Sign of Renewal

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Jrfail

Puritan Board Freshman
i am in the middle of a study on communion, and have specifically been doing a deep dive into paedocommunion. (I am against paedocommunion)

As I was studying the topic, I came across some language regarding communion that I found helpful, but was looking for a more in-depth explanation of it.

R Scott Clark says that baptism is the sign of admission (being admitted into the external administration of the covenant of grace), and he says that communion is the sign of Renewal.

I found the language itself very helpful, but he does little more than to simply state the words. He didn’t explain in any depth what “Renewal” meant.

Can anyone shed some more light on this? I would especially appreciate a Presbyterian/Westminster perspective on this.

Thanks in advance!
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
I found the language itself very helpful, but he does little more than to simply state the words. He didn’t explain in any depth what “Renewal” meant.

Can anyone shed some more light on this? I would especially appreciate a Presbyterian/Westminster perspective on this.

Hi Josh,

I have no time tonight, but maybe in the morning, I can add something. But I warn you in advance. The word 'renewal' sounds and feels a bit like 'revival.' After just under 50 years as a Christian, my whole life has been narrowed down to what I will call a holy obsession. The modern Church needs the felt presence of the Holy Spirit more than it oxygen.

This is the first few phrased of a much longer discussion on the potential of the Lord's Supper. I want to look more carefully at the rest before I consider posting it.

"Is it possible that the Lord's Supper may be one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated events that prepares a church for revival? I would argue that this is precisely the case."​
anonymous
 

Jrfail

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi Josh,

I have no time tonight, but maybe in the morning, I can add something. But I warn you in advance. The word 'renewal' sounds and feels a bit like 'revival.' After just under 50 years as a Christian, my whole life has been narrowed down to what I will call a holy obsession. The modern Church needs the felt presence of the Holy Spirit more than it oxygen.

This is the first few phrased of a much longer discussion on the potential of the Lord's Supper. I want to look more carefully at the rest before I consider posting it.

"Is it possible that the Lord's Supper may be one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated events that prepares a church for revival? I would argue that this is precisely the case."​
anonymous
Thanks for replying! I look forward to hearing more!
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks for replying! I look forward to hearing more!
It took me 50 years, but everything is distilling down to one thing. We need God!
I'm becoming more and more convinced that the Lord wants me to become a holy nuisance on the Puritan board to see if I can encourage more and more people to long for the power and love of God to be supernaturally manifested among us.

You will be hearing from me.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
"Renewal" in this context is making reference to the notion that, similarly to ancient Israelite sacrificial meals and feasts, the Lord's Supper is a formal witness, a kind of restatement or fresh-profession of our faith.

Some people intend by "renewal" something tied to the concept of covenant, after all Jesus himself stated in the Lord's Supper that it was "the new diatheke in my blood." There used to be a valued member on the board (Rev.MW) who recommended reevaluation of the language of "renewal" in reference to Communion, insofar as it might lend itself to the idea that the covenant is remade again and again. In actual fact, the covenant was made and secured forever at the time of the First Supper and the events it signified immediately after: the cross and the death of Christ, the Lamb of God.

If we are careful to avoid the kind of error that supposes a version of covenant-renewal that sees any of our engagements as strengthening the covenant itself; but the only renewal being that purpose which strengthens faith in the saints through engagement with the Great Covenanter himself, Christ (please see Westminster Larger Catechism #31)--then "renewal" is a term suitable for our use.

I'm glad you are opposed to the unscriptural practice or teaching of paedocommunion. It is unfounded, and it certainly contradicts the Confessions of all Presbyterian and Reformed churches (for example demanding numerous exceptions to the Westminster Standards). It is a theory in search of biblical warrant. No one ever came to the idea of paedocommunion de novo, studying out a theology of biblical or NT sacraments absent any prior instigation.
 

hammondjones

Puritan Board Junior


 

Jrfail

Puritan Board Freshman
"Renewal" in this context is making reference to the notion that, similarly to ancient Israelite sacrificial meals and feasts, the Lord's Supper is a formal witness, a kind of restatement or fresh-profession of our faith.

Some people intend by "renewal" something tied to the concept of covenant, after all Jesus himself stated in the Lord's Supper that it was "the new diatheke in my blood." There used to be a valued member on the board (Rev.MW) who recommended reevaluation of the language of "renewal" in reference to Communion, insofar as it might lend itself to the idea that the covenant is remade again and again. In actual fact, the covenant was made and secured forever at the time of the First Supper and the events it signified immediately after: the cross and the death of Christ, the Lamb of God.

If we are careful to avoid the kind of error that supposes a version of covenant-renewal that sees any of our engagements as strengthening the covenant itself; but the only renewal being that purpose which strengthens faith in the saints through engagement with the Great Covenanter himself, Christ (please see Westminster Larger Catechism #31)--then "renewal" is a term suitable for our use.

I'm glad you are opposed to the unscriptural practice or teaching of paedocommunion. It is unfounded, and it certainly contradicts the Confessions of all Presbyterian and Reformed churches (for example demanding numerous exceptions to the Westminster Standards). It is a theory in search of biblical warrant. No one ever came to the idea of paedocommunion de novo, studying out a theology of biblical or NT sacraments absent any prior instigation.
Fantastic answer! That’s exactly what I was looking for!

I was reformed baptist and now am Presbyterian. So I have a tendency to conflate the sacraments of baptism and communion together.

Where the efficacy of the thing signified in baptism (which we wouldn’t use that word as a reformed baptist) was indeed tied in some way to the time in which it was administered. This is one reason that there is often rebaptism. A phrase that I have heard often from baptist friends is “get your baptism on the right side of your salvation”.

But, since baptism is the sign of admission, being admitted into the administration of the covenant of grace (the new covenant), and for baptist communion was something that you were immediately admitted to because all baptized believes have made a confession of faith.

So, long story short, now being Presbyterian and recognizing that the sign of baptism is given to both professing believers and their children.. the baptist in me would dive headlong into paedocommunion.

But, I know that to be unbiblical, and am trying to get a very solid foundation under me to be able to answer objections to that (which I get often).

This is why I was studying the signs of the covenant and the differences in what they represent. Baptism being the sign of admission is administered once and it’s efficAcy isn’t tied to the time in which it is administered. We once are admitted into the administration of the covenant of grace.

But, communion, being the sign of renewal, is something is done again and again (like you said. Not the covenant itself. Lest, we essentially take up a very similar error as Roman Catholics with Transubstantiation).. but like you said a renewing of our faith through communing with Christ spiritually.

Is there a better word to use than “sign of renewal” that has been suggested??

Also, now knowing my goal and a bit of my background. Is there any foundational truths like the one being discussed here that I should know about that would help strengthen my case against paedocommunion and for having a clear distinction between the covenant signs??
 
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Jrfail

Puritan Board Freshman


I will look into these. Though without looking I would say that this is speaking of a different subject? Maybe not. Unless covenant renewal is speaking about how communion is a sign of renewal (this seems to be talking about what Mr. Mundum mentioned in his second paragraph).
 

Christopher Robin

Puritan Board Freshman
I think of the Lord's Supper and "renewal" as a continual cleansing, "maintenance," so to speak. The Lord said, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean (John 13:10)." We are clean, yet we live in a fallen world and our feet get dirty living in it. The regular washing of our feet helps us stay clean.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks for replying! I look forward to hearing more!

Hi again, Josh,

I woke up pretty sick this morning, and I am not at all happy with what I have written, for so much more could be said.
Here are the notes I took this morning.

1 Corinthians 5:7 (ESV)​
Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.​

Q. What was the Old Testament predecessor to the Lord's Supper?

A. Passover.

[The following Questions & Answers are from Fisher's Catechism unless otherize noted.]

Q. 1. What were the ordinary sacraments under the Old Testament?
A. They were two: CIRCUMCISION and the PASSOVER.

Q. 93. What are the sacraments of the New Testament?
A. The sacraments of the New Testament are, baptism and the Lord's Supper. (WSC)

Q. 18. How do these two sacraments come in the place of those under the Old Testament?
A. Baptism comes in the place of circumcision and the Lord's Supper in the place of the Passover.

Q. 19. Were the sacraments of the Old Testament no more than shadows of that grace, which is actually conferred by the sacraments under the New, as the Papists would have it?
A. By no means; for "the sacraments of the Old Testament, in regard of the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of the New, 1 Cor. 10:1-5." (WCF, ch 26)

In the Old Testament, Spiritual awakenings (revival) were often most prominently manifested during Passover. (in the interest of length, I will only list several places where we see this).
  • 2 Kings 23:21-23 - King Josiah Restores the Passover (and what a Passover it was)

  • 2 Chronicles 30:1-26 - King Hezekiah Renews the Passover. - 2 Chron. 30:26 So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for, since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.

  • Ezra 6:19-22 - Under the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, Ezra records the recommencement of building the Temple by Zerubbabel and Jeshua. The Passover was the high point of joy at the Temple's completion.
Finally, we have a remarkable New Testament awakening at Jesus' "breaking of the bread." (Luke 24:35)
On the Road to Emmaus Luke 24:13-35 [May I encourage you to read the whole chapter]
Here are a few verses:

Luke 24:25-27,29-32​
And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. but they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?"​
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
For all the qualifiers that Bruce mentioned that must be in place for “renewal” to be understood in an acceptable manner… I don’t like it and argue against it. And the “covenant renewal” idea is horrendous (thankfully most here don’t hold to that)! The notion that spiritual life re-starts or re-freshens (attendant concepts to the notion of renewal) are problematic. In no way does spiritual life start or re-start in Communion. No, rather existing faith is sustained and strengthened. I don’t need “renewal” language to convey that.

We are told not once but twice in 1 Cor 10:16 that the Lord’s supper is a participation - koinonia - in the body and blood of Christ. Hence in 1 Cor 11:27-29 the warning against doing so unworthily.

Anyway - koinonia - communion - is a sufficient word and, since it’s also the language of the Confession, it avoids the nuttiness of aberrant theology. Take RSC with a huge grain of salt.

Which makes sense: baptism is the sign and seal of union with Christ and his people… the Supper is the sign and seal of communion with Christ and his people. This is sufficient. I don’t need to pretend that I’m doing the sacramental version of “rededicating myself” to Jesus in order to benefit from the simple and plain language of the Bible.
 
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Jrfail

Puritan Board Freshman
For all the qualifiers that Bruce mentioned that must be in place for “renewal” to be understood in an acceptable manner… I don’t like it and argue against it. And the “covenant renewal” idea is horrendous (thankfully most here don’t hold to that)! The notion that spiritual life re-starts or re-freshens (attendant concepts to the notion of renewal) are problematic. In no way does spiritual life start or re-start in Communion. No, rather existing faith is sustained and strengthened. I don’t need “renewal” language to convey that.

We are told not once but twice in 1 Cor 10:16 that the Lord’s supper is a participation - koinonia - in the body and blood of Christ. Hence in 1 Cor 11:27-29 the warning against doing so unworthily.

Anyway - koinonia - communion - is a sufficient word and, since it’s also the language of the Confession, it avoids the nuttiness of aberrant theology. Take RSC with a huge grain of salt.

Which makes sense: baptism is the sign and seal of union with Christ and his people… the Supper is the sign and seal of communion with Christ and his people. This is sufficient. I don’t need to pretend that I’m doing the sacramental version of “rededicating myself” to Jesus in order to benefit from the simple and plain language of the Bible.
I agree with that! I certainly don’t believe those things related to “covenant renewal” that you mentioned. In fact, I had never heard of that until this thread discussion.

I did find the language of RSC helpful in itself, when it’s rightly understood in the way that Mr. Mundum explained.

I do like the way that you explained it in the end though. Baptism is the sign of Union with Christ (recognizing that the thing signified is not tied to the moment of administration). But then recognizing that The Lords Supper is the sign of Communion.

Those words themselves weren’t super helpful for me in the same way that “renewal” was because of the regular use of the word “communion”.

But, I do like how if you actually break down the word communion. how the word was derived from com- "with, together" + unus "oneness, union.". This is a good way of explaining the nature of the sacrament and why it is only to be partaken of by professing believers. Especially when you consider that in light of 1 Cor 11.

I may be mixing categories here.. but especially when you consider that Union with Christ (which baptism signifies) has a threefold aspect to it. The imminent Union, transient Union, and the applicatory Union.

Only in the applicatory aspect of Union with Christ is it applied to a person in an experiential way in time and history.

This is the way that I tend to think about baptism and why the Efficacy of the thing signified isn’t tied to the Time of the administration of the baptism. (There are other reasons to. Looking at the nature of circumcision and what not. But this is just one way that I like to think about it.)

The same can’t be said of communion.
 
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Ethan

Puritan Board Freshman
Which makes sense: baptism is the sign and seal of union with Christ and his people… the Supper is the sign and seal of communion with Christ and his people.
That’s excellent. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this before.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
For all the qualifiers that Bruce mentioned that must be in place for “renewal” to be understood in an acceptable manner… I don’t like it and argue against it. And the “covenant renewal” idea is horrendous (thankfully most here don’t hold to that)! The notion that spiritual life re-starts or re-freshens (attendant concepts to the notion of renewal) are problematic. In no way does spiritual life start or re-start in Communion. No, rather existing faith is sustained and strengthened. I don’t need “renewal” language to convey that.

We are told not once but twice in 1 Cor 10:16 that the Lord’s supper is a participation - koinonia - in the body and blood of Christ. Hence in 1 Cor 11:27-29 the warning against doing so unworthily.

Anyway - koinonia - communion - is a sufficient word and, since it’s also the language of the Confession, it avoids the nuttiness of aberrant theology. Take RSC with a huge grain of salt.

Which makes sense: baptism is the sign and seal of union with Christ and his people… the Supper is the sign and seal of communion with Christ and his people. This is sufficient. I don’t need to pretend that I’m doing the sacramental version of “rededicating myself” to Jesus in order to benefit from the simple and plain language of the Bible.
How would such a renewal differ from what is shown in the Old Testament, such as under Joshua in Chapter 24? Nothing in the text suggests this was a "new" or "horrendous" arrangement. Rather it continues God's pledge to bring his people through by his deliverance and the people's utter fidelity owed to God and dependence upon his mercy. Is this not how we approach the Lord's table?
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Not to necessarily side track but when I read the terminology "Covenant Renewal" I think about Jeremiah 31. I think of the fulfilling of Covenant Promises. I think of the renewal of the Covenant of Grace in past fulfillment and better Promises given as they are built upon its foundation. After all we do declare the Lord's death and our salvation every time we partake of Communion. Sure it is a time of self examination and repentance also but it is a declaration of things fulfilled and Renewed.

Can I get some help understanding if this is correct also?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Is there any foundational truths like the one being discussed here that I should know about that would help strengthen my case against paedocommunion and for having a clear distinction between the covenant signs?
One common assertion (minus the evidence) is that because 1) covenant-children participated in the OT feasts, and 2) the NT feasts are a form of continuation of the OT confessing community's activity, therefore 3) children of believers now belong at the Table of the Lord if possible even more.

The argument fails with the first premise. There is no biblical evidence that young children partook of OT altar-feasts. Inferences are made on the scant evidence brought together; and strong counter-evidence is ignored, for determining who was authorized to participate. The Law was very clear, Lev.7:19-21, no unclean person was permitted to join in sacrificial meals (and the feasts were sacrificial; simply look at the few OT records of Passover, or those in the Gospels; concern for cleanliness in order to participate is front-and-center more than once).

Children below some age-of-discernment are and were incapable of the duty of self-examination required to determine if he was suitably clean. There is not one text that defers such responsibility to a parent. The priest was the official authority granting or withholding admission. If someone was formally adjudged to be "unclean," it required the priest (not a parent or friend) to reexamine the case. In lesser cases, obviously the matter was entrusted to the individual following the Law, and had the tacit oversight of the priesthood. However, that tacit grant assumes the requisite personal awareness of the duty.

In short, the Pauline and apostolic admonition to "examine yourself" prior to attending the Lord's Supper is nothing other than a restatement of the much older requirement to observe the sign of acceptance before God in the OT. Rather than reading into the NT expression some sort of "age-appropriate" scale of judgment, there is no diminution of responsibility; but only a growing up into the mature status of devotional obedience to the standard. The self-exam duty of a NT believer is, if anything, a higher standard not indexed to a set of outward conforming ritual observances.

Furthermore, while there were invitations in the Law for whole families to come to the altar for sacrificial celebration, such would never overturn the legal bounds of direct participation. Any who partook of the sacrifice had first to be clean, and to know he was clean and what it meant to be clean. The Law also stipulated that the required attendees were "adult males," those who should by a certain age be able to bear responsibility (we know by Jesus' day that the statutory age was likely around 13yrs, the bar mizvah age; in earlier ages it might have been later, perhaps 20yrs old and authorized to go to war, Num.1:22). The parents of the man-born-blind answered their authorities with the words, "He is of age, he can answer for himself."

Clearly, OT society recognized that some aspects of their religious community were closed to younger members until they were of sufficient maturity to engage. Just being able to stuff solid food in the mouth was not the measure of spiritual (or other kinds of) fitness. Again, the notion of paedocommunion is a theory about what "ought" to be the case as determined by a rationalistic a priori. "If this is the case (and surely it must be), where can I find biblical warrant?" Thus, the invitations to feast with the family are prioritized (e.g. Dt.12:12), parental responsibility is elevated to that of priests, and a great deal is made of the rules of the inaugural Passover and subsequent participation--which is supposed (but not by all interpreters of the data!) to include each-and-every household member.

This, it is claimed, upon transference to a NT context, makes the case for setting aside what has long been regarded as the plain and incontrovertible NT statement on a single standard requisite fitness for participation in the Lord's Supper. Jesus was examined at age 12yrs by elders in Jerusalem (why was that, I wonder?). Elders today (not parents) are tasked with opening or closing the Table to worthy recipients. Perhaps there is already in place a well thought out correlation between how the people of God in old time guarded their foresignifying ritual meals for the integrity of them and the well-being (see 2Chr.30:18-20) of the people, and how the people of God in the present era guard both the integrity of our memorial ritual meal and the well-being (see 1Cor.11:29-31) of the people--especially the most vulnerable and likely to err, viz. the children of the community.

Other arguments can and are made (added to the above) in defense of the traditional limits recognized pertaining to the NT covenant-meal participation.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
How would such a renewal differ from what is shown in the Old Testament, such as under Joshua in Chapter 24? Nothing in the text suggests this was a "new" or "horrendous" arrangement. Rather it continues God's pledge to bring his people through by his deliverance and the people's utter fidelity owed to God and dependence upon his mercy. Is this not how we approach the Lord's table?
Jean,
I think the point that should be granted is to note how, while there were instances of special recapitulation of covenant commitment such as the gathering in Jos.8 (yes, there is another gathering in Jos.23 and maybe yet a different one in Jos.24 though some think the latter continues the former)--these occasional moments fit the redemptive-historical context in a particular way. The people in Jos.8 stood across from each other on two mountainsides, and ritually blessed and cursed the nation using the covenant-law. It was a moment Moses had commanded them before his death, and the fact the people were entered into the Land of Promise had bearing on this manner of covenant-renewal.

When the Law was fully read out in the people's hearing--at absolute minimum every seven years following the Feast of Booths, Dt.31:10-12--here we find the ordinary reading, familiarization of the people with their holy writ, is enhanced somewhat. Yet, even the annual Day of Atonement, or the purging of leaven in connection with the Passover was not a re-founding of the nation or refreshing the Law-constitution; but was affirmation of solidarity with the founding at the start.

Following the 40yrs rebellion-wandering-punishment, coming into the Promised Land called for something more nearly "renewal." The covenant really was renewed not long after it was originally entered into then immediately broken, when Moses interceded for the people. Note the mediatorship he performed. There is greater fitness in finding actual, or nearly full-formed renewals prior to the establishment of the New Covenant with its perfect Mediator, when God kept raising up typological mediators to bring the people back to him, than we have in this era of fulfillment.

Indeed, there was nothing ill about the OT covenant-people experiencing something closer to renewal properly so-called. They also practiced moments that were less-renewals, and more solidarity and engagement with what was already theirs in virtue of previous covenant mediation. In our era, we have a strong focus on the fulfilling aspect of Christ, our true covenant-keeper, so our memorial is more like the latter in Israel. If we use the term "renewal," we shouldn't imagine that whenever we take the Lord's Supper we observe God's "softening" toward us since our previous engagement, while in the interim we carelessly picked away at our relationship. Communion doesn't put our relationship back on its firm foundation, it celebrates the fact it cannot be moved. The imperfection of Israelite mediators lent itself further toward the need for renewals that actually reflected the "temporary" covenant-quality of the Mosaic administration.
 

Jrfail

Puritan Board Freshman
Baptism - sign of initiation

Lord’s Supper - sign of continuation

This is how I was taught.
Sign of communion, sign of renewal, and sign of continuation. Seems like everyone has there own spin on it

Taught? Did you happen to go to Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary? I noticed you live pretty close to me from your profile.
 

Clemson_Gentleman

Puritan Board Freshman
Sign of communion, sign of renewal, and sign of continuation. Seems like everyone has there own spin on it

Taught? Did you happen to go to Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary? I noticed you live pretty close to me from your profile.

No sir. Wish I could lay claim to having attended GPTS. I was taught this at my church during a class on the WCF.
 

Jrfail

Puritan Board Freshman
No sir. Wish I could lay claim to having attended GPTS. I was taught this at my church during a class on the WCF.
Ah! Ok! I was just curious! Greenville is about an hour from where I live and GPTS is spoken of very highly by our presbytery! So I was just wondering.
 
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