The Lord’s Supper

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The Lord’s Supper

Throughout this series on worship, we have seen that worship is a dialogue, a conversation between God and us.  As we make our way through the various elements of the worship service, it is good to pay attention to who is speaking and to what is being said.

Certainly when it comes to the preaching of the Word, there should be no doubt in our minds that it is God who is speaking, and He is speaking the Gospel!  Strangely, however, when it comes to the sacraments (the visible Word), we easily become confused as to who is speaking and what is being said.  We sometimes view baptism as our own “pledge of allegiance” to God.  Similarly, we sometimes view the Lord’s Supper as our own testimony to God of our efforts to please Him. If we view the sacrament as our speech to God, however, we turn the sacrament on its head, impoverishing ourselves by turning the gospel into law and the means of grace into a burden too heavy to bear.

The Sacraments are God’s Word to us—He is doing the speaking, and He is speaking the gospel. The Sacraments are God’s gift to us as a means of grace!

Here again it is vital to see the connection between the Word and Sacraments. Both the Word and Sacraments are intended to focus our faith on the once for all sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 25, Q&A 67). But if the Word and Sacraments are both proclaiming the same thing, then why do we need the Sacraments?  Why did Christ institute the Sacraments?  Why isn’t the Word enough?

Robert Bruce, a 16th century Protestant preacher in Scotland put the matter well: “Why then is the Sacrament appointed? Not that you may get any new thing, but that you may get the same thing better than you had it in the Word. The Sacrament is appointed that we may get a better hold of Christ than we got in the simple Word, that we may possess Christ in our hearts and minds more fully and largely than we did before, by the simple Word. That Christ may have more room in which to reside in our narrow hearts than He could have by the hearing of the simple Word, and that we may possess Him more fully, is a better thing. Even though Christ is the same in Himself, yet the better hold you have of Him, the surer you are of His Promise. The Sacraments are appointed that I may have Him more fully in my soul, that I may have the bounds of it enlarged, and that He may make the better residence in me. This no doubt is the reason why these seals are annexed to the evidence of the simple Word.”

It is with good reason, then, that the Belgic Confession puts it so beautifully: “This feast is a spiritual table, at which Christ communicates Himself with all His benefits to us, and gives us there to enjoy both Himself and the merits of His sufferings and death: nourishing, strengthening, and comforting our poor comfortless souls by the eating of His flesh, quickening and refreshing them by the drinking of His blood.”

The table of our Lord is for sinners—for sinners who are sorry for their sins and find their only refuge in Christ.  To such, the word of Christ is of sweetest consolation: “This is My body, given for you; this is My blood…shed for you.” Come to the table, I have set a place for you!

~Brian Vos