Lord’s Day Twenty-Nine

Every Sunday, we will be going through one of the fifty-two Lord’s Days of the Heidelberg Catechism. Written in the year 1563, the Heidelberg still remains a popular confession of faith in many churches to this day. You can find the full text here.

Lord’s Day 29

Question 78: Do the bread and wine become
the real body and blood of Christ?

Answer: No.
Just as the water of baptism
is not changed into Christ’s blood
and does not itself wash away sins
but is simply a divine sign and assurance1 of these things,
so too the holy bread of the Lord’s Supper
does not become the actual body of Christ,2
even though it is called the body of Christ3
in keeping with the nature and language of sacraments.4
1. Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5
2. Matt. 26:26-29
3. 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 11:26-28
4. Gen. 17:10-11; Ex. 12:11, 13; 1 Cor. 10:1-4

Question 79: Why then does Christ call
the bread his body
and the cup his blood,
or the new covenant in his blood,
and Paul use the words,
a sharing in Christ’s body and blood?

Answer: Christ has good reason for these words.
He wants to teach us that
just as bread and wine nourish the temporal life,
so too his crucified body and poured-out blood
are the true food and drink of our souls for eternal life.1
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,2
and that all of his suffering and obedience
are as definitely ours
as if we personally
had suffered and made satisfaction for our sins.3
1. John 6:51, 55
2. 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 11:26
3. Rom. 6:5-11

To some, question 78 may seem strange but this was a hotly debated topic in the 16th century when this catechism was written. While I think we would all agree that Christ is present in the Lord’s supper, the question then becomes in what mode or manner is the Savior with us when we take the Lord’s Supper? Is he physically present? Is he spiritually present? Can we even define this presence at all? The writer’s of the Heidelberg believed that Christ was spiritually present in the sacrament and, like baptism, a divine sign and assurance of the promises of Christ. His presence assures us that as our mouths receive these holy signs in his remembrance, all of his suffering and obedience are as definitely ours as if we personally had suffered and made satisfaction for our sins. Now, just as with baptism, we agree there is also no salvation found in communion. Judas partook of the first Lord’s supper, but as Augustine later stated “Judas ate bread with the Lord, but did not eat the Lord with the bread.”

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35

 

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