This blog is devoted to discussing the pursuit of eternal life.
Discussion and participation by readers is desired,
but contributions should correlate to the book,
The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology
of Perseverance & Assurance

Thomas R. Schreiner
& Ardel B. Caneday

Monday, January 21, 2008

Perseverance and the Lord's Table

Recently a student, a young Christian man who was reared in the Roman Catholic church, came to speak with me concerning a passage of Scripture and his wondering whether Protestants or Catholics have the correct understanding of the passage. I expressed concerns and sentiments to him much like those my friend, John Armstrong, recently wrote about in his ACT3 Weekly article, "Coming to the Eucharist as God’s Gift."
When you come to the Lord's Table, are you ever bored? Are you missing something because there is not enough entertainment with this ceremony? Or do you come to the meal sitting in judgment on those who are around you? Or perhaps you daydream and consider everything from the tasks that weigh you down to the score of a favorite ballgame. There are a myriad of ways that we can miss the opportunity to meet with Christ meaningfully at this special occasion.

The Second Vatican Council referred to the Eucharist as "the source and summit of the whole Christian life." I do not completely agree with the theology behind this statement, thus I remain unconvinced of certain aspects of Roman Catholic teaching at this point. The rub, for me at least, comes in the next phrase. It says that "they [the priests] offer the divine victim to God" in the Eucharist. I see this as standing in sharp opposition to the teaching of the epistle to the Hebrews which says his sacrifice was "once for all" (cf. Hebrews 10:10-14

But what I am convinced of because of my study of this vital subject is that the reaction of most Protestants, especially evangelical Protestants, against the Roman Catholic position often hinders them from truly enjoying this divine moment. They are not, therefore, encouraged to meet with their Savior personally and mysteriously. The sad fact is that most evangelicals seem to believe "in the real absence" of Jesus. Why? Roman Catholics believe in the real presence of Jesus at this meal. One does not have to become a Catholic to believe that Jesus is really present and that in some way this is his body and blood, at least in a way that we do not have to understand or explain to our satisfaction since we come in faith. We can, in other words, allow this great mystery to be mystery and leave it there.In the same statement of Vatican II on the Eucharist there is another line which says believers "offer themselves along with it." This I completely agree with. And I think there is something here for all Christians to benefit from in regard to helping them actually participate with deeper devotion and meaning in the Lord's Supper.
My response to the young man, a student at the college where I teach, was to make the case that we evangelical Protestants have been overly anti-Catholic and that this has had deleterious effects upon us, including a routinely diminished experience of the Lord's Table. Evangelicals have often been so hostile to the idea of ex opere operato that we tip the scale of ideas and beliefs so that we do injury to the Lord's Table in the opposite direction, evacuating the great symbol of the church its weighty significance. So opposed to the biblically unacceptable idea of Transubstantiation we evangelicals readily empty the symbols of their great importance, just as, by our conduct and actions, we drain the baptistry of its significance.

When we take part in the Lord's Table, let us remember to eat mindfully, as Paul says, concerning the body of Christ. When we eat and drink, let us receive the nourishment of God's grace through Christ's sacrifice unto ourselves lest we eat and drink condemnation to ourselves.

Read John Armstrong's whole article.

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