Blog 229: 4.17.40 - 4.17.45

Stephen Nichols

One of the other debated issues in the Lord's Supper, in addition to the question of presence, is that of fencing the table. Who may participate?  What does it mean to eat and drink unworthily? Who is worthy? Who is unworthy? Calvin takes up these questions in 4.17.40 - 42. He also deals with the question of how it is to be administered in terms of the liturgy of the communion service (4.17.43). Finally, he tackles the question of frequency (4.17.44). All of these questions are worthy of book-length treatments in and of themselves. Calvin offered a few on the subject. Read up on the life of Jonathan Edwards and you'll see he had some thoughts here, too. But here in these several chapters Calvin offers some balanced, thoughtful, and (for this may his name be blessed) concise discussion. Just read it; you'll be glad you did.

Then comes 4.17.45. Amidst all of these debatable issues of the Lord's Supper--ironic that the practice that is intended to show the unity of the body of Christ has served to be the source of so much disunity down through the centuries of the church's life, isn't it?--Calvin above all tells us to participate, to eat and to drink of the body and the blood of Christ. He would add, participate frequently. 

I think American evangelicalism on the whole has lost sight of the necessity and luxury of this practice of the Lord's Supper. May it not be true of us, of me.