Chapter 30: Of the Lord's Supper
What is the Lord’s Supper? Are we obliged to observe it? What does it signify? What is the Roman Catholic view? What is the Reformed view? Why should the Roman Catholic view of Transubstantiation be rejected? Doesn't Christ saying ‘this is my body’ mean that the bread and wine are Christ's literal body and blood? How is the Lord’s Supper a Means of Grace? Who may partake of the Lord's Supper?
This is, I believe, the most anti-Roman Catholic chapter in the Confession. This chapter provides a positive presentation of the Reformed view on the Lord's Supper and rejects the repugnant doctrine of Transubstantiation. It is important for us to understand the different views on the Lord's Supper. The most important of those different views is the Roman Catholic view of Transubstantiation. In this case, I will try to let Roman Catholics themselves explain to us their doctrine and then provide a biblical case of what the Lord's Supper is and what it is not.
§1 To Supper Of The Lord Jesus
- The supper of the Lord Jesus was instituted by him the same night wherein he was betrayed, 1 to be observed in his churches, 2 unto the end of the world, 3 for the perpetual remembrance, and shewing forth the sacrifice of himself in his death, 4 confirmation of the faith of believers in all the benefits thereof, 5 their spiritual nourishment, and growth in him, 6 their further engagement in, and to all duties which they owe to him; 7 and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other. 8
- 1 Cor. 11:23-26; Matt. 26:20-29; Mark 14:17-25; Luke 22:14-23
- Acts 2:41-42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:17-22, 33-34
- Mark 14:24-25; Luke 22:17-22; 1 Cor. 11:24-26
- 1 Cor. 11:24-26; Matt. 26:27-28; Luke 22:19-20
- Rom. 4:11
- John 6:29, 35, 47-58
- 1 Cor. 11:25
- 1 Cor. 10:16-17
Institution And Command Of Observation
The Lord's Supper is an ordinance which is directly commanded by Christ. It's not a deduction from multiple passages, but a direct and positive command of the Sovereign Christ. It is meant to cause us to look back to the perfect sacrifice of Christ of Himself by Himself for the perfection of all the elect of God. We are to look back to the sacrifice and look forward to the Parousia when He will fulfill and bring to pass all the benefits of His sacrifice. We read of the institution of this blessed ordinance in Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:17-25; Luke 22:14-23 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. I will use Paul's text as the basis (which was taken from Luke's Gospel) to discuss the institution of the Lord's Supper.
1Cor. 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 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.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Before being betrayed by Judas, the Lord Jesus instituted a New Covenant meal in which His disciples would always have a way to remember and celebrate His work of redemption on their behalf. They were celebrating the Jewish Passover as the New Covenant Mediator instituted the New Covenant meal. The Passover was the remembrance of God's great deliverance of the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt. The Lord's Supper is a token and a sign of even a greater deliverance, i.e., the deliverance from the bondage of sin through the blood of Christ. This ordinance, Christ institutes simply based upon His authority as the New Covenant High Priest and Mediator, for His people to observe. He did not give this ordinance based on other authorities, but He gave it based on His authority and this is the way that we should receive this ordinance. Christ was pleased to institute this New Covenant meal as a means of remembering Him and His work by His people. Christ's words are not “Do this, if you like to, in remembrance of me,” but as the Sovereign Lord that He is, His word is solemn and demands obedience: “Do this in remembrance of me.” All Churches who name the name of Christ must of necessity, because of His clear command, celebrate this New Covenant meal. Virtually all churches from all backgrounds, as far as I know, celebrate the Lord's Supper. A church, which does not celebrate the Lord's Supper, cannot claim Christ as its Lord because it does not follow His commands.
That the celebration and observation of this solemn ordinance was not limited to a particular time is seen from v. 26, where Paul says that we proclaim the Lord's death “until he comes.” Since Christ has not come back yet, we must celebrate the Lord's Supper and thus look forward to the time of perfect communion with our Lord (without the ordinance of the Lord's Supper). We look forward to the Lord's Day on which we partake of the Lord's Supper with the Lord's people. It is important to note that the Lord's Supper also has a future aspect. As we celebrate the Lord's Supper, we are anticipating the Marriage Supper of the Lamb which is to come (Rev. 19:6-9). We will have perfect and face-to-face communion with our Lord. Therefore, as we celebrate the Lord's Supper, we at the same time anticipate the greater supper that is still yet to come (see also Matt. 26:29).
The elements of this ordinance are bread and wine. The bread was undoubtedly the unleavened bread of the Passover meal and the wine was simply alcoholic grape wine. Jesus mentions that this wine is "the fruit of the vine" (Matt. 26:29). There is nothing special in the elements of the Lord's Supper, but the sacredness is in what they signify and Christ's institution. We deny that any change, at all, happens to the bread and wine when the minister prays for God's blessing on the elements. The substance of the bread and wine remain unchanged and as they are. The
The bread symbolizes the body of our Lord which was broken for our sake. Isaiah the Prophet, around 700 years before Christ, wrote, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand” (Isa. 53:10). Through His death, an atonement is provided for our sins. It was God the Father who sent the Son to die in our place and it was He who crushed Him. The pain that Christ felt was not because of the Roman soldiers or because of the Jews, they were merely instruments in God's hand (Acts 4:27-28). The pain and loneliness that Christ felt was because of God's holy wrath.
The blood symbolizes Christ's life given for us, the forgiveness of sins and the institution of the New Covenant. The New Covenant was instituted by the blood of its Mediator and its Sacrifice (Heb. 12:24; 13:20). The Bible teaches that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22), but also that there was no efficacy in the blood of animals (e.g. Heb. 10:4). Therefore, Christ says that His blood is the means of forgiveness. In Matthew's account, He gives the following explanation of the wine: “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). This is the blood which institutes the New Covenant, but it is also the blood which brings about the forgiveness of sins by its sacrifice. Therefore, when believers celebrate the Lord's Supper, they celebrate the Lord's death in all of its benefits. The life of Christ which lead to His vicarious sufferings on our behalf, His perfect atonement on behalf of His New Covenant people on the Cross, the institution of the Covenant of Grace in time and in His blood, i.e., the New Covenant, in all of its blessings, and His peoples’ participation in these blessings bought for us by His blood and given by grace.
The regular name of the ordinance among Protestants is the Lord's Supper, but there are also other names which are used for this ordinance.
The Lord's Supper
This name comes from 1 Corinthians 11:20. There, the Apostle calls this ordinance the Lord's Supper. This indicates that this is a special supper, set aside from regular ones because the Lord Christ claims it as His own and as is usual in the ancient world, a supper with someone was not a parallel to eating something with a stranger at McDonald's. But dining with someone included communion with that person, therefore, the Lord's Supper is a supper of close communion with the Lord Who redeemed us and invites us to His table.
The Table Of The Lord
Instead of going to the pagan tables of the false gods and offering their sacrifices there, the Christians are invited to the Lord's Table (1Cor. 10:21). Eating at this table indicates close communion with Christ. Paul says, i...