Lecture 5B - "The Lord's Supper" -- Confessional and Biblical Concerns (Continued)
Dr. Kim Riddlebarger
C. The Old Testament Background of the Lord's Supper
Having considered the fact that our Lord's institution of the Supper must be seen in its historical and cultural context as a fellowship meal, and having considered some of the chronological and historical problems that we encounter in the New Testament accounts of the Last Supper/Lord's Supper, we can now move on to consider the Old Testament background to the Lord's Supper. It is nearly impossible to exhaust the richness of the Biblical theological themes that underlie the institution of the Supper.
1. According to R. S. Wallace, understanding the context here is essential in fleshing out the meaning of Jesus' words and actions during the Last Supper. "Jesus' words and actions at the Last Supper should be considered in the light of related OT texts and ritual. The disciples would have understood the Supper in this rich and vivid context, especially after the meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus began to dawn upon them. It has been noted that whether or not the Last Supper was regular Passover meal, `the atmosphere of the Passover pervaded the whole thought and feeling of the upper room.' The disciples, dwelling on the significance for the Jewish people of the Exodus from Egypt, would have interpreted Jesus' words `This do in remembrance of me' in this context; they would have remembered how He had spoken of the significance of the `Exodus' He would accomplish through his death (Lk.24:30)" --the citation is erroneously given as 9:30 [Wallace, "The Lord's Supper," 165]. As Meredith Kline points out, "since the Lord's Supper was instituted during the Passover meal and as an adaptation of it for the church, the death of Jesus memorialized by the supper is related to the Passover and, through the Passover, to the exodus as its context of meaning. The words of institution of the Supper also interpret the sacrifice of the Cross explicitly as a covenantal transaction (Matt. 26:28; Mk. 14:24; Lk. 22:22), and covenant is another exodus related theme. Covenant and exodus are inseparable in the Mosaic history. Indeed, according to the narrative in the Book of Exodus the establishment of the covenant at Sinai was the purpose and goal of the exodus process: Moses was to bring Israel out of Egypt so that they might proceed to the mount of God, there to enter as covenant vassals into the kingdom service of their covenant Lord (Exod. 3:12; 4:23; and repeatedly; cf. Exod. 19:1). More particularly, at the institution of the Lord's Supper Jesus called the blood of his imminent sacrificial death the `blood of the new covenant,' so interpreting it in terms of the covenant-ratifying blood in the ritual described in Exodus 24:3-8 (cf. Heb. 9:20). Since the symbol adopted by Jesus as the sign of his covenant blood was the sacramental cup of the transformed Passover meal, Jesus' death answers both to the sacrifice offered in preparation for the Passover and to the ratification sacrifices of the Sinaitic Covenant. Thus, the significance of the blood ceremonies that introduced and consummated the exodus-event fuse in the meaning of the Cross" [Meredith Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority, Eerdmans, 1981, 185-186]. Indeed, it can be argued that "the statement that Jesus' blood was shed for many for the remission of sins involves further ties with the Sinaitic covenant via intermediate points in the trajectory: The Jereminaic prophecy of the new (law) covenant (Jer. 31:31) and the Isaianic prophecy of the new (Mosaic) covenant Servant (Isa. 53:12)" [Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority, 186., n. 14]. There can be no doubt then, that our Lord's words and actions on the night in which he was betrayed tie together a host of themes. Especially those of Exodus, Covenant and Passover.
2. Ronald Wallace also notes this intimate connection between covenant and the Exodus. "The Exodus from Egypt is for the Jews an event of unique significance. It was regarded as God's once-for-all deliverance involving not only the generation that actually experienced it historically but all the succeeding generations. The celebration of the Exodus in the annual Passover feast (Exodus 12) is intended not to simply evoke pious and thankful memories of the past, but to bring each generation under the living power of this unique eschatological event (vv. 26f; 13:8). Thus, in displacing the ritual of the remembrance of the Exodus by a new ritual centered on His death and resurrection, Jesus indicated that these events would uniquely affect the destiny of all generations of mankind. He deliberately instituted for His Church a means by which the power and reality of His death and resurrection could be brought to bear upon the life of each generation within the Church" [Wallace, "The Lord's Supper," 165]. Though often overlooked, Kline points out that "the occurrence of the resurrection on the morning of the third day is another possible covenantal motif (cf. Exod. 19:11, 16; Hos. 6:2; Gen. 22:4)" [Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority, 186]. This also further demonstrates the connections between all of these themes.
3. Clearly the institution of the Supper points us to the gospel. Says Wallace, "the killing of the lamb at the Passover feast, the sprinkling of its blood on the lintels and doorposts, and the partaking of its flesh (Ex. 12:7f) signify a sacrifice that brings protection from judgement and evil powers and the favor of God. Jesus substituting, for the lamb sacrificed in the temple and lying before them to be eaten. His own broken body and shed blood as the disciples' protection and food is thus deeply significant. This substitution signifies and pledges that His self-offering in death will be the sacrifice on which they could rely, and His blood will be their protection from the powers that hold mankind in bondage"[Wallace, "The Lord's Supper," 165]. Paul picks up on this theme when he speaks of the cross as Christ's triumph over the principalities and powers--see Colossians 2:11-15. Just as the shedding of the lamb's blood and the application of it to the doorposts, delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt under Pharaoh, so too, the death of Christ liberates the people of God from bondage to power of sin, the unseen, and death.
4. As Wallace indicates, there are a host of Biblical images and themes tied together by our Lord's words. "Jesus spoke of Himself not only as a sacrifice in accordance with other OT analogies. In the sacrificial ritual, the portion of peace offering not consumed by fire, and thus not offered to God as His food (see Lev. 3:1-11; Nu. 28:2), was eaten by priest and people (see Lev. 19:5f; 1 S. 9:13) in an act of association with the altar and sacrifice (Ex. 24:1-11; Dt. 27:7; cf. 1 Cor. 10). Jesus giving the elements to His disciples was not only a further sign of their fellowship and participation in His sacrificial death but also an assurance that by partaking of Him they would have fellowship with God in the reconciliation He would accomplish" [Wallace, "The Lord's Supper,' 165].
5. This is important because it means that "although the traditional Jewish Passover feast may have already taken on features belonging to a meal ratifying a covenant, Jesus' words and actions were deliberately calculated to give this Passover meal a covenantal character. In the OT, after making a covenant, often by sprinkling sacrificial blood as at Sinai (cf. Ex. 24:1-8), the participants had fellowship and mutually pledged loyalty in a meal (Gen. 26:30; 31:54; 2 S 3:20). The covenant made between God and Israel at Sinai was likewise followed by a meal in which the people `ate and drank and saw God' (Ex. 24:11). Jesus thus ratified in the Supper the new covenant (Jer. 31:1-34) between the Lord and His people" [Wallace, "The Lord's Supper, 165]. According to Kline, "the covenant sacrifice at Sinai was followed by the covenant communion meal of Israel's elders in the presence of God on the mountain (Exod. 24:9-11). This aspect of the covenant-making at the Mosaic exodus is clearly present in the communion of the disciples with Jesus at the last supper, and again when the chosen witnesses ate and drank with the risen Lord (Acts 10:41) during the forty days before the ascension (Acts 1:3; cf. Exod. 24:18)" [Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority, 186].
6. As the Passover was to be the meal of the Exodus--though the people of God did not celebrate it in the wilderness one year after leaving Egypt until it was re-instituted before the people of God entered into the promised land [Joshua 5:10-12]--the Lord's Supper is the sacrament of the New Exodus, as the people of God have been liberated from bondage to the guilt of their sins and the power of death, are led to the true promised land [the new heaven and earth] by our Covenant mediator, Jesus Christ. As Wallace contends, "in celebrating the Supper Jesus emphasized the messianic and eschatological significance of the Passover meal. At the Passover the Jews looked forward to a future deliverance that the Exodus foreshadowed. They set aside a cup for the messiah in case he came that very night to deliver them and fulfil the promise of the messianic banquet (cf. Isa. 25-26; 65:13; etc.). It may have been this cup that Jesus took in the institution of the new rite, indicating that even now the Messiah was present to feast with his people" [Wallace, "The Lord's Supper," 165]. Thus when Jesus himself picks up the cup set aside for the Messiah--as he most certainly did--and uses it as the cup of blessing, the promise of a coming Messiah has been fulfilled, for Messiah has come and he has instituted a Messianic fellowship banquet with his people.
7. Wallace concludes by noting, "after the resurrection the disciples would see their frequent celebrations of the Supper (Acts 2:42-46; 20:7) as the climax of Jesus' table fellowship with publicans and sinners (Mt. 11:18f.; Lk. 15:2) and of their own daily meals with Him. They would interpret it not only as a bare prophecy but as a real foretaste of the messianic banquet and sign of the presence of the kingdom of God in their midst in the person of Jesus (Mt. 8:11; cf. Mk. 10:35f.; Lk. 14:15-24). They would see its meaning in relation to His living presence in the Church, brought out fully in the Easter meals they shared with Him (Lk. 24:13-35; Jn. 21:1-14; Acts 10:41). It would be a supper in the presence of the risen Lord, their host. They would see in the messianic miracle of His feeding the multitude and in His words about Himself as the bread of life a sign of his continual hidden self-giving in the Lord's Supper" [Wallace, "The Lord's Supper," 165]. Thus the Lord's Supper not only fulfills the Passover motif as the meal of the New Exodus, it also points us forward to the great fellowship meal yet to come, the marriage supper of Christ the lamb [Revelation 19:6-10]!
D. The New Testament Context for the Supper
In light of the notion that the Lord's Supper is a fellowship meal, and rich in Old Testament biblical-theological themes such as covenant, exodus and Passover, we now turn our attention to the Lord's Supper as practiced in the New Testament. The key passages here are 1 Corinthians 10:1-4; 14-22; 11:17-34; and John 6:25-70. Here again, we will be closely following the outline set-out in the fine article by Ronald S. Wallace.
1. According to Wallace, "In 1 Cor. 10 Paul refers to Israel's being saved, revived, and nourished by miracles corresponding to the NT sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper. Paul asserts that Christ's presence in OT Israel was so real, and the spiritual blessing He bestowed on His people was so closely bound up with the miraculous physical help He gave them, that He could actually be identified with one of the objects He used in mediating His blessing to them--`that Rock was Christ' (v.4) [Wallace, "The Lord's Supper,"165]." As we have seen in a previous lecture, "The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism," this passage has significant implications for our theology of the sacraments, especially baptism. It is also very significant that in this passage, Paul speaks of Christ as "the rock." According to Calvin, "some people are stupid enough to distort these words of Paul, as if he said that Christ was the spiritual rock, and as if he had nothing to say about that rock which was a visible symbol; for we know quite well that Paul is dealing with outward signs....I have already said that in the old sacraments the reality was united with signs and conveyed to the people. Therefore, since they were figures of Christ, it follows that Christ was tied to them, not locally indeed, and not in a union of nature or substance, but sacramentally." Here, then, is a clear instance of a distinction drawn between sign, thing signified, and the sacramental union. The sign [the rock], the reality [Christ] are so tied together sacramentally, the Paul can speak of "Christ as the rock" [sacramental union]. "That is why," says Calvin, "the apostle says that the rock was Christ, for metonymy [the substitution of the name of one thing for another] is very commonly used when speaking sacramentally. Therefore the name of the reality is transferred to the sign here, because it applies to it, not properly, but figuratively" [Calvin, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, Eerdmans, 1960, 205.]. Calvin goes on to deal with another important question raised by Paul's language. "Since we now eat the body and drink the blood of Christ, how are the Jews partakers of the same spiritual meat and drink, when the flesh of Christ was not yet in existence for them to eat? To that I reply that although the flesh did not yet exist, it was food for them all the same. And that is not a piece of useless sophistry; for their salvation depended on the benefit of the death and resurrection, and for that reason on the flesh and blood, of Christ. Therefore it was necessary for them to receive the flesh and blood of Christ, so that they might share in the blessing of redemption. The receiving of it was the secret work of the Holy Spirit, who was active in such a way that the flesh of Christ, even if it was not yet created, might be efficacious in them. He means, however, that they ate in their own way, which was different from ours, and, as I have said already, that Christ is now conveyed to us more fully, because of the greater degree of revelation. For in our day the eating is substantial, something which was not yet possible in their time. In other words, Christ feeds us with His flesh, which was sacrificed for us, and which was appointed to be our food, and from this we draw our life" [Calvin, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, Eerdmans, 1960, 205]. Thus Calvin seeks to explain the mystery of how Christ could be the rock, in terms of sacramental language, and the manner of eating in terms of his doctrine of "union with Christ."
2. Wallace goes on to point out that "despite Christ's sacramental presence [with the people of God sacramentally in the signs that God gave to them] that generation of Israel was unfaithful, and many of them perished with a judgement that was all the more severe because they had despised His real presence so greatly. Paul uses the tragic example of judgement to enforce his appeal to the Corinthians to shun idol worship, participation in pagan sacrificial meals, and conformity to heathen practices: `the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not 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 bread....You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons' (1 Cor. 10:16 f., 21b). In Paul's thinking the real presence of Christ, actively forming His people into one body with Himself, clearly dominates the Church's celebration of the Lord's Supper. Moreover, partaking of the Lord's Supper brings Christians into a living relationship with the power of the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ. Paul's allusion that those who partook of the sacrifices made in heathen temples to devils entered into real and powerful communion with the devils themselves (vv. 18-21) reinforces this conclusion" [Wallace, "The Lord's Supper,"165-166]. This notion then, that Christ is sacramentally present with his people through the supper itself becomes the heart of the Biblical teaching and Reformed doctrine regarding the supper. Given this language, it is hard to make any kind of a case for a pure memorialism.
Calvin is very helpful here: "`blessing the cup' means setting it apart for this one purpose [in the Reformed tradition through the prayer of consecration], that it might be for a sign of the blood of Christ. It becomes that by the Word of promise, when, in accordance with Christ's direction, believers might meet together to keep the memorial of his death in this sacrament." This means, of course, that the sacrament is necessarily connected to the Word, and is efficacious for us, not because of anything we do, but through the Spirit, who works through the word. Notes Calvin, "on the other hand, in the case of the Papists, consecration is a kind of magic, that has its roots in heathendom, for it has no resemblance to the unadulterated rite which Christians follow" [Calvin, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, 205].
When the cup is set apart according to the word, "Paul says that the cup blessed in this way is koinonia, a communion in the blood of Christ. `What exactly does that mean'? someone asks. Keep controversy out of it, and everyone will be quite clear! It is true that believers are bound together by the blood of Christ, so that they may be one Body. It is also true that a unity of that kind is properly called a koinonia or communion. I would also say the same thing about the bread. Moreover, I am paying attention to what Paul adds immediately afterwards, as though by way of explanation, that we `are all made one body, because we share the same bread together.' But, I would ask, what is the source of that koinonia or communion, which exists among us, but the fact that we are united to Christ so that `we are flesh of His flesh and bone of His bones'? For it is necessary for us to be incorporated, as it were into Christ in order to be united to each other. Besides, Paul is discussing here not a mere human fellowship, but the spiritual union between Christ and believers, in order to make it plain from that, that it is an intolerable sacrilege for them to be contaminated by communion with idols. Therefore from the context of this verse we can conclude that koinonia or communion with the blood is the alliance which we have with the blood of Christ when he ingrafts all of us into His body, so that we may live in us, and we in him. Now, of course, I agree that the reference to the cup as a communion is a figure of speech, but only so long as the truth which the figure conveys is not destroyed; in other words, provided that the reality itself is also present, and the soul receives the communion in the blood, just as much as the mouth tastes the wine. But the Papists could not say that the cup of blessing is a communion in the blood of Christ, in their case, for they observe a mangled and mutilated form of the Supper--if the name `Supper' can even be used of that strange ceremony, which is a mosaic of many human inventions, and retains scarcely the slightest trace of what our Lord instituted"[Calvin, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, 205]. Thus the means of reception of what is promised in the sacrament is faith, since it is the soul that receives the reality of what is promised, as the mouth receives consecrated bread and wine.
C. K. Barrett reminds us that "even when he comes nearest to using sacrificial language, in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul thinks of the bread and wine as gifts from God to men, not from men to God: `The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a sharing (koinonia) in the blood of Christ? The loaf which we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? . . . Consider Israel after the flesh; Are not those who eat the sacrifices partakers (koinonoi) of the altar? . . . You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the table of demons; you cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the table of demons' (10:16-21). For Paul, the eucharist is a receiving, a joint partaking of, a divine gift to men. The Lord offers a cup, and so do the demons; the question is which men will receive" [C. K. Barrett, Church, Ministry, & Sacraments in the New Testament, Eerdmans, 1985, 93]. Thus we must see the Supper and the elements of bread and wine as gracious gifts from God, given to communicate to us the realities of the blessings of the covenant of grace, through the signs instituted by God.
3. But if Christ is somehow "present" in the supper sacramentally, this raises the question about those who partake of the sign and seal, but who do not trust in the Savior for eternal life and the forgiveness of sins. According to Ronald S. Wallace, "with a similar thought Paul later speaks of people's damning themselves by eating and drinking `unworthily' at the Lord's Supper through `not discerning' the Lord's body (1 Cor. 11:29). This `damnation' in not the deity's quasi-physical automatic reaction to unworthy people's eating or drinking the elements. It is rather a personal judgment incurred in a sphere where the presence of Christ is real and powerful. A casual approach to the gracious personal encounter mediated through the sacrament between Christ and His people can only spurn and profane the grace of Christ and inevitably merit judgement and rejection by Christ Himself" [Wallace, "The Lord's Supper,"166]. There are a couple of important points that need to be made here. First and foremost, it is vital to point out that the person Paul is speaking of is the one who partakes of the supper in an "unworthy manner" by not discerning the body of Christ in the elements of the Supper--not believing that they are receiving spiritual food and drink. This is not to say that all memorialists are under the judgement of God, since they too receive the Supper in faith even if they misunderstand its meaning--it is Christ's table, after all, not ours and Christ is certainly more gracious than we are. However, if true, this does not at all justify the memorialist error, for it simply means that God is faithful and feeds his people spiritual food despite their sinfulness and weakness.
It is also too often taught that unless one is able to cease from all sin they should not partake of the Supper, a notion which is patently false, given the frequency in which our Lord engaged in table fellowship with repentant sinners. To come under the judgement of God is to come to the Supper without faith in Christ, in effect, mocking the covenant promises that God makes to his people. The point that Wallace trying to make about an automatic reaction from God is that the sacrament is not to be viewed as though it were somehow "poisonous" to the non-Christian, who by partaking inevitably gets sick and dies by receiving the Supper unworthily. Rather, by not receiving the sacrament in faith, the non-Christian places themselves in a position where the consequences of their sin and the judgement of God upon them can become a frightful reality. This is why historic Protestants "fence" the communion table or practice closed or "close" communion. We are not being mean or uncharitable by asking non-Christians or those who hold a different view of the Supper to not participate, but our view of the sacraments demands that people understand that they are receiving the body and blood of Christ by faith, and by not discerning Christ's body, they place themselves in a dangerous position and subject to the judgement of God.
This also raises the question--especially given the Lutheran-Reformed polemics--about how it is that if Christ is really present in the sacrament in some sense, why is it that the non-Christian receives judgement, since the means of reception, according to the Reformed is faith, and not the mouth? How can the non-Christian be subject to the judgement of God for not discerning the body if they don't actually receive the body? And, it is argued, since non-Christians don't receive the body, how can Christ be said to be "really" present? Calvin is very helpful here on the meaning of the presence of Christ in the Supper, and I will quote from his commentary on 1 Corinthians 11, at great length:
"Christ calls the bread His body....Let there be no further questioning of the fact that here Christ is referring to the bread....Therefore the bread is the body of Christ, because it bears indubitable witness to the fact that the very body, which it stands for, is held out to us; or because, in offering us that symbol, the Lord is also giving us His body at the same time, for Christ is not one to deceive us, and make fools of us with empty representations. Accordingly, it is as clear as day to me that here the reality is joined to the sign: in other words, we really do become sharers in the body of Christ, so far as spiritual power is concerned, just as much as we eat the bread. We must now look to the mode of participation. The Papists press their doctrine of transubstantiation upon us. They hold that, when consecration has taken place, the substance of the bread no longer remains, but only the accidents. Over against this fabrication we set, not only the plain words of Scripture, but also the very nature of the sacraments. For what will the signification of the Supper be, if there is no analogy between the visible sign and the spiritual reality. They think the sign has the false and misleading appearance of bread. What then, about the reality signified? It can only be a piece of make-believe. Therefore, if there ought to be a corresponding relationship between the sign and the reality behind it [a point Calvin has already argued in 1 Corinthians 10:4 when Christ is called the rock], then the bread must be real (verum) bread, not imaginary, in order to represent the real (verum) body of Christ. Beside, this verse shows that it is not just that the body of Christ is given to us, but that it is given as food" [Calvin, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, 246]. Rome's position fails miserably because it denies the Biblical conception of the language of sacraments and resorts to blasphemous sophistry to explain how "bread" is no longer bread.
Calvin goes on to make the point that the manner of our receiving Christ in the Supper this must be understood in light of our union with Christ: "I myself maintain that it is only after we obtain Christ Himself, that we come to share in the benefits of Christ. And I further maintain that he is obtained, not just when we believe that he was sacrificed for us, but when he dwells in us, when he is one with us, when we are members of his flesh, when, in short, we become united in one life and substance (if I may say so) with him. Besides, I am paying attention to the implication of the words, for Christ does not offer us only the benefits of his death and resurrection, but the self-same body in which he suffered and rose again" [Calvin, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, 246]. Thus for Calvin, only those united to Christ in faith and who receive the benefits of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection, receive the benefits of his body and blood when they partake of the bread and wine. This is why, non-Christians do not receive Christ in the sacrament, because they are not united to him through faith. Just as they do not receive the forgiveness of sins, nor eternal life because they are not united to Christ through faith, so too, they cannot receive Christ in the Supper, because they do not eat and drink in faith.
Calvin goes on to say: "My conclusion is that the body of Christ is really (realiter), to use the usual word, i.e., truly (vere) given to us in the Supper, so that it may be health-giving food for our souls. I am adopting the usual terms, but I mean that our souls are fed by the substance of his body, so that we are truly (vere) made one with him; or, what amounts to the same thing, that a life-giving power from the flesh of Christ is poured into us through the medium of the Spirit, even though it is a great distance from us, and is not mixed with us" [Calvin, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, 246]. This means that since Christ's true human nature is in heaven [we cannot ignore the implications of our Lord's Ascension] it is the Holy Spirit who ensures that we on earth receive nothing less than Christ himself in the Supper, even though our Savior is in heaven.
Calvin concludes this section by responding to the Lutheran formulation that the presence of Christ is localized: "Only one problem remains: how is it possible for his body, which is in heaven to be given us here on earth? Some people think that the body of Christ is boundless, and is not confined to any one place, but fills both heaven and earth, like the essence of God [the Lutheran notion of ubiquity--cf. Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, II.326, for an effective refutation]. That notion is so absurd that it needs not be refuted....But the sharing in the Lord's body, which, I maintain, is offered to us in the Supper, demands neither a local presence, nor the descent of Christ, nor an infinite extension of his body, nor anything of that sort; for, in view of the fact that the Supper is a heavenly act, there is nothing absurd about saying that Christ remains in heaven and is yet received by us. For the way in which he imparts himself to us is by the secret power of the Holy Spirit, a power which is able not only to bring together, but also to join together things which are separated by distance, and by a great distance at that. But to be capable of this impartation, we must rise up to heaven. In this connexion our physical senses are of no avail to us, and so it is faith that must come to our help. When I speak of `faith,' I do not mean any kind of opinion, which depends upon what men make up, since there are so many people constantly boasting about their `faith,' and who are extremely wide of the mark on the point that is at issue here. What then? You see bread, and nothing else, but you hear that it is a sign of the body of Christ. Be quite sure that the Lord will really carry out what you understand the words to mean: that his body, which you do not see at all, is spiritual food for you. It seems unbelievable that we are fed by the flesh of Christ, which is far away from us. Let us remember that it is a secret and wonderful work done by the Holy Spirit and it would be sinful to measure it by the little standard of your own understanding. In the meantime, however, get rid of stupid notions, which keep your eyes glued on the bread. Let Christ keep his flesh, which is real flesh, and do not hold the mistaken view that his body stretches all over heaven and earth. Do not tear him to pieces by your fanciful ideas, and do not worship Him in this place or that according to your carnal apprehension. Let him remain in his heavenly glory; and aspire to reach heaven yourself, that, from it, he may impart himself to you....My advice to the inquisitive is to look elsewhere for the satisfaction of their craving for information" [Calvin, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, 246-247]. This means that the manner of eating is spiritual, not physical, and that it is indeed faith which feeds on Christ, not the mouth. Thus since non-Christians are not in union with Christ they not only do not receive the benefits of his death and resurrection, they do not receive his body and blood when the come to the table. They do receive his judgment, however, because they approach holy things, without faith, and in doing so mock God, and reject his gracious promises.
4. Ronald Wallace goes on to notes in his essay on the Lord's Supper that "because of the New Testament context of the Lord's Supper, the words `this do in remembrance of me' (Gk. eis ten emen anamnesin, 1 Cor. 11:24f.) call for a careful discussion. The word `remembrance' (anamnesis) echoes Ex. 12:14, which institutes the Passover as a `memorial day.' The pascal feast is designed not simply to restore fading mental impressions of the past event but also to re-establish the former relationship to divine grace. The `Passover remembrance' is of Christ means to seek fresh communion with Him so that, as Paul says in Phil. 3:10f., `I may know him, and the power of His resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.' In this process, however, remembering the historical events of the death and resurrection of Jesus also plays an important part" [Wallace, "The Lord's Supper,"166]. If Wallace is correct, remembrance, means much more than merely recalling to mind what God had done for us in the past. It means recalling to mind what God had done in the past, so as to receive his grace anew in the present. In other words, this is God's act, not ours! Focusing upon the Supper strictly as a memorial inevitably leads to placing the emphasis solely upon human effort-- "Was I sorry enough that Jesus died for my sins?" "Did I repent of all the bad things that I have done?" "Did I remember Christ's death as I ought?" etc., instead of placing the focus upon recalling what God has done in the past, so that I might participate in his grace, freely given anew through the Word in the power of the Spirit in the present. Whenever people object to the frequent celebration of Supper on the ground that it loses something of its "specialness" if you celebrate it too often, it is a sure sign that one holds to a strict memorialist view, which focuses upon our doing--remembering correctly or confessing correctly--rather than God's self-giving in Christ through Word and sacrament. If the Supper is a spiritual feeding upon Christ drawing its efficacy from God's covenant promises in his Word in the power of the Holy Spirit, the infrequent communion arguments become completely untenable. A memorialist view also effectively removes another important Biblical-theological theme from the Supper, namely that the Lord's Supper is a covenant meal, and therefore, a perpetual re-ratification of the promises of the covenant of grace, namely that blessing comes through curse--the forgiveness of sins we receive comes only through the shed blood of Christ when he took the covenant curses upon himself on the cross--and which the Great King perpetually offers to us in our weakness through the "visible word," the signs and seals of bread and wine.
5. Wallace also notes that "anamnesis can also mean a memorial before God (e.g., Acts 10:4; Mk. 14:9). Thus some believe that in the Last Supper the Church recalls the sacrifice of Christ to make it again effective. The anamnesis, however, is better related to the intercession that the church must make in its thankful response to God's grace in the sacrament. It is impossible that the Church should not pray at the Lord's table for the salvation of mankind; this intercession and Christ's own heavenly intercession might be thought of as an anamnesis before God" [Wallace, "The Lord's Supper,"166]. Here, we might want to add that the one sacrifice of Christ is continually applied to us because of his present on-going priestly work, and not because we are able to re-offer Christ to the Father, through the sacrament as in the blasphemy of the Mass. The Supper is not a re-actualization of the atoning death of Christ, as Rome teaches, but is instead to be viewed as the continual reception of the saving benefits of Christ's once-for-all atoning sacrifice coming to us through the covenant promises in God's word, applied to us by the Holy Spirit who creates and strengthens faith in our hearts. Thus we do not re-present Christ again to the Father in thanksgiving [as Rome blasphemously argues], rather we give thanks for the salvation that God has provided in Christ which is continuously applied to us by Christ in his present priestly office through Word and sacrament.
6. Wallace also contends that "one should similarly interpret 1 Cor. 11:26: `For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.' Proclamation here means more than a dramatic representation of the death of Christ. Like the kerygma, it involves re-presenting in both word and action the redemptive event itself, so that the participants in the eucharistic ritual relate themselves in a powerful and living way to the unique sacrifice of Christ on the cross. But all the celebrations of the Supper involve only one sacrifice [that of Christ's once for all death on Calvary]. `It is clear . . . that the bringing of the Eucharist under the rubric of the proclamation excludes the idea of its being a sacrifice itself or in its own right. Not the actual and literal offering of the sacrifice, but an action proclaiming a sacrifice once offered and eternally valid before the Father, is what the Eucharist effects'" [Wallace, "The Lord's Supper,"166]. This is why the proper celebration of the Lord's Supper includes a warning to unbelievers or unrepentant sinners, confession of sin and a declaration of forgiveness [absolution], the reading of the words of institution, the epiclesis [breaking of bread], the prayer of consecration and the distribution of the elements, but should avoid any hint of re-sacrifice, adoration of the elements, or what the Reformers called "priestcraft and popery." The sacraments are efficacious only because they are connected to the Word, through which the Spirit works, and not because the minister is a "priest."
7. We now turn our attention to one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament, as it relates to the sacraments, and that is our Lord's discourse about the bread in John 6:25-70. Calvin wisely cautions us about the tension that is raised in John 6, by our Lord's words and notes that the passage must be interpreted accordingly. Says Calvin: "From these words it is plain that it is wrong to expound this whole passage as applying to the Lord's Supper. For if it were true that all who come to the Lord's holy table are made partakers of His flesh and blood, all alike will obtain life. But we know that many fall into perdition. And indeed, it would have been inept and unseasonable to preach about the Lord's Supper before He has instituted it. So it is certain that He is now treating of the perpetual eating of faith. At the same time, I confess that there is nothing said here that is not figured and actually presented to believers in the Lord's Supper. Indeed, we might say that Christ intended the holy Supper to be a seal of this discourse. This is also the reason why John makes no mention of the Lord's Supper. And therefore Augustine follows the proper order when, in expounding this chapter, he does not touch the Lord's Supper until he comes to the end. And then he shows that this mystery is represented in a symbol whenever the Churches celebrate the sacred Supper" [Calvin, The Gospel According to St. John, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1979), p. 170]. Thus, the problem with seeing this passage as referring exclusively to the sacraments is, as Calvin points out, that our Lord's words here are absolute: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (v. 53)." Leon Morris concurs, "this language is absolute. No qualification is inserted. No loophole is left. But it is impossible to think that Jesus...should have taught that the one thing necessary for eternal life is to receive the sacrament" [Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1984), 352].
And yet, as Calvin notes, the fact that our Lord's words pre-figure the sacrament in some sense cannot be excluded from the meaning of the passage either as, "there is nothing said here that is not figured and actually presented to believers in the Lord's Supper," for our Lord, says Calvin, "is now treating of the perpetual eating of faith," and that "Christ intended the holy Supper to be a seal of this discourse." This is where the tension lies--the words of our Lord are absolute, so he must he talking about faith and not, strictly speaking, the sacrament. Yet, everything promised here by our Lord is, in fact, received by believers through the sacrament.
It is important, therefore, to recall that the sacrament had not yet been instituted when our Lord spoke these words and when we look closely at the passage, we should notice that eating and drinking follow believing in the Son. For example, in verse 35, our Lord declares, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty (v. 35)." In verse 40, we read "my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life." And similarly in verse 47, we read "I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life." Indeed, Jesus himself qualifies the meaning of his flesh, as that which He gives for the life of the world. Here, he is clearly talking about his sacrifice for the sins of the world. This is, of course, the very thing received by believers in the sacrament through faith. What then, does Jesus mean when he says "unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you?" As Calvin notes, Jesus "pronounces eternal perdition against all who refuse to seek life from his flesh, as if he were saying, `If my flesh is despicable to you, rest assured that no other hope of life remains for you'" [John Calvin, The Gospel According to St. John 168]. In other words, Jesus gave his own flesh for the sins of the world, and to reject the flesh of Christ--through unbelief--is to reject the benefits of his sacrificial death.
Ursinus similarly notes that "We admit that this chapter [John 6] does not refer directly to the ceremony of the supper. But it does not follow from this, that it has no reference to it whatever. It has reference to the promise, This is my body given for you; for this promise is drawn from the discourse of Christ in the sixth chapter of John, and is confirmed by the signs of bread and wine. It cannot, therefore, be understood of any other eating of Christ's body in the supper [such as the "carnal eating" of Romanism], than that which we have in his discourse in the gospel of John, which is spiritual; for as we have just seen it condemns the eating of his flesh orally...but directs them [his hearers] to his ascension into heaven, which would take place in a short time, when his body would be far removed from their mouths, from which we may infer that it was a spiritual eating of which he spoke, which is effected by the Spirit and by faith....From the fifty-fourth and six verses of this sixth chapter of John, it is also evident that to eat the flesh, and to drink the blood of Christ is to believe in Christ, to dwell in him, and to have him dwell in us; because the same effect of eternal life is attributed both to the eating of his flesh and to faith in him" [Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, 403]. Like Calvin, Ursinus locates the key to interpreting the Supper in the believer's union with Christ through faith.
Ronald Wallace is also helpful here. According to Wallace, "in His discourse about the bread in Jn. 6, Jesus uses analogies about the spiritual hunger of the people for God and its satisfaction in the Word and Wisdom of God. `The Word became flesh' (Jn. 1:14) and was offered upon the cross so that the people might obtain everlasting life and be raised up at the last day (6:50-54). Through this sacrifice the eternal life of the Word is made available to all believer's as their spiritual food and drink (v. 47), which alone unites them to the incarnate Word (v. 56) and enables them to have spiritual life (v. 53). At the heart of this discourse, just an in Jn. 15, is Jesus' insistence that a real and living communion, which is the source of His people's salvation and Christian life, must exist between Him and them in every age. The institution of the Super later gave a visible clue that enables Christians to grasps the fuller meaning of Jesus' `hard saying' (Jn. 6:60) about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. But Jn. 6 seems equally to give a clue to the interpretation of the Lord's Supper: the Supper is a means by which the Church has communion with the incarnate life that became the life of mankind. Even though Jesus has ascended to heaven, His presence in the Lord's Supper is `just as real as His physical presence was to the Apostles.' The supper, however, must not be interpreted as if the mere eating and drinking of the elements had some inherently magical effect, for `it is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail' (v. 63)" [Wallace, "The Lord's Supper,"166]. Thus for Wallace, the key to understanding John 6, is the phrase, "it is the Spirit who gives life."
The Reformed, therefore, generally contend that in John 6 Jesus is speaking about the bread as his flesh, that is his body given for sinners on the cross. To believe--i.e., "to eat" this flesh is to have eternal life. The sacrament had not yet been instituted when our Lord spoke, and it is clear that faith comes prior to eating. Clearly the eating described here is absolute--whoever eats of this bread has eternal life. And yet, the promises spelled out in John 6, are clearly seen in our Lord's words of institution, "this is my body given for you." Thus in the Supper the promises described in John 6, are indeed offered to believers through bread and wine. It is the Spirit, not the flesh which is effective, and therefore, a spiritual eating, not a carnal eating is clearly in view for what is promised through the Word is also received through the sacrament. This, of course, is perfectly consistent with the sign/seal and thing signified language used elsewhere in the New Testament. Thus in John 6, Jesus is not cryptically speaking of the sacrament before it is instituted. Rather he is speaking of his own body, the bread from heaven, given for sinners upon the cross. But it is clear that what is promised to believers through faith in John 6, is also promised in the sacrament.
E. Practical Matters--the Frequency of the Lord's Supper
1. Last, we need to turn our attention to the question of the frequency of the celebration of the Lord's Supper. Given our prior discussion, it is very difficult to prove from the Scriptures that infrequent communion [by that I mean the quarterly celebration of the Supper practiced by many Reformed churches] was the practice of the apostolic church. In Acts 20:7, it is quite clear that the church gathered on the Lord's Day for the purpose "breaking bread," which is, as F. F. Bruce points out, "probably a communal meal . . . in the course of which the Eucharist was celebrated" [F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles: Greek text with Introduction and Commentary, 3rd Ed., Eerdmans, 1990, 425]. This also appears to be the practice of the Corinthian church [see 1 Corinthians 11:20-22]. Since this "breaking of bread" was one of the distinguishing marks of the Spirit-indwelt temple of the Lord, the mystical body of Jesus Christ, which is the church [Acts 2:42], it is very difficult for me to believe that Acts 20:7 is describing an anomaly [or even a special event due to the apostle's visit] and not the regular practice of the church in Asia Minor.
2. This point is substantially strengthened when looking at Paul's comments in 1 Corinthians 11:18, namely that whenever the Corinthian believers came together as a church, they celebrated the Lord's Supper, and that the celebration of the Supper was unfortunately detrimentally effected by the divisions that existed among the Corinthian Christians. The problems associated with the Supper [1 Corinthians 11], spiritual gifts [1 Corinthians 12-13] and prophecy [1 Corinthians 14] seem to indicate that the Supper was celebrated as frequently as prophecy was given--i.e., weekly. Given this information, it seems to me that the burden of proof certainly falls upon those who argue for infrequent communion to do so on a Biblical-theological basis and not by using arguments based upon tradition and certain time-bound pronouncements of the consistory of Geneva--a practice that Protestants claim to abhor!
3. Furthermore, as we have seen, the argument that the frequent celebration of the Supper only depreciates its meaning, can succeed only by arguing that the essence of the Supper is its function as a memorial in which believers testify to their own worthiness to partake and of their own faith in the promises of Christ, instead of the way in which the Reformed have historically seen the Supper, which is a spiritual feeding upon the flesh and blood of Christ through faith in which the focus is upon the re-affirmation of the covenant-oath of God in saving sinners who call upon the name of Jesus Christ, announced to God's people each time the words of institution are read and the prayer of consecration is offered.
4. There is a lengthy history in the Reformed tradition of advocacy of frequent communion. Some, such as the Puritan Thomas Goodwin, have argued that the Lord's Supper is a continual ordinance, such as the preaching of the word and prayer, in which minimal requirements appear to be weekly rather than arbitrary, such as the quarterly celebrations of many Reformed churches [See Thomas Goodwin, Works, Volume XI, 388-409]. And as Goodwin notes, since other continual ordinances such as preaching and prayer [Acts 2:42] appear to be required during the church's worship on the Lord's day and are characteristic of distinctly Christian worship, why is the Supper arbitrarily excluded from those things which characterize what is to transpire on the Lord's Day when the church gathers to worship? The arguments used to argue for infrequent communion could easily be used to argue for infrequent preaching of the gospel and prayer, lest these things lose something of their "special" qualities by becoming too familiar.
5. Calvin's views on the frequency of the Supper are well known. Citing Acts 2:42 and the practice of the Corinthian church, says Calvin, "it should be the unvarying rule that no meeting of the church should take place without the Word, prayers, partaking of the Supper, and almsgiving" [Calvin, Institutes, IV.xvii.44]. Responding to the annual minimum requirement for participating in the Mass of the Roman church, Calvin states, "the Lord's Table should be spread at least once a week for the assembly of Christians, and the promises declared in it should feed us spiritually" [Institutes, IV.xvii.46]. Here again, since Calvin's interpretive grid for the Supper is "union with Christ" and is to be seen primarily as spiritual feeding upon Christ, of course, a frequent celebration of the Supper would be proper. But Calvin is not alone in his views. Zacharias Ursinus, the author of the Heidelberg Catechism also concurs: "The Supper is, therefore, to be frequently celebrated, which we may also establish from its design, which is to celebrate the Lord's death" [Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, 388]. Since Ursinus connects the Supper directly to the proclamation of the death of Christ, we may indeed infer that "frequently" implies a minimum of "weekly." Would someone dare to tell us that you can proclaim the death of Christ to Christians too often lest it lose its special qualities? Even the Directory of Public Worship bequeathed to us by the Westminster Assembly, insists that the Lord's Supper is "frequently to be celebrated," at the discretion of the ministers. Therefore, it would seem, infrequent communion is unknown in the New Testament and was opposed by Calvin, Ursinus and the authors of the Westminster Confession. Thus those who advocate infrequent communion assume all burden of proof to justify withholding from God's people the "visible word."
6. A. A. Hodge's comments about the Supper and Reformed piety, are an appropriate place to conclude. "We now enter the innermost Most Holy Place of the Christian temple. We approach the sacred altar on which lies quivering before our eyes the bleeding heart of Christ. We come to the most private and personal meeting-place, appointed rendezvous, between or Lord and his beloved. We are here to have discovered to us the Christian mysteries which have been carefully reserved for hundreds of generations for the initiated alone. To all else the wide world is invited without limit and without condition, but to this sacred rite the covenant brethren alone. It marks the central, vital epochs in the believer's life and intercourse with heaven. It marks hence the successive stages of his pilgrimage along the King's high-way toward the New Jerusalem and the banqueting-halls of our Father's house. It is consequently the central ordinance in the whole circle of church life, around which all the other ministries of the Church revolve, and through which we have exhibited to the outward senses the indwelling of God with men, the real presence and objective reality of `the holy catholic Church,' and the reality and power of `the communion of saints'" [A. A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology: Lectures on Doctrine, Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1976], 339.
V. Summation of the Biblical Teaching About the Lord's Supper.
A. The Last Supper and the Lord's Supper must be seen in its two-fold historical context. The first thing we need to keep in mind is the significance of "table fellowship" in the Mediterranean world of the first century. To eat with someone at table was, in effect, to be identified by a bond with those with whom you ate. This is significant both in light of Exodus 24, and the meal of covenant ratification enjoyed in the presence of God himself, as well as our Lord's willingness to join in table fellowship with repentant sinners--a scandalous event in the eyes of the Pharisees [i.e., Matthew 9:10-13]. The second aspect of the historical context is that the Last Supper is clearly a Passover meal, as the gospels themselves declare [Mark 14:12 ff]. Our Lord's words and actions clearly indicate that he himself saw the institution of the Lord's Supper as a fulfillment of the Passover and connected his actions to its fulfillment. The apparent chronological differences between the synoptic gospels and John's gospel over the date of the Passover are easily reconciled by the acknowledgment of the use of two calendars. Thus to fully appreciate the theological richness of the Lord's Supper, we must put it in its first century context of table fellowship, covenant ratification and the Passover [the Old Testament thought world of the New Testament authors].
B. As we develop our theology of the Lord's Supper we need to keep in mind the historical development of the doctrine within the New Testament itself, namely that from the "Last Supper" and the institution of the Lord's Supper in the gospels to the practice of "Lord's Supper" as seen in 1 Corinthians 11. Chronologically, Paul's account of the Corinthian Church's celebration of the Lord's Supper [mid 50's] was written before the gospel writers wrote the account of our Lord's institution of the Supper, known as the Last Supper in the mid 60's. This factor explains the different word order in the accounts of Paul-Luke and Mark-Matthew, and shows that the apostolic practice [i.e., in the Corinthian church] very closely followed what our Lord commanded in the upper room on the night in which he was betrayed.
C. The Reformed conception of explaining the Supper in terms of sign/seal [bread and wine], thing signified [forgiveness through his blood, the "blood of the covenant"], and sacramental union [our Lord's words "this is my body"], arises directly from the Biblical data itself. When Jesus speaks of the bread as his body and the wine as his blood, we take him at his word without resorting to confusing sign with thing signified [in the case of Rome], or inserting words such as "this represents my body," where they do not belong [in the case of the memorialists]. As Paul calls Christ the rock [1 Corinthians 10:4], so too, the bread is Jesus' body--not because the sign is miraculously changed into the thing signified as Rome argues in transubstantiation, but because Christ can speak of the bread [the sign] as the thing signified [his body] using the language of sacraments, because a true sacramental union exists between the sign and the thing signified, the bread can indeed be spoken of as Christ's body [Matthew 26:26 ff].
D. Following Calvin, the Reformed have tried to keep in mind both the reality of Christ's bodily Ascension--wherein Christ's true human nature is now in heaven awaiting his return [Acts 1:9-11]--and the real presence of Christ's body in the sacrament [1 Corinthians 10:16-17]. Here it is important to note that the Reformed view [following Calvin] is not some kind of a half-way house between Luther's view of the "real presence" as "in, with and under the bread and wine," and the Zwinglian trajectory of the "real absence," which focuses upon the memorial aspects of the Supper. The Reformed view is clearly a unique position formulated in light of Calvin's doctrine of "union with Christ." Though Christ's true human nature be in heaven, nevertheless the believer receives all of his saving benefits because the Holy Spirit has united the believer here on earth to Christ in heaven through faith, so too [Romans 6, Ephesians 1], Christ can be in heaven and the believer can receive his true body and blood, because the same Holy Spirit ensures that those already in union with Christ receive his true body and blood when they take bread and wine in faith [1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:23-29]. Thus the manner of eating is spiritual, not "carnal," and we truly receive Christ by faith and not by the mouth [John 6:63 may apply here]. In the words of institution, the body of Christ is not brought down to us--i.e., localized on an altar "in, with, and under" as the Lutherans argue, but the believer is able to feed upon Christ in the heavenlies through the power of the Holy Spirit who ensures that we receive what is promised. Thus the means of reception of what is promised in the sacrament is faith [and is a mystery], since it is the soul not the body that receives the reality of what is promised, as the mouth receives only consecrated bread and wine. Therefore, when we when eat bread and drink wine, through faith, the Holy Spirit ensures that we receive the true body and blood of Christ which is in heaven because we are in union with him.
E. This notion then, that Christ is sacramentally present with his people through the Supper as they feed upon him in faith, becomes the heart of the Biblical teaching and Reformed doctrine regarding the Lord's Supper. There is an eschatological dimension here [Luke 22:16-18 and Revelation 19:6-9], as the earthly supper anticipates the great marriage supper yet to come. There is a covenantal dimension as well, as each time the Supper is celebrated, God himself re-affirms his covenant oath to save sinners by bearing the curse for them, and that Jesus Christ still enjoys table fellowship with sinners as was typologically set forth in Exodus 24. Given these biblical themes, and the biblical language of "real presence," in addition to the biblical practice of connecting the Word and sacrament [Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 11; Acts 20:7], it is hard to make any kind of a case for a pure memorialism or infrequent communion as is practiced by many Reformed Christians. The memorialist position [quite inadvertently] makes the human testimony of worthiness to partake or of our testimony to faith in the promises of God as central to the Supper, and inevitably depreciates the fact that the essence of the Supper is a spiritual feeding and a covenant meal, in which God re-affirms his covenant oath. Thus it is the Holy Spirit working through the Word, and not a priest or minister that makes the sacrament efficacious for believers. Thus God is the active party [not the "rememberer" nor a priest], and the sacraments are, therefore, correctly called the visible word. Thus we must see the Supper and the elements of bread and wine as gracious gifts from God--manna from heaven as it were--given to us by God to communicate to us the realities of the blessings of the covenant of grace, through the signs instituted by God. The Supper is therefore, not incidental to the Christian life, but must be seen as a vital part of our sanctification and growth in Godliness.
F. The point that R. S. Wallace makes about an automatic reaction from God in judgement is that the sacrament is not to be viewed as though it were somehow poisonous to the non-Christian, who then, inevitably gets sick and dies by receiving the Supper unworthily. Rather, by not receiving the Supper in faith, the non-Christian places themselves in a position where the consequences of their sin and the judgement of God upon them can become a frightful reality. As Ursinus puts it, "an abuse of the sign is contempt cast upon Christ himself; and is an offence against his injured majesty." This is why historic Protestants "fence" the communion table or practice closed or "close" communion, to protect those who do not discern the body of Christ in the elements of bread and wine. But all repentant sinners, who are baptized and profess faith in Christ, and seek his saving benefits through faith, are welcomed to the table so that we may demonstrate to the watching world that we are indeed one, just as our Lord himself had prayed.