During its treatment of baptism, the first of the two divinely-ordained sacraments, the Heidelberg Catechism explained its nature and purpose, then asked for whom it was intended. The Catechism follows a similar pattern in its explanation of the Lord’s supper: now that the proper administration of this sacrament is understood, who is to partake of it? Lord’s Day 30, our focus today in URC Psalmody’s Heidelberg Catechism series, answers this question.
80 Q. How does the Lord’s supper differ from the Roman Catholic Mass?
A. The Lord’s supper declares to us
that our sins have been completely forgiven
through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ
which he himself finished on the cross once for all.
It also declares to us
that the Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ,
who with his very body
is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father
where he wants us to worship him.
But the Mass teaches
that the living and the dead
do not have their sins forgiven
through the suffering of Christ
unless Christ is still offered for them daily by the priests.
It also teaches
that Christ is bodily present
in the form of bread and wine
where Christ is therefore to be worshiped.
Thus the Mass is basically
nothing but a denial
of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ
and a condemnable idolatry.
81 Q. Who are to come to the Lord’s table?
A. Those who are displeased with themselves
because of their sins,
but who nevertheless trust
that their sins are pardoned
and that their continuing weakness is covered
by the suffering and death of Christ,
and who also desire more and more
to strengthen their faith
and to lead a better life.
Hypocrites and those who are unrepentant, however,
eat and drink judgment on themselves.
82 Q. Are those to be admitted to the Lord’s supper who show by what they say and do that they are unbelieving and ungodly?
A. No, that would dishonor God’s covenant
and bring down God’s anger upon the entire congregation.
Therefore, according to the instruction of Christ and his apostles,
the Christian church is duty-bound to exclude such people,
by the official use of the keys of the kingdom,
until they reform their lives.
483, “Come, Ye That Fear Jehovah” (Psalm 22)
Those are to come to the Lord’s table “who are displeased with themselves because of their sins, but who nevertheless trust that their sins are pardoned…by the suffering and death of Christ.” Although it appears in the hymn section of the blue Psalter Hymnal, “Come, Ye That Fear Jehovah” is actually a paraphrase of Psalm 22, with its origins in the 1912 Psalter like the majority of our songbook’s other selections. Particularly, number 483 treats the last few verses of the twenty-second psalm, which speak of the glorified Messiah’s rule over all the earth. The One who cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (22:1) as his body was broken and his blood shed for our sins is now the Provider of the rich spiritual feast his people can enjoy. The Psalter Hymnal paraphrases it beautifully:
Come, ye that fear Jehovah,
Ye saints, your voices raise;
Come, stand in awe before Him
And sing His glorious praise.
Ye lowly and afflicted
Who on His Word rely,
Your heart shall live forever,
The Lord will satisfy.
Both high and low shall worship,
Both strong and weak shall bend,
A faithful Church shall serve Him
Till generations end.
His praise shall be recounted
To nations yet to be,
The triumphs of His justice
A newborn world shall see.
93, “Thus Speaks the Lord to Wicked Men” (Psalm 50)
“Hypocrites and those who are unrepentant, however, eat and drink judgment on themselves.” In contrast to the humble believer, the Catechism teaches (referencing I Cor. xi.27), the non-elect call down God’s curse upon themselves if they partake of the meal of his covenant people. Worse, as question and answer 82 explain, they incur divine wrath upon the entire congregation. This ominous warning echoes the words of Psalm 50:
Thus speaks the Lord to wicked men:
My statutes why do ye declare?
Why take My covenant in your mouth,
Since ye for wisdom do not care?
For ye My holy words profane
And cast them from you in disdain.
Consider this, who God forget,
Lest I destroy with none to free;
Who offers sacrifice of thanks,
He glorifies and honors Me;
To him who orders well his way
Salvation free I will display.
196, “Of Mercy and of Justice” (Psalm 101)
“[T]he Christian church is duty-bound to exclude” those “who show by what they say and do that they are unbelieving and ungodly.” Perhaps the themes of Psalm 101 are offensive to readers in our modern relativistic society, but to the Christian, this psalm remains the inspired, infallible Word of God. And these words are an essential guide for the overseers of God’s “holy nation,” his Church: “Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all the evildoers from the city of the Lord.”
The faithful and the upright
Shall minister to me;
The lying and deceitful
My favor shall not see.
I will in daily judgment
All wickedness reward,
And cleanse from evildoers
The city of the Lord.
128, “Though I Am Poor and Sorrowful” (Psalm 69)
Although Psalm 69 is primarily seen as a messianic prophecy, its words also reflect the proper attitude of the penitent sinner. One of the many benefits of the Lord’s supper is that it reminds us to examine our hearts before we approach the table. Will we, because of our hypocrisy and unbelief, only eat and drink judgment upon ourselves? Or do we acknowledge that we are “poor and sorrowful,” dependent on the Lord’s constant sustaining grace?
Though I am poor and sorrowful,
Hear Thou, O God, my cry;
Let Thy salvation come to me
And lift me up on high.
Then will I praise my God with song,
To Him my thanks shall rise,
And this shall please Jehovah more
Than offered sacrifice.
The meek shall see it and rejoice;
Ye saints, no more be sad;
For lo, Jehovah hears the poor
And makes His prisoners glad.
Let heaven and earth and seas rejoice,
Let all therein give praise,
For Zion God will surely save,
Her broken walls will raise.
In Zion they that love His Name
Shall dwell from age to age;
Yea, there shall be their lasting rest,
Their children’s heritage.
In his massive commentary on the Psalter entitled The Treasury of David, Charles Spurgeon, writing on Psalm 22:26, pens these wonderful words:
The spiritually poor find a feast in Jesus, they feed upon him to the satisfaction of their hearts; they were famished until he gave himself for them, but now they are filled with royal dainties.…For a while they may keep a fast, but their thanksgiving days must and shall come.…Your spirits shall not fail through trial, you shall not die of grief, immortal joys shall be your portion. Thus Jesus speaks even from the cross to the troubled seeker. If his dying words are so assuring, what consolation may we not find in the truth that he ever liveth to make intercession for us! They who eat at Jesus’ table receive the fulfilment of the promise, ‘Whosoever eateth of this bread shall live for ever.’