Over the past couple of years, one of the doctrines that I’ve studied rather deeply has been the doctrine of the sacraments (or what others may call ordinances). There has been a significant amount of writing on the doctrine of baptism from a Reformed perspective and much debate about the topic between credobaptists and paedobaptists. If you would like to hear a good discussion of the doctrine of baptism from a Reformed Baptist perspective, I would recommend a recent series of Sunday School lessons from Jason Delgado, which can be found here.
However, it has been my personal opinion that there is less discussion regarding the Lord’s Supper among Reformed Baptists. Perhaps it is because there is essential agreement between Reformed credobaptists and paedobaptists on this topic (apart from those who believe in paedocommunion). By God’s providence, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a member of a Reformed church that places strong emphasis on the Lord’s Supper and practices the Lord’s Supper weekly. Because of this, I’ve been led to study the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper for my own understanding and edification.
When I was converted, I was raised within a background where the Lord’s Supper was seen only as a memorial. My view of the Lord’s Supper changed based on three influences. First, I was introduced to the various different interpretations of the Lord’s Supper through an album named On Word and Sacrament. In this album, the artist, named Through Hymn, presents the Reformed view of the Lord’s Supper, which was dubbed suprasubstantiation based upon the book Given for You by Keith Mathison. Second, I read the book The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace: More Than a Memory by Richard Barcellos. As the title suggests, the book addresses the specific question of how the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace, in contrast to the view that the Lord’s Supper is only a memorial. Third, when I told my pastor that I was interested in learning more about the Lord’s Supper, he smiled and gave me an advanced copy of the book (of which my pastor was the general editor) named Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church by the late Hughes Oliphant Old. This book is an encyclopedic resource on the Reformed doctrine of the Lord’s Supper from a historical point of view (i.e. including contributions from Anglican, Scottish, Puritan, Swiss, Huguenot, Dutch, and American writers).
Let’s consider the Baptist Larger Catechism on this topic:
Q. 165: What is the Lord’s Supper?
A: The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of the New Testament in which bread and wine are given and received as Christ directed to proclaim his death. Those who receive the Lord’s Supper in the right way feed on his body and blood and thereby are spiritually nourished and grow in grace. They have their union and communion with Christ confirmed, and they publicly witness to and repeat anew their thankfulness and commitment to God and their mutual love and fellowship with each other, as members of the same mystical body.
This leads to the question of how one can receive the Lord’s Supper “in the right way”. The Baptist Larger Catechism says
Q. 171: How must we receive the Lord’s Supper when it is offered?
A: In receiving the Lord’s supper when it is offered, we should reverently and attentively wait on God, as we carefully observe the sacramental elements and their administration. We should take specific notice of the Lord’s body and meditate feelingly on his death and suffering and so stir up in us a lively effect of God’s spiritual gifts. We should critically examine ourselves and repent of our sins. We should earnestly hunger and thirst after Christ,feeding on him by faith, drawing from his fullness, trusting in his merit, rejoicing in his love, and giving thanks for his grace. We thereby renew our covenant with God and our love for fellow believers.
Within the Reformed tradition, one way in which pastors helped their congregation to receive the Lord’s Supper in the right way was by providing communion meditations. As shown in Old’s volume, there are numerous written records of communion meditations among Reformed churches in order to prepare congregants to receive the Lord’s Supper. The purpose of this new blog series is to provide a series of communion meditations for the 21st century. These communion meditations will not be polemical nor exhaustive; rather, they will be designed to be relatively short (between 500-1000 words) and devotional in nature. Whether or not one receives Communion weekly, monthly, or quarterly, my hope and prayer is that this blog series would be edifying for Christians so that our spiritual nourishment and comfort would deepen by this sacrament that has been given to us.