What really happens in the Lord’s Supper

Regular readers of this blog would know how passionate I am about weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist, Lord’s Table, Holy Communion).

communion1I’m all for a weekly celebration and observance of the Supper because of what I believe happens when the Supper is received by faith, by worthy receivers.

As we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we are identified covenantally with the triune God, in whose name we have also been baptized.  We become more and more what we, namely, the covenantal body of Christ.  —Michael Horton, in The Christian Faith, p. 803

At the Lord’s Table, by the Spirit, we are made partakers of Christ’s body and blood, with all his benefits, to our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace (Westminister Shorter Catechism (Q&A 96).  In a word, Christ is spiritually present (cf. 1 Cor. 10:1-5, 14-17).

I truly believe this.

Again, I ask, Why wouldn’t we want to celebrate and observe this most important of meals more frequently?

Well, let me venture two answers to the question I just posed.  First, I believe it is an impoverished theology of the Supper which has prevented us from a more frequent observance of it.  And, secondly, which I think is more likely, our theology often differs from our practice, especially among Reformed and Presbyterians believers?

This entry was posted in Eucharist, Holy Communion, Lord's Supper, Lord's Table, Michael S. Horton, Miscellanies, Presbyterian, Reformed and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to What really happens in the Lord’s Supper

  1. Dan says:

    I pastor an Assemblies of God church and grew up with a very poor view of the Table. It was once a month, if they could remember it. It was hurried. We did it once a month to avoid “tradition.”

    When I was in a Masters program at a Lutheran seminary, the impact of the Table hit me as I learned from Luther’s writings and then served the bread one time in chapel.

    We now do the Table every week and center our worship to this act. For the several years we have done it people have learned to walk in worship and not think of it as just routine.

  2. Lon Hetrick says:

    Amen. I hear the gospel and receive its sign weekly at our PCA church. It’s the center and foundation of my week. It is the center and foundation of the Sabbath rest.

  3. Colin says:

    An important question you have written on before – with my own random thoughts sometimes.
    It is informative to reflect on what the frequency ought to be. The Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and many of my fellow Anglicans would certainly see it as so central it should be the core of our worship – hence weekly or more often. They would see the take of the more traditional Presbyterian approach in Scotland (eg the Wee Frees) of one or two seasons a year as inadequate. I guess the response would be that familiarity risks contempt and the fact of weekly reception becomes habit and tradition for its own sake. Their approach with serious reflection and preparation in the days leading up to the celebration, might help us to come with the sort of attitude Paul commends in 1 Cor 11. They certainly take coming to the Table seriously. But have they really “got it” ?

    John Wesley urged his followers to receive at least every Sunday – as he did. Here in the UK, no Methodist congregations near me do so.

    I agree with your answers to your own question. And strongly support your comment about Christ’s spiritual presence. That to me is central. It takes us further than Zwingli’s memorialist emphasis. Such a presence, which is most certainly a real presence even though not in the sense of transubstantiation or consubstantiation, seems to be behind what Calvin wrote in the Institutes and recognises the sense of mystery about the Supper I have read of in books about Orthodoxy.

  4. TC Robinson says:

    I didn’t know you were PCA. I lament the disconnect between the rich theology of the Reformed and its practice.

    1 Corinthians 10:1-4 and vvs 16-17 clenched the spiritual presence of Christ for me at the Table.

    It must be noted that Calvin had the benefit of the Luther/Zwingli debate and really hammered out this rich theology of the Supper and the spiritual presence, while all along avoiding Rome.

  5. Simon says:

    It’s seems to me that many of the Reformers were avoiding Rome for avoiding Rome’s sake alone. What started with some very good criticisms of Rome then became a full blown assault on the whole tradition, which I think is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    On the issue of the Eucharist, there has been unanimous agreement between all the ancient communions (RC, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox) on the real presence. Of course, Rome became say too scholastic in trying to explain this and that has not been useful I think (I.e incidents and accidents etc). But essentially the belief and, more importantly, the practise was not in question until the Reformation. Now, as TC rightly laments, Protestant practice of Holy Communion is sparse and inadequate for the vast majority. This reflects the secularising tendencies that the Reformation started in my opinion. Everyone from Zwingli to Calvin were saying that the bread is just bread and nothing else. It looks like bread, it tastes like bread, it must just be bread. Sure, there may be some spiritual presence when you take communion, but nothing happens to the bread. And so they failed to see what the bread actually is. They demystified, not only Christianity, but also the world. I think this is probably the most radical departure from classical Christianity the Reformation brought about. It hasd a massive impact on worship, on the entire worldview of Protestants. The world is simply physical, nothing else. To assert otherwise was superstition and folly. This is essentially what the secularists are saying now.

    • Randy bristow says:

      This would all be understood if everyone understood the Orthodox Catholic church. She is the original Church of the Apostles and can prove it historically. No other church goes back historically as this church. For the first 1000 years of Christianity there was no other church but this one! The others were gnostics. All of the early church Fathers were of this church! Study and see…The gates of hell never prevailed against her or Jesus lied. This church never went pagan and there’s no proof of that at all. If she did, then hell prevailed! The angel said ” all generations will call you blessed”. The only church that has scanned the generations since that statement was historically the Holy Orthodox Church called the church of the martyrs. If you study you’ll never be the same but will have found the truth.

      • TC Robinson says:

        How is the Reformed view of the spiritual presence of Christ while maintaining the bread is still the bread?

        How is the Reformed view of the spiritual presence of Christ different than what we read in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 and vv. 14-16?

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