How the Father Feeds His Children: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 28


  1. How is it signified and sealed to you in the Holy Supper that you partake of the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross and all His benefits?

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, and has joined therewith these promises:1 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 with His crucified body and shed blood He Himself feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, as certainly as I receive from the hand of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, which are given me as certain tokens of the body and blood of Christ.

[1] Matt. 26:26–28; Mk. 14:22–24; Lk. 22:19–20; 1 Cor. 10:16–17; 11:23–25; 12:13.

  1. What does it mean to eat the crucified body and drink the shed blood of Christ?

It means not only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain the forgiveness of sins and life eternal;1 but moreover, also, to be so united more and more to His sacred body by the Holy Spirit,2 who dwells both in Christ and in us, that, although He is in heaven3            and we on earth, we are nevertheless flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone,4 and live and are governed forever by one Spirit, as members of the same body are governed by one soul.5

[1] Jn. 6:35, 40, 47–48, 50–54. [2] Jn. 6:55–56. [3] Acts 3:21; 1 Cor. 11:26. [4] Eph. 3:16–19; 5:29–30, 32; 1 Cor. 6:15, 17, 19; 1 Jn. 4:13. [5] Jn.14:23; Jn. 6:56–58; Jn. 15:1–6; Eph. 4:15–16; Jn. 6:63.

  1. Where has Christ promised that He will thus feed and nourish believers with His body and blood as certainly as they eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup?

In the institution of the Supper, which says: “The Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”1And this promise is also repeated by the 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? Because there is one bread, so we being many are one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.”2

[1] 1 Cor. 11:23-26. [2]1 Cor. 10:16–17.

Lord’s Day 28

How the Father Feeds His Children

The Catechism’s approach to the Lord’s Supper is similar in structure to its approach to baptism.  It emphasizes the spiritual promises that lie behind the physical form of the Supper, and teaches us that the Supper exhibits or presents those promises to us when we partake.  What are those benefits?  The Supper is just what it is called, a supper.  It is a symbolic meal.  We eat in order to have life, nourishment and refreshment, and God has not only provided for our physical life (with food and drink) but also for our spiritual life, and that life is nourished by the life of Christ, by the vital force of His resurrected and glorified humanity, communicated to me by the Holy Spirit and received by faith.  Eating the bread itself is not the way this life is communicated to me, but it is the sign God has given us of that feeding.

Question 76 of the Catechism uses a similar pattern as in question 70, which asks about the meaning of the symbol.  There, first the role of Jesus’ death is emphasized, the forgiveness of sins in His blood which is held out to us in baptism.  But also, the work of the Spirit is added in.  Baptism also holds out to me the renewal and consecration by the Spirit which is exhibited in baptism.  Likewise, question 76 first relates the benefits I receive from Christ’s death and resurrection as they are pictured to me in the bread and wine.  I eat the body and drink the blood of Christ by embracing, by faith, the death of the Lord on my behalf, to the forgiveness of my sins.  In addition to this forgiveness, the sacrament points me to the ongoing work of the Spirit in my life, who strengthens and enlivens my spirit with the power of the risen Lord, uniting me to His body, working His life in mine, so that I become more and more like Him.
The Lord’s Supper, like Baptism, teaches me these promises, but also seals them to me.  That means that I am being given a confirmation that if I truly believe the promise, then I can be confident that its benefits are mine.  It’s like a stamp of approval.  The Lord Himself commanded us to remember this ceremony, as the Catechism reminds us in question 77, and we can thus have a reminder and a confirmation that the promise of the gospel comes from the Lord.  Jesus did not give us these two sacraments in vain.  They will achieve what He seeks to accomplish through them. The Supper promises us that the Lord will sustain and nourish us throughout our wilderness journey, and make us always more like Himself, and whenever we partake of the supper, see it observed or contemplate it throughout our lives, we can have confidence that the Lord will keep His promise.

The Lord’s Supper is a great demonstration of what the psalmist says in Psalm 103, that He is merciful to us, and pities us like a father pities His children.  I know that if I were to tell my children on Thursday night that they need to remember Sunday morning not to run out of the church service when it’s over, that there’s no way they’re going to remember it come Sunday morning.  I need to tell them right at the time, and if I want them to remember it, I need to repeat it a lot.  Likewise, the Lord knows our weakness, and He mercifully reminds us over and over, and in different ways, of the content of the gospel and the confidence we can have in that promise.

God gave us two sacraments for a reason.  They emphasize different things.  Baptism occurs once only at the beginning of our lives as Christians, and the recipient is entirely passive, while the Supper is observed continuously in the Christian life and is something the participant actively cooperates in, taking the bread and cup from the hand of the minister and eating.  This points us also to a difference in the standards for admitting one to the two different sacraments, and begins to help us understand why the historic doctrine of the church has been to baptize infants but not to admit them to the Table of the Lord until a time of instruction is completed.  We will talk more about who is to be admitted to the Table in two weeks.

We ought not set aside or disregard what the Lord has instituted.  The Lord’s Supper is a wonderful tool to confirm and strengthen our faith, and God’s people should diligently and gratefully make use of it.  If the Lord thought we needed it, we should not second-guess His provision for us.  He knows we are weak and inconstant; by ourselves we would not last a day in the faith, just as we would not expect our children to be able to feed and care for themselves.  So God’s people must not despise the means He has given us to keep us secure in the faith.