THE REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN THE LORD'S TABLE
The following is from Robert Letham:
"Christ does not come down to us in his body and blood. Instead, we are lifted up to him by the Holy Spirit. Christ, being the eternal Son of God, is of course, everywhere. Moreover, he has permanently united himself to the human nature assumed in the incarnation. In that sense, the person of Christ is present with us as we eat and drink. Yet, on earth, the Son of God was not restricted or confined to the humanity he assumed, but was simultaneously filling all things, directing the universe even as (according to the flesh) he walked the dusty roads of Palestine. So, at the right hand of God, the Son fills and directs the universe (Col. 1:15-20), now unbreakably united to his assumed humanity, while in terms of that same humanity he is limited and in one place. Yet that humanity is never separate or apart from the divinity, the eternal Son of God with whom and in whom it is one undivided person. Thus, in the sacrament the Holy Spirit unites the faithful to the person of Christ as they eat and drink the signs, the physical elements of bread and wine. There is an inseparable conjunction of sign and reality. As truly as we eat the bread and drink the wine, so we feed on Christ by faith." (The Lord's Supper, 28-29).
Calvin also says:
"Now if anyone should ask me how this takes place, I shall not be ashamed to confess that it is a secret too lofty for either my mind to comprehend or my words to declare. And, to speak more plainly, I rather experience than understand it. Therefore, I here embrace without controversy the truth of God in which I may safely rest. He declares his flesh the food of my soul, his blood its drink [John 6:53ff.]. I offer my soul to him to be fed with such food. In his Sacred Supper he bids me take, eat, and drink his body and blood under the symbols of bread and wine. I do not doubt that he himself truly presents them, and that I receive them." (Institutes, 4.17.32)
The website of the OPC says,
"In his rich mercy, God "made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:4-6). It is from this position that we come to the Lord's Table, and "they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal and carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death" (Westminster Larger Catechism, answer 170).
SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
The Lord's Table is mysterious and beautiful. Yet here we usually have a rationalistic mindset. We don't think about the fact that Scripture says that we reign with Christ right now, and that we are already seated with Him in the heavenly realms. How is this so? Because the Holy Spirit transcends across eternity and unites us to Christ in heaven.
The apostle Paul makes no bones about it. If you partake of the Table unworthily, you are held guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. He says that the bread we break is a participation in the body of Christ, and the cup we drink is a participation in the blood of Christ.
The Table signifies union with Christ and union with one another. The early church participated in the Supper every time they met for corporate worship. What a privilege it is to partake of this with your local corporate body of believers, and to enjoy the body and blood of Christ!
WHAT THE LONDON CONFESSION SAYS
My confession, The London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, also uses appropriate language when it says in 30:7 that,
"Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this ordinance, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually receive and feed upon Christ crucified and all the benefits of his death; the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses."
In other words, Christ is really and truly present by virtue of our union with Him in the Table. This is a holy mystery to be reverenced.
***SOMETHING SERIOUS TO CONSIDER***
The Lord's Table is much like our relationship with our spouse. What do you think will happen to my marriage if I neglect having union with my wife? It will certainly suffer. However, if I participate in the God-ordained means of having that union strengthened, then we will grow in our relationship to one another.
It is likewise with the Lord's Table. How often we partake of the Lord's Table demonstrates the degree of our union with Christ. God has ordained that this holy ordinance be a means of grace to strengthen our union with our Lord. To neglect it puts our souls at risk, and to scorn it puts our souls in danger.
For Further Reading:
Given For You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper by Keith Mathison