People of the Spirit, worshiping Jesus in all places, at all times

Note: So, as an Anglican, there’s obviously something I find personally and spiritually significant in the Lord’s Supper. As a Pentecostal, I have an experiential engagement with that. This week, I will lay out in five parts a catholic Pentecostal reflection on the sacraments:

  1. Part 1: A Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper
  2. Part 2: A Pentecostal Experience of the Lord’s Supper
  3. Part 3: A Pentecostal Theology of Baptism
  4. Part 4: A Pentecostal Experience of Baptism
  5. Part 5: Pentecostal Questions and Reflections on Footwashing

 So, without any further note, let’s get to it.

The Eucharist, whether called the Thanksgiving Meal, the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, has served as the central rite and sacrament of the Christian tradition from its inception. It is where incredibly solemnity and unspeakable joy meet in the remembrance of Christ’s broken body and poured blood for the redemption of the world. Christ’s last supper with his disciples on the eve of Passover was instituted by Christ’s command as he professed over the bread “This is my body” and over the cup of wine “This is my blood.”[1] The Church has unequivocally maintained that this institution was indeed for a continual remembrance and thanksgiving until his return. Along with Baptism, the Eucharist was “ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel.”[2] Christ presides over this sacrament so that the Cross is consistently revealed to the Church, as we enjoy his presence by the Holy Spirit.

So, there are three ways in which Christ is clearly present: his presidency at the Table, his visible proclamation of the Cross, and his communion with his people through the Holy Spirit. To put another way, in the Eucharist, Jesus Christ is present as Lord, Savior, and Sustainer. Appropriately, we begin by considering how Jesus is present as Lord. In the practice of the Lord’s Supper, the temptation has been to think of the minister as presiding in the place of Christ. This is the mode of thinking that has contributed to an Eucharistic theology that our Articles declare “is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.”[3]

So when the Eucharist is observed in the congregation, it is not only the bread and wine, and the disciples of Jesus who are present at the Table, but the Lord himself. As Assemblies of God theologian Myer Pearlman writes, “The Head of the Church will Himself administer the Sacrament, as we receive Him by faith.”[4] While there is a framework for Christ’s personal presidency at the Table inherent to Anglican and reformation sacramentality—one that is rooted in the ancient Fathers—it is also true that some of the more explicit claims to this come from Pentecostal theology.[5] We would do well to reflect more seriously on Jesus’ Lordship in the Lord’s Supper.

So, Christ is the Lord of the Table and is present as he presides over the Eucharist. Christ presides here for a very specific purpose: to proclaim the Cross to his disciples. The Gospels have commonly been addressed as Passion narratives with long introductions, and in every moment from the announcement of the Incarnation, they look towards the Cross. The Lord’s Supper is no exception and it, too, proclaims Jesus Christ as Savior. In the Institution of the Lord’s Supper in Luke 22:14-20, he breaks the bread and declares, “This is my body, which is given for you” and gives them the cup and declares, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” By Jesus’ very intention, the Eucharist declares to us “our redemption by Christ’s death.”[6]

Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian church also reflects that Christ is present in the proclamation of the Cross in the bread and wine itself, since in them the body of Christ are discerned by Jesus’ disciples. John Calvin writes, “It directs and leads us to the cross of Jesus Christ and to his resurrection…Let us recollect, then, that the Supper is give us as a mirror in which we may contemplate Jesus Christ crucified in order to deliver us from condemnation, and raised again in order to procure for us righteousness and eternal life.”[7] The Lord of the Table is present to proclaim the finished work of the Cross to his disciples. In a sense, through the Eucharist, we can say “that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.”[8] The work of

The Lord does not end with His proclamation of the Cross. Were that the case, Calvin’s assessment of the Zwinglians would apply to us as well: “they forgot to show what presence of Jesus Christ ought to be believed in the Supper, and what communion of his body and blood is there received.”[9] In the “Upper Room Discourse” (Jn. 14-16), Jesus promises the disciples that he will be their sustainer and reveals that this will be accomplished specifically through the work of the Holy Spirit. Most relevant to this discussion, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”[10] While it is outside the scope of this paper to explore the New Testament or later patristic usage of this term “remembrance,” it is significant that its primary reference is to the Eucharist and the Church’s historic use of the word reflects that understanding. So we have reason to expect that the Holy Spirit, particularly as an agent of remembrance, is at work in the Eucharist.

This is particularly evident in connection with the bread and wine. Consider this explanation from Justin Martyr:

For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these, but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of his word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.[11]

Justin unambiguously claims that Jesus is nourishing believers who receive the Eucharist. This work, accomplished by the Holy Spirit, is the nourishment of Jesus Christ’s own presence. The nature of this “communion presence” and the communicants’ participation in the body and blood of Jesus remains mysterious. “Thus it is with the communion which we have in the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. It is a spiritual mystery which can neither be seen by the eye nor comprehended by the human understanding.”[12] Anglican theology, even as expressed by Richard Hooker, has traditionally upheld that mystery.[13] It has always rejected transubstantiation, yet insists on Christ’s real presence for those who approach by faith, empowered by the Holy Spirit.[14] “Christ cannot act in the Eucharist apart from the Spirit and believers cannot partake of Christ in the Eucharist without receiving the Spirit.”[15] Whatever the nature of this presence communicated to us, we have the confidence of Jesus’ promise and testimony of the Holy Spirit. And in that Good News, we can trust.

Jesus Christ is Lord, Savior and Sustainer of his people. He effectually and sovereignly reminds his Church of these things through his presence in the Eucharist. Through the Holy Spirit, he nourishes us through the mystery of his presence. In the broken bread and poured wine, he proclaims the Cross to us as an enduring message of his saving grace and love toward us. At the table, he presides as Lord and invites us into his presence boldly to receive the grace he so freely gives to us.

[1] Parallel accounts are found in Mt. 26, Mk.14, and Lk. 22.

[2] Article XXV.

[3] Article XXVIII

[4] Pearlman, Myer. Sept. 12,1942. “The Bread and Blood Covenant.” Pentecostal Evangel 1479. Pg. 3.

[5] Examples of several historical accounts and testimonies can be found in Green, Christopher E.W. Towards a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper: Foretasting the Kingdom. Cleveland: CPT Press. Pg. 143.

[6] Article XXIX. Forty-Two Articles of Religion.

[7] Calvin, John. A Short Treatise on the Holy Supper 9-10.

[8] Gal. 3:1

[9] Calvin, John. A Short Treatise on the Holy Supper 56.

[10] Jn. 14:26

[11] Justin Martyr, First Apology 66.

[12] Calvin, John. 2006. Selections from his Writings. HarperCollins Spiritual Classics. New York: HarperOne. Pg. 515.

[13] Hooker, Richard. 1994. The Works of that Learned and Judicious Divine Mr. Richard Hooker. 7th Edition. Revised by Church, R. W. and Paget, F.  Via Media, Inc. Pp. 351-362.

[14] Articles XXVIII and XXIX.

[15] Green, C. E. W. Pg. 293.


Comments on: "Jesus is There: Pentecostals and the Sacraments: Part 1" (4)

  1. […] in Part 1, I laid out a theology of the Lord’s Supper focused on Jesus’ presence. Chris […]

  2. […] Part 1: A Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper […]

  3. […] Part 1: A Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper […]

  4. […] Part 1: A Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper […]

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