Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 29 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 78-79.
This week, we are once again focusing our attention upon the ordinance of Communion or the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a simple meal of bread and wine, taken throughout our life of faith and each time we eat it we are to remember Jesus’ body that was broken and blood that was shed for the salvation of His people.
Last week, was an introduction of this topic and we focused on what the supper means, what the elements point to and we looked at the passages in the NT that supported all of this. But today, we are going to wade into one of the most significant theological debates of church history and this debate has to do with whether or not the elements of bread and wine are ever more than just bread and wine.
Lord’s Day Focus...
Question 78: Are the bread and wine changed into the real body and blood of Christ?
Now some of you already know why this question is being asked in the first place, because you are familiar with the Roman Catholic view of Communion known as Transubstantiation. That is, they believe the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ. I’ll explain why they believe that in just a minute. But for now, let’s take a look at how Heidelberg answers the question.
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 God’s sign and assurance, so too the bread of the Lord’s Supper is not changed into the actual body of Christ even though it is called the body of Christ in keeping with the nature and language of sacraments.
Next to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, no issue was more hotly debated during the protestant reformation than the doctrine of communion. The Roman Catholic church held to the view of transubstantiation and taught that, “during the mass a miracle takes place by which the substance of the ordinary elements of bread and wine changes into the substance of the body and blood of Christ.” They still teach this by the way as does the Orthodox church.
They arrived at this position in large part by following the teaching of Aristotle who believed that every object is made up of two parts, substance and accidents. The substance referred to the deep essence of a thing while the accidents referred to the surface appearance. Normally, the substance and accidents of a thing existed in an inseparable relationship, but in the case of a miracle, the substance could undergo a change.
That is why the mass is defined as a miracle that takes place resulting in the change of substance in the bread and wine. The protestant reformers rejected this view for many reasons but not the least of all is the fact that the Scriptures do not teach this. But the chief reformers (Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli) did not agree on how the church should understand the elements of the communion.
Luther taught that while the elements did not become the body and blood of Christ, nevertheless Christ was still present when the Supper was being eaten. Luther argued for what is termed the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. His view has been titled consubstantiation.
Calvin taught that the elements of bread and wine remained bread and wine. Calvin taught that the Lord’s Supper was a memorial meal and that there was no real presence, read physical, presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. But he did argue for the spiritual presence of Christ at the supper. In Calvin’s view, the participants feast on Christ by faith and that we experience his presence through the work of the Holy Spirit.
I can buy some of Calvin’s teaching on this, but his view is far too mystical for me to accept it all. Yes, Christ is with us in the person of the Holy Spirit always. Jesus said that He will never leave us nor forsake us. But none of this means that Christ is present with us in some greater way through the Lord’s Supper than He is at other times.
Zwingli taught what is called the memorial view where the Lord’s Supper is simply a feast of remembrance. There is nothing mystical about the Supper, there is no real or spiritual presence to get all worked up about. The bread and wine remain bread and wine as a symbol and reminder of Jesus’ death and all that it means for the believer. In case you were wondering, this memorial view is the one that we hold at Cornerstone.
Here’s the article on the Lord’s Supper from our Statement of Faith,
The Lord's Supper is an ordinance of Jesus Christ, to be administered with the elements of bread and wine, and to be observed by his churches till the end of the world. It is in no sense a sacrifice. Rather, it serves to commemorate his death, to confirm the faith and other graces of Christians, and to be a bond, pledge and renewal of their communion with him, and of their church fellowship.
I believe that this statement is consistent with Scripture as well as with what we read here in Question 79.
Question 79: Why then does Christ call the bread His body and the cup His blood, or the New Covenant in His blood?
Answer: Christ has good reason for these words. He wants to teach us that as bread and wine nourish our temporal life, so too His crucified body and poured out blood truly nourish our souls for eternal life. 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, and that all of His suffering and obedience are as definitely ours as if we personally had suffered and paid for our sins.
The Supper is an exercise in remembering the Good News through a meal. It strengthens our faith because we are reminding our hearts that Jesus did die for us, that He was raised to show our salvation was complete, that by faith in Him our sins are forgiven, and eternal life is ours. When we eat the bread and wine we are remembering His death, we are declaring our trust in Him again, and as we eat our faith is nourished as the body is nourished by food.
I said it a few weeks ago and I’ll say it again that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are blessings from Jesus to us. They are blessings because they are physical tangible reminders of the spiritual realities that mark us and give us hope and confidence as Christians. We don’t just think about what Christ has done, we experience it through baptism. We don’t just think on Christ’s death we celebrate it with a meal that turns our memory into worship.
This Lord ’s Supper is for us a celebration to remember the work of Christ. The Supper is a reminder that a New Covenant has been stuck between God and His people and it is secured by blood that cannot fail. The Supper is a memorial of the body and blood of Jesus that purchased forgiveness and eternal life for all those who believe. Each time we eat this bread and drink this cup we remember the Lord and we declare our unity as His blood bought people.
Next week we will continue our study of the ordinances and I hope that you will join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 30 and questions 80-82.
If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.
Thanks for listening.
 R.C. Sproul Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Tyndale, pg. 235)