Aren’t You Glad Christ Commands the Lord’s Supper (HC LD 28, QA 75-77)?

From a very early age, we don’t like being told what to do. Right? “Theodore, do not put that in your mouth!” What does Theodore do? He crams it in his mouth quickly. From our earliest years, something inside us says, “No, I don’t want to do that, and you can’t make me.” Isn’t this right? Isn’t it right that we are born with an aversion to commands that promote our wellbeing?

Growing up, I was taught not to use foul language. During my college years, my language became more colorful. Honestly, I felt free. I was not encumbered by certain language restraints. I could speak as I wished, as I felt, and sometimes I could get a laugh. I guess the boundaries seemed too restrictive for me. How foolish.

How often do you get excited about commands? Maybe not often. But what if you loved that which was commanded? “Eat your vegetables.” That’s horrible for those who hate vegetables, but for those who love them, it’s a wonderful opportunity to eat and enjoy vegetables. “You need surgery.” That’s not a happy day. However, for the person with excruciating pain, surgery can’t come soon enough. Wouldn’t you agree that human beings love sex? I’m trying to make a point here, and sex is a great illustration, so here I go. According to 1 Corinthians 7:3, under normal circumstances, God commands husbands and wives to give each other the gift of sex. Scripture refers to sex as a debt owed or an obligation. That command may be quite difficult for those who’ve been sexually abused or who experience pain during sex or whose marriage is unhealthy. However, within a healthy and loving marriage, this command is obeyed with excitement and glad hearts. Here’s my point. Something inside of us may bristle at certain commands, but when we love what is commanded, we are glad to obey. Do you agree with this? This means that if certain commands irritate us, it’s probably because we don’t love what is being commanded or we don’t love God, at least as we ought. How we think and feel about God’s commands says something about our love for God and that which is good.

I’m always struck by how easily Christians miss corporate worship. Of course, there are good reasons to miss corporate worship (e.g. sickness, calamity, POW, emergency room work, etc.), but considering God commands weekly corporate worship for the benefit of His people, I think missing for unjustifiable and inexcusable reasons reveals an insufficient love for God and His commands. We could say the same for those with perfect attendance who are just going through religious motions with little to no sincerity.

God has commanded that His holy Word be preached, listened to, and believed weekly for the good of His people. God has also commanded the sacraments to be administered and received joyfully for the good of His people. To neglect these means of grace would be a failure to love God who gives the commands as well as to love what God gives through the commands. Spiritually hungry people feel their need and love to receive God’s grace through the Word and sacraments ministry of their local church. They go to feed and live. They go to delight in the good God provides them, and God’s commands are a means to much good.

God commands the Lord’s Supper. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22:19). We must do it. But this command is not empty of blessing. Quite the opposite. God gives commands because that which He commands is best for us and blesses us. If we think God gives commands to withhold some good from us, we will not trust Him and therefore not obey Him. It is when we trust that God and His commands are good that we desire to do them.

We are in the grace section of the Heidelberg, and we began to look at the sacraments a few weeks ago. The sacraments are excellent gifts given to us by God which we are to receive by faith. As we faithfully participate in them, God blesses us through them. We come now to Heidelberg Catechism 75 which says:           

How does the Lord’s Supper signify and seal to you that you share in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and in all His gifts? In this way: Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup in remembrance of Him. With this command, He gave these promises:1 First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely was His body offered for me and His blood poured out for me on the cross. Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and the cup of the Lord as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely does He Himself nourish and refresh my soul to everlasting life with His crucified body and shed blood.

Notice that Christ commanded all believers to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Commanded. Christ is our Master. We belong to him, body and soul. He commands the Lord’s Supper because he loves us, and we must obey for our own life. But notice also that along with the command, Christ gives us promises for our comfort, peace, assurance, and joy. They are supremely good gospel promises. If we love Christ, and if we love that which he promises, we will love his command and try to obey it.

Christ promises two things in the Lord’s Supper. One, as we look up and watch the minister break the bread, as we receive the bread, as we see and receive the cup, Christ is promising us, “My body was offered for you, and my blood was poured out for you on the cross. This is what I’ve done for you. Believe in the gospel of the forgiveness of your sins and be strengthened.” Through the Lord’s Supper, God is declaring to us the gospel of the crucified and risen Christ. Two, as we receive the bread and wine from our minister or pastor, as we taste with our mouths these sure signs, Christ himself is nourishing and refreshing our souls to everlasting life. His body and blood are strengthening our faith through faith. The Holy Spirit is working faith in our hearts and sustaining us along our wearing way to the celestial city. It’s like Jesus is saying to us, “Come to me in faith. I have something really good to give you. Eat of my flesh and drink of my blood. I give them to you as a gift, for as you eat and drink, I am strengthening you through faith to endure and to grow strong. As you eat and drink, I will comfort, assure, and refresh your soul to everlasting life.”

God commands that which is really good for us. Disobedience is refusing to eat that which God intends for your health and strength. Since you are a believer, your Prophet, Priest, and King has commanded you to take the Lord’s Supper regularly with your brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s best to participate as a member of a local church (which means you’re submitted to the shepherds of that church; Heb. 13:17). He has commanded this because he knows you need it and because he loves to nourish and refresh your soul. He delights in serving you. It is not good to refuse our Lord’s good gifts. Receive the Lord’s Supper with expectation and delight trusting that your good God will nourish and refresh you through it.

Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism and creeds are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism: True Comfort for Life & Death (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021), 395.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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