For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full (II Cor. 10:3-6).

Captive Thoughts” is dedicated to bringing every thought captive to Christ through the study of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, with primary focus on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This effort is a compilation of several years of catechetical study conducted at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westminster, California, by its Christian Education Committee and the author of this site.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q96

A man once visited a school for deaf and dumb children. As he sat at the back of a classroom, the teacher—almost on impulse—wrote in large letters on the blackboard, “Why has God made you thus?” The visitor was stunned. Throughout history, great thinkers have struggled to provide an adequate answer to such a question. It seemed cruel to ask of these little ones a question that would cut right to the heart of their suffering. The moment seemed frozen in a tense and insufferable eternity. Finally one little lad walked to the blackboard and with trembling hand scribbled these words: “Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” What an excellent response to this and many other questions!
In Training Hearts, Teaching Minds, Starr Meade asks, “Why did Jesus choose to make eating bread and drinking wine a sacrament?” We must admit that we don’t fully understand the teachings of our Lord. We confess, as this catechism answer proclaims, that the Lord’s Table is one of the means of grace whereby we do benefit and receive spiritual nourishment. But how can that be? How does that little wafer or cup of red liquid cause spiritual nourishment and growth in grace? How are we to understand this puzzlement? The answer, of course, is in that little word with big significance: faith. It is by faith that we are “made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to [our] spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.” For the follower of Christ—whether we consider the unanswerable mysteries of life, or the simple “take ye and eat, for this is my body”—the response must always be, “Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.”
May this be our prayer as we once again approach our consideration of the catechism. And may “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with [us] all.”
WSC Q96. What is the Lord’s Supper?
A.  The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth[a]; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace[b].
[a] Luke 22:19-20; I Cor. 11:23-26
[b] I Cor 10:16-17
Question 96 ask what is the Lord’s Supper, and answers that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament in which bread and wine are given and received as Christ directed to proclaim his death. Those who receive the Lord’s Supper in the right way share in his body and blood with all his benefits, not merely physically but by faith, and become spiritually stronger and grow in grace.
Comments and considerations:
We have here a definition and description of the Lord’s Supper, a sacrament that is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers (WSC Q 92). The sensible signs are bread and wine, given and received according to Christ’s appointment, meant to show forth his death until his return.
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (I Cor. 11:23-26).
Again we turn to G.I. Williamson and his study, The Shorter Catechism (Vol. 2): “The Bible gives us four accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20, and I Cor. 11:23-26). In these we see the simplicity and solemnity that ought to mark the celebration of this sacrament. Yet this very sacrament has been the focal point of some of the most obvious corruptions of the gospel. The statements of the Catechism are, in part, framed to warn us against these perversions.”
These are strong words; but from the early days of the church, the Apostle Paul warned the Lord’s people, saying, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:6-8). This is also a strong and necessary warning. Since the sacraments point to and reflect the gospel, which we are to treasure and guard, we ought to pay particular attention to such warnings. Just as false road signs lead earthly travelers astray, unbiblical teachings about the sacraments hinder souls on the journey to their heavenly home. So what should we take note of here to ensure that we are on the right road?
To begin, the signs themselves are bread and wine—simply that and nothing more; they do not become the body and blood of Christ after a corporal and carnal manner. There is no physical presence of the Lord, either by some miracle performed upon the elements or in their distribution; nor does a change occur when they are consumed. (Transubstantiation and consubstantiation are both doctrinal errors which teach that Christ’s physical flesh and blood are partaken literally.) The biblical understanding is that believers eat Christ’s body and drink his blood figuratively, as representative signs and elements of faith.
The elements are not given and received for a physical benefit, but for a spiritual blessing, a spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace. We are made partakers of his body and blood in redemption accomplish and applied by virtue of our union with Christ. The bread and wine are sensible signs illustrative of the perfect work of grace and our so great salvation. Those who receive these simple signs and symbols in true faith partake spiritually of the benefits of the sacrifice of Christ. Augustine observed, “Judas ate bread with the Lord, but did not eat the Lord with the bread.” In that simple statement is a profound recognition of two things: First, there was no mixing of the Lord’s body into the elements consumed; the physical parts were distinct, separate, and whole in their integrity. Second, faith is necessary; Judas lacked faith and failed to receive the blessing offered at the table of our Lord. There is a necessary distinction between the physical sign and seal, and its spiritual benefit, which is received by faith. One cannot really eat and drink of the body and blood of Christ except in a spiritual manner; otherwise the whole point of the sacrament is lost. As always, it is a matter of the heart which the Lord alone can see and measure: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me’” (Mark 7:6). When the believer comes to the Table of the Lord, the sacrament causes him to ask, “What has Christ done? What is my relationship to him and his atoning sacrifice? Where do I stand in the relationship this very moment?” This is part of that self-examining found in I Cor. 11: 26-29. We must approach the Supper with discernment, with a frame of mind and attitude of heart that is fitting to worship and studied participation to receive the benefits of this means of grace (I John 1:9; cf. Ps. 51:17). The Lord’s Table is a means of grace; that is, it is intended to be instructive and useful for our continued spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace (II Pet. 3:18).
Our Lord asked a poignant question, recorded in Luke 18:8—“Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” The Lord’s Table is a regular reminder of the challenge of that question. It is not some mystical superstition, or meritorious religious function. It is a time for the covenant community to gather together and consider in communion the claim and call of “the One who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev. 11:17); to examine self in the face of him “who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (II Pet. 2:9; II Cor. 3:18; cf. James 1: 23); to recall his death until he comes, persevering in faith, looking forward, sanctifying heart, mind, and soul unto to the Lord of Glory; and to trust that “faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it” (I Thess. 5:24, KJV).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read John 6:48-51. Ponder for a moment what our Lord says in these verses. What spiritual realities are communicated in the figure of speech that he uses, the metaphor or example of bread? What is the larger context in which these verses are found? What understanding can we draw from “I’m the bread of life” and the verses that follow?
2.        When we participate in the Lord’s Table as Jesus instructed, what is one thing that we ought to be reminded of according to Matt. 26:26-28? (1)
3.        We need food to nourish and strengthen our bodies; without food we will not grow and would die. This can help us understand the importance of being spiritually nourished by Christ in the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. How is this described is John 6:26-29, 53-56?
4.        What does Jesus describe in the last phrase of John 6:56?
5.        One way that the Lord’s Table is described is as a memorial. What fact does it cause us to recall and remember, to proclaim or witness to one another? See I Cor. 11:26? (2)

Ans: 1) That through Christ’s perfect sacrifice for sin, we can know “the remission [forgiveness] of [our] sins.”
2) Our union with Christ is a benefit of our faith pictured in the Lord’s Table—a sharing in the virtue of his death and the blessings and benefits shared in his resurrection and glory. See Rom. 8:17, 29.

Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q96, WLC Q168 - 170 and WCF XXIX. I-VIII
WSC Q96. What is the Lord's Supper?
A.  The Lord's Supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ's appointment, his death is showed forth[a]; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace[b].
[a]  Luke 22:19-20; ICor. 11:23-26
[b]  ICor. 10:16-17
WLC Q168. What is the Lord's Supper?
A.  The Lord's Supper is a sacrament of the New Testament[a], wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, his death is showed forth; and they that worthily communicate feed upon his body and blood, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace[b]; have their union and communion with him confirmed[c]; testify and renew their thankfulness[d], and engagement to God[e], and their mutual love and fellowship each with the other, as members of the same mystical body[f].
[a]   Luke 22:20
[b]   Mat. 26:26-28; 1Cor. 11:23-26
[c]   1Cor. 10:16
[d]   1Cor. 11:24 (See number[b].)
[e]   1Cor. 10:14-16, 21
[f]   1Cor. 10:17
WLC Q169. How hath Christ appointed bread and wine to be given and received in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper?
A.  Christ hath appointed the ministers of his Word, in the administration of this sacrament of the Lord's Supper, to set apart the bread and wine from common use, by the word of institution, thanksgiving, and prayer; to take and break the bread, and to give both the bread and the wine to the communicants: who are, by the same appointment, to take and eat the bread, and to drink the wine, in thankful remembrance that the body of Christ was broken and given, and his blood shed, for them[a].
[a]  1Cor. 11:23-24 (See Q. 168 {2); Mat. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20
WLC Q170. How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord's Supper feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?
A.  As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, or under the bread and wine in the Lord's supper[a], and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their outward senses[b]; so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal and carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really[c], while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death[d].
[a]   Acts 3:21
[b]   Mat. 26:26, 28
[c]   1Cor. 11:24-29
[d]   1Cor. 10:16

Of the Lord's Supper.
I.    Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein he was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of his body and blood, called the Lord's Supper, to be observed in his church, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death; the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto him; and, to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other, as members of his mystical body[a]
[a]. I Cor. 11:23-26; I Cor. 10:16-17, 21; I Cor. 12:13
II.  In this sacrament, Christ is not offered up to his Father; nor any real sacrifice made at all, for remission of sins of the quick or dead[b]; but only a commemoration of that one offering up of himself, by himself, upon the cross, once for all: and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God, for the same[c]: so that the popish sacrifice of the mass (as they call it) is most abominably injurious to Christ's one, only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of his elect[d].
[b]  Heb. 9:22, 25-26, 28; Heb. 10:10-14
[c]  I Cor. 11:24-26; Matt. 26:26-27; Luke 22:19-20
[d]  Heb. 7:23-24, 27; Heb. 10:11-12, 14, 18
III. The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to declare his word of institution to the people; to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants[e]; but to none who are not then present in the congregation[f].
[e]  Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; I Cor. 10:16-17; I Cor. 11:23-27
[f]  Acts 20:7; I Cor. 11:20
IV. Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other alone;[g] as likewise, the denial of the cup to the people,[h] worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about, for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use; are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ[i].
[g]  I Cor. 10:16
[h] Matt. 26:27-28; Mark 14:23; I Cor. 11:25-29
[i]  Matt. 15:9
V.  The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that, truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ[k]; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before[l].
[k] Matt. 26:26-28
[l]  I Cor. 11:26-28; Matt. 26:29
VI. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ's body and blood commonly called transubstantiation by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense, and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament, and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions; yea, of gross idolatries[m].
[m]            Acts 3:21; I Cor. 11:24-26; Luke 24:6, 39
VII. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament[n], do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive, and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses[o].
[n] I Cor. 11:28
[o] I Cor. 10:16; see I Cor. 10:3-4
VIII. Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament; yet, they receive not the thing signified thereby; but, by their unworthy coming thereunto, are guilty of the body of the Lord, to their own damnation.  Wherefore, all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with him, so are they unworthy of the Lord's table; and cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries[p], or be admitted thereunto[q].
[p] I Cor. 11:27-29; II Cor. 6:14-16; I Cor. 10:21
[q]  I Cor. 5:6-7, 13; II Thess. 3:6, 14-15; Matt. 7:6
Question(s) for further study:

The confessional harmony of this Shorter Catechism enlists three Larger Catechism questions and eight points in the Confessional instruction, providing what lesson and exhortation for us?    Ans: That this in no light matter; that there is much to be studied, considered, and rightly understood, a sacrament to be taken solemnly and seriously.  When one considers the overall instruction of the entire Catechism - what we are to believe and what we are to practice – how does the Lord’s Table demonstrate that very thing? 

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