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The Lord’s Table as an important doctrinal distinctive

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series

"Worship and Doctrinal Distinctives"

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Last week I began a series in which I will show the relationship between worship theology/practice and doctrinal distinctives. I plan to show how some aspects of worship necessarily divide, while other aspects preserve appropriate unity.

I mentioned last week how in many respects, differences over worship theology lead to the division of denominations during and after the Reformation.

communion_1This is perhaps no more true than with understanding and practice of baptism and the Lord’s Table. In the early years of the Reformation, differences over the Lord’s Table presented one of the most divisive issues. For example, while the Reformers agreed in their repudiation of transubstantiation, Luther and Zwingli could not come to a consensus on the meaning of “this is my body” (Luke 22:19), the only one of fifteen articles in the Marburg Articles the Zwinglians could not sign. Zwingli insisted that Christ was present only at the Father’s right hand and that the elements of the Lord’s Supper were a memorial only, while Luther argued that Christ could also be literally present in sacramental union with the elements.1

Calvin maintained his own unique understanding of the presence of Christ in the Supper, asserting that Christ was not actually present in the elements but that “all that Christ himself is and has is conveyed” to believers through the Spirit of Christ at the Supper,2 a view that prevented him from fully unifying with the others as well.

Thus, views concerning the Lord’s Table have necessarily led to division among those who would otherwise call themselves Christian brothers.

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About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

  1. Details of the Marburg Colloquy between Luther and Zwingli are described in Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 38: Word and Sacrament IV, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 38 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 15–89. []
  2. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 4.14.12. []