Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:53-54)
In the past several articles I’ve been writing about the “means of grace” by which God communicates His promise of salvation to us in Christ Jesus. So far we’ve focused on perhaps the easiest of the means of grace - the Word of God. But how are the sacraments God’s way of communicating to us his grace? I noted in the last article that baptism is, in the words of Michael Horton, a “Beginning Grace” whereby we are initiated into the covenant of grace. Baptism does not confer grace; rather, it communicates grace. Baptism does not convert sinners but confirms the grace of God. The focus in Baptism is not on our choosing God but His choosing us. To shift the focus on our profession of faith is to make the sacrament man-centered instead of God-centered. Baptism is about God’s promise of salvation to those that believe, and thus it is a means of communicating God’s grace to His covenant people, of which children have always belonged. But what about the Lord’s Supper? How is it a means of God’s grace to us? To explain this, I want to quote Michael Horton in his book “Putting Amazing Back into Grace:”
“’Grace for the journey’ is one way of thinking about this second sacrament... Justifying grace comes all at once, when God declares us righteous while we are still sinners. Our sins are paid in full, and complete and total salvation is already ours for good. Yet, God wants to keep us constantly ‘fueled’ in our faith, too... The impartation of grace we find in Holy Communion is not a grace that saves but a grace that restores the believer’s confidence in the Word’s pronouncement, ‘Not guilty.’ Communion is a refueling station not because we need to recover lost merits, but because we need to recover lost steam. We are weak; our hearts are easily cooled, and our souls need to feed on Christ just as truly as our bodies need to feed on bread. Holy Communion strengthens us not only because it symbolizes or represents something great, but because it is something great... To those wearied by a tough week at the home or office or to those whose consciences never let them forget a sin they commit during the week, the sacrament of Holy Communion is there to communicate Christ and his forgiveness. There is no conscience that cannot be instructed and overcome by this powerful sacrament... [W]e must view it as God’s chosen reminder that we are always and everywhere forgiven people... Just as surely as we cannot sustain our bodies without food and drink, so we cannot hope to flourish in the Christian life without this heavenly meal.”
We who trust in Christ are weary pilgrims who need our faith strengthened often. God’s Word and sacraments are His gifts to us for our time in the wilderness to nourish us along the way to our eternal home. Let us not neglect that which God has promised to bless.
Soli Deo Gloria!