Heidelberg Catechism Q76

Q.76. What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his poured-out blood?

Aš It means to accept with a believing heart the entire suffering and death of Christ and by believing to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  But it means more.  Through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us, we are united more and more to Christ’s blessed body.  And so, although he is in heaven and we are on earth, we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.  And we forever live on and are governed by one Spirit, as members of our body are by one soul.


Read John 6:50-54. Does Jesus expect us to physical eat his flesh and drink his blood?  Certainly not, for if that was the requirement for salvation then only a small number of people would have ever had the opportunity and now that chance would be lost forever since his body is raised and seated in heaven.  To eat and drink cannot require a physical chewing and swallowing response of Jesus’ literal body; on the contrary as the catechism teaches, one who believes in Christ eats and drinks the body of the crucified Lord.


When we talk about believing in Christ what is meant?  Again the catechism helps us understand that true belief is the recognition of Christ’s death for one’s sin.  He suffered so we wouldn’t.  Read John 6:40.  When we look to Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin and believe that he was raised from the dead as the creed says, we are practicing a belief in Christ that is able to save.


As we eat the communion meal, we are proclaiming a powerful statement: Like food, which becomes part of our body when eaten, so also Jesus lives in us as we believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead.  Communion proclaims the daily reality that Christ is transforming and conforming us.  Read Ephesians 5:30 and 1Corinthians 12:13.


In communion the mystery of Christ in us is displayed.  Though we cannot adequately explain how Christ can be in heaven and we can be united to him on earth, by faith we believe that both are true.  The word declares that we are members of Christ himself, he is the head and we are the body.  Read Ephesians 4:15-16 and 1John 4:13.


By the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our life we enjoy the assurance that Christ lives in us. Furthermore, his spirit is uniting us indissolubly with our resurrected Lord.  Let us always take solace that by believing in the Lord we are saved.  Read 1John 3:24.


Jesus declares that living in him is the only way to be fruitful.  To remain in Christ is another way of saying believe that I have died for you.  Believe that I have forgiven you.  Believe that my spirit at work in you is more powerful than your own will power.  Remaining means having a constant connection and looking back to the one who alone can save and change us.  Remaining is a word that involves loving and communicating.  Let us never forget that as we participate in the communion meal, we are really just looking back to the source of all our life and strength and enjoying the gift he has given.  Read John 15:1-6.


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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