Present or Absent?

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For centuries, Christians have debated the “real presence” of the Lord Jesus in the Supper. Too often it is not noted that the alternative position is necessarily a belief in His real absence. This of course is silly, and so this should cause us to reflect. All orthodox Christians believe in the real presence—the debate concerns the nature of the presence.

And by using the word debate, we must not show approval of the acrimony, hostility, and sometimes even bloodshed that has accompanied this debate throughout history. Never forget that this is a dinner table discussion, a debate among sons and daughters of God, seated around the same Table—and it should be conducted accordingly.

Memorialists believe that the Lord is present here, but no more present than in any other activity conducted in faith. In other words, there is no grace available here that is not available elsewhere.

And some have come to believe in what might be called the local presence. In other words, they believe that the only way the Lord could be really present is if He is locally present in the Cup and on the Table, and that, of course, starts to tangle us up in physics and metaphysics.

We believe in the spiritual presence of Christ in the Supper, but remember that by spiritual we do not mean ethereal or immaterial. Following Calvin, who was following Scripture, spiritual means “by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Another way of putting this is that we believe in the covenantal presence of Jesus Christ in this assigned ritual.

Taken up into the heavenlies in Christ, we do as we were instructed. As we do this, in faith, we are knit together with Jesus Christ—the resurrected Lord who is not dead—and we are being made bone of His bones, flesh of His flesh.

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