(Kersten, The Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons, Vol.2, Part 2) The Communion of Faith With Christ Lord's Day 28 Psalter No. 89 st. 3, 4 Read John 10:1-21 Psalter No. 421 st. 4, 5 Psalter No. 203 st. 3, 4 Psalter No. 81 st. 3, 4 Beloved, In the chapter read to you the Lord Jesus applies to Himself the parable of the good shepherd saying in verses 11 and 14, "I am the good Shepherd." This He shows later on by pointing out the difference between a good shepherd and a hireling. When danger threatens, the hireling flees and leaves the sheep to themselves; but a good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. Take David for an example who did not deliver his sheep to the wild animals, but slew a lion and a bear to save his sheep. The Lord says of Himself also, that He lays down His life that He might take it again, thereby making His elect partakers of eternal life. Therefore the Father loves Him because He fulfills the sovereign good pleasure of His Father to the glorification of God's attributes and the salvation of His people. No one could take His life from Him. Neither Satan with all the powers of hell, nor the Sanhedrin with all its burning enmity, nor Pilate, nor Herod could do anything against His will. He laid down His life freely, out of eternal love. This He was able to do. He had power to lay it down and power to take it again as He had received commandment from His Father. He purchased His sheep with His blood. As a good shepherd He gave His life for His sheep! They are His lawful possession and He glorifies Himself in them. He could say, "I know My sheep and am known of Mine." He knew His sheep from eternity and is known of them by the glorification of His grace in them; for by nature no one knows Christ. What Paul once could say of himself, becomes true in all God's children: "But it pleased God to reveal His Son in me." Then they who have received knowledge of self learn to know His voice and they follow Him. The hireling they will not follow, although he may seek to imitate the shepherd's voice. They turn away from false doctrine, but by the voice of Christ brought to their soul by His Spirit and Word, they are drawn and persuaded to follow Him and to seek their life in Him alone. They are unable and unwilling to be saved in any other way. He is therefore the Door by which the sheep enter in. "By Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." Already in the beginning of the parable He had excluded those who climb up some other way, as many do today. In Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, we are told about certain men who had not entered in at the strait gate but had climbed over the wall. In these days also there are thousands who climb up some other way. They have never learned to know their state of misery. They have no knowledge of the justice of God. Yet they imagine they are going to heaven. How disappointed they will be! But blessed are they who may experience that the Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, who know of no other way of salvation than Jesus Christ and Him crucified, who find life in Him alone, and who may experience that His flesh is meat indeed and His blood is drink indeed. Their life consists in communion with Christ by faith, and their soul learns more and more to hunger and thirst after Him. That communion which they may have with His broken body and shed blood is wrought in them by the Holy Spirit. This He promises in His Word and clearly assures them of it in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, as the Catechism teaches us in the twenty-eighth Lord's Day which we now wish to consider. Q. 75. How art thou admonished and assured in the Lord's Supper, that thou art a partaker of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross, and of all his benefits? A. Thus: That Christ has commanded me and all believers, to eat of this broken bread, and to drink of this cup, in remembrance of Him, adding these promises: first, that His body was offered and broken on the cross for me, and His blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes, the bread of the Lord broken for me, and the cup communicated to me; and further, that He feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, with His crucified body and shed blood, as assuredly as I receive from the hands of the minister, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, as certain signs of the body and blood of Christ. Q. 76. What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ? A. It is not only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin, and life eternal; but also, besides that, to become more and more united to his sacred body, by the Holy Ghost, who dwells both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in heaven and we on earth, are notwithstanding "Flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bone"; and that we live, and are governed forever by one spirit, as members of the same body are by one soul. Q. 77. Where has Christ promised that He will as certainly feed and nourish believers with His body and blood, as they eat of this broken bread, and drink of this cup? A. In the institution of the supper, which is thus expressed: "The Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said: eat, this is My body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of Me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in My blood; this do ye, as often as ye drink it in remembrance of Me. For, as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come." This promise is repeated by the holy apostle Paul, where he says: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread and one body; because we are all partakers of that one bread." We must therefor consider with one another: Communion with Christ by Faith as it is in the Lord's Supper; I. Assured; II. Explained in its great significance, and III. Confirmed by Scripture. Having considered the doctrine of holy baptism, the Catechism now turns (how could it be otherwise?) to the doctrine of the Lord's Supper. There is a close connection between the two sacraments since baptism is the sacrament of incorporation into the church of Christ, and the Lord's Supper is the sacrament of constant nourishment. In the Scriptures the Holy Spirit has chosen to call the Lord's Supper by a variety of names. For example, we read of the "breaking of bread" (Acts 2:42), "the communion of the body and blood of Christ" (1 Cor. 10:16), "the Lord's table" (1 Cor. 10:21), "the Lord's Supper" (1 Cor. 11:20), etc. These various designations indicate the holy, intimate communion that is exercised in the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is holy because He who instituted it is holy, the institution itself is holy and the partakers are holy. At the sacramental remembrance of the death of the Lord, holy reverence should fill our soul. The use of it should also be holy to us. Our souls should have such a deep impression of this holy communion that our conduct as a whole gives evidence of it. Alas, how much there is to reprove in these times of levity. In many churches where a great number of confessing members rush to the table with a manner of dress and attitude that grieves the upright bitterly, there are complaints that coldness and indifference are evident at many celebrations of the Lords Supper. It is true, the inward disposition of heart can be different from what we would judge from outward appearances; but it is also true that in the congregation, if an impression of the holiness of the Lord's supper is given, much will be shunned that now goes unreproved under circumstances, which show what the outcome will be if the blessings of God's children are made the common property of all confessing members. The Lord's Supper is for God's people, not for anyone else. The Lord Jesus has commanded them to eat of this bread and drink of this cup in remembrance of Him. It was in the same night in which He was betrayed that the Lord Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, "Take eat, this is My body which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of Me." After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, "This cup is the new testament in My blood; this do ye, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me." This command of love the Lord Jesus gave to His people when He was standing ready to offer Himself in death for His own. Let us not treat this commandment of Emmanuel lightly. Shall His word not have effect upon His little children? Ah, perhaps you have stood at the deathbed of one of your loved ones, to catch the last words from the pale lips of him who soon would be no more. Those words were engraved so to speak, upon your heart. You will never, never forget them. This being so, shall the love command of Him Who brought His people with His blood, spoken as He stood ready to humble Himself into death for them, have no effect upon their soul? Can it be that for all sorts of irrelevant reasons they will neglect the table of the Lord, stay away because of deadness, and turn away when the Master calls? Should not these doubting souls listen rather to the voice of the Lord than to all the voices within that seek to keep them away from the table of the covenant? Nevertheless, it is often true that the superficial believers approach the table while God's children stay away. This ought not to be. In Question 81 the instructor will show us who the true partakers are; but here, in connection with this Lord's Day, we must point out that it is detrimental to their own spiritual life when they who are invited always abstain, either because of high-mindedness, or slavish fear, or because they are waiting for sensible grace. "Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this bread, and drink of this cup", says the Catechism. Whoever they may be, great or small, all believers are included in this command. No, not one is too little in faith, not one is too concerned about his state, not one is standing too far off. He who knows something of true saving faith is invited to the table of the Lord; yea, more, he is constrained and commanded by the love of Christ. All such and only such may come. Others eat and drink condemnation to themselves. Perhaps Judas was also at the table in that awful, unforgettable night when the Lord's Supper was instituted, just as there will always be some who do not have true fellowship by faith with Christ. These are not among the invited guests, and they do not gain any advantage from their boldness. On the contrary, by this act their condemnation is increased (Belgic Confession, Art. 35). But the Lord's Supper is instituted for God's people and not one of them may stay away. The Lord's command should predominate and prevail over all our soul's objections, and it should constrain us to unconditional submission. For those who are called of God, let nothing whatsoever weaken the force of this command, so that they may eat of the bread and drink of the cup. Thousands of objections may oppress their souls, many attacks may cause them to fear they have no wedding garment, but if only a little of the love of Christ prevails, a living desire arises to partake of the Lord's Supper. Then all enemies must flee and all fear of man vanishes. Often, the Lord's command acquires such force in the week of preparation, that if the table were then set they would run through a troop. Moreover the Supper was instituted not only for exercised souls, but the Lord commanded "me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and to drink of this cup", and that "in remembrance of Him." Now read how beautifully the form for the Lord's Supper describes this: a remembrance of the Lord's deep humiliation from His birth to His death; a remembrance of His bearing the wrath of God (under which we should have perished everlastingly), but which He bore throughout the span of His life; a remembrance of the deepest reproach and pains of hell to which He humbled Himself with body and soul on the tree of the cross when He cried out with a loud voice, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" that we might be accepted of God, and never be forsaken of Him; a remembrance of the fact that with His death and the shedding of His blood, He confirmed the new and eternal testament, that covenant of grace and reconciliation when He said, "It is finished." No, it is not a mere contemplating these mysteries of faith that is here intended, but a commemorating in faith of the suffering and death of Christ, visibly presented to us in the Lord's Supper whereby, being filled with the eternal love of God for the salvation of His own, we may experience the power of the sacrament for the strengthening of our faith. God's people are given a spiritual insight into that deep humiliation of Christ. Since it has become such an eternal wonder to them that in Christ the way was opened to be reconciled to God and to be restored into His communion, the Lord wishes to show them more of the high price Christ paid for those who were given Him by the Father. Then it is that by faith they may follow Him in His suffering. Who will then declare the eternal love that fills their heart! What then receives the greatest emphasis? That He suffered and died as a Substitute and as a Surety. He came in the place of His own. They lay under the judgment that He bore; they had made the separation between themselves and God and should have been eternally forsaken by God. But behold, He took their place and cried out on the accursed tree, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" They were subject to death, but He went into death for them to deliver them eternally. No words can describe this precious following of Christ by faith. If eternity will not be too long to sing of it unceasingly, will not God's loved ones speak of it at times while on earth? Will they not commemorate the suffering and death of Christ, as the only ground of the forgiveness of all their sins and of all the unrighteousness that cleaves to them continually? To this end it pleased the Lord to institute the holy supper, so that His people, by the use thereof, might be stirred up to that remembrance and their faith revived. This is necessary, because at times it can be so dark in their souls that they perceive nothing of the passion and death of Christ, even to the extent that He is entirely concealed from them and that their souls do not thirst for Him. Therefore, He Himself undertakes to stir up the remembrance of His precious and all-atoning humiliation by means of the institution of the Lord's Supper, in which He displays in a lively manner that He redeemed them, not with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with His blood, as the bread is broken and the wine is poured out. In a word, He displays what He did for them as their Substitute. Therefore He said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me." Is it true that the commandment of the Lord has become too much for you? Alas, my brethren, pastors, and elders in the church of God, how can you withhold the Lord's Supper from the congregations for such a long, long time? Does the word of Him Who called you into His vineyard have no power over you? Will you be excused when He comes to inquire why you did not urge God's people to show forth the Lord's death, and did not as much as give them the opportunity to do so? Say not that there are none who have a felt need. If any remind you of your negligence, do not dismiss them rudely by saying, if there should be but one who has any exercises of soul concerning the Lord's Supper, let him come and reveal it. Do not set yourself up as a judge, but hear the Lord's command and show the Lord's death till He comes. Moreover, Christ has connected His promises to the celebration of the Lord's Supper; first, that His body was offered and broken on the cross for me and His blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup communicated to me; and further that He feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, with His crucified body and shed blood, as assuredly as I receive from the hands of the minister, and taste with my mouth, the bread and cup of the Lord, as certain signs of the body and blood of Christ. That is to say, His body was crucified and His blood was shed, also for me! The great wonder will be that it was for me! What could I know of salvation or how could I give God the glory if all the world were saved and not I? How great will be the wonder that I shall be there as one who by grace has learned to know himself as the greatest of sinners; that I partake of the sacrifice of Christ; that His body was broken and His blood shed, also for me! Lo, that is what the Lord Jesus wishes to disclose and apply to His people. What a blessed joy of faith is at the Lord's Supper! "He brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was love." Indeed, Christ is the constant food of the soul. He lives at the right hand of the Father to be Prophet, Priest, and King for His people, and to feed their hungry souls with the hidden manna. Everything, including the whole world, leaves us empty. Even our conversion and our former experiences cannot satisfy our soul's hunger. But the suffering and death of the glorified Emmanuel is food with which He feeds His own from heaven unto eternal life. "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that has no money, come ye, buy and eat, ... and let your soul delight itself in fatness." But do not think that while you neglect the means ordained by God, this shall be given to you. He gave certain signs to signify the body and blood of Christ and by the use of these signs He will strengthen and revive faith. By causing them to eat of the bread and drink of the cup of the Lord, which they receive from the minister's hand and enjoy with their mouths, He feeds and continually nourishes His church which He purchased to Himself at great cost. Thus communion times become feasting times for God's children when His rod and staff comfort them. Therefore, the main purpose in the Lord's Supper is to have communion with Christ. It is intended that His people shall be partakers of Him by faith, and that they shall eat of His crucified body and drink of His shed blood. Let us observe in the second place how communion with Christ by faith in the Lord's Supper is explained as to its great significance. II The instructor explains that significance in the answer to question 76. "It is not only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin and life eternal; but also, to become more and more united to His sacred body." That is eating and drinking Christ as He Himself taught in John 6: 53-57: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, 'Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed'." By the crucified body and shed blood of Christ the demand of God's justice is satisfied for all God's elect; the debt is paid, and God's wrath is pacified. These are the only foundation, of our salvation. They cannot be replaced by anything else. The suffering and death of Christ are the salvation of the soul. Without them there is neither rest nor peace for us who were made utterly wretched by sin. He who can live without Christ shall hunger eternally. Therefore the righteousness merited by Christ must become ours. This is done when God imputes it to the sinner and when the sinner appropriates it by faith. This imputation and appropriation work together, but they are distinct from each other. In imputation there is no defect, but appropriation by faith is sometimes so weak that unbelief prevails. However, when God imputes righteousness, the sinner's embracing it by faith must follow. The Lord's Supper is concerned with the latter. To eat Christ's crucified body and to drink His shed blood is primarily "to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ." Let it be well understood that this embracing faith by its very nature is altogether different from a rational understanding of the truth. In these days of superficiality it is necessary to emphasize this point. It is of daily occurrence that one goes to Jesus and confesses his sin, believes in Jesus and accepts Him because He came for sinners. He extols Jesus, holding fast to Him, never to let go of Him. The children are taught this theory already at school. In the boys and young mens' societies they continue to build upon this theme and the trusting congregation expects to be saved. "It will be so wonderful some day to be with Jesus", they say. But not a word is ever heard about being a poor sinner. They know nothing of the burden of sin. They have no ear for the living complaints of God's poor people. Away with sighs and groans. "We", say they, "highly enlightened and healthy Reformed, have escaped such a sickly state of mind; we believe and glory in Jesus." No, I do not defend those who seek their salvation in their misery, and do not seek the foundation that lies outside of the creature only in Christ Jesus. However, let me caution you in uprightness against the empty phrases of thousands who press Jesus upon you so that you will accept Him and become like Him. In us there is no room for Him. We lack all ability to come to Jesus and to accept Him, even if we confess Him according to Scripture. Embracing all the sufferings and death of Christ is supernatural and incomprehensible to our understanding, and it takes place when natural faith fails. Others may ridicule God's poor people, but we consider them highly blessed by God. There was a time when they felt themselves unhappy, forever unhappy. Laden with guilt, they surrendered themselves to God. Now they bear the burden of their sin. Day and night the law pursues them; they fear that they shall die and bear the judgment they deserve. All the judgments are for them. When they hear life and death proclaimed, all the blessings are for God's people among whom they dare not count themselves, although there is One Who knows that they cannot live with the world. Sometimes they are encouraged by the revelations of grace which flow from Christ, sometimes they eat out of Joseph's granaries, but the Mediator remains concealed for them and the justice of God threatens them with the sentence of eternal death. How shall such burdened souls come to Jesus? How shall they accept Him? They can sooner pluck the stars from the firmament of heaven. It must be given to them of the Father to come to Christ. "No man can come to Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw him." Nevertheless, in the exercises of soul of such a poor sinner, there is a blessedness unknown to anyone who vainly boasts in Jesus, a life of love compared to which a full world sinks away into nothingness, and there is a realization by the sinner that salvation becomes more and more impossible. He is lost on every side. He can find no relief in his prayers, in his sighing, in his groaning, nor in the hot tears shed before God, nor with God's people and servants, however beloved and respected they may be. The sinner is brought to stand all alone before God, in debt to all the commandments and entirely corrupt, sunken lower than the beasts of the field that praise the glory of their Creator, and a subject for hell. Then indeed, in that awful distress, when all ground of hope is lost, the Lord Jesus manifests Himself to the elect, totally miserable sinner. Oh, beloved, what a joy, what a blessed comfort, what a sweet communion results from this manifestation which the world knows nothing of. What a change it brings about in the soul. Alas, before this the distressed soul sought water in all the broken cisterns. However rich the preaching of Christ may have been in the past, the soul could not lay hold upon that Word which has now become spiritual food. How the soul longs for communion with Him, yea sometimes it catches hold of the horns of the altar. Nevertheless this embracing of Christ is so great; the accusations of sin are so strong; the promise which sustained the weak faith is so much robbed of its power; the listlessness of the heart is so overwhelming and the lovelessness is so deadening, that fear soon vexes the heart whether the soul has ever truly partaken of Christ. Here also the embracing follows upon divine imputation, upon light from above and upon the application. So many of God's children wander between Bethel and Peniel. The Lord has appeared to them; they are no strangers to God's promises and care, but the old debt remains unforgiven and threatens repeatedly. It shall be removed only when the sinner loses all rights, when he is stripped of all power and when his hip is disjointed. They who embrace Jesus will halt as they leave the place where it occurred; but they leap for joy and happiness in their Emmanuel, since He has become their all in all. But their halting causes them to live in real dependence on Him. Their life is in Him, and not in themselves. They must be fed out of Him, as the branch is fed out of the vine. If the supply of sap from the vine ceases to flow, the branches wither. Now God's people cannot wither away entirely, but they can be as when they have gathered the summer fruits. Oh, the deadness of heart and the workings of sin when Christ withholds His grace; the assaults of Satan and often the oppression of the world which they must endure. How shall they overcome all those troubles? By becoming more and more united to His sacred body, by the Holy Ghost, Who dwells both in Christ and in us - more and more, not only as to their state, but also as to their condition - so that by the exercise of faith they may need Christ more and more, become one body with Him, and live and be ruled by one Spirit. How the Lord's Supper, then, preaches the complete dependency of God's people. "Without Me", said Christ, "ye can do nothing." God's people become poorer, always poorer in themselves, unable to utter even one sigh. The way by which God leads His people is a way of uncovering, of mortification. Without Him they become nothing. The Holy Spirit alone works in them the true communion with Christ. He causes them by faith to find all in Him alone. "Thou art poor, but rich", said Christ to one of His churches in Asia Minor. Yea, poor in themselves, but rich in Him, who was dead and is alive for evermore. In Him are all the treasures of salvation for His people, all their comforts and joy. They would forfeit and abuse every blessing if left to themselves, but all benefits lie eternally secure in their blessed Mediator and Savior. How rich they are in Him! How firm in Him is the faith of those who have been implanted in Him! They are governed by His Spirit so as not to wander from the way of life, however dark their soul's condition may become. In the Lord's Supper the Lord wishes to manifest Himself to His people so richly in the signs of bread and wine that the sorrowing are comforted, the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed. At the Lord's table He wishes them to eat of His body, so that the weak believer shall believe that he is one of those for whom Christ once shed His blood, and that he who hopes upon God's promises may embrace the Lord. He will perform His work until the day of Jesus Christ. Here the soul may rest who is weary because of the deep way he went through as he wandered sometimes far from God, chastened by oppression, but now kissing the rod and being refreshed in the wounds of Him Who was tempted in all things, yet without sin. The bond which unites them to Christ becomes stronger. They are most intimately one with Him Who is the Head of the church. Although He is in heaven and they on earth, they are flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone. Therefore, living by Him they are governed forever by one Spirit as members of the same body are governed by one soul. The life of God's people is a life of communion with Christ. This is assured in the Lord's Supper, and as we shall see in the third place, it is confirmed by Scripture. III It is very important that whatever is taught and experienced, be in agreement with Scripture; for that which does not agree with it will never be genuine. Oh, that we might live more according to the Scriptures. This would save us from many errors and from an emotionalism which will carry us farther and farther from God's Word, and therefore from Christ. Accordingly the Catechism asserts again and again that what it teaches in this regard and in regard to the sacraments is based upon God's testimony. Read question 77: "Where has Christ promised that He will as certainly feed and nourish believers with His body and blood, as they eat of this broken bread, and drink of this cup? Do you not see that the instructor insists upon the use of the sacrament? The believers shall eat of the broken bread, and drink of the cup. They shall not despise the institution of the Lord, because it is the ordinance of the Lord and the pledge given by Him that He will feed and nourish them. That is written in God's Word, namely, in the institution of the Lord's Supper in 1 Cor. 11:23-26 and 1 Cor. 10:16, 17, to which places the answer to question 77 refers. There is therefore no room for doubt. God's Word is clear. Christ Himself spoke those words. His command of love comes to all God's children: "Take eat: this is My body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me." After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, "This cup is the new testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come." Oh, who would still dare to deny that the Lord's Supper must be administered even in days of the saddest decline of the church? The Lord Himself gave this institution to administer it "till He come", that is, to the end of time. For Christ shall come only once more upon the clouds, and until then the Lord's Supper must be administered. We have not followed cunningly devised fables. This command is found in God's Word and that Word is eternally firm. It is a living Word and it abides forever. This Word secures not only the administration of the Supper, to the condemnation of all those who neglect it, but also the true communion of God's people with Christ. They have communion with Him and with one another, because they are all partakers of that one bread. If only in the Lord's way they may look upon Him, they will experience that God's Word does not deceive them. No, beloved, the Lord's Supper does not leave God's children destitute. It causes them by faith to find in the Lord all they need for their salvation. He becomes precious to them above all else, as we now sing from Psalter No. 203 st. 3, 4: Whom have I, Lord, in heaven but Thee, To Whom my thoughts aspire? And having Thee, on earth is naught That I can yet desire. Though flesh and heart should faint and fail, The Lord will ever be The strength and portion of my heart, My God eternally. Since it is most important for the salvation of our souls that we are made partakers of that one sacrifice of Christ and of all His benefits, let each one of us, whether young or old, examine himself by asking whether union and communion with Christ was ever wrought in him by the Holy Spirit. The Lord's Supper admonishes us to do so. Oh, my dear hearer, let it not be done lightly; for some day it shall be manifest that all who have not become partakers of Christ in this life shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. By nature we are partakers of Adam and of the evil which was poured out upon him and all his posterity, by his wilful breaking of the Covenant of Works. By nature we all lie under the curse and wrath of God, and are heirs of eternal perdition. The access to the tree of life is barred, forever barred. Our good works can not deliver us from the state of our misery. Moreover, we are blind concerning our wretched state. I pray you, young and old, hold fast the doctrine which is based upon God's Word. Do not lose sight of what Paul testifies, namely, that we are dead in trespasses and sins and enemies of being saved in Christ. Our salvation lies only in Him. If it is to be well with us we must obtain communion with Him, eat and drink Him, that is to say, appropriate Him by faith. No one can do with less on his journey to eternity. The Lord shows us this at the communion table. Must you then not agree, that if we ever come to Christ our awful state of misery must be revealed to us? Well then, lay open your souls to Him Who knows the hearts and tries the reins. Sometimes God's people are glad that nothing is hidden from the Lord and that He can look into the secrets of their hearts. But if we live as we were born, we lack the true knowledge of our misery. How shall we then appropriate Christ by faith? We then sleep peacefully on in our state of death, and we comfort ourselves with an accepted Jesus, with Whom we have never had true communion. My dear hearer, go with this message into your inner chamber and consider seriously what is awaiting you erelong. Oh, that thou hadst known at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace. The Lord sanctify the word to your heart, that you may bow as a lost sinner before God, and may learn to know Christ by a true faith. I pray you do not trust in the stirrings of your emotions which can soon be quieted; but seek to have Christ for your portion, before your day of grace shall have passed. Our times are characterized by superficiality. On the one hand, people are urged merely to accept Jesus and His benefits, without any knowledge of self as worthy of condemnation before God. On the other hand, there is a resting in experiences that keep us away from Christ instead of leading us to Him. Now consider the Lord's Supper, which represents communion with the sacrifice of Christ and all His benefits. No man can appear before God with less. May the Lord take away all ground from under our feet, so that we may settle on that firm foundation that shall never be moved. With Christ no one was ever deceived, but without Him everything we presume to have will be found wanting. The Lord's Supper admonishes and assures God's people of their communion with Christ. When the Lord called them from death to life, He cut them off from Adam, ingrafted them into Christ and applied to them all the benefits of Christ. But now the Lord wants them to know by faith what He has given them. Therefore the instructor says, that the Lord's Supper admonishes and assures God's people that they are partakers of Christ and all His benefits. He says this because it is just this point that can be so very dark for them! Let those of you who were privileged to surrender yourselves to the Lord as transgressors of all His commandments, who had to forsake the world as well as your own self righteousness and who have learned to cry to the Lord out of all your souls' anguish, give testimony now before Him Who knows all things and searches your heart, whether it has not become your greatest concern to know that you are a partaker of Christ. Oh yes, He did show Himself through the lattice of His Word; He gained your consent by His love; but, as in the first days, when you were building upon pleasant frames, you often feared that the work wrought in you lacked the seal of the Holy Spirit and that all was a delusion. Tell us, is it not your main concern to know whether, after all you have seen in Him you are truly a partaker of Him and His benefits? That is the only thing that counts. Without Him all will be lost forever. When the day of death approaches, your experiences will be of no avail. What will be your seasonings then? No ingrafting in Him? No partaking of Him? Does not the fear of death fall upon your soul with the thought to have been near, sometimes very near, but still to be outside of that only Savior? Such persons understand what the instructor says of the Lord's Supper, that it admonishes and assures us that we are partakers of Christ and of all His benefits, namely, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. For that reason their soul has such a longing for the Lord's Supper, not as though the sacrament can give them anything, but through the signs they see Christ's sacrifice itself and the treasures that are in Him for a people that lie in the midst of death. Oh, His embraces are their food and drink. May the Lord confirm His work in you. May he assure you of your communion with Him and grant your soul no rest until you have found Him whom your soul loveth. Then with a believing heart you may embrace all the sufferings and death of Christ, and thereby obtain the pardon of sins and life eternal. Oh, how blessed are they to whom this blessing is vouchsafed. People of God, strive to obtain that blessing, and run the race to attain that prize. Do not rest in carnal security upon the assurance of the Holy Spirit. That is the sad error of those who rest upon the forgiveness of their sins rather than to live out of Christ. How precious is the instruction that the Catechism gives also in this matter, when it says that to eat the crucified body and drink the shed blood of Christ, is not only to embrace with a reliving heart all the sufferings and death of Christ for the remission of sins, but also to become more and more united to His sacred body by the Holy Ghost. May the exercises of faith not be withheld from us, people of God; those exercises that cause us to die to self and to live in Christ; that cause our conversation to be heaven, seeking the things that are above. God's way goes through the depths, but can it be otherwise? Must not our soul be weaned of all that is outside of God and Christ in order that we may be more and more united to Him, with Whom we have become one body; so that we are flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone? That is true communion, the spiritual practice of faith. The Lord grant us more and more the exercises of faith and the life of faith, so that the adversities in the world do not grieve us too much and prosperity does not draw us away from the Lord. May it always be good for us to draw near to God. Amen. Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons, Vol.2 (continued in part 3...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: krhc2-02.txt .