Cover Image: The Lord's Supper

The Lord's Supper

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Member Reviews

Mathison writes this book in classic Reformed form, following Calvin and the broad Reformed tradition on this sacrament, Mathison explains almost everything a lay person might ask about the Lord's Supper. While not delving much into controversies, he answers the most common questions in a succinct manner. This is a book to hand to newcomers to a Reformed Church or those wanting short and succinct questions.
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Many of us are in denominations with a position and understanding of the Lord's Supper that perhaps we either do not fully understand or is not grapsed.  For example, whilst many of us 'know' why we don't agree with Roman Catholic teaching, why do we disagree with Lutheran's? Or what distinguishes Calvin and Zwingli?

This is a very helpful book on the treatment of the Lord's Supper and sadly an often undertreated subject.  Therefore, I am glad that there is a resource available which is accessible, but also reliable.

We would do well to ensure that we know what we believe and why we believe it.  This is one resource which works towards that goal.
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All Christians would agree that the Lord’s Supper is a significant part of the life of the Church. But do we really understand this sacrament and why we do it?

Mathison states that “there are many Christians sitting in the pews of churches across this nation and around the world for whom the Lord’s Supper has become part of the Christian routine. They partake faithfully, and they think about Jesus while they are partaking, but they do not really understand everything that is going on during the observance of the sacrament.”

If this describes your normal experience with the Lord’s Supper, this is the book for you! Mathison provides us with a very succinct exploration into the Protestant practice of the Lord’s Supper using several common questions that people normally ask, like what even is the Lord’s Supper? What are the different views? How often should we partake? What are the elements of the Supper? How should we prepare to this it? And what about children partaking? He also digs into several of the passages in the Gospels and Paul’s epistles regarding this practice.

What I love about this book is its short length and simply layout. It’s basically a Q & A on the Lord’s Supper and it can easily be read in an afternoon. When new thoughts or questions come to mind, it is easy to pick this volume up to be refreshed on the purpose behind the Supper. If read carefully, it will change how you think about and practice the Lord’s Supper in your experience with the body of Christ.

Mathison goes on to say, “When we begin to understand what the Lord’s Supper is and what it means, when we begin to understand what God is doing and what we are doing in this sacrament, it is no longer a tedious extra fifteen minutes to endure. Instead, it is a source of great blessing, something we look forward to with anticipation.”

Read & Repeat
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Terminology is important. How we describe something often betrays a theological or philosophical position. For example,  mass, the Eucharist, communion, the breaking of bread, the Lord’s supper, are all different terms that describe the same biblical injunction and behind each term often comes a theological position. It is no surprise then as this book is entitled The Lord’s Supper we have a Reformed perspective. 

In this short but informative book Mathison, professor of systematic theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford in Florida, examines the biblical background, the theological issues, and practice behind this covenantal meal instituted by Christ.

He does so by posing and answering 11 questions in the 11 chapters.

The questions posed are as follows

1. What Is the Lord’s Supper?
2. What Are the Different Views of the Lord’s Supper?
3. Why Did Jesus Institute the Lord’s Supper on the Passover?
4. What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, “This Is My Body” and “This Is My Blood of the Covenant”?
5. What Does Paul Teach concerning the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10–11? 
6. Is Jesus Present in the Lord’s Supper? 
7. Is the Lord’s Supper a Sacrifice? 
8. What Are the Elements of the Lord’s Supper? 
9. How Frequently Should the Lord’s Supper Be Observed? 
10. How Should Believers Prepare for and Partake of the Lord’s Supper?
11. Should Children Partake of the Lord’s Supper?

Mathieson is well equipped to do this as he had previously written Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper (P&R, 2002).

The strength of the book is its brevity, but its brevity does not sacrifice depth. The aim of the book is ‘to help Christians better understand the doctrine and practice of the Lord’s Supper in the Reformed tradition.’ Mathieson has succeeded in this and the book will help clarify many of the questions the topic raises.
Below is a concept map summary based on chapter 11, the issue of paedocommunion. 
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The Lord's Supper by Keith A. Mathison is a very clear and straightforward book. This book answers questions about the Lords supper and would be a wonderful resource for any pastor to have in their Church library. I would also recommend this book to anyone who is newly saved or new to going to Church.
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I believe the author has a very good reputation for creating gentle and persuasive descriptions and explanations of some of the most difficult, contested theological and Biblical matters. This present work on the Lord's Supper, I have no doubt, will be received very well in the broad Reformed community, but also very well within general Baptist circles as well. 

Although there may be some Baptist resistance to occasional Westminster standards, Dr. Mathison's approach opens by using the Larger Catechism as a demonstration of the care with which those in the Reformed tradition have precisely summarized the meaning of the Lord's Supper, And this is one of the strengths of this book; through both Scripture and the community of faith, the Lord's Supper is plainly and smoothly laid out in eleven chapters that easily kept my attention throughout. Two in particular, "What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, “This Is My Body” and “This Is My Blood of the Covenant”? and "Is Jesus Present In The Lord’s Supper?" clearly addressed essential issues, not flippantly or casually, but with care and directness. 

I believe Mathison's work is easily accessible to new believers, but will also be heartily digested by long-time believers too. I found this to be highly interesting, very informative, and free from technical language. I do recommend this title to the Christian family at large, without regard to being "in" the Reformed camp or without. This is a title for the body. The book also happens to be unleavened.
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Some call it the Eucharist. Others prefer to use "Holy Communion." Patterned after the gospel's record of Jesus' last supper with his disciples, it is also popularly known as "The Lord's Supper." What is it? Why do Christians celebrate it? Why is it so significant in the Church? How should Christians approach this sacrament? These questions are some of the common ones described in this book. The author shares about some of his curiosity about this topic in his early years attending Church services. When young, he simply accepted the elements and rituals as they were. Gradually, he starts asking questions about meaning and purpose of these sacraments. He recalls in Church that while there are many lessons about Christianity and the faith in the Church, the doctrine of the Lord's Supper is seldom covered or talked about. This is made more complex in the light of multiple ways of interpretation and understanding of the Holy Communion. It is hoped that this book can fill in this void. The purpose in this book according to Mathison is to "help Christians better understand the doctrine and practice of the Lord's Supper in the Reformed Tradition." In view of the many different interpretations on the significance and meaning of this sacrament, the author uses eleven big questions to guide us through this topic. The eleven big questions are:

What is the Lord's Supper?
What are the Different Views of the Lord's Supper?
Why did Jesus institute the Lord's Supper on the Passover?
What did Jesus mean when He said: "This is My Body" and "This is My Blood of the Covenant?"
What does Paul teach concerning the Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 10-11?
Is Jesus present at the Lord's Supper?
Is the Lord's Supper a sacrifice?
What are the elements of the Lord's Supper?
How frequently should the Lord's Supper be observed?
How should believers prepare for and partake of the Lord's Supper?
Should children partake of the Lord's Supper?

As a sacrament, the Lord's Supper essentially "signifies, seals, and exhibits the benefits" of believing in Christ. Mathison takes time to explain each of these words to help us appreciate the link between the teachings in the Bible and the reason why we take the sacraments. He helps us understand the different views: Roman Catholic; the Lutheran; and the Reformed doctrines. The Lord's Supper also brings together the Old and New Testament practices of how the covenants are fulfilled. The author compares the literal and figurative meanings of the covenants.

What I like in this book is the way Mathison uses layperson language to explain the technical words. This is helpful because not all readers are theologically trained. Even the words "signifies, seals, and exhibits" are well explained rather than assumed. On top of that, he sees from the viewpoints of laypersons, people who would also be asking questions like what he did when he was younger. The author is upfront about his theological orientation, and gives a fair overview of the other theological positions pertaining to the Lord's Supper. Of course, he gives ample reasons why the Reformed doctrine is the most appropriate one to have. Nevertheless, Mathison is respectful of alternative views by coming across more like a teacher rather than a proselyte. An interesting discussion is about the use of actual wine and the associated debate over whether it is sinful or not. I like the way Mathison compares and contrasts the arguments before putting forth a fair explanation why a little alcohol is acceptable. On the frequency of the Lord's Supper, he helps us move away from legalistic adherence toward a more practical and spiritual significance.

For those wanting a clear explanation on some of the most common questions about the Lord's Supper, this guidebook should be a great primer to begin with.

Dr Keith A Mathison is professor of Systematic Theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida. He has also served as associate editor for the Reformation Study Bible and Tabletalk magazine. He has also authored on Calvin

Rating: 4 stars of 5.

This book has been provided courtesy of Reformation Trust Publishing and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
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Very insightful.  Gives one lots to chew on as far as how one approaches the subject and table.  I enjoyed reading it and digging a bit deeper on the subject.
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The Lord's Supper is one of the ordinances of the church that remembers the death of Christ. Most Christians find it interesting that we take time to remember to the death of Christ although He is Risen and sits at the Father's right hand. There are some unhealthy ideas about the Lord's Supper that needs to be corrected because some Christians do not what this is all about. Keith A Mathison has written an introductory book on the Lord's Supper to show Christians why this is important for us. This book is very similar to the one Guy Richard wrote on the other ordinance of the church, Baptism, which is also written from a Presbyterian prospective. 

The book begins with defining what the Lord's Supper is, which Baptists agree it is an ordinance of the church although Presbyterians use the word sacrament, which means, according to the Westminster Larger Confession, "a holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his church, to signify, seal and exhibit unto those that are within the covenant of grace...(it is) a visible outward sign and the spiritual reality signified by the sign." The Lord's Supper was instituted by Christ in the upper room before he was crucified which Jesus told the Disciples that every time we partake of it, we remember His death until he comes. Mathison takes a look at the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed views which are different in many ways.

Mathison continues on explaining the significance of the Lord's Supper including what Paul teaches about it in 1 Corinthians 10-11, which most preachers read before a church takes the Lord's Supper. One of the teachings Paul gives is that we are to examine ourselves, which means to repent of any sins we may need to confess and also to see if we are truly in the faith. One of issues those outside the Presbyterian church may have is if children allowed to partake of the supper. After all, Presbyterians believe they must baptize the child of a believing family. Judging by what I can tell, Mathison does not support the idea of children partaking of the Lord's Supper because children, like adults, must examine themselves before taking it. 

This book serves as a well done introduction into the Lord's Supper if you are a member of a Presbyterian church. For Baptists, we must seek out material from a Baptist perspective to understand it. Not saying Baptists cannot learn from Presbyterians about the Lord's Supper, but we need to have a better understanding of what we believe based on Baptist distinctives, if you are a Baptist. If you are a Presbyterian, then please read this book.
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This book provides an excellent discussion of the Protestant sacrament called the Lord’s Supper.  Not only does the author explain the subtopics clearly, he also provides Scriptural references to support what is being said. This book should be required reading in classes conducted for new converts and new members. In addition, it would also make excellent reading or review for members in general.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book that was provided by the publisher through Net Galley. However, the thoughts and opinions presented here are my own.
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★ ★ ★ 1/2 (rounded up)
This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
There were many laudable things about Mathison's Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper (P & R Publishing, 2002), one of the personal highlights was the final chapter, "Practical Issues and Debates." This new release from Reformation Trust takes the same impulses that were behind that chapter (and the rest of the book) and delivers a concise introduction to the Reformed doctrine of the Lord's Supper, looking at the doctrinal landscape, a survey of the relevant passages, and some pressing questions (both theological and practical) for those with little background in the Sacrament, or those who wish to have their understanding sharpened.

Because the chapter titles represent just what you get in this book, let me post them:

    1. What Is the Lord’s Supper?
    2. What Are the Different Views of the Lord’s Supper?
    3. Why Did Jesus Institute the Lord’s Supper on the Passover?
    4. What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, “This Is My Body” and “This Is My Blood of the Covenant”?
    5. What Does Paul Teach concerning the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10– 11?
    6. Is Jesus Present In The Lord’s Supper?
    7. Is the Lord’s Supper a Sacrifice?
    8. What Are the Elements of the Lord’s Supper?
    9. How Frequently Should the Lord’s Supper Be Observed?
    10. How Should Believers Prepare for and Partake of the Lord’s Supper?
    11. Should Children Partake of the Lord’s Supper?

The first two chapters cover the ground that a lot of books on the subject do—every author (and reader) need to start with the basics in view, and Mathison handles a survey these ideas very capably.

Chapter 3 is honestly not something I've considered before (at least not in a lot of detail)—after all, when else could the Last Supper have been held? But I'm glad he covered this idea, and it gave me a good perspective on redemptive-historical place of the sacrament instituted that night.

Chapters 4 and 5 are very helpful and clear while guiding the reader through the passages in question. He doesn't get too technical with the passages (due to space and the focus of the book), but is efficient enough in his explanation that he provides a solid grounding for further study and meditation. I particularly appreciated that in Chapter 5, Mathison is careful to point out that not only does the sacrament look back ("Do this in remembrance"), but it looks forward in eschatological hope to the consummation.

Chapter 6 is obviously going to be controversial and might cause problems for many. Mathison is irenic, yet he doesn't waver from his position (or provide much wiggle room for those who might disagree). Carefully building on the aforementioned texts and the Niceno-Chalcedonian doctrine concerning the person of Christ, he then explains the teachings of the magisterial Reformers (the non-Lutheran ones, anyway) in a way relevant to today's believer.

Like Chapter 6, Chapter 9 covers ground that he focused on in the longer previous work—and those who want more on those subjects have a ready resource in his work. What's here is a great start, but it's not everything Mathison has to say on the ideas.

Chapter 10 is pure gold, it's one of the best things I've read this year. It's helpful and encouraging (and, yes, a little challenging)—worth the purchase price alone.

Overall the writing is clear—easy enough for anyone to approach and understand, while not losing the depth and rigor necessary when dealing with something as important as this. Mathison cites other authors (contemporary and historical) to help (and the footnotes provide great fodder for further study), but shoulders most of the work himself. If you've never read Mathison, this is a good way to see one of his strengths is always taking complex ideas and presenting them in an accessible fashion.

I have two complaints—neither are enough to keep me from recommending the book, and possibly gifting it—but they're things that bugged me. Brevity. It's just too short, it doesn't have to be as long as Given for You, but each chapter could be just a little longer and more developed.

The second complaint (semi-related) is the lack of a conclusion, just a page or two of wrap-up, an exhortation to use these answers—something. It just ends abruptly after Chapter 11, and the absence of anything else was a deafening silence.

Those a great resource for those with questions about the Reformed position on the sacrament. Like Guy Prentiss Waters' The Lord's Supper as the Sign and Meal of the New Covenant from last year, it's a great introductory work and would make a great companion to it, the two would round out each other. Mathison helps to deal with practical and theoretical issues that young believers, or believers new to the Reformed tradition, stumble on and struggle with. Faithful, helpful, wise, and encouraging, this book is a great help and you'd do well to check it out.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Reformation Trust Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this, I appreciate the opportunity, but not enough to change my opinion of the book.
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Decent covering of the subject. The beginning threw me off, as the author was trying to support ideas about the Lord's supper by citing Church History instead of the Bible, but he did end up going over the biblical material to a certain degree later on. Would have liked to see a deeper study of the biblical material.
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The Lord's Supper is a God-ordained means of grace. It is something that the Lord Himself has provided for our spiritual nourishment, just as He has provided the preaching of the Word. 

The Lord's Supper is a Christian Sacrament that is done in Christian Churches all over the world. The Catholics and Protestants have a different understanding of the bread and wine. There is a difference in churches in the frequency of the meal and also the solemnity of when the meal is taken. I appreciated this study on the meal because I do appreciate what the meal represents and how I engage in the Gospel of Christ by taking it. The text will give history of the church in taking of the meal and the differences among denominations. It will also give you a better understanding of the meal itself and that when you take of the meal, you will see the meal as a way of worship and knowing God. 

Highly recommend.

A Special Thank you to Reformation Trust Publishing and Netgalley for the ARC and the opportunity to post an honest review
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