Owen Gives Us Theological Reasons To Object To Intinction

2. The special object of faith, as justifying, is not the special object of faith in this ordinance. The special object of faith, as justifying, is the promise, and Christ in the promise, in general, as “the Saviour of sinners:” so when the apostle called men “to repent and believe,” he tells them, “The promise is unto you,” Acts 2:39. And I suppose I need not insist upon the proof of this, that the promise, and Christ in the promise as Saviour and Redeemer, is the object of faith, as it is justifying. But this also is supposed in the actings of faith in this ordinance; which is peculiar, and gives us peculiar communion with Christ. Therefore,—

3. The special and peculiar object of faith, the immediate object of it in this ordinance, in its largest extent is,—

(1.) The human nature of Christ, as the subject wherein mediation and redemption was wrought. Christ is considered to come as a sacrifice; that is laid down as the foundation of it, Ps. 40:6; Heb. 10:5, “A body hast thou prepared me;” which is synecdochically taken for the whole human nature. Faith, when it would lead itself unto the sacrifice of Christ, which is here represented, doth in an especial manner consider the human nature of Christ; that God prepared him a body for that end. This we are to have peculiar regard unto when we come to the administration or participation of this ordinance. For that end we now celebrate it. Nay,—

(2.) Faith goes farther, and doth not consider merely the human nature of Christ, but considers it as distinguished into its integral parts,—into body and blood; both which have a price, value, and virtue given unto them by their union with his human soul: for both the body of Christ and the blood of Christ, upon which the work of our redemption is put in Scripture, have their value and worth from their relation unto his soul; as soul and body, making the human nature, had its value and worth from its relation unto the Son of God: otherwise, he saith of his body, “Handle it, it is but flesh and bones.” But where the body of Christ is mentioned, and the blood of Christ is mentioned, there is a distribution of the human nature into its integral parts, each part retaining its relation to his soul; and from thence is its value and excellency. This is the second peculiar in the object of faith in this ordinance.

(3.) There is more than this: they are not only considered as distinguished, but as separate also;—the blood separate from the body, the body left without the blood. This truth our apostle, in this chapter and the next, doth most signally insist upon; namely, the distinct parts of this ordinance,—one to represent the body, and the other to represent the blood,—that faith may consider them as separate.

The Papists, we know, do sacrilegiously take away the cup from the people; they will give them the bread, but they will not give them the cup: and as it always falls out that one error must be covered with another, or else it will keep no man dry under it, they have invented the doctrine of concomitance,—that there is a concomitance; that is, whole Christ is in every kind,—in the bread, and in the wine,—the one doth accompany the other: which is directly to overthrow the ordinance upon another account,—as it is to represent Christ’s body and blood as separated one from the other. Our Lord Jesus blessed the bread and the cup, and said, “This is my body;” [“This is my blood;”]—which cannot be spoken distinctly, unless supposed to be separate.
Here, then, is a threefold limitation of the act of faith, even in this ordinance, in a peculiar manner restraining it to a special communion with God in Christ:—that it hath a special regard to the human nature of Christ; to his human nature as consisting of body and blood; and as it respects them as separated, body and blood. Yea,—

(4.) It respects them as separate in that manner. You all along know that I do not intend these objects of faith as the ultimate object,—for it is the person of Christ that faith rests in,—but those immediate objects that faith is exercised about, to bring it to rest in God. It is exercised about the manner of this separation; that is, the blood of Christ comes to be distinct by being shed, and the body of Christ comes to be separate by being bruised and broken. All the instituted sacrifices of old did signify this,—a violent separation of body and blood: the blood was let out with the hand of violence, and so separated; and then sprinkled upon the altar, and then towards the holy place; and then the body was burned distinct by itself. So, the apostle tells us, it is “the cup which we bless, and the bread which we break;” the cup is poured out, as well as the bread broken, to remind faith of the violent separation of the body and blood of Christ. From this last consideration, of faith acting itself upon the separation of the body and blood of Christ by way of violence, it is led to a peculiar acting of itself upon all the causes of it,—whence it was that this body and this blood of Christ were represented thus separate: and by inquiring into the causes of it, it finds a moving cause, a procuring cause, an efficient cause, and a final cause; which it ought to exercise itself peculiarly upon always in this ordinance.

[1.] A moving cause; and that is, the eternal love of God in giving Christ in this manner, to have his body bruised, and his blood shed. The apostle, going to express the love of God towards us, tells you it was in this, that “he spared not his own Son,” Rom. 8:32. One would have thought that the love of God might have wrought in sending his Son into the world; but it also wrought in not sparing of him. Thus faith is called in this ordinance to exercise itself upon that love which gives out Christ not to be spared.

[2.] It reflects upon the procuring cause;—whence it is, or what it is, that hath procured it, that there should be this representation of the separated body and blood of Christ; and this is even our own sin. “He was delivered for our offences,”—given for our transgressions,—died to make reconciliation and atonement for our sins: they were the procuring cause of it, upon such considerations of union and covenant which I shall not now insist upon. It leads faith, I say, upon a special respect to sin, as the procuring cause of the death of Christ. A natural conscience, on the breach of the law, leads the soul to the consideration of sin, as that which exposes itself alone to the wrath of God and eternal damnation, but in this ordinance we consider sin as that which exposed Christ to death: which is a peculiar consideration of the nature of sin.

[3.] There is the efficient cause;—whence it was that the body and blood of Christ were thus separated; and that is threefold:—principal, instrumental, and adjuvant.
What is the principal efficient cause of the sufferings of Christ? Why, the justice and righteousness of God. “God hath set him forth to be a propitiation, to declare his righteousness,” Rom. 3:25. Whence it is said, “He spared him not.” He caused all our sins to meet upon him: “The chastisement of our peace was upon him.”
Again, there is the instrumental cause; and that is the law of God. Whence did that separation, which is here represented unto us, ensue and flow? It came from the sentence of the law, whereby he was hanged upon the tree.

Moreover, the adjuvant cause was those outward instruments, the wrath and malice of men: “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,” Acts 4:27.

Faith considers the cause whence it was that Christ was thus given up, the eternal love of God; the procuring cause was our own sins: and if once faith takes a view of sin as that which hath nailed Christ to the cross, it will have a blessed effect on the soul. And it considers the efficient cause; which is the justice and righteousness of God: the law of God was the instrument in the hand of righteousness, which was holpen on by those outward instruments who had a hand in his suffering, but none in his sacrifice.

[4.] Faith considers in this matter the end of this separation of the body and blood of Christ which is thus represented; and that is, ultimately and absolutely, the glory of God. He “set him forth to declare his righteousness,” Rom. 3:25, Eph. 1:6. God aimed at the glorifying of himself. I could easily manifest unto you how all the glorious properties of his nature are advanced, exalted, and will be so to eternity, in this suffering of Christ. The subordinate ends are two; I mean the subordinate ends of this very peculiar act of separation of the body and blood:—1st. It was to confirm the covenant. Every covenant of old was to be ratified and confirmed by sacrifice; and in confirming the covenant by sacrifice, they divided the sacrifice into two parts, and passed between them before they were offered; and then took it upon themselves that they would stand to the covenant which was so confirmed. Jesus Christ being to confirm the covenant, Heb. 9:16, the body and blood of Christ, this sacrifice, was to be parted, that this covenant might be confirmed. And,—2dly. A special end of it was, for the confirming and strengthening of our faith. God gives out unto us the object of our faith in parcels. We are not able to take this great mysterious fruit of God’s love in gross, in the lump; and therefore he gives it out, I say, in parcels. We shall have the body broken to be considered; and the blood shed is likewise to be considered. This is the peculiar communion which we have with Christ in this ordinance; because there are peculiar objects for faith to act itself upon in this ordinance above others.

John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 9 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 523–527. (HT: Amy Warren)


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  1. Jesus offered the bread first, breaking it and passing it to all of the disciples, then later he held up the cup of wine explaining that it represented his blood that was going to be shed for many, and then passed it around to all of the disciples. That is how it should always be done, bread first, and then the wine afterwards, each person drinking the wine for him/herself. I’ve never understood how the RC church go go from how this last supper is presented in Matthew 26, Mark 22, Luke 19, and II Cor 11:23 to intinction.

  2. It’s not only the RC’s who practice intinction. I’ve been in ELCA churches for funerals and weddings where I’ve seen it practiced. I’m not sure how wide spread this is across Protestant denominations, but I suspect that many of them do it. ‘Course, when one has a low view of the Lord’s Supper (simply a memorial or a just a mechanical ritual) then the means of distribution probably matters little.

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