(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

    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.
    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.
    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.

Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons, Vol.2
(continued in part 3...)

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