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The Lord's Supper: Eternal Word in Broken Bread Paperback – July 1, 2001
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"In their legitimate interest in preaching and the Word, American Presbyterians have never been known for having a well-developed sacramental theology or for giving the sacraments a central place in worship. Robert Letham begins to remedy this fault in this very effective introduction to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Accessible for laymen and laywomen, it should also be read by pastors and elders." --D. G. Hart
"Clearly written, this little book should encourage and challenge its readerschurch officers, lay persons, study and discussion groupsto a better understanding of and, much needed today, a higher regard for the blessings spread before the church at the table of the Lord." --Richard B. Gaffin Jr.
About the Author
Robert Letham (MAR, ThM, Westminster Theological Seminary; PhD, Aberdeen University) is professor of systematic and historical theology at Union School of Theology in Bridgend, Wales, and the author of a number of books, including The Holy Trinity, The Lord's Supper, and Union with Christ.
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1. Biblical Foundations of the Supper
2. The Lord's Supper in Church History
3. The Lord's Supper in Reformed Theolgoy
4. The Lord's Supper in Practice
Beginning with the proposition that the Lord's Supper is not a modified Passover meal at all but is instead looking back to Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and Israel's elders on Mount Sinai in Exodus 24:1-1, Letham sets out to describe what does and does not happen at the Lord's supper. Both Biblically and traditionally (citing much from classic treatises, catechisms, and confessionals) Letham disputes Rome's view of Christ's physical presence through transubstantiation and Luther's view of the same through consubstantiation. He argues for a very real spiritual presence and communion taking place through Lord's Supper, making communion much more than the simple "remembrance" of most evangelicals.
It is after this point (after the second chapter) that the Bible begins to play a very minimal role in the work. Chapter three's goal is to expound the views of the Lord's Supper as taken by (1) Calvin and (2) The Westminster Standards.
Then Chapter four tells how the Eucharist has traditionally been taken: administered often by an ordained minister from a single loaf and a single cup, using wine and any kind of bread, and administered to confessing, baptized believers.
Unfortunately, I feel that the conclusions of this book come far to heavily from traditional views, seeming in many instance to set tradition almost on par with scripture (I am not at all implying that this was Letham's intent). Much of my mild disappointment with this book came from misplaced expectations. I was expecting a thoroughly Biblical exposition of the Lord's supper in doctrine and in practice. The purpose of this book seems to be, rather, a call for Presbyterians to return to their traditional roots, especially in regard to the sacrament of the Eucharist. Understanding this, I would recommend this book as a useful tool to simply and tersely summarize a biblical and the traditional reformed view of the Lord's Supper.
In short he believes that the Lord's Supper should be observed every Lord's Day with ordinary bread and real wine. He believes that the Lord's Supper is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace. He believes that when the Lord's Supper is received with genuine faith and repentance then Christ is received as well (it is not just symbolic as the Baptists teach) but not in a physical way (as the Roman Catholics and Lutherans teach).
I do disagree with the author in that he doesn't seem to believe there is a link between Passover and the Lord's Supper. Other than that one thing, he has convinced me of the rest of his views on the Lord's Supper.
This is one of my favorite books, because it helped me understand how Christ is received at the Lord's Supper. I hope God will use it to help many churches take the Lord's Supper often, reverently, properly, worshipfully, and with understanding.
Advocates of paedo-communion may well want to debate the author's statement that giving Communion to infants is presciently opposed in the Westminster Larger Catechism, as they will his conclusion that such a practice fits best with transubstantiation and memorialism. Temperance groups could conceivably want to challenge the use of wine in the Eucharist and this author's exuberant espousal of this. And I can imagine any number of recent commentators wanting to question the relation of Jesus' "Bread of life" discourse in John chapter six with the Lord's Supper. But I cannot see anyone in the Reformed tradition (the audience this booklet was written for) not appreciating Robert Letham's work or commending it as a means of invoking a higher regard for the Lord's Supper.
Pastors wanting to awaken in their congregations a greater sense of the significance of the Lord's Supper will want to make numbers of this booklet available to parishioners, or utilize it themselves in preaching on this sacrament. Church education officers looking for new material for adult Sunday school classes or for a text to cover the Lord's Supper in the context of a new member's class, will also want to obtain and make use of this work. A fine book that anyone can read with profit, I suspect it will keep many from seeing the Lord's Supper as an "optional extra" ever again!