A Family Meal
Q47. Does the Lord’s Supper add anything to Christ’s atoning work?
A. No, Christ died once for all. The Lord’s Supper is a covenant meal celebrating Christ’s atoning work; as it is also a means of strengthening our faith as we look to him, and a foretaste of the future feast. But those who take part with unrepentant hearts eat and drink judgment on themselves.
Have you ever had the chance to be invited to a friend’s private family gathering? Do you remember the mixed emotions of feeling intentionally welcomed but also unintentionally left out at the same time? Because you’re a guest, the family members try hard to make you feel comfortable and accepted, and yet because you’re not really part of the family, there would always be certain things that everyone shared and understood that would just be different and new to you. There might be some customs or traditions that they practice that might seem foreign to you. Or perhaps their cuisine or food might be unfamiliar to you. Notice however, that the things that unintentionally identify you as an outsider are often the very things that strengthen the bond and unity of this family. As an outsider, you would need to have a lot of these things explained to you. You would need to learn about the traditions and the cuisine and also a little bit about the family history in order to become familiarized with this family.
In many ways, this is also how things are in the Christian church. When Christians gather together in worship they are coming together as a family. And while guests and visitors will always be welcome, there are certain things that are done within the Christian family that belong only to the members of this family such as the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a spiritual meal for all those who are united to Jesus by grace through faith. It is not a sacrifice for sins but a meal that points to Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice on the cross. The Lord’s Supper is, as the Anglican Bishop, J.C. Ryle, once wrote, “an ordinance for the penitent, not for the impenitent, for the believing, not for the unbelieving, for the converted, not for the unconverted. The unconverted man, who fancies that he can find a shortcut road to heaven by taking the Sacrament, without treading the well-worn steps of repentance and faith, will find to his cost one day that he is totally deceived. The Lord’s Supper was meant to increase and to help the grace that a man has, but not to impart the grace that he has not.” As our catechism lesson puts it very clearly in question and answer 47, “Does the Lord’s Supper add anything to Christ’s atoning work? … No, Christ died once for all. The Lord’s Supper is a covenant meal celebrating Christ’s atoning work; as it is also a means of strengthening our faith as we look to him, and a foretaste of the future feast. But those who take part with unrepentant hearts eat and drink judgment on themselves.”
The Lord’s Supper is a family meal for Christians. It is a portrayal of the redemption that Jesus has accomplished for his people. When unrepentant sinners who reject him take part in it, it is of no benefit to them but instead brings them further condemnation and judgment. But to those who are in Christ by faith, this is a sweet reunion meal with the Savior with whom we will one meet and feast with in glory.