The Presence of Christ

from Jul 26, 2009 Category: Articles

The Heidelberg Catechism states, in the answer to Question 47, “Christ is true man and true God. With respect to His human nature He is no longer on earth, but with respect to His divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit He is never absent from us.” This statement tried to do justice to Jesus’ own teaching before He left this planet. On the one hand, Jesus said, “I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me” (John 7:33). On the other hand, He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20b). Jesus announced a real departure and also a real abiding. Therefore, historic Reformed theology says Jesus has departed in His human nature. His human nature is at the right hand of God in heaven, and we won’t see that human nature again until He returns or until we go there. But in respect to His divine nature, Christ is still present with us.

We have a tendency to think that heaven is up there and earth is down here, and the human nature of Jesus is in heaven while the divine nature of Jesus is here on earth. However, that view results in the union of the Incarnation being fractured. Calvin said the body and blood are up there because they are part of Jesus’ human nature, which is localized. But the human nature up there is perfectly united with the divine nature, which is not limited to any one locale. So the presence of Jesus Christ spans all of creation through the divine nature.

Calvin looked at it this way: When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper here on earth, we are communing with Christ in His divine nature. Calvin said that in this act of mystical communion with the divine presence of Christ, the human nature of Christ is made present to us. In other words, when we meet at the Lord’s Table with Christ through His divine nature, that nature is still in perfect union with the human nature. Therefore, we are communing with the whole Christ. It is not because His body and blood are brought to earth or our bodies and blood are carried to heaven. It is simply that in this intimate meeting at the Lord’s Table, we commune with the perfectly united person of Christ, not just with His divine nature. So even though we are apart from the human nature of Jesus, we really commune with Him in His human nature. This view keeps the human nature human and the divine nature divine, and strongly emphasizes that we truly are communing with the real presence of Jesus Christ at the Lord’s Supper.

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From A Taste for Heaven: Worship in the Light of Eternity by R.C. Sproul.

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