The central passage concerning the Lord’s Supper can be found in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, which reads
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
When Christ had given thanks in preparation for the meal, this was far more than the usual table blessing. In commenting on this passage, John Calvin writes
This thanksgiving goes deeper than that, for Christ is giving thanks to His Father for His mercy towards the human race, and His priceless gift of redemption; and He encourages us, by His example, so that, as often as we approach the Holy Table, we may lift up our hearts in acknowledgement of the boundless love of God towards us, and be inflamed with true gratitude to Him. Hughes Oliphant Old, Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church. p. 56
The Supper speaks of God’s love in sending His Son to atone for our sin. The breaking of the bread and the pouring out of the wine are a visible word that speaks of the Father’s sacrifice of His Son, and of the suffering of the Son who willingly offered Himself. When we taste of the broken bread and poured out wine, the love of God is manifested to us very personally. When this manifestation occurs, our covenantal relationship with the Lord and His church are nourished as hearts are kindled to respond to God’s love by returning thanks to Him. It is here that we experience communion.
As Jesus stated, the cup is the New Covenant in His blood. For the blood was poured out to reconcile us to God, and now we drink His blood spiritually in order to have a share in that reconciliation which was accomplished. This New Covenant which has been once for all ratified by the sacrifice of His body is confirmed when we spiritually eat of His body. Therefore, it can be said that in the Supper, we have both the covenant and as Calvin says, “a reinforcing pledge of the covenant.” In other words, in the celebration of the Supper, there are two important moments in the sacramental celebration: the word of promise and the sign which confirms the promise.
Thus, the Supper is a pledge of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love. This is the very nature of God’s love as we experience it in the bonds of the covenant. The Supper is also our pledge of faith responding to God in thanksgiving as we find in numerous passages within the context of Old Testament Worship. In the covenant relationship, our love for God is expressed in the exercise of our thanksgiving. Such exercising strengthens and nourishes the covenant relationship.
It is in this way that thanksgiving is essential to a covenantal understanding of worship. This is why we ought to take our time to give thanks for Christ’s death on the cross and the forgiveness of our sins. We ought not rush through this celebratory meal. Rather, we should use this time to recall God’s mighty acts of our salvation in which He has given the fullest expression of His lovingkindness towards us.
This is particularly true for those (like me) who are Gentiles according to the flesh. We were those who were “strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (cf. Ephesians 2:11-12) Yet we were brought near by the blood of Christ. We were once “not a people”, but now we are part of the people of God (cf. 1 Peter 2:10). As adopted children, we have brought into His family and we are children of God (cf. Romans 8:15). Such a salvation is worth proclaiming and extolling, and it is through the Lord’s Supper that our union with Christ and covenantal relationship with the Father is further confirmed.