“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (vv. 6–7). – Romans 6:5–11
Scripture teaches us that we receive true spiritual nourishment when we feed on Christ by faith in the Lord’s Supper (John 6:22–59; 1 Cor. 10:16). This is a reality that is hard to describe, and so the Reformed confessions and catechisms do not give exhaustive explanations of everything that goes on when we partake of this sacrament (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 79; WCF 29.7). Nevertheless, a true communion with the risen Christ takes place when we eat the bread and drink the wine. Ours is a supernatural religion, and supernatural things take place in the Lord’s Supper.
Question and answer 79 of the Heidelberg Catechism tell us the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of assurance. Specifically, the Lord’s Supper assures us “that all of [Jesus’] suffering and obedience are as definitely ours as if we personally had suffered and made satisfaction for our sins.” This statement is drawn from Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:5–11 on our union with Christ. Paul says that we are so connected to our Savior that what happened to Him in His death and resurrection is true of us. We were united to Christ in His death (v. 5)—His death on Calvary was our death, though we did not hang on the cross and did not ourselves receive God’s wrath. Our sin was imputed to the Savior. When the Father judged Him, He did not punish Jesus for His misdeeds, for He had none; rather, the Father punished our evil. Ultimately, God was punishing another person for our sins, for by grace we have not felt His unbridled wrath because of His gracious substitution of the perfect Lamb of God. In Christ, we died to sin. We were released from its penalty because its penalty was satisfied. We were released from its power because we died to its authority and were made alive unto God in our Lord’s resurrection. Consequently, we never need fear that we will have to endure the penalty of sin. In Christ, our Creator considers our debt paid in full.
We are assured of this great truth in the Lord’s Supper as we spiritually feed on the Savior. In consuming the bread and wine, we become physically inseparable from what these elements provide our bodies. This is analogous to the spiritual union we have with Christ, in which we are eternally connected to Jesus by faith alone. This inseparable union means that His suffering and obedience are as surely ours as if we personally had made satisfaction for our sin. He did the work, but we get the benefits.
Because we are united to Christ, the wrath that we deserve was meted out by the Father on His Son at Calvary. Our sin was judged, and the condemnation we earned for having transgressed God’s law was borne by our Savior. Our intimate union with Jesus made all of this possible, and we are reminded tangibly of this union as we feed on Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Thus, we can be assured of our salvation when we partake of the bread and wine in faith.