Heidelberg Catechism: The Holy Supper of Jesus Christ
Lord's Day 28
Q. How does the holy supper remind and assure you that you share in Christ's one sacrifice on the cross and in all his benefits?
A. In this way: Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat this broken bread and to drink this cup in remembrance of him. With this command come these promises:1
First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup shared with me, so surely his body was offered and broken for me and his blood poured out for me on the cross.
Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the one who serves, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, given me as sure signs of Christ's body and blood, so surely he nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life with his crucified body and poured-out blood.
1 Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25
Q. What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his poured-out blood?
A. It means to accept with a believing heart the entire suffering and death of Christ and thereby to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.1
But it means more. Through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us, we are united more and more to Christ's blessed body.2 And so, although he is in heaven3 and we are on earth, we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.4 And we forever live on and are governed by one Spirit, as the members of our body are by one soul.5
1 John 6:35, 40, 50-54
2 John 6:55-56; 1 Cor. 12:13
3 Acts 1:9-11; 1 Cor. 11:26; Col. 3:1
4 1 Cor. 6:15-17; Eph. 5:29-30; 1 John 4:13
5 John 6:56-58; 15:1-6; Eph. 4:15-16; 1 John 3:24
"The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body that is [broken]* for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."1
This promise is repeated by Paul in these words:
"The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing 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."2
1 1 Cor. 11:23-26
2 1 Cor. 10:16-17
*The word "broken" does not appear in the NRSV text, but it was present in the original German of the Heidelberg Catechism
Lord's Day 29
Q. Do the bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ?
A. No. Just as the water of baptism is not changed into Christ's blood and does not itself wash away sins but is simply a divine sign and assurance1 of these things, so too the holy bread of the Lord's Supper does not become the actual body of Christ,2 even though it is called the body of Christ3 in keeping with the nature and language of sacraments.4
1 Eph. 5:26; Titus 3:5
2 Matt. 26:26-29
3 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 11:26-28
4 Gen. 17:10-11; Ex. 12:11, 13; 1 Cor. 10:1-4
Q. Why then does Christ call the bread his body and the cup his blood, or the new covenant in his blood, and Paul use the words, a participation in Christ's body and blood?
A. Christ has good reason for these words. He wants to teach us that just as bread and wine nourish the temporal life, so too his crucified body and poured-out blood are the true food and drink of our souls for eternal life.1
But more important, he wants to assure us, by this visible sign and pledge, that we, through the Holy Spirit's work, share in his true body and blood as surely as our mouths receive these holy signs in his remembrance,2 and that all of his suffering and obedience are as definitely ours as if we personally had suffered and made satisfaction for our sins.3
1 John 6:51, 55
2 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 11:26
3 Rom. 6:5-11
Lord's Day 30
Q. How does the Lord's Supper differ from the Roman Catholic Mass?
A. The Lord's Supper declares to us that all our sins are completely forgiven through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he himself accomplished on the cross once for all.1 It also declares to us that the Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ,2 who with his true body is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father3 where he wants us to worship him.4
But the Mass teaches that the living and the dead do not have their sins forgiven through the suffering of Christ unless Christ is still offered for them daily by the priests. It also teaches that Christ is bodily present under the form of bread and wine where Christ is therefore to be worshiped. Thus the Mass is basically nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ and a condemnable idolatry.
1 John 19:30; Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 25-26; 10:10-18
2 1 Cor. 6:17; 10:16-17
3 Acts 7:55-56; Heb. 1:3; 8:1
4 Matt. 6:20-21; John 4:21-24; Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:1-3
*Q&A 80 was altogether absent from the first edition of the catechism but was present in a shorter form in the second edition. The translation here given is of the expanded text of the third edition.
Q. Who should come to the Lord's table?
A. Those who are displeased with themselves because of their sins, but who nevertheless trust that their sins are pardoned and that their remaining weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ, and who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to lead a better life.
Hypocrites and those who are unrepentant, however, eat and drink judgment on themselves.1
1 1 Cor. 10:19-22; 11:26-32
Q. Should those be admitted to the Lord's Supper who show by what they profess and how they live that they are unbelieving and ungodly?
A. No, that would dishonor God's covenant and bring down God's wrath upon the entire congregation.1 Therefore, according to the instruction of Christ and his apostles, the Christian church is duty-bound to exclude such people, by the official use of the keys of the kingdom, until they reform their lives.
1 1 Cor. 11:17-32; Ps. 50:14-16; Isa. 1:11-17
Lord's Day 31
Q. What are the keys of the kingdom?
A. The preaching of the holy gospel and Christian discipline toward repentance. Both of them open the kingdom of heaven to believers and close it to unbelievers.1
1 Matt. 16:19; John 20:22-23
Q. How does preaching the holy gospel open and close the kingdom of heaven?
A. According to the command of Christ, The kingdom of heaven is opened by proclaiming and publicly declaring to all believers, each and every one, that, as often as they accept the gospel promise in true faith, God, because of Christ's merit, truly forgives all their sins.
The kingdom of heaven is closed, however, by proclaiming and publicly declaring to unbelievers and hypocrites that, as long as they do not repent, the wrath of God and eternal condemnation rest on them. God's judgment, both in this life and in the life to come, is based on this gospel testimony.1
1 Matt. 16:19; John 3:31-36; 20:21-23
Q. How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline?
A. According to the command of Christ: Those who, though called Christians, profess unchristian teachings or live unchristian lives, and who after repeated personal and loving admonitions, refuse to abandon their errors and evil ways, and who after being reported to the church, that is, to those ordained by the church for that purpose, fail to respond also to the church's admonitions—such persons the church excludes from the Christian community by withholding the sacraments from them, and God also excludes them from the kingdom of Christ.1 Such persons, when promising and demonstrating genuine reform, are received again as members of Christ and of his church.2
1 Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:3-5, 11-13; 2 Thess. 3:14-15
2 Luke 15:20-24; 2 Cor. 2:6-11