Here’s a question I’ve never heard anybody else ask, but it seems to me like everybody should be asking it, and there should be common answers out there. So it’s the Lord’s Supper, and while the bread is being passed, you meditate on your sinfulness, repent, pray for forgiveness. Eventually, the minister proclaims “This is the Lord’s body, broken for you; take and eat.” So the body of Christ all together participates in Christ’s body. Hallelujah! Christ’s sacrifice paid for our sins!

And then they start passing the cup…

At this point, what am I supposed to meditate on? To once again embark upon repentance seems to negate the efficacy of Christ’s body broken for us. I guess my question comes down to, what’s the difference between the bread and the wine? Why was this sacrament appointed with two elements? In the Children’s Catechism (Q134,135), we learn that the bread represents Christ’s body broken for our sins, while the wine represents Christ’s blood, shed for our salvation — but aren’t those really the same?

The closest I’ve come to an answer to this dilemma is to think of the bread’s role in the Supper as more about participation in Christ’s visible body (horizontal, ecclesiological), whereas the wine primarily signifies atonement by Christ’s blood (vertical, soteriological). If this is valid, however, it would make more sense to me to have the wine first (Christ washed us with his blood) and then the bread (thereby making the Church Universal into one people). Or maybe that’s too individualistic? After all, I am a paedobaptist, so perhaps the message of bread followed by wine is that the way it ordinarily works in time is that God first calls out a visible People, and in His appointed time the Holy Spirit effectually calls the invisible church, working in them regeneration, faith, repentance, justification, and all the rest.

Of course there is no such dilemma for churches which administer the Lord’s Supper by having people come forward and partake of both elements pretty much at once. Maybe my question boils down to an argument for this (more historical/traditional?) system.

Any other bright ideas?

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13 Responses to 1+1=1?

  1. ed says:

    This is how I have come to think of it:

    The bread represents Christ’s physical body in which he was actively obedient, walking among us, enduring our temptations, yet without sin; and we meditate on the love that necessitated that incarnation.

    The wine represents Christ’s blood (read: life) poured out for us in passive obedience, suffering on our behalf for our sins; and we meditate on the horror of the sins that necessitated that death.

    Thus, through the two elements, we partake of both his active and passive obedience, and we meditate on the glory of God in double imputation.

  2. RubeRad says:

    I do like that distinction, but again, it seems to me if that’s the “right” way to look at it (and I’m not saying there has to be “a right way”) it would make more sense to have wine before bread.

  3. GAS says:

    New Life!

    opps. wrong blog.

  4. ed says:

    Yet the active obedience, effected in the flesh (bread), historically preceded the passive shedding of the blood (wine), and, in the Biblical record of the institution of the Supper, Christ served the bread before the wine.

  5. RubeRad says:

    I know the institution has bread before wine (although in Luke he serves the wine first, and they drink it last). Active obedience historically before passive obedience is interesting, that sounds pretty good.

  6. ed says:

    Please forgive my boldness, I mean no disrespect, but I believe, if you research, you will discover that the cup spoken of in Luke 22:17 is one of the prior Paschal cups, not the eucharistic cup of v.20. Therefore, vv.19-20 comprise the institution, and the Lucan account is in agreement with the other accounts.

    Christ’s active obedience in history began at the incarnation (of course, His abstract obedience began in eternity), and surely precedes His passive obedience in not summoning the twelve legions of angels to deliver Him from Calvary.

  7. RubeRad says:

    “Paschal cup” — what does that mean? Is that a Mosaic thing? Or a Catholic thing? I’m not sure what research would lead to your conclusion, but the verse beginnings of v17: “And he took a cup”, v19: “And he took bread” v20: “And likewise the cup” Seems all pretty continuous to me. May be like even an indication that bread and wine are mean to be pretty much simultaneous.

    Anyways, active obedience historically preceding passive obedience, still a good point.

  8. dgh says:

    Think about half of your sins during the passing of the bread, the other half during the wine.

    Or stop overthinking. (You’re sounding neo-Calvinist.)

  9. ed says:

    “Paschal cup” means one of the cups of wine served during the Passover Seder (meal). Many commentators hold that the two cups of verses 17 and 20 are not the same. Anyway, I’ve said enough. I did not come to debate, but in an attempt to be helpful.

    Keep up the good work. I’m a big fan, and have directed others to your work here in the Outhouse as well as at Hoagies & Stogies.

    Happy New Year to you and to yours.

  10. Zrim says:

    I’d have to agree with Dick “the Darryl” Allen, Rube. This question reminds me of those that would rather discuss the content of the cup and plate before their frequency.

    Besides, Jesus broke the bread first and poured the cup second; and natural light tells us that in the course of being nourished we need something to wash food down.

  11. ed says:

    Oops! An oversight on my part. I must also commend you for what you are doing at the Daily Westminster and Daily Confession, as well.

  12. RubeRad says:

    Thanks ed, glad to serve! And I didn’t mean to sound belligerent; it looks like Calvin is on your side…

    dgh and zrim, thanks for nuttin

  13. Brian says:

    Interesting question, but I must agree with D.G. Hart that it does seem to be overthinking the Lord’s Supper.

    On a side note, Christ’s active and passive obedience are distinct in one sense, yet cannot be totally separated either. They are like two sides of a coin, the coin being his whole life of obedience. His passive obedience is his suffering obedience which began at his birth and culminated on the cross (H.C. 37). Furthermore, the cross is part of his active obedience as well since he was submitting himself to the father’s will on the cross. His whole life is passive and active obedience (cf. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 379ff).

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