The Fundamental Significance Of The Lord’s Supper (pt 2)

The reason why Christ made a change to the symbols representative of his sacrificed self is obvious enough. He to whom all the Paschal lambs from the beginning had been pointing, was about to be offered up. The old things were passing away: behold, all things were to become new. As He was in no doubt as to His approaching death—or rather as He was in the act of preparing for the death He was Himself to accomplish for sinners: so he was in no doubt as to the approaching dissolution of the Jewish state, and the cessation of the ritual law, and with it all of the sacrifices which the law prescribed. But not only was it appropriate that the new epoch in the kingdom of God that was about to dawn should be marked by a change in ritual; it was necessary that the change introduced should follow on some such lines as those our Lord was actually giving it. The Temple sacrifices were to cease; there were to be no longer sacrificed lambs available for the Passover festival. There is accordingly no lamb in the Jewish Passover to-day while yet there remains a symbol of the lamb in the Christian Passover: they have no altar, but we have an altar of which they have no right to eat. The new dispensation was to be universal: it was needful that its central act of worship should not imply a central place of worship and be bound to it: the day has come when neither in Jerusalem nor in any other special place should men worship God, but everywhere in spirit and in truth. Above all, the true Lamb to which all the Paschal lambs had pointed was at length to be offered up; fulfilled in the antitype, it would be indecorous to offer up longer the types. Thus the change that was made in the chosen symbols of the great sacrifice needed to have regard at once to the closing of the old dispensation of typical sacrifices, to the opening of the new dispensation of universal spiritual worship, and to the passing away of the type in the antitype. All of this was beautifully provided for when Jesus, even as they ate the last Paschal lamb, took the bread and wine that lay before him, and with the unmistakable emphasis of contrast, said “this is my body given for you;” “this is my blood of the covenant poured out for you.” Whatever his disciples missed in their wonder at the new things that were so mysteriously and so rapidly crowding upon them, we may be sure that they did not miss this: that in some way the Master was transforming the Passover for them and giving them not in the symbolism for it but new symbols in it.

The really palmary fact for the understanding of the Lord’s Supper thus clearly emerges. The Lord’s Supper in its fundamental significance is just what the Passover Meal was: the symbols are changed, the substance remains the same. It is not necessary for our present purpose to determine the precise nature of the Passover offering—whether, for example it was a special, or rather the culminating instance of a sin-offering, differing only from other sin-offerings only in the adjunction to it of a sacrificial feast; or whether, just because of the inclusion of this feast, it was, not technically a sin-offering at all, but rather what is generally called a peace-offering. After all, the distinction is merely a matter of the distribution of emphasis. Every bloody offering was piacular: and the peace-offering differed from the sin-offering only by the addition of an additional conception. Whether we call it a peculiar and more complete form of the the sin-offering, or rather a peace-offering, therefore, the two ideas of expiation and communion are alike inexpugnably imbedded in the very substance of the passover sacrifice. The meal which succeeded the sacrifice in any case owed its significance to its relation to the the sacrifice. The victim offered was the material of the meal, and the idea of expiation was therefore fundamental to it—it was a feast of death. But, on the other hand, just because it was a festive meal, it in any case also celebrated rather the effects than the fact of this death—it was a feast of life.

Part 3.


Part 1. Original source: “The Fundamental Significance of the Lord’s Supper” in The Bible Student, v. iii, 1901, pp. 77–83 (HT: Harrison Perkins).


    Post authored by:

  • B. B. Warfield
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    B. B. Warfield (1851–1921) was a scholar of the New Testament, textual criticism, historical theology, and systematic theology. He studied at what would become Princeton University and abroad, taught at Western Theological Seminary for nine years, and then at Princeton Theological Seminary. He was one of the most important exponents of Reformed theology in American history.

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