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Christ's Presence at the Supper

In what way is Christ present at the Lord’s Supper? In Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know,  J. I. Packer answers like this:

[W]e need to be clear that the presence in question is the same presence that Jesus promised when, before his passion, he said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” (Matt. 18:20), and when, following his resurrection, he told his disciples, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Is is the presence of the triumphant, sovereign Savior, who is there in terms of his objective omnipresence and here in terms of being always alongside each believer with a sustaining an nurturing purpose. Clarity requires us to say, then, that Christ is present at, rather than in, the Supper. Though not physical, his presence is personal and real in the sense of being a relational fact. Christ is present, not in the elements in any sense, but with his worshippers; and his presence is effected, not by the quasi-magic of ritual correctly performed by a permitted person, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, who indwells believers’ hearts to mediate Christ’s reality to them. It is not a passive but an active presence, known not by what it feels like (often it is, in any ordinary sense of the word, unfelt), but rather by what it does. For by it our risen Lord draws us close to himself and renews our assurance of possessing, either now or in days to come, all the good things that he died to secure for us. And then, as a good meal energizes the body, so our Savior energizes us for renewed ventures in faith and love, faithfulness and obedience, worship and service. This is what we who believe should seek when we come to the Supper, and if we do, then we shall surely find it [page 162].

You probably understand that when Packer refers to Christ being at, rather than in, the Supper, he is contrasting his conviction about the Lord’s Supper (The Holy Spirit conveys Christ’s reality to each partaking believer—see above.) with the views of Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Easter Orthodox, who all teach that Christ is uniquely present in the table elements in some way. Not only, argues Packer, are real presence views mistaken because they don’t “match actual biblical teaching,” they have an “unhappy implication”:

[I]f the consecrated elements are unique because Christ is present in them in a unique and special way, and if Christ is received in unique fullness and with unique efficacy by partaking of them, as is regularly assumed, then Christ is neither so fully present nor so fully available anywhere else. To believe in this unique presence is likely to generate superstition about the Supper and to weaken the everyday exercise of faith in Christ [page 159].

The believer partaking in the Lord’s Supper, Packer writes, should be looking up, back, ahead, and around. I’ll post more quotes explaining what this means later this week.


Sunday's Hymn: Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus

Hail, thou once despised Jesus,
Hail, thou Galilean King!
Thou didst suffer to release us:
Thou didst free salvation bring.
Hail, thou agonizing Saviour,
Bearer of our sin and shame!
By thy merits we find favor;
Life is given through thy name.

Paschal Lamb, by God appointed,
All our sins were on thee laid;
By almighty love anointed,
Thou hast full atonement made:
All thy people are forgiven
Through the virtue of thy blood;
Opened is the gate of heaven,
Peace is made ‘twixt man and God.

Jesus, hail! enthroned in glory,
There for ever to abide;
All the heav’nly hosts adore thee,
Seated at thy Father’s side:
There for sinners thou art pleading;
There thou dost our place prepare;
Ever for us interceding,
Till in glory we appear.

Worship, honor, power, and blessing
Thou art worthy to receive:
Loudest praises without ceasing,
Meet it is for us to give.
Help, ye bright angelic spirits,
Bring your sweetest, noblest lays;
Help to sing our Saviour’s merits,
Help to chant Immanuel’s praise.
—John Bakewell


Other hymns, worship songs, prayers, sermons excerpts, or quotes posted today:

Have you posted a hymn (or sermon, sermon notes, prayer, etc.) today and I missed it? Let me know by leaving a link in the comments or by contacting me using the contact form linked above, and I’ll add your post to the list.


Linked Together: Historical Christians You Should Know 

More suggested weekend reading. (Updated October 27.)

A Few Reformers
To get you ready for Reformation Day (October 31), the Ligonier Blog is running a short series of biographical sketches of the men behind the Reformation. 

  • Fortress for Truth: Martin Luther: “He was the pioneer Reformer, the one God first used to spark a transformation of Christianity and the Western world. He was the undisputed leader of the German Reformation. In a day of ecclesiastical corruptions and apostasies, he was a valiant champion of the truth; his powerful preaching and pen helped to restore the pure gospel.
  • Zurich Revolutionary: Ulrich Zwingli: “A first-generation Reformer, he is regarded as the founder of Swiss Protestantism. Furthermore, history remembers him as the first Reformed theologian. Though Calvin would later surpass Zwingli as a theologian, he would stand squarely on Zwingli’s broad shoulders.”
  • Prince of Translators: William Tyndale: “William Tyndale … made an enormous contribution to the Reformation in England. Many would say that he made the contribution by translating the Bible into English and overseeing its publication.  … Because of his powerful use of the English language in his Bible, this Reformer has been called “the father of modern English” … .
  • Covenant Theologian: Heinrich Bullinger: “As the heir to Ulrich Zwingli in Zurich, Switzerland, he consolidated and continued the Swiss Reformation that his predecessor had started… . During his forty-four years as the chief minister in Zurich, Bullinger’s literary output exceeded that of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Zwingli combined. He was of monumental importance in the spread of Reformed teaching throughout the Reformation.”
  • Added October 27: Theologian for the Ages: John Calvin: “A world-class theologian, a renowned teacher, an ecclesiastical statesman, and a valiant Reformer, Calvin is seen by many as the greatest influence on the church since the first century. Apart from the biblical authors themselves, Calvin stands as the most influential minister of the Word the world has ever seen.”

Two Preachers
Meanwhile, at Out of the Ordinary, from two of my sister contributors:

  • Why I Love the Doctor: “[Martyn] Lloyd-Jones, a Welshman, began his career as a medical doctor, but after a couple of years, felt himself called to ministry. After ten years with a church in Wales, in 1939, he went to Westminster Chapel in London, where he served alongside G. Campbell Morgan, and eventually became the sole minister there. He is recognized as one of the 20th century’s greatest preachers. That was what he was above all, a preacher.”
  • Why I Love Spurgeon: “I truly believe God used this long-dead Baptist preacher to keep me from throwing in the towel and abandoning the faith. My weak and rather unbiblical understanding would never have stood the test, but He was faithful to give me a bigger glimpse of Himself in His power, His love, and His sovereignty. So I thank God for His faithful servants down through the ages, and I especially thank Him for Charles Spurgeon.”

Thankful Thursday


It’s Thursday again, and time to list a few things I’ve been thankful for lately.

  • soup. It’s soup season, and I’ve been doing my share of soup making. I’ve enjoyed and been thankful for every bowl I’ve eaten.
  • the cold and sinus infection I’ve had this fall is finally on its way out. Hooray and thank you for that.
  • long late fall walks in the woods with the big dog, and short late fall walks in the woods with the grandchildren.
  • ambrosia apples. 
  • winter coats and fleece throws.
  • God’s sovereignty over national and world affairs. He will bring about his purposes in everything and there is comfort in that. 

Also thankful today:

What are you thankful for? Leave a comment with your thanksgiving, post your thanksgiving on your blog, or tweet it. Give me the link by email or in a comment and I’ll add your thanksgiving to the list in the post.


Theological Term of the Week

Systematic Theology
The theological discipline that seeks to summarize what the whole Bible teaches us on any particular subject.

    The premise of Systematic Theology …  is the unity of Scripture: what the Westminster Confession (1:5) calls ‘the consent of all the parts’. This in turn rests on the premise that all Scripture was breathed out by God, and while he may breathe out variety he will not breathe out contradiction. Precisely because Scripture in its entirety is the word of God it is the revelation of one saving will and of one plan of salvation. Systematic Theology assumes this unity, takes the whole of divine revelation as its field, and seeks to collate all that God has told us so far, striving towards the point where it can say to the church, ‘This is the whole counsel of God. This is what you are to preach.’ 

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