Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone 6.14.12
Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012 6:00 pm
Taste and see that God is good
By WALLY BUMPAS
In our day there has been a movement to “rescue” Sunday worship from boredom and irrelevance. Since people today are so visually oriented, so the thinking goes, they cannot be expected to listen to words without pictures for an hour or even a half hour. Our culture is a video culture. So to engage anyone’s attention, you have to let them see things. In church, that means there must be engaging visual aids like drama and video clips.
There is some truth in this. In fact, God, who knows us perfectly, is way ahead of us. Though His primary way of communicating with us is His written Word, He knows that we need visual aids to help us “see” the truths of the gospel. He has provided these aids, and since they come from Him, they are perfectly suited to the purpose. We refer, of course, to the sacraments. Today, let us consider the Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Supper is a great treasure of the Church. That so many modern Christians don’t see this is a tragedy and a great loss to them. Questions 75 and 76 of the Heidelberg Catechism will introduce the subject.
Question 75 asks: How does the Lord’s Supper remind you and assure you that you share in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and in all His gifts? Answer: 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.
Question 76 continues: What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink His poured-out blood? Answer: 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.
Question 77 asks where these promises are found in Scripture and quotes 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 and 10:16-17. The reader is encouraged to look closely at those verses.
Space will not allow much comment on these beautiful summaries of the communion table. How the Lord’s Supper “works” is a great mystery, but the next two articles will make an attempt at explaining what this sacrament does and does not do. For now, two comforting truths can be taken:
First, grace and forgiveness are not just words or vague concepts. They are as real as the physical realities all around us, as real as the bread and juice that we see and hold and taste at the gospel table. Note the repeated phrase “as surely” in the questions above. Christianity is based on things that actually happened in the real world. But since those great events are in the past (or in the future), we may struggle to experience them as “real.” Here is where Christ graciously helps us in the Lord’s Supper.
Second, this sacrament is especially for the weak and struggling believer. If we are honest, that’s all of us. As bread and juice nourish a man weak from hunger, so this sacrament nourishes the Christian in his or her daily struggle to fight against sin and unbelief, and to believe God’s promises. It is not the bread and juice that literally do this, but Christ who is “pictured” in the elements. Psalm 42:2 says “my soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Jesus satisfies this thirst, and the Lord’s Supper is a small preview of the day when “they shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore,” (Revelation 7:16).
(If you have questions or would like to comment on this article, you may do so online at http://graceunioncity.com/resources/gcc-in-the-news. Scroll to the bottom of the page to submit your comment.)
Editor’s note: Wally Bumpas serves as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Dyersburg.
Published in The Messenger 6.14.12