Sunday, November 15, 2009

Are the elements of the Communion merely symbols?

And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread. (Luke 24:35)

There are dimensions to the Lord's Supper (the Eucharist, the Table of the Lord, the 'breaking of bread') that are not appreciated in many Evangelical churches because of their reductionist view that the Communion is simply a symbolic act.

As John Calvin wrote:

"... the apostle said, "The bread which we break is a participation in the body of Christ; the cup which we consecrate to this by word and prayers is a participation in his blood" [ICor. 10:16p., order changed]. There is no reason for anyone to object that this is a figurative expression by which the name of the thing signified is given to the sign. I indeed admit that the breaking of bread is a symbol; it is not the thing itself. But, by having admitted this, we shall nevertheless duly infer that by the showing of the symbol the thing itself is also shown. For unless a man means to call God a deceiver, he would never dare assert that an empty symbol is set forth by him. there fore, if the Lord truly represents the participation in his body through the breaking of bread, there ought not to be the least doubt that he truly presents and shows his body. And the godly ought by all means to keep this rule: whenever they see symbols appointed by the Lord, to think and be persuaded that they truth of the thing signified is surely present there. For why should the Lord put in your hand the symbol of his body, except to assure you of a true participation in it? But if it is true that a visible sign is given us to seal the gift of a thing invisible, when we have received the symbol of the body, let us no less surely trust that the body itself is also given to us." [pp.1370-1371 Institutes of the Christian Religion Vol. 2]

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