Thursday, May 31, 2007

Judas and Calvin's theology of The Lord's Supper

Some of us were discussing The Lord's Supper and the question of the presence of Judas came up. There is a question raised by some because of the order of events portrayed in Luke's account. The question is settled in favor of Judas' presence by Luke 22:21:

But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.

Calvin shares this view. It is instructive to hear Calvin's comment about the matter:

I hold it, then, as a settled point, and will not allow myself to be driven from it, that Christ cannot be disjoined from his Spirit. Hence I maintain, that his body is not received as dead, or even inactive, disjoined from the grace and power of his Spirit. I shall not occupy much time in proving this statement. Now in what way could the man who is altogether destitute of a living faith and repentance, having nothing of the Spirit of Christ, receive Christ himself? Nay more, as he is entirely under the influence of Satan and sin, how will he be capable of receiving Christ? While, therefore, I acknowledge that there are some who receive Christ truly in the Supper, and yet at the same time unworthily, as is the case with many weak persons, yet I do not admit, that those who bring with them a mere historical faith, without a lively feeling of repentance and faith, receive anything but the sign. For I cannot endure to maim Christ, and I shudder at the absurdity of affirming that he gives himself to be eaten by the wicked in a lifeless state, as it were. Nor does Augustine mean anything else when he says, that the wicked receive Christ merely in the sacrament, which he expresses more clearly elsewhere, when he says that the other Apostles ate the bread — the Lord; but Judas only the bread of the Lord.

But here it is objected, that the efficacy of the sacraments does not depend upon the worthiness of men, and that nothing is taken away from the promises of God, or falls to the ground, through the wickedness of men. This I acknowledge, and accordingly I add in express terms, that Christ’s body is presented to the wicked no less than to the good, and this is enough so far as concerns the efficacy of the sacrament and the faithfulness of God. For God does not there represent in a delusive manner, to the wicked, the body of his Son, but presents it in reality; nor is the bread a bare sign to them, but a faithful pledge. As to their rejection of it, that does not impair or alter anything as to the nature of the sacrament.

I find it worthwhile to note that for Calvin Christ himself is presented to the wicked, but the wicked who partake, partake only of the symbol, not of Christ himself. Whereas the faithful receive Christ in receiving the sacrament.

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