The Reformed tradition commonly describes this meal as being a “means of grace.” This is a wonderful truth if understood correctly. However, if taken wrongly, it can also produce a warped understanding. This bread and wine has no zappy spiritual electricity in it. The means of grace isn’t that in these elements is an exceptional source of grace.
Rather, here is the sign that Christ is present with His people. This meal really does impart grace to us, but it does this by the presence of the Spirit of Christ, not by anything supernatural in this bread and wine. This is, in one way, just bread and just wine. But this isn’t to downplay the glory here, any more than a precious wedding ring downplays the glory of the marriage. The ring isn’t the marriage, it isn’t the consummation, it isn’t the vows. The ring indicates the presence of a covenant that binds two people together.
In a similar manner, these sacramental signs indicate that Christ has bound Himself to us and us to Him. We’ve entered into Him by baptism, and He has sent His Spirit to dwell in us. This sign before us tells us that. And because this is a sign spoken by the Eternal Word, it’s a sign that actually brings about what is signified.
Referring to this meal as a means of grace shouldn’t cause our imagination to run wild with superstitious reverence, as if in the elements themselves is some secret sauce. What it should do is make us think of the potency of the Word. The Word said, “let there be light,” and there was light. The Word now says, “do this in memorial of me” and so Christ renews His vows to us here by this visible word. It’s only by the covenant of grace that these elements are a means of grace.
So come in faith and welcome to Jesus Christ…