Belgic Confession, Article 35; Day 8: Nourishing Our Poor Comfortless Souls
by Rev. Martyn McGeown, Missionary-pastor of Limerick Reformed Fellowship, Republic of Ireland.
Matt 5:6: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”
The Lord’s Supper is a feast. The table of the Lord is laden with good things. The call goes out to God’s believing, penitent people: “Come, hungry and thirsty souls, and be spiritually nourished! Come, empty souls, and be spiritually filled! Come, weary and burdened souls, and be spiritually refreshed! Come, dejected and afflicted souls, and be spiritually comforted!”
We do this, of course, when we come to Jesus Christ Himself by faith, as He is set forth in the preaching of the Gospel. The preaching, not the sacraments, remember, is the chief means of grace. But we also do this when we come believingly to partake of the Lord’s Supper—as the Belgic Confession puts it with “the hand and mouth of our soul” (faith) wide open.
Christ is pleased to give us His crucified body and shed blood in a spiritual manner in the Lord’s Supper. He is able to make us partake of Him, although His physical body and blood are in heaven. Some have objected to the Reformed view because they cannot conceive of how we can eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ if He remains in heaven and we on earth. But distance does not prevent Christ imparting His body and blood to His children. Why? Because the exalted Lord Jesus is vitally connected to His body (and to every member) by the bond of faith. Through the bond of faith—which the Holy Spirit creates at the point of regeneration—all of the benefits of Christ flow to us from Christ. Through faith we partake of His goodness, just as the branches partake of the sap of the vine, and all parts of the body are supplied by the head (John 15:5; Eph. 4:16; Col. 2:19, etc.).
In moving language, the Belgic Confession describes the spiritual blessings we receive when we partake believing of the Lord’s Supper. We do not leave the table empty!
We come with “our poor comfortless souls.” In this world of sin and death, we have no source of comfort or life. We are sinners who struggle with the flesh, the devil and the world, and that struggle makes us weary. We see ourselves in this description of “poor” and “comfortless.” But, in the Lord’s Supper, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself comforts, strengthens, nourishes, quickens and refreshes us. He does that because the Lord’s Supper—like the preaching and like baptism—directs us to one place: the cross. If any doctrine of the Lord’s Supper points us anywhere else—to our works—it is of no benefit to us, and it is a dangerous and wicked deception, one of the manmade “mixtures and damnable inventions” against which our Confession warns us.
The Lord’s Supper reminds us, and assures us, that as surely as we receive with a believing heart the bread and wine, so surely did Christ give Himself on the cross for the salvation of our souls. As the "Form for the Administration of the Lord's Supper" puts it: “As often as ye eat of this bread and drink of this cup, you shall thereby, as by a sure remembrance and pledge, be admonished and assured of this My hearty love and faithfulness towards you.”
And by doing that, bringing us again to the cross, where we find all our salvation, in the Lord‘s Supper the Lord Jesus “nourishes, strengthens and comforts” and “quickens and refreshes” our poor comfortless souls, by making us feed on Him, the Living Bread.
Rev. Martyn McGeown
Pastorates: Missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland for the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland - 2010.Website: www.limerickreformed.com/
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