Saturday, July 15, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 29: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 78-79

Reformation 500 WEEK 29: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 78-79

Question 78: Do, then, the bread and the wine become the real body and blood of Christ? No, but as the water in Baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ, nor becomes the washing away of sins itself, being only the divine token [symbol] and assurance thereof, so also in the Lord’s Supper the sacred bread does not become the body of Christ itself, though agreeably to the nature and usage of sacraments it is called the body of Christ.

Both Roman Catholics and Lutherans argue that Christ’s words, “This is My body,” and “This is My blood,” are to be understood literally, meaning that Christ’s physical body and blood are present in the communion bread and wine. The Roman Catholic view is that when the priest utters the words, “This is My body,” the substance of the bread miraculously changes into the real flesh and blood of Christ; all that remains of the bread and wine is its form, appearance, weight, smell, and taste. This view is called transubstantiation, which means change of substance. Only the bread (not the wine) is given to the people, because flesh has blood in it; and therefore, the people get “the blood” when they eat “the flesh.” The Lutherans do not believe the bread or wine changes; but that Christ’s glorified body in heaven is now (like His divine nature) everywhere present and therefore is present with the bread and wine. This is called consubstantiation, which means “with the substance.”

The truth is, the Catholics and Lutherans are not literal enough. Jesus did not say, “This changed into My body” or “This contains My body.” The verb “is” in the Bible never means “changed into” or “contains.” But it does mean represents or symbolizes. For example, “The field is the world” (Matt. 13:38). Jesus said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:41). Did Jesus mean He changed into or was inside a loaf of bread? The answer is obvious. He represented bread – heavenly bread in fact – the true manna from heaven! Remember the rock that was struck in the wilderness, and out came water for the people to drink? “That Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). Did the rock change into or contain Christ? Again, the answer is obvious. That Rock symbolized Christ – who was struck for our sins, to give us living water (John 4:13-14; 7:37-38). If I showed you a photograph of my mother and said, “This is my mother,” you would not think I was holding a piece of my mother’s flesh. Likewise, Jesus was not holding a piece of His own flesh, or a cup of His own blood. The disciples, who often misunderstood Jesus, did not need to ask Him what He meant, because it was obvious. The bread represents His body. The wine represents His blood “shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28).

“Christ’s physical body in heaven is one; it is not shredded into millions of pieces and scattered over the Communion tables of all churches in all ages!” (Jones, Study Helps, 180). Christ’s glorified human body is visible in heaven at the right hand of God. It is not invisible in the bread and wine. According to the creed of Chalcedon (AD 451), the historic position of the Christian Church is that Christ’s divine and human natures are so joined together that there is no change of the one into the other. But if Christ’s human nature became everywhere present then that would be a change!

Another problem with the Catholic and Lutheran position is inconsistency. They insist that ‘to drink Christ’s blood’ must be interpreted literally; and therefore, they think the communion wine changes into or contains the blood of Christ. But they do not argue that ‘to be washed by the blood of Christ’ (1 John 1:7) must be interpreted literally, so that the baptism water changes into or contains the blood of Christ. Rather, they admit, ‘to be washed by Christ’s blood” is figurative language, meaning, ‘to be forgiven by Christ’s blood.’ They are willing to interpret the washing of the blood figuratively; why not the drinking of the blood? For “to be washed with the blood of Christ, and to drink His blood is the same thing” (Ursinus, 396).

Let us look at the last phrase of Question 78: “in the Lord’s Supper the sacred bread does not become the body of Christ itself, though agreeably to the nature and usage of sacraments it is called the body of Christ.” This is simply a repeat of what was said in connection with baptism, that sometimes a symbol (like baptism) is called by the name of what it symbolizes (i.e. the washing away of sins). Circumcision, which was the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham, is called the covenant itself (“the covenant of circumcision,” Acts 7:8), even though it is only a symbol of the covenant. The rock in the wilderness is called Christ (“that Rock was Christ”), even though it was only a symbol of Christ. So, we should have no problem with calling the bread His body, and the cup His blood, even though they are only symbols of His body and blood.

Question 79: Why then does Christ call the bread His body, and the cup His blood, or the New Testament in His blood; and the Apostle Paul, the communion of the body and the blood of Christ? Christ speaks thus with great cause, namely, not only to teach us thereby, that like as the bread and wine sustain this temporal life, so also His crucified body and shed blood are the true meat and drink of our souls unto life eternal; but much more, by this visible sign and pledge to assure us that we are as really partakers of His true body and blood by the working of the Holy Spirit, as we receive by the mouth of the body these holy tokens [symbols] in remembrance of Him; and that all His sufferings and obedience are as certainly our own, as if we ourselves had suffered and done all in our own person.


 Why are sacramental symbols called by the name of what they symbolize? This highlights the close connection between the symbol and what it symbolizes. The physical nourishment we receive from bread and wine (Psalm 104:15; Gen. 14:18) resembles the spiritual nourishment we receive every day as a result of believing in (“eating”) Christ’s crucified body and shed blood. Remember that eternal life is a life of union and communion (fellowship) with the risen and glorified Christ (through the Word and prayer) in the bond of the Holy Spirit so that we are spiritually sanctified and transformed more and more into His image. Christ calls the bread His crucified body and the wine His shed-blood because He wants to symbolically assure us believers that just as certainly as our mouth tastes the bread and wine (symbols of His sacrifice), we can be just as certain that our soul tastes (possesses) all the benefits of His sacrifice. He gives us symbols of His suffering and death to assure us that His suffering and death is imputed to us as if we ourselves had suffered and died. Christ wants us to taste with our mouth how near He is to us and how dear we are to Him. He told His disciples, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you” (Luke 22:15). His desire to have communion with His people has not changed (Heb. 13:8)!

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 78-79

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 29


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 28: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 75-77

Reformation 500 WEEK 28: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 75-77

Question 75: How is it signified and sealed to you [the believer] in the Holy Supper that you partake of [benefit from] the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross and all His benefits? Thus: that Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and to drink of this cup in remembrance of Him, and has joined therewith these promises: first, that His body was offered and broken on the cross for me and His blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup communicated to me; and further, that with His crucified body and shed blood He Himself feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, as certainly as I receive from the hand of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, which are given me as certain tokens [symbols] of the body and blood of Christ.

     Having learned that baptism is the sign and seal of the beginning of our salvation in forgiveness and regeneration (the Lord has once for all received us believers into His covenant of grace), we will now learn that the Lord’s Supper is the sign and seal of the continual growth of our salvation in communion with Christ (the Lord will preserve us in this covenant of fellowship with Him and all believers).

     The Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper during His last Passover supper with His disciples, the night before His crucifixion, the same night in which He was betrayed. “The Passover was the solemn eating of a lamb, which God enjoined upon the Israelites in order, that this rite…might be a memorial to them of their deliverance from Egypt, and that it might especially declare to the faithful their spiritual deliverance from sin and death by Christ, who was to be slain upon the cross, and to be eaten by faith” (Ursinus, 437). The Lord’s Supper teaches that this is already accomplished. “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7).

     Jesus took the bread and wine of the Passover supper and gave them their true significance as symbols of His crucified body and shed blood (His suffering and death) on the cross for all who believe in Him. The Lord commanded us believers to eat and drink symbols of His sacrifice for our sins as a visual symbolic reminder of the truth that He suffered and died for us to unite us to His glorified body in heaven, so that we might receive all the benefits of His crucified body and shed blood (John 15:1-5). For the sake of His sacrifice, we are not only forgiven and regenerated (which is symbolized in our baptism); we have eternal life, a life of communion (fellowship) with Christ (though the Word and prayer) in the bond of the Holy Spirit so that we are sanctified and transformed more and more into His image (John 17:3; 1 Cor. 6:17; 12:13; Eph. 5:30; 1 John 1:3).

     The bread is not only broken, to symbolize that “He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5); the wine is not only poured into a cup, to symbolize that “He poured out His soul unto death” (Isaiah 53:12); the bread and wine are given to us to eat and drink to symbolize our communion with Christ – that He lives in us to nourish our souls every day and forever! As certainly as we swallow the bread and wine and they nourish our body (think of the physical benefits of bread and wine), that is how close Jesus is by His Spirit to strengthen and gladden our soul. In this way Christ strengthens our faith. The bread and wine remind us of the benefits He has already bestowed upon us, which causes us to give Him thanks – that’s communion!

Question 76: What does it mean to eat the crucified body and drink the shed blood of Christ? It means not only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain the forgiveness of sins and life eternal, but moreover, also, to be so united more and more to His sacred body by the Holy Spirit, who dwells both in Christ and in us, that, although He is in heaven and we are on earth, we are nevertheless flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone, and live and are governed forever by one Spirit, as members of the same body are governed by one soul.

     Over a year before Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood (John 6:41-63). The Jews thought He was speaking literally, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” (John 6:52). But if we compare John 6:47, “he who believes in Me has everlasting life,” with verse 54, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life,” we see that the same effect of eternal life is attributed both to the eating of Him, and to believing in Him. Jesus clearly said His words have a spiritual meaning. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit” (John 6:63). To spiritually eat and drink Christ’s crucified body and shed blood is to embrace His sacrifice on the cross with a believing heart, believing Christ suffered and died in our place to save us from our sins, and asking God to forgive our sins for the sake of Christ’s sacrifice (1 John 1:9).

     This is how we obtain forgiveness of sins and eternal life – a life of union and communion with our risen and glorified Savior. Just as we continually need food and drink for our physical life, so (through the Word and prayer) we continually spiritually feed on Christ for our spiritual life, trusting in His sacrifice alone for our salvation, and hungering and thirsting to please Him out of thankfulness for our salvation (John 14:21-23; 15:5; Eph. 3:16-19; 4:12-15). “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:56). The daily communion we enjoy in our private lives (without the symbols) is enjoyed together publicly with the symbols (1 Cor. 10:16-17). We have communion with Christ in a spiritual yet real way; and together we are spiritually nourished and strengthened. “Christ teaches this eating of His flesh in the sixth chapter of John, and confirms it in the supper by external signs” (Ursinus, 382).


Question 77: Where has Christ promised that He will THUS feed and nourish believers with His body and blood as certainly as they eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup? In the institution of the Supper, which says: “The Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me. In the same manner, He also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” [1 Cor. 11:23-26]. And this promise is also repeated by the Apostle Paul, where He says, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, so we being many are one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread” [1 Cor. 10:16-17].

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 75-77

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 28


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.