The Whole Christ
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”- 1 Corinthians 10:16–17
Ask a believer to define simply what it means to be a Christian, and many answers will be given. Christians are those who trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation (Gal. 2:15–16). Christians are those who go into all the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18–20). Christians are those who love the triune God and their fellow believers (1 John 4:7–12).
We could also say that Christians are those who understand their need for Jesus. For the most part, we easily remember our need of His deity. We know that we need Him to dwell with us, by His Holy Spirit, so that we might do what is pleasing to our Creator (John 14:15–18). What we more often forget, however, is that we need our Savior’s humanity as much as we need His deity. To stand before God unafraid, we require the perfect righteousness He earned as the last Adam when He flawlessly kept our Creator’s law for humanity (Rom. 5:12–21). We need the holes in His hands, side, and feet, for these wounds prove that He died as a man to atone for men and women (3:25). By the Spirit, our Savior, according to His humanity, strengthens us for holiness. “For because [Jesus] himself suffered when tempted [as a human being], he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 2:18).
The Lord’s Supper is a special way in which we commune with the whole Christ and are nourished by His humanity, as well as His deity, to live for Him in holiness and faithfulness. As question and answer 77 of the Heidelberg Catechism remind us, our Savior promises to nourish us in this way. First Corinthians 10:16–17 tells us that we receive such nourishment in the Lord’s Supper. As we eat the broken bread and drink the cup by faith, we are truly sharing in the body and blood of Christ. This is not a mere memorial observation but a way in which we commune supernaturally with the whole Savior. We “share” in Him, in His very body, and so we are blessed by everything He has to offer His people.
The Lord’s Supper does not make us cannibals who chew on Christ’s flesh. We feed on Him spiritually by faith (WCF 29.7). We are lifted to heaven for special fellowship with our Lord’s human nature even as we commune with His omnipresent divine nature. We meet with the whole Christ and are nourished and sustained by His grace.
Question and answer 168 of the Westminster Larger Catechism expand upon the benefits we receive by the Spirit in the Lord’s Supper. We are enabled to renew our thankfulness to God for all that He has done for us. We are knitted together with one another more closely in love and fellowship. Our union with the risen Savior is also strengthened, and we thereby become more aware of His grace and recognize more and more that we rely upon Him in life and in death.
Passages for Further Study