Thoughts on the Table

“We do well to keep steadily in view the simplicity of the Lord’s Supper. The less mystery and obscurity we attach to it, the better it will be for our souls” (Peter Jeffrey).

“Some neglect it altogether; some completely misunderstand it; some exalt it to a position it was never meant to occupy, and turn it into an idol” (J. C. Ryle).

“The Lord’s Supper was meant to increase and help the grace that a man has but not to impart the grace that he has not. It was certainly never intended to make our peace with God, to justify, or to convert” (J. C. Ryle).

“Not one of the writers of the New Testament ever speaks of the sacraments as a sacrifice, or calls the Lord’s table an altar, or even hints that a Christian minister is a sacrificing priest. The universal doctrine of the New Testament is that after the one offering of Christ there remains no more need of sacrifice” (J. C. Ryle).

“A clear view of the intention of the Lord’s Supper is one of the soul’s best safeguards against the delusions of modern days” (J. C. Ryle).

“Show me a man that really feels his sins, really leans on Christ, really struggles to be holy, and I will bid him welcome in my Master’s name. He may feel weak, erring, empty, feeble, doubting, wretched, and poor. What matter? St. Paul, I believe, would have received him as a right communicant, and I will do likewise” (J. C. Ryle).

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Calvin seemed to strike the biblical balance between Luther and Zwingli in describing the real presence of Christ w/o compromising his person or work.

  2. David,

    I have a great appreciation for Calvin and what you pointed out is how he has been traditionally understood but he could also be incredibly vague and confusing on the subject.

    There are times when I shout “amen” while reading Calvin. He writes, “…it [the Supper] is received with benefit by believers alone, who accept such great generosity with true faith and gratefulness of heart” (Institutes, 4.17.10).

    Then there are other times where I scratch my head because he is on the verge of sacramental regeneration. Again Calvin writes, “…they may be understood not to receive it solely by imagination or understanding of mind, but to enjoy the thing itself as nourishment of eternal life” (ibid. 4.17.19).

    Again I find Ryle most helpful in stating the issues with care and clarity. I found another gem where he states, “…such a man will have his repentance deepened, his faith increased, his knowledge enlarged, his habit of holy living strengthened. He will realize more of the “real presence” of Christ in his heart.”

    David, thanks for your thoughts and for dropping by.

  3. Paul,

    I agree on Calvin’s ambiguity at times. I wouldn’t suggest he affirms sacramental regeneration simply because so much of reformation theology set out to oppose it. Likewise, considering Calvin’s attempt to distinguish himself from Luther’s views of baptism which are obviously much more closer to a regenerational view.

    But, to affirm what you’ve said, and as another example, I find Calvin’s views on infant election to be vague and confusing as well.

    Thank you for the reply.

  4. Poor Calvin seems destined ever to be read as confusing, though in differing places, depending on who’s doing the reading. Those of us with a more catholic (note the small “c”) sacramental theology (i.e. we’ll usually agree with Luther over Calvin and certainly against Zwingli) will find Calvin to be shilly-shallying at exactly the points where Zwinglians will think Calvin is spot on!

    Some of my Truly Reformed friends find Calvin embarrassing, judging him to be “not sufficiently reformed,” and chalking that up to the primitiveness of his reforming agenda.

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