The Lord’s Supper as a means of grace — more than a memory
Christian Focus Publications (Mentor)
128 pages, £9.99
Star Rating : 3
In a way, the title of this book says it all. Richard Barcellos, a Reformed Baptist, sets out to demonstrate, primarily from Paul, how the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace. It is written mainly for ministers and those with some NT Greek and theological background.
After a brief summary of a number of texts, he affirms that 1 Corinthians 10:16 — ‘Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ?’ — is ‘the most important text on the nature of the Lord’s Supper as a means of grace’.
He shows from Ephesians 1:3 that the Spirit applies to believers the blessings God has ordained and Christ has procured. A further chapter exegetes Ephesians 3:14-21 to demonstrate the importance of prayer in procuring spiritual blessings. The relevance of these Ephesians texts to the Lord’s Supper is argued.
A final chapter examines Reformed confessions and catechisms on the sacrament as a means of grace, especially (as the author has his own tradition in view) the Baptist Confession 1689 and the Baptist Catechism 1693. A closing quote comes from 17th century Baptist William Kiffin, that the Lord’s Supper is ‘the sacrament of spiritual nourishment or growth by which believers are spiritually fed’.
Barcellos concludes that the ‘Lord’s Supper is a means of grace, through which Christ is present by his divine nature and through which the Holy Spirit nourishes the souls of believers with the benefits wrought for us in Christ’s human nature, which is now glorified and in heaven at the right hand of the Father’.
He asserts that this is the ‘Reformed’ view and in support quotes Richard Muller: ‘The Reformed view of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper is a … spiritual presence … according to which the body and blood of Christ, now in heaven, are mediated to believers by the power of the Spirit’.
This was Calvin’s view and would only be the same as Barcellos’, if Barcellos is saying that believers by the Spirit, through faith, have fellowship with (‘share in’) the body and blood of Christ in heaven, as well as with his divine nature. That this is exactly his position is not quite clear.
This is nonetheless a timely reminder to Reformed Baptists in particular that, in our tradition, the Lord’s Supper is ‘more than a memory’; and the pastoral implications the author draws at the end are worthy of serious consideration.