A thread on the objectivity of Christ's presence in the Supper in the Reformed tradition:

To begin, it's important to note that there are three common misconceptions people make upon hearing the Reformed position on the Supper.
These three misconceptions are as follows:
1. The bread and wine during the Supper remain only bread and wine, becoming nothing more.
2. A reception of Christ in the Supper is no different than a reception of him through any other means of grace.
3. There is no objective presence of Christ in the Supper because this
would mean that unworthy partakers receive the body and blood of Christ.

In response to these statements, we will clarify the Reformed position and demonstrate where these statements go wrong in their implications for Eucharistic theology.
The first statement makes the claim that in the Supper no change is made to the bread and to the wine. What was mere bread and wine before still remains mere bread and wine after the words of institution.

This statement, to many, appears to make sense. After all, we Reformed
in our confessional documents not only deny the papist doctrine of transubstantiation, but we even reject the Lutheran formulation of Christ being present in, with, and under the bread and the wine. How then is it possible for the Reformed to maintain a change made
to the elements of bread and wine?

This confusion of the bread and wine undergoing any change largely stems from an understanding that the bread and wine serve only as visual aids to help our mind comprehend what occurs for the faithful (ie, we receive Christ).
While it certainly is true that the bread and wine indeed serve as visual aids for our understanding (as is attested by many of our confessions), this is not their only purpose. The bread and wine undergo a real change after the words of institution because they become
instruments by which the faithful receive the body and blood of Christ.

Peter Martyr Vermigli states, "I acknowledge, as I have often said, that a spiritual and heavenly change happens to them [the bread and wine]. For while this holy rite is proceeding a sacramental
dimension is brought to the symbols through the institution and words of the Lord. That relation of signifying both the mystical body and Christ's body itself is grounded not in the accidents of bread and wine but in their natures, through the coming of the Holy Spirit, who
uses them as instruments."

John Calvin states, "The dove is called the Spirit, as being the sure pledge of the Spirit's invisible presence. So the bread is Christ's body, as it assures us certainly of the exhibition of what it represents, or because the Lord in extending
to us that visible symbol, gives us in fact along with it his own body; for Christ is no juggler, to mock us with empty appearances. Hence it is to me beyond all controversy, that the reality is here joined with the sign, or in other words that, so far as spiritual virtue
is concerned, we do as truly partake of Christ's body as we eat the bread."

In a confession of faith crafted at the Colloquy of Worms primarily by Theodore Beza and William Farel, it is stated, “We confess that in the Supper of the Lord not only the benefits of Christ, but the
very substance itself of the Son of Man; that is, the same true flesh which the Word assumed into perpetual personal union, in which he was born and suffered, rose again and ascended to heaven, and that true blood which he shed for us; are not only signified, or set forth
symbolically, typically or in figure, like the memory of something absent, but are truly and really represented, exhibited, and offered for use; in connection with symbols that are by no means naked, but which, so far as God who promises and offers is concerned, always have the
thing itself truly and certainly joined with them, whether proposed to believers or unbelievers.”

The great Puritan divine, John Owen, says about of the Eucharistic elements, "This bread doth not contain the body of Christ, or the flesh of Christ; the cup doth not
contain the blood of Christ; but they exhibit them; both do as really exhibit them to believers, as they partake of the outward signs. Certainly we believe that our Lord Jesus Christ doth not invite us unto this table for the bread that perishes, for outward food; it is
to feed our souls... We must not think the Lord Jesus Christ deludes our souls with empty shows and appearances. That which is exhibited is himself, it is his 'flesh as meat indeed, and his blood as drink indeed;' it is himself as broken and crucified that he exhibits unto us."
From all the above examples, it can be seen that the bread and wine do not remain mere bread and wine. After the words of institution this bread and wine is set apart as holy instruments by which the faithful receive Christ's true body and blood. This is the Reformed position.
The second misconception commonly made is that even if there is a reception of Christ in the Supper it is no different than any of the other means of grace. In an attempt to de-mysticalize the Supper, many reduce it to just another element of corporate worship.
This however is by no means the case. The Supper is a mystical encounter by which we Christians intimately connect with our Lord through reception of his body and blood and participation in his life. It is the climax of the divine service and is that which seals to us the
glorious promises proclaimed in the preaching of the word.

On the unique and special nature of the Supper, John Owen writes, “It is a common, received notion among Christians, and it is true, that there is a peculiar communion with Christ in this ordinance, which we have in no
other ordinance; that there is a peculiar acting of faith in this ordinance, which is in no other ordinance. This is the faith of the whole church of Christ, and has been so in all ages. This is the greatest mystery of all the practicals of our Christian religion,—a way of
receiving Christ by eating and drinking,—something peculiar, that is not in prayer, that is not in the hearing of the word, nor in any other part of divine worship whatsoever,—a peculiar participation of Christ, a peculiar acting of faith towards Christ. This participation of
Christ is not carnal, but spiritual. In the beginning of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he began to instruct them in the communication of himself and the benefit of his mediation to believers, because it was a new thing, he expresses it by eating his flesh, and
drinking his blood, John 6:53, ‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.’ This offended and amazed them. They thought he taught them to eat his natural flesh and blood. ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ They thought he
instructed them to be cannibals. Whereupon he gives that everlasting rule for the guidance of the church, which the church forsook, and thereby ruined itself;—saith he, ‘It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are
spirit, and they are life.’ ‘It is a spiritual communication,’ saith he, ‘of myself unto you; but it is as intimate, and gives as real an incorporation, as if you did eat my flesh and drink my blood.’”

John Calvin says of the Supper, "Not without reason is the communication,
which makes us flesh of Christ's flesh and bone of his bones denominated by Paul a great mystery. In the sacred Supper, therefore, we acknowledge it a miracle, transcending both nature and our own understanding, that Christ's life is made common to us with himself and his
flesh given to us as ailment."

The third and final misconception made about the Reformed view of the Supper is that there is no objective presence of Christ here because if this were the case then the unfaithful would be able to partake of the flesh and blood of Christ.
This concern is legitimate, as all our confessions confirm that the wicked do not receive Christ in the Supper and he is received only by the faithful. Likewise, John 6 states that whoever eats the flesh of Christ and drinks his blood has life in them, yet the unfaithful do not.
Likewise the confessions make it crystal clear that faith is absolutely necessary to the reception of Christ's body and blood, as the Westminster Larger Catechism Question 170 establishes that the body and blood are "spiritually present to the faith of the receiver."
Would not this then destroy any notion of an objective presence in the Supper? Not at all. The idea that the objective presence of Christ in the Supper is destroyed by this is based off a major flaw many of us commit when we do Eucharistic theology.
Often times we focus more on the words "this is my body" while forgetting that "take, eat" is apart of the words of institution. The Lord's Supper isn't constrained merely to a fixation on the outward elements of bread and wine. The Eucharist is not only the elements, but it is
the whole sacramental transaction. The Eucharist is the prayer of blessing and thanksgiving, the words of institution, and the eating and drinking. When we say Christ is objectively present in the Supper, we mean that in Christ is objectively exhibited and offered in the
sacramental transaction. The consecrated elements have attached to them a divine promise which is offered to all. To reiterate Beza and Farel's confession of faith, the consecrated bread and wine "are by no means naked, but which, so far as God who promises and offers is
concerned, always have the thing itself truly and certainly joined with them, whether proposed to believers or unbelievers.”
There is a mystical union between the sign and the thing signified. Those who participate in the supper, by faith, receive Christ's life-giving flesh and
blood. Those who participate in the Supper unworthily eat and drink judgment on themselves, as they receive holy instruments through which the faithful receive Christ. In the consecrated elements Christ is exhibited, but the unbeliever does not receive him.
Through eating of a holy thing without faith his soul does not receive Christ because it did not properly discern the Lord's body. This reflects what Augustine notes in his commentary on John 6, where he states, "Consequently, he that dwelleth not in Christ, and in whom Christ
dwelleth not, doubtless neither eateth His flesh [spiritually] nor drinketh His blood [although he may press the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ carnally and visibly with his teeth], but rather doth he eat and drink the sacrament of so great a thing to his own judgment,
because he, being unclean, has presumed to come to the sacraments of Christ, which no man taketh worthily except he that is pure: of such it is said, 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.'"

This is consistent with the principle that the body and blood of
Christ is received only by the faithful and never by the unfaithful. To eat and drink judgement is not to consume Christ's flesh in an unworthy manner, rather it is to reject Christ's flesh through the unworthy consumption of the sacred elements by which the faithful partake of
Christ. Augustine in the same place confirms this, stating, "The sacrament of this thing, namely, of the unity of the body and blood of Christ, is prepared on the Lord’s table in some places daily, in some places at certain intervals of days, and from the Lord’s table it is
taken, by some to life, by some to destruction: but the thing itself, of which it is the sacrament, is for every man to life, for no man to destruction, whosoever shall have been a partaker thereof."
To conclude this very lengthy thread, we will correct our three misconceptions about the Supper with three revised points to keep in mind when studying the Reformed perspective on the Supper:

1. The bread and wine in the Supper, after the words of institution, no longer
remain just bread and wine nor do they become mere empty and vain symbols, but rather they become sacraments, instruments by which the faithful partake of Christ's true body and blood.
2. The reception of Christ in the Supper is the climax of the divine service and possibly
the most intimate moment we share with Christ. Annexed to it is a particular grace whereby we are further united to Christ and made participants in his life.
3. In the sacramental transaction of the Supper, Christ is objectively present and exhibited to all but received
only by faith.

If you've read this far, thanks for reading! Today I had time so I decided why not. Am heavily indebted to John Williamson Nevin, primarily in regard to the language of Christ's presence being in the sacramental transaction. Again, thanks for reading if ya did!
@threadreaderapp unroll please!

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Matthew Pearson☩🕊

Matthew Pearson☩🕊 Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @_matthewpearson

12 Aug
Macarius the Great’s answer to the question of the meaning behind 1 Corinthians 2:9:

“At that time, the great and the righteous men, and kings and prophets, were aware indeed that the Redeemer was coming; but that He should suffer and be crucified, and His blood poured out upon
the cross, they neither knew, nor had they heard it; neither had it entered into their heart that there should be a baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and that in the church bread and wine should be offered, the symbol of His flesh and blood, and that those who partake of the
visible bread eat spiritually the flesh of the Lord, and that the apostles and Christians receive the Paraclete, and are endued with power from on high, and are filled with the Godhead, and their souls mingled with the Holy Ghost. This the prophets and kings knew not, neither
Read 4 tweets
19 May
when evaluating a tradition's claim to being the 'One True Church,' Augustine set up some good guidelines in his dispute with the Donatists:

"All such things then removed, let them [the Donatists] demonstrate their Church, if they can, not in the speeches and murmurs of African
, not in the councils of their bishops, not in the epistles of whatever debates, not in false signs and prodigies, since we are prepared and cautioned against them by the word of the Lord, but in the precept of the law, in the predictions of the prophets, in the songs of the
psalms, in the utterances of the one shepherd himself, in the preaching of the evangelists, that is in all the canonical authority of the holy books, and not such that they might gather and cite things that are spoken obscurely or ambiguously or metaphorically which anyone might
Read 13 tweets
18 May
>be me, a 7th grader who's obsessed with Ken Ham & is an avid YEC
>read John Walton in high school & default to accepting all mainstream science as not conflicting with my faith
>further study the ideological nature of most modern "science"
>read some more
back to YEC I guess
once you suspend a lot of your post-enlightenment rationalism and realize that the laws of nature are simply the normative way in which God supernaturally upholds the universe and he can suspend this literally whenever he wants, YECism doesn't sound that crazy.
and in regard to ppl like John Walton, what they do is simply take a small fragment of truth and expand it to make it seem like it is the bigger picture than everything else and all else is therefore wrong.

I'll give an example in regard to the flood account.
Read 8 tweets
18 May
Dudes be like: Calvinism not teaching real presence in the exact same way I do means they're gnostics because they deny you physically chew on Jesus' earlobe in the eucharist and that's denying the actual body of Christ!

Cernovich: Actually, calvinism cringe, gnosticism based!
it's also funny how Cernovich later was like "bro, read the church fathers."
oh and just to add, yes the Reformed tradition does teach real presence in the Lord's Supper. Many call this "spiritual" real presence not because only our spirits participate or because we divide Jesus and receive his soul and not his physical body, but rather because the
Read 4 tweets
18 May
someone get Irenaeus
if Mike goes to church I hope when he hears the apostle's creed being recited that "the resurrection of the body" part rings super loud in his ear
Read 4 tweets
27 Apr
“We know that wherever there is a divine promise, there faith is required, and that these two are so necessary to each other that neither can be effective apart from the other. For it is not possible to believe unless there is a promise, and the promise is not established
unless it is believed. But where these two meet, they give a real and most certain efficacy to the sacraments. Hence, to seek the efficacy of the sacrament apart from the promise and apart from the faith is to labor in vain and to find condemnation. Thus Christ says: ‘He who
believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned’ (Mark 16:16). He shows us in this word that faith is such a necessary part of the sacrament that it can save even without the sacrament, and for this reason he did not add: ‘He who does not
Read 4 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!