Calvin’s Institutes Chapter 12 (623-669)

July 8, 2020

This chapter caused me to think about the Lord’s Supper in a way I had not. Still not sure about some of Calvin’s points, but it was helpful to think about it more. I have studied in depth a few times, but with Calvin coming from a different background, culture, and time, he brought new things to think about.

I am also glad to be finally doing a full reading report again. It has been quite a while since I have, and I have been disappointed to not be as engaged as I wanted to be.

Calvin Imports a Lot of Meaning

Calvin says the following:

That is the exchange which, in his boundless goodness, he was pleased to make with us. In taking our poverty on himself he made over his wealth to us; in shouldering our weakness he strengthened us with his power; in assuming our mortality he endowed us with his immortality; in coming down to earth he made a way up to heaven; in becoming Son of man he made us children of God. All of these things are so fully promised to us by God in this sacrament that we must be sure and certain that they are as truly displayed to us as if Jesus Christ appeared in person before our eyes and was palpable to the touch. (625)

This feels like a massive import of meaning into the Lord’s Supper by Calvin. I am not saying he is wrong for doing it. I need to think a lot more about it. Honestly, my brain just shuts down when he says all that about the Lord’s Supper because it feels like he says a lot of true things about Christs ministry to us that are not directly related to the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps I have some things to learn here.

Pointless Disputes about Christ’s Presence

I am pleased that Calvin confronts the conflicts that have arisen over the mode of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper. (626). And, I love how he goes on and says, “the sacrament is something spiritual, by which our Lord chose to feed not our bellies but our souls.” (626-627).

Calvin’s Striking Words on Figurative Language

I was struck by Calvin’s words on figurative language:

“No more credible is the opinion of those who insist on tying words down to their very last syllable without allowing for figurative language.” (629)

I am not sure how to express why this struck me. After sitting here for a few minutes thinking about how to express it, I am going to move on.

The Illustration of the Water from the Spring (634)

What are your thoughts on this illustration? I have a question mark beside this paragraph.

A Helpful Explanation on the Self-Examination of the Lord’s Supper

I found Calvin’s explanation on page 646 to be very helpful!

“Paul commands a man to examine himself before he eats this bread and drinks this cup (1 Cor. 11:28). I take this to mean that each should look within and reflect whether with heartfelt trust he acknowledges Jesus Christ as his Saviour, and confesses him as Saviour with his lips; whether, following Christ’s example, he is ready to give himself to his brothers and to be bound to those whom he knows to have Jesus Christ in common; whether, in acknowledging Christ, he also holds all his brothers to be members of his body; whether he is willing and prepared to relieve, preserve and assist them as he would his own members. It is not that these duties of faith and love can be fully realized in us now, but because we must strive and desire with all our might that faith, once begun, may daily grow and prosper in us, and our weak love grow string."

This made perfect sense and seemed like a healthy expounding whereas the import of meaning on 625 just didn’t compute for me.

Another Disappointing Statement

I found the following statement by Calvin to be very disappointing:

“The habit of compulsory communion once a year is clearly a scheme devised by the devil, whoever it was who actually introduced it.” (649)

I can acknowledge that there is more to it that what he actually references here. I have personally dwelled on this multiple times. In my view, based on Christ’s command at a Passover meal, he gave this command for us to observe the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of him. This means that at a minimum we are to do it yearly. I understand the early church did it weekly.

What disappoints me is such a strong statement by Calvin here as well as his logic on the following page concerning people falling asleep for the rest of the year. Again, perhaps there is more to it that I can see from his words.

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