The Lord's Supper

There is enough variance concerning views on the Lord’s Supper that it is important to give some clarification as to what we believe. Most of the confusion surrounds two issues: whether or not communion is a sacrament or an ordinance, and to what degree the Lord Jesus is present in the Supper. At Grace Covenant we believe Communion is one of the two sacraments of the church and that there is a true spiritual presence of Christ in the Supper.

Along with water baptism, the Lord’s Supper is what we call a sacrament. Sacraments include five essential components:

  • It is a rite that was instituted by Jesus Christ personally during his life on earth.
  • It is a practice that Jesus commanded to be observed perpetually in his church until his return.
  • Material elements are employed which are signs of spiritual blessing. In other words, they are visible signs of an invisible grace.
  • The material elements used are seals and pledges of the grace they signify.
  • The sacraments show forth the central truths of the gospel and the benefits of the new covenant.

Only water baptism and Holy Communion meet the given historic-reformed definition. Some argue valiantly that foot-washing ought to be included, but we can find no biblical evidence that this was regularly practiced by Christians in the early church.

Points three and four above are the most controversial in the definition because these elevate baptism and the Lord’s Supper from mere symbolic ordinances to sacraments which are spiritual and taken as a “means of grace.” There is a real spiritual impact upon the Christian who faithfully participates in the sacrament that is a little mysterious but always applied by the Holy Spirit in accordance with the gospel of Jesus. The language borrowed in the definition “sign and seal” is found in Romans 4:11 as Paul describes the essence of a sacrament, “He (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith …”

We also believe there is a real spiritual presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. Since Jesus’ body is locally present at the right hand of his Father but his Spirit – the Holy Spirit – has been sent to us here on earth, there can only be a true spiritual presence of Jesus in the meal. These together with Jesus’ emphasis in John 6 on his union with believers and from passages like 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 pressing the gravity of the meal, show us that the Supper is anything but a symbol of remembrance. This is in distinction from some who believe there is a real spiritual and bodily presence, and from others who say there is no presence at all. Though we cannot quantify the Lord’s real presence with the meal, we can say it carries the same mystery as our progress in sanctification. It is beyond understanding but always in accordance with the promises of God.

Since the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament and a means of grace, Christians ought not to disregard it but participate willingly and faithfully as often as it is served by the church. Our custom is to observe the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.

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