For the most part, a very useful book. Mathison has done a lot of spade work to produce a faithful presentation of Calvin’s view of the Lord’s Supper. The first half is dedicated to how the ebb and flow of Protestants’ view of the Lord’s Supper for the last 500 years. The second half looks at the Biblical foundations for Calvin’s view in the Old and New Testaments, followed by critiques of Roman Catholic and Lutheran views. He ends by surveying some of the “sticky issues” associated (i.e. grape juice vs. wine, paedo-communion, and frequency). Helpful as a historical overview of the associated debates and views, and very useful in tackling how to properly frame and understand the sacrament.
And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee. Judges 16:6
The forwardness of Delilah’s question is striking. She asks a straightforward question, plain with what the intention is, and Samson dances around the truth, failing to give a straightforward answer. Samson was a man in covenant, a Nazarite vow bound him to certain covenant duties, and the sign of his covenant was his famous locks of hair. Now, though a might man who boasted great feats of strength, it should be remarked that at this point in his story he is allured by the charms of Delilah and the temporal delights she may offer.
He is tantalized by sin, and as a result he does not answer this straightforward temptation with a straightforward answer. Rather, he tries to evade temptation without meeting it head on, and even when he admits the source of his strength (Jdg. 16:17) he points at the sign of his covenant, and not the LORD whom he is covenanted with!
When Delilah asked wherein was his great strength, his answer ought to have been the same as the Psalmist: “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him (Psa 28:7).” Now, we must be careful to not simply toss aside the sign of the covenant as irrelevant here; Samson’s hair was a sacramental sign of sorts, and as such there was a real (or true) correlation between his unshaven head and the strength which God imparted to him because of that Nazarite covenant.
Our baptism and our taking of the Lord’s supper are signs of our covenant with God, wherein He is truly presented to and present with us. Our strength does not lie in the signs themselves, but in our Christ who is mystically present in them.Our strength does not lie in the signs themselves, but in our Christ who is mystically present in them. We ought not to toss aside our covenant signs as irrelevant, nor should we look to them as more important than that which they signify. Samson resisted temptation feebly, by failing to distinguish the signs of his Nazarite vow from the God with whom he was avowed! We must not make the same mistake.
We are taught in various passages that we are to “lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12 & 19) and “lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:18). Grasping eternality with our human hands may seem like a strange imperative for Scripture to place upon us mere mortals. It is like asking us to make circles square, or water that parches rather than slakes thirst, or count to infinity three times.
But by faith we do in fact “lay hold” of that which is infinite, bottomless, shoreless, and measureless. As Hudson Taylor once well remarked: “[Faith] is not less than sight but MORE.”1http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/hudsontaylor/hudsontaylorv2/hudsontaylorv212.htm Insofar as we still think of faith as less sturdy than the reason which our five senses inform, we display how deceived we are by our materialistic age.
Insofar as we still think of faith as less sturdy than the reason which our five senses inform, we display how deceived we are by our materialistic age.Think upon the bread & wine of the Lord’s Supper, for there our hands are full of Christ, and by faith we acknowledge that beneath the elements, Christ is really present with us, though He be seated a the Father’s right hand. As we pass the bread, and hold it in our hands, if we have faith in the Christ which these elements signify, we indeed hold Him. The Belgic Confession (article 35)2https://www.christkirk.com/our-church/book-of-worship-faith-practice/ puts it this way:
He did this to testify to us that just as truly as we take and hold the sacraments in our hands and eat and drink it in our mouths, by which our life is then sustained, so truly we receive into our souls, for our spiritual life, the true body and true blood of Christ, our only Savior. We receive these by faith, which is the hand and mouth of our souls.
So, do not simply hold bread in your hands with Christ absent from your hand of faith. He is presented to you here in these signs, that by them your faith may be nourished, built up, and sustained.