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Spirit of Real Communion: The Conclusion of The Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, by Simon Jooste

5 February, 2008

The Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (Part 3 of 3)

SimonSpirit of real communion: raised up to feed on the body of Christ

While avoiding sacerdotal and memorialist extremes, Hodge and Dabney join other doctrinal formulations of the Supper that fail to do justice to the power of the Spirit in making the incarnate Christ present to the believer. For it is by virtue of what the Spirit vitally binds us to in union with Christ, namely the God-man, that we can speak of a Eucharistic presence of Christ as more than believing or mindful recollection of his benefits. When Paul asks, “Is not the cup… a participation in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread… a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16) The answer is an emphatic Calvinistic ‘yes’! In the Supper the believer communes with Christ and his benefits. [1] For we “cannot receive Christ’s benefits apart from receiving Christ himself.” [2] To argue that we receive Christ only according to his divine nature is to be in danger of Nestorianism. [3]

This Christ with whom we have koinonia in the Supper is no longer on earth, but ever since his ascension has been seated locally at the right hand of the Father, in heaven. [4] How is the distance between Christ and the believer overcome? It is not by a ubiquitous collapsing of the thing signified into the sign, or gutting the sign of its significance. Nor is the chasm overcome by mere mental recollection. The Calvinistic Reformed, however, argue that the descended Holy Spirit overcomes this gulf of separation between Christ and the believer. [5] The third person of the Trinity not only makes Christ present as vital bond but also as eschatological Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 15; 2 Cor. 5:17).

The Spirit of the coming eschaton has brought the believer into possession and enjoyment of the already of the ‘already-not-yet’ dialectic of Christian living. For the Spirit has been given as a down payment and guarantee of the age to come (Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:14). Accordingly the Christian has already been raised with Christ (Col. 3:1) and is even now seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:5). The Christian’s life is hidden in the coming eon and the Supper proves to be an ‘earthly’ foretaste of the coming Kingdom banquet (Mk. 14:25). In light of what the Spirit has already brought the believer into contact with, it is not impossible to argue for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

In the final analysis, the basis for arguing for the real presence of Christ in the Supper centers not so much on questions of space but rather on right relation. For the Spirit has brought the believer into right relation with the incarnate Christ by applying the work of covenant ratification at the cross. He also continues to ‘bring’ Christ and all his benefits to the believer by ‘eschatological mediation’. In the Supper the Spirit closes the spatial gap by rightly relating the believer to the incarnate Christ. In so doing and in no common meal, the Christian partakes of the life-infusing flesh of Christ, where eating is spiritual and by faith, and not carnal. [6]

Conclusion

In this essay it has been argued that believers partake spiritually of the real body and blood of Christ by the organ of faith. Foundational to this thesis has been the believers union with Christ, made possible by the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit as bond. By faith, we are engrafted into his body, which is the mediatory vessel of divine life to the believer.

In affirming the local presence of the exalted Christ in heaven and in keeping with appropriate sacramental separation of sign and thing signified, the Spirit raises the believer heavenward to feast on Christ’s body and blood in the Supper. In the final analysis, the Spirit overcomes the controversy over presence as eschatological bond. This third person of the Trinity testifies to the covenant-keeping God in Jesus Christ, whose grace confirms divine acceptance and covenant ratification in this covenant meal of his body. For just as the Spirit brings our covenant mediator near in the word preached, he brings us near to the entire indivisible God-man in the Supper. In so doing, we feed unto immortality and enjoy peace with God. [7]

Thanks, Simon, for such an edifying ‘feast’ about the meaning and the Spiritual vitality of our covenant Lord’s feeding us upon himself, as our only food and drink unto everlasting life by faith! ~C or C


[1] Paul continues his use of sacramental language in 1 Cor. 10 in contrasting the communion in the Supper with pagan ritual meals in which “those who eat the sacrifices” are “participants in the altar (v.18). In distinction from the table of the Lord, one who sits at the sacrificial table of heathens communes with a host of demons (Herman Riddersbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1975), 417.)[2] Horton, God of Promise, 166-167.[3] Horton, God of Promise, 166.

[4] Cf. Acts 2:21, 33; 7:55-56; Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:3. The Roman Catholic and Lutheran positions that argue for the ubiquity of Christ’s human nature is impossible, in light of Christ’s distinct local presence in his past earthly and now heavenly ministries.

[5] “… although he is in heaven and we are on earth, we are nevertheless flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, always living and being governed by one Spirit, as the members of our bodies are governed by one soul” (Heidelberg Q/A 76).

[6] Ferguson, Sinclair B, Contours of Christian Theology, ed. Gerald Bray, The Holy Spirit (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 203 and Horton, God of Promise, 170.

[7] Horton, God of Promise, 170.

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