Heidelberg Catechism Q79 & 81

Q.79. Why then does Christ call the bread his body and the cup his blood, or the new covenant in his blood? (Paul uses the words, a participation in Christ’s body and blood.)

A. Christ has good reason for these words.  He wants to teach us that as bread and wine nourish our temporal life, so too his crucified body and poured-out blood truly nourish our souls for eternal life.

But more important, he wants to assure us, by this visible sign and pledge, that we, through the Holy Spirit’s work, share in his true body and blood as surely as our mouths receive these holy signs in his remembrance, and that all of his suffering and obedience are as definitely ours as if we personally had suffered and paid for our sins.


This question covers many of the themes we have already explored in previous questions, but it is good for us to review them one more time.  What exactly is food?  Food is a substance, which gives us the energy we need to continue living.  In the physical realm we rely on things like apples and oranges to meet these needs, but in the spiritual realm and apple or orange cannot meet our need for energy.  For this we must turn to Christ who by his Spirit is able to provide all that we need to live forever.  Read John 6:51, 55.Tuesday

When we eat the communion meal, we are making a proclamation that we are Christ’s and he is coming back for us.  Read 1 Corinthians 11:26.  Similarly, we are declaring that we are Christ’s body, united to him, and so we belong where he belongs.  Paul declared this by analogy when he tells a husband to feed and care for his wife, but the spiritual truth is the same for Christ is the bridegroom and the Church is the bride.  Read Ephesians 5:29.


Since we are united to Christ, we also know that he exchanged places with us and took on our sin so that we could take on his righteousness.  The exchange was perfect, total, complete and just as if we had performed every part by our own power.  Read 2Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 6:5-11.

Q.81. Who are to come to the Lord’s table?

A. Those who are displeased with themselves because of their sins, but who nevertheless trust that their sins are pardoned and that their continuing weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ, and who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to lead a better life.  Hypocrites and those who are unrepentant, however, eat and drink judgment on themselves.


Jesus invites all the weary and laden into his presence.  But to take him up on the invitation requires that one know and believe they are weary and laden.  Those who have no concept of their exhaustion or burden are not inclined to accept the invitation to rest in Christ.  Read Matthew 11:28.  So anyone, regardless of age, sex, or anything else who recognizes the weight of their sin and the desire to be free of it is invited to Christ’s table.


Part of coming to the table and receiving the rest of the Master includes being willing to leave your life of sin behind.  It is no good to come to the table with a 50-pound pack only to pick it up again after a brief sojourn.  Quite the opposite, we are urged to be holy and flee sin.  If this is your desire, Christ invites you.  Read 1Timothy 6:11 and 2Timothy 2:22.


Many have mistakenly taken Paul’s statement about eating and drinking judgment and used it to limit the age of those who can eat at the Table. They argue that if you aren’t old enough to really examine yourself, then you are in danger of misusing the sacrament.  However, the immediate context includes a proclamation that Christ is coming back again.  If a child understands that Christ is coming back and wants to leave the bad things they do behind in order to be prepared to meet Jesus, then they are light years ahead of many adult participants in the Supper.  In fact, this is what many children will gladly agree to when explained in these simple terms.  Oh, that we as adults would be so ready to leave our sin behind and be ready to meet our Lord.  Read 1Corinthians 11:26-32.

Note: Q80 has been omitted since it didn’t appear in the first German edition of the Catechism in January 1563.


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
This entry was posted in Devotional, Discipleship, Heidelberg Catechism. Bookmark the permalink.