Lord’s Day 29: This Visible Sign and Pledge

Catechism and Psalter

With Lord’s Day 29 the Heidelberg Catechism continues its exposition of the two biblical sacraments instituted by Christ.

78 Q.  Are the bread and wine changed into the real body and blood of Christ?

A.  No.
Just as the water of baptism
is not changed into Christ’s blood
and does not itself wash away sins
but is simply God’s sign and assurance,
so too the bread of the Lord’s supper
is not changed into the actual body of Christ
even though it is called the body of Christ
in keeping with the nature and language of sacraments.

79 Q.  Why then does Christ call the bread his body and the cup his blood, or the new covenant in his blood?  (Paul uses the words, a participation in Christ’s body and blood.)

A.  Christ has good reason for these words.
He wants to teach us that
as bread and wine nourish our temporal life,
so too his crucified body and poured-out blood
truly nourish our souls for eternal life.

But more important,
he wants to assure us, by this visible sign and pledge,
that we, through the Holy Spirit’s work,
share in his true body and blood
as surely as our mouths
receive these holy signs in his remembrance,
and that all of his suffering and obedience
are as definitely ours
as if we personally
had suffered and paid for our sins.

Suggested Songs

39, “My Shepherd is the Lord My God” (Psalm 23)

“[A]s bread and wine nourish our temporal life, so too his crucified body and poured-out blood truly nourish our souls for eternal life.”  One of the most familiar and comforting images of Christ in both testaments is that of a Shepherd who cares for our every need.  The twenty-third Psalm is a powerful expression of this image, but Charles Spurgeon calls attention to a seldom-noticed connection between Psalms 22 and 23:

The position of this Psalm is worthy of notice.  It follows the twenty-second, which is peculiarly the Psalm of the Cross.  There are no green pastures, no still waters on the other side of the twenty-second Psalm.  It is only after we have read, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!’ that we come to ‘The Lord is my Shepherd.’  We must by experience know the value of the blood-shedding, and see the sword awakened against the Shepherd, before we shall be able truly to know the sweetness of the good Shepherd’s care.

Indeed, we must come to know the true depth of Christ’s love as shown in “his crucified body and poured-out blood” in order to appreciate the significance of the Lord’s supper which “nourishes our souls for eternal life.”  It is because Christ went all the way to death itself that we may “walk the vale of death” yet “not know a fear.”  And how great is the value of the “table Thou hast spread for me/In presence of my foes”—for it is that table itself that fortifies us to withstand the enemies that would wage war upon our souls.

My shepherd is the Lord my God:
What can I want beside?
He leads me where green pastures are,
And where cool waters hide.

He will refresh my soul again,
When I am faint and sore,
And guide my step for His Name’s sake
In right paths evermore.

Thy goodness and Thy mercy, Lord,
Will surely follow me,
And in Thy house forevermore
My dwelling-place shall be.

186, “Sing to the Lord, the Rock of Our Salvation” (Psalm 95)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“[W]e, through the Holy Spirit’s work, share in his true body and blood as surely as our mouths receive these holy signs in his remembrance.”  Right from the start, Psalm 95 acknowledges the Lord as “the rock of our salvation.”  It also builds upon the shepherd motif of Psalm 23 by calling God’s people to humble obedience and trust in their Guide.  In the words of this paraphrase, “Shall we not hearken to our kindly Shepherd/By whom our feet are led?”  It is by Christ’s sacrifice and the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts that we can “enter the promised land” as the Lord’s own chosen people, and be nourished all along the way with his body and blood.

Sing to the Lord, the rock of our salvation!
Sing to the Lord a song of joy and praise!
Kneel in His presence, lowly in thanksgiving!
The lofty psalm upraise!

And we, His people, sheep of His own pasture,
Lambs of His bosom, whom His hand has fed,
Shall we not hearken to our kindly Shepherd
By whom our feet are led?

Oh, harden not your hearts, like those who wandered
The desert forty years to Jordan’s strand;
Humble and comforted, O chosen people,
Enter the promised land.

200, “O Bless the Lord, My Soul, with All Thy Power” (Psalm 103)

“[A]ll of his suffering and obedience are as definitely ours as if we personally had suffered and paid for our sins.”  Here we return to the redemptive themes of Psalm 103 as paraphrased in Dewey Westra’s Genevan setting.  Through the death of Jesus Christ “Jehovah doeth right, for he is holy,” yet he also supplies all our needs, fills our souls with good, “and, like the eagle’s, He renews thy youth.”  Truly “Jehovah’s mercy floweth, like a river,/From everlasting, and abideth ever/On those that love and worship Him with awe”!

O bless the Lord, my soul, with all thy power!
Exalt the God who is thy strength and tower;
Let all within me bless His holy Name.
Bless Him who heareth all thy supplication;
Forget not thou His kindly ministration,
But all His gracious benefits proclaim.

O bless the Lord, who all thy need supplieth!
Thy soul with good He fully satisfieth,
And, like the eagle’s, He renews thy youth.
Jehovah doeth right, for He is holy;
His judgments for the sore oppressed and lowly
Are done in perfect righteousness and truth.

Bless Him, ye hosts, in praises without measure,
Ye ministers of His that do His pleasure;
Exalt His Name, His majesty extol.
Bless ye Jehovah, all His works in union,
In all the places of His wide dominion;
Yea, bless the Lord with joy, O thou, my soul!

–MRK

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1 Response to “Lord’s Day 29: This Visible Sign and Pledge”



  1. 1 Lord’s Day 30: Completely Forgiven | URC Psalmody Trackback on August 14, 2013 at 11:42 pm

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