Calvin and Luther had many things in common. Both believed firmly that the Eucharist was a means of grace. 1 The elements nourished the believer and prepared them for their labors in the Lord. Calvin says that the Eucharist is needful because of our “dullness.” Similarly, Luther opines by stating that the sacrament, like the Word of God Almighty, has been given and ordained so that our weak consciences may be encouraged to faith and love. This common bond ought to have unified these two and their respective followers.
Though there were substantial differences, Luther and Calvin understood that the words of Christ had to be taken seriously. Zwingli’s memorial view did not do justice to the words of Christ and the Roman Catholic position relied too much on Aristotelian categories. Luther and Calvin’s level of sacramental and Biblical seriousness ought to pervade the Church of Christ today. It is a futile attempt for the church to “succeed” 2 in every area, but fail to see the essence of the apostolic church. 3 Calvin listed the proper administration of the sacraments, along with the preaching of the Word and Church discipline as the three marks of the church. The church is an unhealthy body if it does not keep and administer that mark faithfully, for in the Lord’s Supper the children of the King sit at His royal table to experience the glories of that sovereign union the King has made with His people. To deny such a glorious banquet would be to deny His children the true assurance that they belong to the King. Children 4 come because they are needy; they come because they hear the great Shepherd’s call. Indeed, the Lord’s Table is for those who labor and are heavy laden, and Christ the Lord will give them rest.
- See Stephen Nichols’ discussion on page 124 in Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought. [↩ back]
- The standards of “success” today are in total disagreement with God’s standards of “faithfulness,” which demands a holy reverence to His means of grace for the church. [↩ back]
- Acts 2:42 –And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. [↩ back]
- My reference to “children” refers to the church. “Children” is here used as in John’s address to the “dear children” in I John 2. Nevertheless, I believe that “covenant children” should be admitted to the table of the Lord. This topic is not the intent of this paper, though a logical consequence of it. [↩ back]