Category Archives: Worship

A Scripture Reading and a Brief Exposition, and then a Baptism

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Exodus 10:7-11 Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God. But which ones are to go?” Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.” But he said to them, “The LORD be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. No! Go, the men among you, and serve the LORD, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.


1 Corinthians 10.1-4 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

1 Corinthians 12.12-26 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.


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Did the boy get to enjoy his own donation of loaves and fishes?

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number (John 6:1-10 ESV).

This story is recognizably sacramental in every telling of it in the four gospels. Passover is mentioned. The people are divided in fifties as they were after the Exodus. Jesus action of taking the bread, blessing, and breaking are similar to the description of how Jesus act at his last supper.

And, to point out he obvious, the Lord did not only feed adults. “And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matthew 14.21). Likewise, at the first Passover, everyone who needed food was invited to eat, every mouth with no exception made for children.

Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb (Exodus 12:3-4 ESV).

Some people have even claimed that one had to learn and recite certain lessons in order to be allowed to partake in Passover. But the Bible teaches exactly the opposite, children were supposed to partake in Passover in order to learn the important lessons:

And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped (Exodus 12:26-27; ESV)

Paul writes: ”

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? (1 Corinthians 10:16-18 ESV)

And were children excluded from that altar? No.

“You shall count seven weeks. Begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there. You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.
“You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress. You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful (Deuteronomy 16:9-15 ESV).

Nowhere in Scripture does the Bible give us an age limit. One can infer that children would not eat solid food before they were ready to eat solid food. But the idea that there is some mental development test simply isn’t found anywhere in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 12 doesn’t make any such rule, but on the contrary, warns people who have the power to do so to not prevent other Christians from full participation.

When we partake in the Lord’s supper, we too are being gathered to Jesus and nourished by him. We are being cared for and protected by our king.

Our baptized children are loved by Jesus. He accepts their token gifts into his offering plate (and we don’t have to fear because this story applies to mature self-conscious betrayal, not childish wondering). When they are able to mimic, they too recite the Lord’s Prayer which is a prayer for Jesus’ disciples–because they are his disciples. And he himself feeds them food and drink.

They are supposed to grow up knowing this. They are supposed to know that, even though they are young, Jesus not only wants to feed them, but is willing to accept their gifts and use them in his kingdom.

Alastair blogs the intro to Chauvet’s ‘Symbol and Sacrament’

Chauvet begins by remarking upon the fact that an appreciation of the diversity of the sacraments and the heterogeneity of the elements comprising the realm of ‘sacramentality’ has led to a movement away from the traditional preoccupation with the question of the ‘sacraments in general’ (1). What Chauvet seeks to provide is a ‘foundational theology of sacramentality’ with the sacraments as ‘symbolic figures allowing us entrance into, and empowerment to live out, the (arch-)sacramentality which is the very essence of Christian existence’ (2). The sacraments unite the figurative and the pragmatic orders: ‘whatever we are permitted to see there is given to us precisely that we may simultaneously live it.’ The sacraments are thus at once both revelation and empowerment.


Read the whole post: Blogging Through Chauvet’s ‘Symbol and Sacrament’ – Introduction | Alastair’s Adversaria.

I’ll be following this series with interest!

Celebrating a Calvinist Christmas with a Clear Conscience

Super Calvin‘Tis the season to be informed–sometimes in gentleness, often with vigor–by a variety of Christians claiming that it is wrong to celebrate Christmas. I have no desire to force anyone to celebrate Christmas against their will. Indeed, it would be insulting to the high holiday to pretend that it needs enforcement. It offers to Christians an opportunity for praise and thanksgiving for Christ’s incarnation, good music, family fellowship, the giving and receiving of gifts, and a great many other blessings. What more could anyone want? Taste and see that the Lord is good! (This doesn’t necessarily apply to the fruitcake, but you can participate in the thanksgiving without that!) If anyone, for reasons of conscience, wishes to abstain from the festivities, that is his or her right. But I am not willing to let go unanswered the all-too-common assertion that celebrating Christmas at home or in Church is somehow sinful and unreformed.

What is a Christian committed to the Reformation Tradition to make of the objection to Christmas and other aspects of the Church calendar?

The Westminster Confession

According to Chapter 21, “Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day,” in addition to “ordinary religious worship of God” on the Lord’s Day, there are also “solemn fastings and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner” (emphasis added). One of the prooftexts for this statement is Esther 9.22: “As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions to one another, and gifts to the poor.”

Now how, pray tell, could one say more plainly that, in addition to the Lord’s Day, the Church may also set aside other days, as seem appropriate, to celebrate certain aspects of redemption? Is it not entirely proper, according to this paragraph, for Christians to observe a certain day for the celebration of and thanksgiving for our Lord’s incarnation as especially manifested in His birth to the virgin Mary?

Of course, we all know–and if we didn’t, we would soon learn, for we are incessantly reminded–that the Westminster Directory for Public Worship banned other festival days beside the Lord’s Day. But that is entirely irrelevant. No major presbyterian body in America ever included the Directory in their doctrinal standards, probably precisely because doing so would have made them beholden to such notions. What is conspicuous when comparing the Directory to the Confession is that the statements banning Christmas and other holidays are obviously missing from the latter document. The Confession does not ban Christmas, but considers it a viable exercise of religious liberty to observe it. Those who would appeal to the Directory insist that the statement in question is only supposed to give the Church the authority to call for single times of thanksgivings in response to special acts of providence. But the word, “seasons,” in its context, simply will not dictate such a restriction. Invoking original intent only evades the issue. If the correct answer to a question on a test is 1867, and I know the correct answer but write 1967 without realizing it because of habit (it is the year I was born), then my answer is wrong. I will lose the point because words and numbers have an objective meaning apart from intention (Otherwise, it would be impossible for a person to be put under an oath, since he could later maintain that his words only meant what he intended them to mean). In unclear cases, original intent matters. But when the meaning is clear, we cannot overturn what is said by our reconstruction of what the Divines would have meant to say. Otherwise, the Westminster Confession ceases to be our standard and we are left to the mercy of Church historians and whatever records they dig up. Words mean things and possess an objective force over against the ones who speak them as much as anyone else.

Furthermore, the Westminster Standards are compromise documents. The formulas we have are the ones which attracted the most votes. Indeed, they were formulas sometimes agreed upon between parties who disagreed over the theological issue. Thus, the Confession is intentionally vague on the question of supralapsarianism versus infralapsarianism, for example. To expect a monolithic authorial intent is totally unjustified. We know the Scots found themselves at war with traditional English Christianity in their desire to ban Christmas and other holidays. Some of the Divines agreed with the Scottish commissioners, but there is no reason to think all of them did.

Finally, Purim was an annual festival established by Mordecai and Esther, as recorded in Esther 9.22. Granted: the prooftexts themselves have not been adopted as part of our Standards. But if the meaning of the statement in question is to be interpreted by anything, the product of the Westminster Assembly which has been continually reprinted by the Presbyterian Churches along with the Confession and Catechisms certainly has more weight than the Directory for Public Worship.

All parties to this debate admit that the Church has the authority to call for special thanksgivings. What the “Scottish” party insists is that such authority is restricted to mere one-time celebrations, not annual festivals. Now, readers are invited to read the arguments for this restriction and see for themselves how much question-begging and special pleading is involved By what principle does the Church have the authority to make up ad hoc holy days and not establish regular ones? The “Lord’s Day only” principle should eliminate both. It is simply ridiculous to pretend that some wide gulf of principle separates the two cases. If calling for a special worship time is some sort of horrible infringement on Christian liberty then the occasional thanksgiving is no less immoral than the yearly “season.”

Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology

In commenting on the Fourth Commandment, Turretin asks:

Fifteenth Question: Festivals
Whether it belongs to the faith in the New Testament that besides the Lord’s day there are other festival days properly so called whose celebration is necessary per se and by reason of mystery, not by reason of order or ecclesiastical polity only. We deny against the papists (Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1994, vol 2 p. 100).

Got that? It never crosses Turretin’s mind to say it is wrong or even unprofitable to observe a festival. He simply wants to be clear that this is a deliverance of Church authority, not a matter of the Faith per se, as is the Lord’s Day. In fact, the very way Turretin frames the question shows that he takes it for granted that it is within a Church’s lawful authority to establish a festival, as long as they don’t make it essential to the Faith.

He further elaborates:

The question is not whether anniversary days may be selected on which either the nativity, or circumcision, or passion, or ascension of Christ, and similar mysteries of redemption, may be commemorated, or even on which the memory of some remarkable blessing may be celebrated. For this the orthodox think should be left to the liberty of the church. Hence some devote certain days to such festivity, not from necessity of faith, but from the counsel of prudence to excite more to piety and devotion. However, others, using their liberty, retain the Lord’s day alone, and in it, at stated times, celebrate the memory of the mysteries of Christ… …we deny that those days are in themselves more holy than others; rather all are equal. If any sanctity is attributed to them, it does not belong to the time and the day, but to the divine worship. Thus, the observance of them among those who retain it, is only of positive right and ecclesiastical appointment; not, however, necessary from a divine precept (p. 101).

Turretin acknowledges some Reformed Churches do not observe any day but the Lord’s Day. I assume he means the Kirk of Scotland, which was always quick to pretend to being the most Reformed Church in the universe. Unlike Turretin, the Scots did not hesitate to demand that Christmas be banned in England, during the time of the Westminster Assembly. Thus, I can’t help wonder if Turretin doesn’t have the Scots in mind when he writes:

Hence we cannot approve of the rigid judgment of those who charge such churches with idolatry (in which those days are still kept, the names of the saints being retained), since they agree with us in doctrine concerning the worship of God alone and detest the idolatry of the papists (p. 104).

Now, Francis Turretin (1623-1687) is acknowledged as the master of Reformed Theology in his time. I suspect it is precisely because of such judicious determinations as the one I quoted above that he earned his reputation. He taught in the Academy of Geneva and was considered the guardian of the Reformed Faith in Europe, if not the world. By what right do people take for granted that the examples of the Scottish Kirk is determinative forever after of what constitutes the Reformed Faith?

Perhaps this all seems beside the point as far as Christmas is concerned. But I don’t think it is. Frankly, I question whether the anti-Christmas spirit depends on an argument from Scripture as much as a desire to he “more reformed than thou.” Or, to put it in a more general light, how much of the anti-Christmas spirit is spurred on by an all too common quest to be as radical as possible in one’s Christianity? Of course, if this entailed a desire to be radical for what the Bible actually teaches, it would be laudable. But to follow man-made rules instead, and consider these rules as the criteria for true commitment, will not lead to true maturity. Whatever the case, the invocation of an ostensible Reformed tradition seems heavily involved in the anti-Christmas spirit and seems worth examining in it’s own right.

The Second Helvetic Confession (1566)


The Festivals of Christ and the Saints. Moreover, if in Christian Liberty the churches religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord’s nativity, circumcision, passion, resurrection, and of his ascension into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, we approve of it highly (pp. 291-292).

Composed by Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575), this confession was the most widely received among the Reformed Churches. The Scots took exception to the above statement, but no one else had any problem with it. Clearly, Christmas is highly approved in the Reformed Churches.

It is worth mentioning what leads up to the above-quoted paragraph. First of all, the Lord’s Day is given primacy as the time set aside for worship and rest “ever since the apostles’ time” (p. 291). After this affirmation of the Lord’s Day and before the affirmation of “the festivals of Christ,” we find the following paragraph:


Superstition. In this connection we do not yield to the Jewish observance and to superstitions. For we do not believe that one day is any holier than another, or think that rest in itself is acceptable to God, Moreover, we celebrate the Lord’s Day and not the Sabbath as a free observance (p. 291).

Thus, the churches receiving this confession did not simply assume that Romans 14.5, Galatians 4.10, and Colossians 2.16 refer to days in general, but rather to the religious calendar of the Mosaic economy, especially as perverted by the Pharisaic Judaizers who had infiltrated the Galatian church.. They rejected the notion that there was a divinely mandated cycle of annual festivals for the New Covenant age. But there was nothing in that rejections which made it a sin to set aside certain days for the “memory” of certain events in the life of our Lord.

The Synod of Dordt (1618-1619)

Unlike the Westminster Assembly, which was purely a national council (the six Scottish Commissioners were invited to join but decided they could have more influence if they worked solely as advocates of Scottish interests), the Synod of Dordt was the closest thing there ever was to a Reformed Ecumenical Council. Not only did the Synod rebut Arminianism in the five Canons of Dordt (from which we get our famous TULIP acrostic), but they also approved the Church Order of Dordt. This Church Order not only lacked any condemnation of Christmas, but decreed that their churches would celebrate it. Thus we find it has been passed down to the conservative Canadian Reformed Church as “Article 53. Days of Commemoration”:

Each year the churches shall, in the manner decided upon by the consistory, commemorate the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as His outpouring of the Holy Spirit(Book of Praise: Anglo-Genevan Psalter rev. ed. [Winnipeg, Manitoba: Premier Printing ltd., 1984, 1995], p. 670).

Again, if those who condemn the celebration of Christmas as sinful have some sort of clear argument from Scripture, then all of the above is superfluous. After all, if the Bible is against Christmas than all the statements in favor of it are altogether worthless. But, as I’ve said above, in my experience the alleged tradition of the Reformation is strongly invoked to generate plausibility for the banning of Christmas and other parts of the Church calendar. Thus, it is worth pointing out that such a tradition is neither the position of the Westminster Standards as received in the PCA, nor the product of the universal consensus of the Reformed Churches.

What Is Really the Issue?

In this debate, all parties are agreed that the Lord’s Day is the primary day of worship and rest in the New Covenant era. All parties are also agreed that the Lord’s Day is not the only day of rest and worship. The church has the right to worship on other days of the week.

Furthermore, there is nothing approaching a rational argument that proves it is wrong to regularly devote certain Sundays to certain subjects. Indeed, one of the most famous Reformation documents, the Heidelberg Catechism, is broken up into 52 sections so that it can be preached through annually. Even if the majority of Christmases were somehow barred by this principle, none of the Sunday holidays are the least bit questionable. For example, the whole cycle leading up to Easter is completely untouched by the “Lord’s Day only” claim.

Some will, in the name of the Reformed Faith, condemn Christmas because of the man-made hymns involved, or the lighting of candles. But these are questions about exclusive psalmody and whether lighting a candle violates the “regulative principle of worship.” They ought not be confused with the question of the Calendar itself. If there is something wrong with what is included in the worship of God on Christmas day, then those things should be corrected; but the question here is whether or not it is immoral per se to worship on December 25 as an annual celebration of the birth of Christ.

Another distraction is the anti-”papist” myth that Christmas comes from the Roman Catholic Church. If Christmas comes from “Romanism,” then so does the Trinity, Church marriages, and the doctrine of double predestination. The fact is, whatever the history of the holiday, it is Christ, not the pope, who is the reason for the season. To attribute Roman Catholic sympathies to Evangelicals who celebrate Christmas is to violate the Ninth Commandment, which, according to question 145 of the Larger Catechism, prohibits us from “misconstructing intentions, words, and actions.”

Ultimately, then, as I said above, the issue boils down to whether the Church can only call for emergency thanksgivings on the other six days of the week or if it has the authority to call for annual festivals. The question has already been answered admirably by the Westminster Confession and it’s prooftext! The book of Esther contains no mention of God, let alone a revelation from Him prescribing a new feast. Yet Mordecai and Esther do not hesitate to establish Purim.


More could be said on this issue, and I’m sure much more will be. My objective here was simply to point out that the Reformed Faith is much broader than the anti-Christmas contingent within it, and to show that accusing those who observe Christmas of sin is prima facie a groundless charge. We need better evidence from the Bible (if there is any) and better arguments, if we are going to avoid slandering brothers and sisters in the Lord

Psalm 87 applied to this Christmas (2011)

A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. A Song.

On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
the LORD loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
Glorious things of you are spoken,
O city of God. Selah

Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush–
“This one was born there,” they say.
And of Zion it shall be said,
“This one and that one were born in her”;
for the Most High himself will establish her.
The LORD records as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there.” Selah

Singers and dancers alike say,
“All my springs are in you.”

via Psalm 87 –

Let me translate Psalm 87.2 for this coming Sunday.

God loves the place you meet for Church more than the Christmas Tree and presents in your living room.

Is your Lord’s Supper pagan enough to be Christian? Is it Jewish enough?

It is not uncommon for one Christian teacher or group to accuse another professing Christian teacher or group of holding ideas about worship and communion that are “really just pagan.” Or perhaps it someone will attack a theory of being “the Old Covenant shadows.”

Whatever the accuracy of such associations, I just want to point out that the association by itself does not prove anyone to be in error. We know this because the Apostle Paul used both pagan worship and OT worship to teach positively on the Lord’s Supper:

 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

So there you have it: We participate in the blood and body of Christ just like the OT worshipers who ate from the sacrifices were made participants in the altar sacrifices (perhaps both those and the regular cycle even when they weren’t present?). We participate in Christ just like pagan eaters participate in demons.

So your views of the Lord Supper, in some way, need to be pagan and Jewish enough to bring you into conformity with the teachings of the Apostle Paul.

Getting God’s attention

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Make two silver trumpets. Of hammered work you shall make them, and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for breaking camp. And when both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the entrance of the tent of meeting. But if they blow only one, then the chiefs, the heads of the tribes of Israel, shall gather themselves to you. When you blow an alarm, the camps that are on the east side shall set out. And when you blow an alarm the second time, the camps that are on the south side shall set out. An alarm is to be blown whenever they are to set out. But when the assembly is to be gathered together, you shall blow a long blast, but you shall not sound an alarm. And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets. The trumpets shall be to you for a perpetual statute throughout your generations. And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the Lord your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the LORD your God.”

via Numbers 10 –

I couldn’t help but think of Susan’s horn when I read this passage. The idea of a signal device that guarantees and promises that you will gain the attention of a rescuer is a powerfully attractive kind of “magic.”

But I worry about the ESV’s choice in verse 10 to sayd that the trumpets “shall be a reminder.” As the context makes clear, the one being reminded is not the person blowing or the human persons hearing the trumptes. God is reminded to act! I think a better translation might have been “memorial.” God is reminded of his covenant promises and is thus prodded to act on them.

I think we avoid talking this way because it seems to detract from the omni-power of deity. But, look, just praying does that, to our minds, and God wants us to pray and promises that he, yes, responds, to our prayers. It is not up to us to extrapolate from our imaginations what God’s experience as an omniscient being must be like. He says that we are like him and that the way we respond to heartfelt requests from our children is similar to his own experience. We are in no place to second guess Him on this point.

And when God remembers, he acts. A couple of examples:

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.

So God is reminded in many places in Scripture. And we forget and switch it all around. How many Christians have been told that the rainbow is designed to remind us of God’s promise not to destroy the world in a flood? But…

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

And we are told that Passover was a celebration that reminded the Israelites. I’m sure it did. But is that given to us as the primary purpose of the reminding?

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.

Plainly, God meant when he said that the blood “shall be a sign for you,” he meant it was to be a sign for them to use to show God so he did not strike them. And thereafter, the blood of all the passover lambs was put on the altar at the central sanctuary that God had the Israelites build for him in the wilderness. So the blood always was directed toward God for him to respond to.

We don’t have the authorized trumpets any more, but the trumpets simply represented the voice of the people (preeminently the voice of Jesus himself, which is like a trumpet (Revelation 1.10; 4.1–note the voice calls John into heavenly worship). We remind God of who we are and what he has promised by using the name of Jesus. And we have his supper to remind him to keep covenant with us. If I may offer what I think is a slightly better translation from 1 Corinthians 11 (using the ESV’s footnotes!):

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this as my memorial” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, as my memorial.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death [to the Father?] until he comes.

The Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper — Why it matters

Why it matters will depend on a host of inferences. Not everyone makes the same inferences from the same principles. Systems can go in different directions. I can say everything at once in this brief post. Not going to try. But this is why I think if matters so much.

Are we saved by ideas or by Christ? We are justified by faith, but how? The answer that many have given from Scripture (John Calvin being one of the most influential with me) is that we are united to the person of Jesus Christ by faith. We are deeply and really, by the power of the Holy Spirit, flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.

So, assuming a certain kind of relationship between how we worship and how we are saved (see above re: inferences), eating and drinking at the Lord’s Supper is not simply about ideas or remembering what took place. It is a true renewal and participation in Christ’s risen, transfigured, human life. Christ has been vindicated, so in Christ is our justification.

That is the fundamental issue with me. It is the basic rationale for insisting on the point as important and worth arguing about against a “Zwinglian” position.

Why Weekly Communion? An outline of an argument

1. Eating God’s special food is a basic way God relates to humanity.

Genesis 1 and 2 lay out general and special space (world and garden) as a distinction between general and special food. We go from this

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”

to this

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil… The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

2. Sin means being cut off from God’s food and a curse on eating:

 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread…”

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

3. Under Moses, there was only one sanctuary which allowed sacramental food and which most people could only visit three times a year.

You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way. But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you…

But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, then to the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the Lord. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants, and the Levite that is within your towns, since he has no portion or inheritance with you. Take care that you do not offer your burnt offerings at any place that you see, but at the place that the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I am commanding you.

However, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your towns, as much as you desire, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you. The unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and as of the deer. Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it out on the earth like water. You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present, but you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all that you undertake. Take care that you do not neglect the Levite as long as you live in your land….

Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths.

4. In reconciling us to God, Jesus came to give believers new access to God’s presence that had been restricted before.

Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” But Peter began and explained it to them in order: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him [to your table], but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him [to His table]. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

5. Christians now meet on the first day of the week, not merely for prayer and teaching like in the synagogues, or “solemn assemblies” of the Old Covenant, but for full worship and fellowship greater than, but more like, what was available in the Temple.

On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

6. In the days right after Pentecost, we see the Apostles breaking bread daily but it seems to “settle” into a weekly pattern later in Acts.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days. On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted. But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.

7. This weekly pattern fits the First-Day times when the local Christians would gather “as a church,”–a time when it was taken for granted that the Church was always supposed to practice the Lord’s Supper.

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes… So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.


It makes no sense to treat Lord’s Day worship as if we were still stuck in the Old Covenant when full feast-fellowship with God was absent for most people on most of their Sabbaths. Coming together as the Church should mean table fellowship in Christ with God and one another!

Alastair on substantiations and other aspects of the Lord’s Supper in Protestantism

It is popularly supposed in certain quarters that the general denial of transubstantiation among Protestants and particularly by the Reformers was occasioned by a resistance to the ideas of the ‘Real Presence’ of Christ in the Eucharist, or to the notion of our participation in the substance of his flesh and blood in the sacrament. Having recently responded to this assumption, and being very surprised by the fact that the person in question held it, I thought that I would repost an edited version of my response here. While I am fairly certain that for the significant majority of the followers of this blog, the following is olde hatte, experience is teaching me that there are certain facts whose knowledge one shouldn’t take for granted. There are ideas that have a lot of popular currency, despite their utter lack of historical support. For those whose impressions of Protestantism are derived from the experience of independent evangelicalism, with its low view of the church, sacraments, and the liturgy, it can come as some shock to discover that the Reformers generally held quite different visions. As I appreciate that the following post may be completely familiar to you, I beg your indulgence for the sake of those for whom this really is new.

via Protestantism, Eucharistic Participation in Christ’s Flesh, and Transubstantiation | Alastair’s Adversaria.

Please go read the entire article. It is a great one-stop-shop resource on the entire issue.