Blog 227: 4.17.33 - 4.17.34

Stephen Nichols

Calvin continues extolling the virtues of the spiritual presence of Christ in the sacrament of communion over and against repudiating the errors of the physical presence of Christ within the sacraments (the view of transubstantiation). One of the dangers that Calvin sees is the automatic idea of the sacrament. Because it is Christ's body and blood, the mere taking of it means one receives the grace. To use Calvin's words, "Even the impious and wicked," those "estranged" from God, receive grace what they partake (4.17.33). Such eating is, in Paul's words, that which brings condemnation not redemption.

These people who eat unworthily, Calvin continues, do so because they don't have the Spirit.  And without the Spirit, they do not partake of grace. As Calvin says in an earlier paragraph, "The secret [mysterious] power of the Spirit is the bond of our union with Christ" (4.17.33).

Here is the genius of Calvin. Even in the midst of his polemics, he is gently shepherding us to see brilliant truths. Here's something both to be thankful for, in this season of Thanksgiving, and to keep in mind the next time you partake of the Lord's Supper:

Christ himself is the matter of the Supper; and the effects flow from the fact that  by the sacrifice of his death we are cleansed of sins, by his blood we are washed, and by his resurrection we are raised to the hope of heavenly life (4.17.33).