Blog 220: 4.17.1 - 4.17.5
Calvin now turns to the theme of the Lord's Supper. His concern is twofold: (i) to provide a simple explanation of the Supper and (ii) to resolve difficulties related to it. What he does in IV. 17. i is worthy of imitation, namely the provision of a simple but rich exposition of the meaning of Communion. This at least we should share with Calvin: a concern that the Lord's people understand what they are doing at, and how they are to think about, the Supper: What is the Lord showing us at the Table?
The Supper is the Father's provision of nourishment in Christ for his children (Calvin's use of adoptio--adoptive sonship--is particularly striking here, and underscores again how important this is in his theology--as it was in his life). By it the Father means to give assurance to his children.
In essence the Supper is a gospel drama:
• Christ is set before us as the One who was crucified for us
• Christ is offered to us as food to be received by us
• Christ is received by us so that we feel him to be working in us.
Calvin's poetic eloquence here should be allowed to stand on its own:
This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence,
he has made with us;
That, becoming Son of man with us,
he has made us sons of God with him;
That, by his descent to earth,
he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us;
That, by taking on our mortality,
he has conferred our immortality upon us;
That, accepting our weakness,
he has strengthened us by his power;
That, receiving our poverty into himself,
he has transferred his wealth to us;
That, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us)
he has clothed us with his righteousness.
So--urges Calvin--let us make neither too little of the signs by severing them from the living Christ, nor too much so that we obscure him.