HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 28, 29, & 30
How does the Lord’s Supper remind you and assure you that you are in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and in all his gifts?
In this way: Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat this broken bread and to drink this cup. With this command he gave this promise: First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely his body was offered and broken for me and his blood poured out for me on the cross.
Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the one who serves, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, given me as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely he nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life with his crucified body and poured-out blood.
What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his poured-out blood?
It means to accept with a believing heart the entire suffering and death of Christ and by believing to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. But it means more. Through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us, we are united more and more to Christ’s blessed body. And so, although he is in heaven and we are on earth, we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. And we forever live on and are governed by one Spirit, as members of our body are by one Soul.
Where does Christ promise to nourish and refresh believers with his body and blood as surely as they eat this broken bread and drink this cup?
In the institution of the Lord’s Supper: “The Lord Jesus Christ, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 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.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” This promise is repeated by Paul in these words: “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? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
Are the bread and wine changed into the real body and blood of Christ?
No. just as the water of baptism is not changed into Christ’s blood and does not itself wash away sins but is simply God’s sign and assurance, so too the bread of the Lord’s Supper is not changed into the actual body of Christ even though it is called the body of Christ in keeping with the nature and language of the sacraments.
Why then does Christ call the bread his body and the cup his blood, or the new covenant in his blood? (Paul uses the words, a participation in Christ’s body and blood.)
Christ has good reason for these words. He wants to teach us that as bread and wine nourish our temporal life, so too his crucified body and poured-out blood truly nourish our souls for eternal life. But more important, he wants to assure us, by this visible sign and pledge, that we, through the Holy Spirit’s work, share in his true body and blood, as surely as our mouths receive these holy signs in his remembrance, and that all of his suffering and obedience are as definitely ours as if we personally suffered and paid for our sins.
How does the Lord’s Supper differ from the Roman Catholic Mass?
The Lord’s Supper declares to us that our sins have been completely forgiven through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ which he himself finished on the cross once for all. It also declares to us that the Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ, which with his very body is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father where he wants us to worship him.
Who are to come to the Lord’s table?
Those who are displeased with themselves because of their sins, but who nevertheless trust that their sins are pardoned and that their continuing weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ, and who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to lead a better life.
Are those to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper who show by what they say and do that they are unbelieving and ungodly?
No, that would dishonor God’s covenant and bring down God’s anger upon the entire congregation. Therefore, according to the instruction of Christ and his apostles, the Christian church is duty-bound to exclude such people, by the official use of the keys of the kingdom until they reform their lives.
The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is put into place for those who confess the name of the Christ as their Lord and Savior, and participation has rich benefits (perhaps, consequences) in the daily lives of believers. As one commentator puts it: “Saying yes to this Lord is saying no to all other spiritual lords: “You cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons (I Corinthians 10:21).” Coming to the Table is an invitation to remember, it is an invitation to believe, it is an invitation to confess, and it is an invitation to enter into union with Christ in a remarkable and mysterious way. The catechism states that through the Sacrament, “the Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ” (Q&A 80) and also makes the point that those who “desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to lead a better life” (Q&A 81) are to come to the table. When we confess our sins, engage in repentance before the Lord, eat the bread, drink of the cup, and proclaim the gospel promise, something happens to us. The great words of Paul proclaim it best: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled himself to us through Christ and gave us the gospel of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sin against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us…God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5:17-21).” The Table nourishes and strengthens us so that we can proclaim we are clothed in the blood of the true Sacrificial Lamb, and can witness this fact to the world. We are made new in the image of Christ, no longer slaves of sin, but free to live and serve our Creator God, by the love of Christ, through the power of the Spirit. As we continue to explore and study the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, it is my hope that you will share your newness in Christ with the world.
Chaplain Sarah Hoogendoorn