Why Intinction Matters

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One of the Book of Church Order amendments making the rounds of PCA presbyteries this year is a proposed change to forbid the practice of intinction.  For those not in the know, intinction is the procedure of receiving the Lord's Supper by dipping the bread into the cup. Instead of eating the bread and drinking the cup, one eats the wine or grape-juice saturated bread.  


It seems likely that this amendment is going to fail to achieve the necessary 2/3 of presbyteries to be approved, so that we will see the novelty of a Reformed Presbyterian denomination approving a procedure historically associated with the Roman Catholic Mass.  What is more revealing, and to me discouraging, is the kind of argument being reported in presbytery after presbytery.

Typical arguments include the following: 


"People doing intinction are just trying to reach people with the gospel.  Why are we giving them a hard time?"

"What is wrong with the PCA that we even debate silly things like this?"

"Are we really going to say that brothers are wrong and force them to do things our way?"


There is, of course, no doctrine or practice that can be excluded under the above arguments, which it seems will carry the day in the PCA.  But what is most alarming is that there is no doubt regarding what the Bible teaches on this matter.  The NT passages instituting the Lord's Supper state clearly that Jesus first took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat."  Then, Jesus passed the cup, saying "Drink of it" (Mt. 26:26-28; Lk. 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26).  So here we have a worship practice for which Jesus gave us detailed procedural instructions.  It is curious to me that a Reformed and Evangelical denomination would want to administer the sacrament in a way that is different from Jesus' institution.  Do we think we are improving on his procedure?  If we think it is safe to disregard the Bible here, where else are we doing this?


Still, people will say, "Okay, but why does this really matter?"  The first answer is that it always matters greatly how we respond to the clear teaching of our Lord.  A spiritually-alive church will "rejoice with trembling" (Ps. 2:11) at the Word of God.  We should joyfully desire fully to obey the Scriptures and fearfully tremble at the thought of doing otherwise.  This is a very big matter for any church and denomination, and it makes the intinction debate important.

Second, intinction matters because the Lord's Supper is important to the life of the church.  To say that this is a "silly" debate that "wastes our time," raises questions about what our ministers think is important to the spiritual life and health of our churches.

It has been curious to me that many who seem least concerned to be biblical about the Lord's Supper are those who administer it most frequently.  In fact, during the General Assembly, more than one minister who emphasizes weekly communion told me that intinction was necessary because the biblical procedure takes too long.  I realize that this subjective data does not prove that everyone who differs on intinction has become cavalier about the sacrament.  But the argument, "Why does this matter?" and "Why are we wasting our time on this instead of preaching the gospel?" raises serious questions about our attitude toward the sacrament instituted by our Lord on the night of his arrest.


Posted January 10, 2013 @ 11:00 AM by Rick Phillips

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