Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #30


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 30 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 80-82.


This week, we are talking about the difference between our Protestant views on the Lord’s Supper and the Roman Catholic views of the Mass. This week things will get a little heated. So far, Heidelberg has kept the dialogue pretty mild and has aimed more toward articulating Protestant Orthodoxy than at attacking Catholic teaching, but not today. The final statement in the Answer to question 80 states that the Catholic Mass is, “Nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ and the condemnable idolatry.”

When you call a church practice a condemnable idolatry you have taken the gloves off. So let’s jump into this discussion and try to get our minds around why things have gotten so heated over bread and wine.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 80: How does the Lord’s Supper differ from the Roman Catholic mass?

Answer: The Lord’s Supper declares to us that our sins have been completely forgiven on the cross once for all. It also declares to us that the Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ, who with His very body is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father where He wants us to worship Him.

This part of A/80 is summarizing what we have learned over the past few weeks. The Lord’s Supper is, within our Protestant understanding, a memorial meal declaring that we who trust in Christ by faith have had our sins forgiven. When Jesus died on the cross His body was broken for us, His blood was shed for us and His sacrifice, on the cross, secures our forgiveness once and for all. No additional sacrifice is needed.

But the Supper also declares that we are united to Christ by faith and are His very body, bride and family. Our Lord is alive in Heaven with the Father and we worship Him as Lord. The Supper reminds us of these truths and celebrates these truths until the day when He returns to be with us and eat this meal with us.

So, there is a two-sentence summary highlighting the importance of the Lord’s Supper for us. But the question is how does this differ from what the Roman Catholic church teaches?

But the Mass teaches that the living and the dead do not have their sins forgiven through the suffering of Christ unless Christ is still offered for them daily by the priests. It also teaches that Christ is bodily present in the form of bread and wine where Christ is therefore to be worshiped. Thus, the Mass is basically nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ and the condemnable idolatry.

Heidelberg points out three ways that our theology differs: (1) the Mass doesn’t declare our sins forgiven, (2) the Mass is not just a memorial of Christ’s but a time when Christ is actually present in the bread and wine and therefore is to be worshipped as such and (3) the Mass teaches that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was not a once-for-all sacrifice. All of this causes Heidelberg to condemn the Roman Catholic Mass as accursed idolatry.

For some of you the theology of the Mass is something of a mystery so let’s take some time to talk about what the Catholic Church actually teaches. The word Mass refers to the Eucharist which is the ceremony commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus with bread and wine. The term Mass actually means to dismiss the people and early on the church celebrated two Masses.

The early church divided their liturgy into two separate parts. The first part was the service of the word, where anyone was permitted to attend to hear the Scriptures taught and when this service was complete the people would be dismissed (Mass). Then a second service of the Table would begin, and only baptized believers were admitted to this table. This was often called the mass of the faithful and included the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.[1]

Over the years this practice has changed in the RC church, but the language is still the same. Today, the Mass refers to the Catholic worship service and, in this service, the main event is the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper. Catholic priests may give a short ten-minute homily or teaching from the Scriptures, but the main event is the bread and wine, which they believe to be the actual body and blood of Jesus.

We learned last week that the heart of the Catholic understanding of the Lord’s Supper is 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.”[2] This is called transubstantiation and it means that the Catholic Mass is not just a service where we remember Jesus death, the Eucharist is a sacrifice.

In their theology, Jesus is actually present in the bread and wine. His sacrifice on the cross is brought into the room and the faithful feast on Christ again and again to obtain new mercy and find new grace, which means your sins aren’t’ forgiven. The Eucharist is often referred to as the bloodless sacrifice, but make no mistake, the RC church teaches that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Jesus.

Scott and Kimberly Hahn are popular Catholic apologists, and they help us understand what it is like to experience Mass with these things in mind.

One evening, we had an opportunity to be at a Mass where there was a Eucharistic procession at the end. I had never seen this before. As I watched row after row of grown men and women kneel and bow when the (Elements)[3] passed by, I thought, these people believe that this is the Lord, not just bread and wine. If this is Jesus, that is the only appropriate response. If one should kneel before a king today, how much more before the King of Kings? But, I continue to ruminate, what if its not? If that is not Jesus in the elements, then what they are doing is gross idolatry?[4]

That is the same conclusion that Heidelberg has come to. If the bread and wine are only bread and wine, meant to remind us of the once for all sacrifice of Jesus, then the Catholic Mass is idolatry and should be condemned as such.

Question 81: Who are to come to the Lord’s Table?

Answer: Those who are displeased with themselves because of their sins, but who nevertheless trust that their sins are pardoned and that their continuing weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ, and who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to lead a better life. Hypocrites and those who are unrepentant, however, eat and drink judgment on themselves.

Communion is for the broken believer who has come to understand that we needed a Savior and Christ died to save us. It is not for people who profess something that isn’t true of them. It is not for religious people who simply want to be part of a mystical service. It is not for those who think the meal actually affords them some saving merit. It is for the broken.

We come to the table because we hate our sin. We come to the table because we know we need forgiveness. We come to the table in our weakness and we find our strength and hope in the finished work of Christ on the cross.

The supper strengthens our faith because it reminds us of our need and of Jesus’ supply. The supper calls us to repentance and faith again, it refocuses our desire to live a faithful life in response to Jesus’ saving grace.

Question 82: Are those to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper who show by what they say and do that they are unbelieving and ungodly?

Answer: No, that would dishonor God’s covenant and bring down God’s anger upon the entire congregation. Therefore, according to the instruction of Christ and His apostles, the Christian church is duty-bound to exclude such people, by the official use of the keys of the kingdom, until they reform their lives.

When unbelievers come to the Table, they aren’t welcome because the Lord’s Supper is a family meal. For an unbeliever to eat the bread and drink the cup is a form of hypocrisy.

The Supper is not for perfect people, it is for broken people; but that doesn’t mean that everyone can come. There are times in the life of the church when sin has to be addressed and unfortunately there are times when those being rebuked refuse to repent. When members are under discipline and they refuse to turn from their sin, it has been the practice of Jesus’ followers to withhold the elements of bread and wine from them

We do this to show that unrepentant sin separates us from fellowship with the Lord and it creates a barrier to fellowship with His people. So not everyone can come, but only those true baptized believers who have come to see their sin for what it is and who have put their hope in Jesus to redeem them and bring them to God

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 31 and questions 83-85.


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.

[1] Walter Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Baker, pg. 697)

[2] R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Tyndale, pg. 235)

[3] Monstrance is the vessel used to carry the host and the wine that have been transubstantiated so they can be revered and adored by the people.

[4] Scott and Kimberly Hahn, quoted from Kevin DeYoung THe Good News We Almost Forgot (pg. 148)

Justin Wheeler

Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Wylie, TX.