On the Lord’s Supper: Rejecting spirit-matter Dualism

iStock_000008722238Medium At the Lord’s Table whenever I hear someone say that the eating of the bread and the drinking of the cup are merely symbolic, I cringe.

The Apostle Paul certainly didn’t think so.

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? –1 Corinthians 10:16 NIV (emphasis added)

I’m convinced that a correct understanding of what Paul means by “a participation in” will reveal that the elements of the Lord’s Supper are no empty signs.  And I do not believe that Paul is teaching that (1) the bread and the bread become the actual body and blood of Christ, or (2) that Christ is physically present in, with, and under the bread and the cup.  (3) Rather, I believe that Paul is saying that when we eat the bread and drink the cup by faith, we are indeed “participating in” the body and blood of Christ.  And with Calvin let’s admit to the mystery of the Supper, which is “a secret too sublime for my mind to understand or words to express.  I experience it rather than understand it.”

So we must reject that spirit-matter dualism which says that the elements are merely symbolic.

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14 Responses to On the Lord’s Supper: Rejecting spirit-matter Dualism

  1. David Beirne says:

    Does it help that “participation” is translated from koinonia.

  2. Colin says:

    “3) I do, however, hold that we indeed commune with Christ whenever we eat the bread and drink the cup, by faith.”

    That succinctly expresses what I read from Calvin’s Institutes and from my own 39 Articles. I won’t pretend to have really studied the Westminster and other Confessions. As for point 2, I have often felt that in essence Luther’s consubstantiation is only a hair’s breadth from the Roman Catholic Transubstantiation (point 1?).

  3. Lon says:

    Even if they just changed to saying “signs and seals” it would be better.

  4. Jon Hughes says:

    C.S. Lewis pointed out that Jesus said “Take, eat”, not “Take, understand.” This keeps us from getting too cerebral!

  5. Colin says:

    Good one Jon. In line with the words of distribution in the BCP service. For the bread this ends:
    “feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving”. Something similar for the wine.

    And I like Lon on “sign and seal”. The CoE Article 25 states “Sacraments …be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace…” And in Article 28, ” …to such as rightly worthily and with faith receive the same (bread and wine)..is a partaking of the Body … and blood of Christ”.

    I seem to have gone back to the BCP and the Articles more often recently.

  6. Mark says:

    I like to say in our weekly Lord’s Supper services–on occasion: we are eating bread that is still bread and wine that is still wine. Nonetheless, we are participating in the body and blood of Christ. It’s not because of the mere action of eating of the bread and drinking the wine. When there is no faith there is no participation in the body and blood of Christ. When coupled with faith, we commune with and are nourished by the body and blood of Christ.

    On another note: if they were “mere symbols,” then why would eating of the Supper in an unworthy manner (without regard to the body) be of such possible grave consequences?

    • TC Robinson says:

      Mark, thanks for stopping by and sharing. You have indeed made some good points. I especially like the fact that you get to celebrate the Supper weekly – something I desperately crave.

  7. Pingback: Recovering a Reformed Baptist Understanding of the Lord’s Supper | New Leaven

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