July 16 – LD 29, Day 1: Truth Versus Error in Understanding the Meaning of the Lord’s Supper
Monday the 16th of July
in Heidelberg Catechism Meditations
Read: Galatians 1:1ff.
It is tragic that false teaching soon appeared in the church regarding the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. This false teaching soon corrupted the observance of the Lord’s Supper. One of the reasons why the church had to be ‘reformed’, ‘formed anew’, or ‘formed again’, was because the Roman Catholic Church had corrupted the Lord’s Supper. This corruption was so serious because it led to all sorts of superstition and even idolatrous ideas of the sacred ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.
It is never a pleasant thing in itself to have to condemn error. However when the great truths of God are involved and the glory of the name of Jesus Christ is involved, the church must be faithful to condemn errors, and if necessary, even separate herself from them. The prophets of the Old Testament had to condemn error and they did this courageously. Our Lord Jesus condemned the false teachings of the Scribes and Pharisees of His time. He even pronounced woes on these false teachers for their hypocrisies and their self-righteous attitude. The apostle Paul, the apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ, felt compelled to condemn errors. In the book of Galatians, for example, he condemned the teachers of salvation through the works of the law who insisted on the necessity of circumcision for salvation. So serious did the inspired apostle consider the errors of these false teachers, that he called them another gospel, which is no gospel. He went so far as to pronounce the curse of God on the teachers of this false doctrine in the church of Galatia.
So, believing the truth of the Lord’s Supper as being of greatest importance for the proper worship of the church, the leaders of the Reformation condemned the false teaching of the church of Rome. The name that is given to the corrupted celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the church of Rome is the name ‘the mass.’ Over time, the observance of the mass became central to the worship service. The celebration of the mass was exalted wrongly above the preaching of the Word. In many churches of Rome, there is hardly any preaching at all. The members of this church are admonished to attend the mass regularly. Simply by the superstitious partaking of the mass, the members of the church of Rome are wrongly assured that they can receive Christ.
The errors concerning the mass (called by the Reformers ‘the popish mass’) continue to our modern times. It is called the popish mass because of the regulation of the Pope with respect to the administration of the mass. The church has not turned from its false teaching, but only confirmed its erroneous teachings at several church councils over time. The church at Rome also officially pronounces the curse on anyone who disagrees with it, whereby it really condemns all of Protestantism.
For all of these reasons, the Reformed Church in the Heidelberg Catechism takes great pains to distinguish truth from error with regards to the proper understanding of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. We should not be offended by this. If we love the Lord, we should be concerned about maintaining the truth of the sacraments which He Himself ordained in the church. Only then can this sacrament serve for the encouragement of the faith of the church and the glory of the name of the Lord presented in this sacrament.