ARTICLE 35 – THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
We believe and confess that our Saviour Jesus Christ has instituted the sacrament of the holy supper1 to nourish and sustain those whom He has already regenerated and incorporated into His family, which is His church.
Those who are born anew have a twofold life.2 One is physical and temporal, which they received in their first birth and is common to all men. The other is spiritual and heavenly, which is given them in their second birth and is effected by the word of the gospel3 in the communion of the body of Christ. This life is not common to all but only to the elect of God.
For the support of the physical and earthly life God has ordained earthly and material bread. This bread is common to all just as life is common to all. For the support of the spiritual and heavenly life, which believers have, He has sent them a living bread which came down from heaven (John 6:51), namely, Jesus Christ,4 who nourishes and sustains the spiritual life of the believers5 when He is eaten by them, that is, spiritually appropriated and received by faith.6
To represent to us the spiritual and heavenly bread, Christ has instituted earthly and visible bread as a sacrament of His body and wine as a sacrament of His blood.7 He testifies to us that as certainly as we take and hold the sacrament in our hands and eat and drink it with our mouths, by which our physical life is then sustained, so certainly do we receive by faith,8 as the hand and mouth of our soul, the true body and true blood of Christ, our only Saviour, in our souls for our spiritual life.
It is beyond any doubt that Jesus Christ did not commend His sacraments to us in vain. Therefore He works in us all that He represents to us by these holy signs. We do not understand the manner in which this is done, just as we do not comprehend the hidden activity of the Spirit of God.9 Yet we do not go wrong when we say that what we eat and drink is the true, natural body and the true blood of Christ. However, the manner in which we eat it is not by mouth but in the spirit by faith. In that way Jesus Christ always remains seated at the right hand of God His Father in heaven;10 yet He does not cease to communicate Himself to us by faith. This banquet is a spiritual table at which Christ makes us partakers of Himself with all His benefits and gives us the grace to enjoy both Himself and the merit of His suffering and death.11 He nourishes, strengthens, and comforts our poor, desolate souls by the eating of His flesh, and refreshes and renews them by the drinking of His blood.
Although the sacrament is joined together with that which is signified, the latter is not always received by all.12 The wicked certainly takes the sacrament to his condemnation, but he does not receive the truth of the sacrament. Thus Judas and Simon the sorcerer both received the sacrament, but they did not receive Christ, who is signified by it.13 He is communicated exclusively to the believers.14
Finally, we receive this holy sacrament in the congregation of the people of God15 with humility and reverence as we together commemorate the death of Christ our Saviour with thanksgiving and we confess our faith and Christian religion.16 Therefore no one should come to this table without careful self-examination, lest by eating this bread and drinking from this cup, he eat and drink judgment upon himself (1 Cor 11:28-29). In short, we are moved by the use of this holy sacrament to a fervent love of God and our neighbours. Therefore we reject as desecrations all additions and damnable inventions which men have mixed with the sacraments. We declare that we should be content with the ordinance taught by Christ and His apostles and should speak about it as they have spoken.
1. Mat 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:1920; 1 Cor 11:23-26. 2. John 3:5-6. 3. John 5:25. 4. John 6:48-51. 5. John 6:63; John 10:10 b. 6. John 6:40, John 6:47. 7. John 6:55; 1 Cor 10:16. 8. Eph 3:17. 9. John 3:8. 10. Mark 16:19; Acts 3:21. 11. Rom 8:32; 1 Cor 10:3. 4. 12. 1 Cor 2:14. 13. Luke 22:21-22; Acts 8:13, Acts 8:21. 14. John 3:36. 15. Acts 2:42; Acts 20:7. 16. Acts 2:46; 1 Cor 11:26.