What Does This Sacrament Mean?
While we “do this in remembrance” of the Lord, more is happening at the table than a mere remembering of what he has done for us. While no one can claim to fully understand the mystery of participation in Christ through this meal, the Belgic Confession (Art. 35) gives a thorough theological understanding of what the Lord’s Supper means for the life of the believer. A few key quotations:
“We believe and confess that our Savior Jesus Christ has ordained and instituted the sacrament of the Holy Supper to nourish and sustain those who are already regenerated and ingrafted into his family, which is his church. . . .
“Thus, to support the physical and earthly life, God has prescribed for us appropriate earthly and material bread, which is as common to all people as life itself. But to maintain the spiritual and heavenly life that belongs to believers, God has sent a living bread that came down from heaven: namely Jesus Christ, who nourishes and maintains the spiritual life of believers when eaten—that is, when appropriated and received spiritually by faith.
“To represent to us this spiritual and heavenly bread, Christ has instituted an earthly and visible bread as the sacrament of his body and wine as the sacrament of his blood. He did this to testify to us that just as truly as we take and hold the sacrament in our hands and eat and drink it with our mouths, by which our life is then sustained, so truly we receive into our souls, for our spiritual life, the true body and true blood of Christ, our only Savior. We receive these by faith, which is the hand and mouth of our souls. . . .
“Yet we do not go wrong when we say that what is eaten is Christ’s own natural body and what is drunk is his own blood—but the manner in which we eat it is not by the mouth, but by the Spirit through faith. . . .
“Finally, with humility and reverence we receive the holy sacrament in the gathering of God’s people, as we engage together, with thanksgiving, in a holy remembrance of the death of Christ our Savior, and as we thus confess our faith and Christian religion.”
In addition, the Scriptures indicate that the Lord’s Supper is a meal that symbolizes and effects the unity of believers in the congregation and at all times and places (1 Cor. 10:14-17). It also causes us to anticipate the coming of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:26).
It is clear, then, that in this meal we receive Christ and all his benefits by the mediation of the Holy Spirit through faith. This understanding of the sacrament should prompt us to celebrate it often (perhaps weekly, as John Calvin desired), and with appropriate joy, reverence, and faith.
In our church we usually receive the elements while seated in the congregation. We usually celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of each month.