Chuck Muether
80. What difference is there between the Lord’s Supper and the Pope’s Mass?
The Lord’s Supper testifies to us that we have full forgiveness of all our sins by the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which He Himself once accomplished on the cross; and that by the Holy Spirit we are engrafted into Christ, who, with His true body is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father, and is there to be worshiped. But the Mass teaches that the living and the dead do not have forgiveness of sins through the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is still daily offered for them by the priests, and that Christ is bodily under the form of bread and wine, and is therefore to be worshiped in them. And thus the Mass at bottom is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.
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 unrepentant and hypocrites eat and drink judgment to
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; 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.
When true believers receive and eat and drink the elements in the Lord’s Supper, they are receiving and spiritually feeding upon Christ crucified by faith. The question becomes, who should partake?
In 1 Corinthians 10:21 Paul warns, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” This translates to an “either/or,” not a “both/and,” that is either the Lord’s supper will be a means of blessing to believers or a means of judgment to unbelievers, and in both cases it is sealed deal.
It is for this reason that a godly pastor and the ruling elders will take care to fence the Lord’s table, before giving out the elements. The minister of the Word, knowing the significance of the sacrament, will warn those who are not trusting in Christ alone, or who are too young to be able to discern the elements, that this meal is not for them.
But what if I doubt my own faith? Should I come to the table? You might think, “I am unworthy because I am always battling my sin.”
How can I approach His table when my hands are uncleaned? You can because the hands of the Lord are cleaned, and you desire to be cleansed by Him. The catechism rightly points out that if we are mortified by our anemic mortifying of our sins, but put our trust in the deliverance that comes from the person and work of the Redeemer, and desire to grow in knowledge and grace, we are to partake of the bread and the wine.
It is Christ who secures our place at His table. We are invited as polluted sinners and we base our hope of salvation upon His perfect obedience and righteousness. We come as those who have examined ourselves, resolving to deny and crucify our old nature and taking up the cross to follow Christ.
Dear friend, the Lord’s supper is for anyone who from the heart has sincerely professed Christ internally and publicly says, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
The elements are a means by which the Lord strengthens the faith of those who may waver or stumble in their faith; they are signs and a seal to all believers who partake of them, those who are either weak or strong: They signify to you the Lord’s death. They signify the believers’ participation in the crucified Christ. They signify Christ as giving life, strength, and joy to the soul, and they signify the union of believers with one another, the spiritual unity that we have in Christ.
The false church teaches that the living and the dead do not have forgiveness of sins through the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is still daily offered for them by the priests. Thanks be to God that the the true church rests on this glorious assurance:
“The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:23-27).