I’m convinced that we need to rethink our observance of the Lord’s Supper in our local churches, so that we may be truly nourished and strengthened, as we eat the bread and drink the cup by faith. Here, I believe we may sit at the feet of John Calvin, as we rethink the Supper.
In an application of 1 Corinthians 10:15-17, Calvin, agreeing with Augustine of Hippo, refers to the Lord’s Supper as “the bond of love” (Institutes: 4.17.38).
“We shall have profited admirably in the sacrament, if the thought shall have been impressed and engraved on our minds, that none of our brethren is hurt, despised, rejected, injured, or in any way offended, without our, at the same time, hurting, despising, and injuring Christ; that we cannot have dissension with our brethren, without at the same time dissenting from Christ; that we cannot love Christ without loving our brethren; that the same care we take of our own body we ought to take of that of our brethren, who are members of our body; that as no part of our body suffers pain without extending to the other parts, so every evil which our brother suffers ought to excite our compassion. Wherefore Augustine not inappropriately often terms this sacrament the bond of love. What stronger stimulus could be employed to excite mutual love, than when Christ, presenting himself to us, not only invites us by his example to give and devote ourselves mutually to each other, but inasmuch as he makes himself common to all, also makes us all to be one in him.” (emphasis added)
Calvin saw in the Lord’s Supper, in the bread in particular, a unity which Christ himself intended to communicate: “Moreover, since he has only one body of which he makes us all to be partakers, we must necessarily, by this participation, all become one body.” For Calvin, this is a unity of love procured by Christ, so that “none of our brethren is hurt, despised, rejected, injured, or in any way offended, without our, at the same time, hurting, despising, and injuring Christ.”
In other words, the Lord’s Supper–the gospel made visible–according to Calvin, is “intended to be a kind of exhortation, than which no other could urge or animate us more strongly, both to purity and holiness of life, and also to love, peace, and concord.”
As a Baptist, while I may not fully agree with Calvin on the nature of Christ’s presence at the Lord’s Table, I, however, fully agree with his insights on the Lord’s Supper as the bond of love.