How the Lord’s Supper Feeds Our Whole Person in Christ

Good Morning!

Words like mysticalsupernaturalenchanted, etc… sound like they belong more at home in a fantasy novel than they do being associated with a Presbyterian church. However, we would do well to remember that we should be comfortable with such terms, especially when our minds turn towards the sacraments of the Church. We confess our thoroughgoing skepticism no more than when we get uncomfortable with the stuff that happens outside our brain. Yet, our fathers in the faith in Scotland and elsewhere worried not about such modern hang-ups. It would be quite beneficial to us to re-embrace the weird in the Christian faith.

What does all that then have to do with the Lord’s Supper? In no other place in our religious life do we need to think outside the confines of what we can perceive with our senses than when it comes to what happens when we partake of the bread and the cup at Christ’s table. For our Q/A today we will read more on what the Westminster Divines understood about these truths.

Here are the two for today:

Q. 170. How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord’s supper feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?

A. As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, or under the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper, and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their outward senses; so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal and carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.

Q. 171. How are they that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper to prepare themselves before they come unto it?

A. They that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves of their being in Christ, of their sins and wants; of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance; love of God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong; of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.

In God’s way of doing things the body and the soul are meant to work together for the betterment of the individual believer. We confess that the human being is both physical and spiritual. How that works exactly is above our paygrade. What we do comprehend is that both are creations of the Lord and they both inhabit our identity. They are not to be understood as either fighting against one another (like a cartoon where each have a different voice) or that one is more important to God than the other. They are equal in power and glory. Inseparable excepting in death, and then only for a short time until the resurrection. The reason why we mention this is because we need both to properly benefit from the Lord’s Supper. We’ve talked about how the bread and the wine are necessary. They each play a role in helping us to see in a visible way the death of Jesus Christ and through that sign to more deeply be encouraged in the gift. One by a faith revealed, and the other by a faith disclosed.

The spiritual is where in some sense the action happens in Communion. It is by the union we have through the Holy Spirit where the connections take place through faith and the spiritual nourishment is applied when we rightly and properly partake of the outward elements. We need to really and truly grasp these truths before we come to the Supper. Hence why our catechism writers spend so much time in these questions and answers this morning focused on preparation.

While we are never to flippantly come to God for any reason, decorum and solemnity are good and blessed attitudes all Christians should adopt in the presence of the Lord, it is especially the case when we think about our communing with the risen Jesus in His sacrament. The first Q/A mentions the application of Christ by faith unto ourselves. What this means is that as we handle and taste the bread and the wine, and really before that, we should be taking time in the quiet moments to ask God in His Son to help us to see the bounty of the cross and the nature of what it means that He has died for our sins, and through that, we are washed in His blood. Both His broken body and His shed blood are elements we need for salvation, which is why we have two parts to the Supper. This is also one of the reasons why when we celebrate the Table at Bethany that I pray between the giving of the bread and the giving of the cup. Each portion is unique and worthy to be considered on its own. Some have gone as far as to say that the bread is representing the active obedience of Christ (His keeping the law perfectly on our behalf) and the cup shows forth His passive obedience (His bearing the penalty on His body on the tree). I think that actually a quite helpful way to assist us in the work of preparation. Getting deeper into what it is gains focus.

When I mention work people can get squirrely. One part is some folks can’t get over that term and have trouble making it line up with the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. In their mind to say we need to do something is to say we need to add something to Christ’s perfect labors on our behalf, however, this is nonsense. The Bible clearly tells us in myriads of places that our obedience to the law as those saved by Jesus is an outpouring of thanksgiving. We still need to actively believe and show that faith in our works (c.f. – James). Others aren’t super keen about when a minister tells them that they have to put forth effort in their living out their faith.

It certainly is easier to just aimlessly saunter through, but to paraphrase Dean Wormer, that’s no way to go through life.

In closing, these questions deserve a lot more time than I was able to give them this morning. In our Tuesday prayer and worship help we will provide some more space to that in the near future, so be on the lookout for it. The simple truth of the matter is that we often don’t get anything out of worship because we don’t put anything into it. We rush and rush and get up late and show up three seconds before the call to worship and then wonder why we there is so little spiritual benefit from our time in the house of the Lord. Preparation in many ways is its own reward. The more we learn of Christ, the more we gain strength in the means of His grace. This is especially true of the Lord’s Supper. Our asking you to meditate and consider in the week before we take it together as one body in the Church is more than just a rote reminder. It is because the elders and I are responsibility for your souls, and your bodies. We want you to gain all that you can from the mercies available in the order of Christ. Read the Q/A/’s again and find peace in the way our catechisms, those summaries of our faith, are full of grace and truth.

A last word:

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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