The Holy Spirit & the Lord’s Supper: Sublime Reason and Reality – 6: Calvin’s Hope and Thoughts Raised On High

This section follows Part 5 found here: The Holy Spirit & the Lord’s Supper: Sublime Reason and Reality – 5: Christ’s Body is Present through the Power of the Holy Spirit

Hope for Greater Agreement and Greater Praise 

Despite Calvin’s firm opposition to what he considered errant and destructive opinions concerning the Lord’s Supper, he praised the other Reformers. Divergent views had emerged and were persistent among Luther, Zwingli and Oecolampadius. Yet Calvin was persuaded that God had “illumined them” and they had themselves “escaped from the slime of [Rome’s] error, and thus drawn others out of it who had been plunged in it for so long.”[1]

He was hopeful for some resolution among them on the matter of the Supper. He considered the prospect of some future agreement at the time “when God is pleased to bring into one place all those who are to draw it up.”[2] All confess “with one mouth that, in receiving the sacrament in faith, according to the ordinance of the Lord, we are truly made partakers of the real substance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”[3]

His aim was that those who viewed the elements would have their gaze directed not at the elements themselves as though somehow they enclosed Christ. Rather, all should look up to that which they represent, the One to whom the Spirit unites them.

[O]n the one hand we must, to shut out all carnal fancies raise our hearts on high to heaven, not thinking that our Lord Jesus Christ is so abased as to be enclosed under any corruptible elements. On the other hand, not to diminish the efficacy of this sacred mystery, we must hold that it is accomplished by the secret and miraculous virtue of God, and that the Spirit of God is the bond of participation, for which reason it is called spiritual.”[4]

Only by so raising the heart to heaven does the believer actually find Christ in all his ascended glory: “To observe this rightly, we have always to raise our thoughts on high, to seek our Redeemer. For if we wish to abase him under the corruptible elements of this world, besides subverting what Scripture declares concerning his human nature, we annihilate the glory of his ascension.”[5]

We may hope with Calvin that all those who partake of the Lord’s Supper will see in it the One signified and not the signs. We may also hope with Calvin that as the discussion on the Supper continues among those with divergent views, they will come to fuller agreement in the future and Jesus Christ, the God-Man, will be more rightly praised for the power and majesty of His work at the Supper.

[1] Calvin, Short Treatise, 164, N.B. Short Treatise, 163, Section V, “The Present Dispute.”

[2] Calvin, Short Treatise, 166.

[3] Calvin, Short Treatise, 166.

[4] Calvin, Short Treatise, 166.

[5] Calvin, Short Treatise, 159.