The PCA Ohio Presbytery ‘Receives’ Committee Report on Intinction

The PCA Ohio Presbytery, at it stated meeting on Feb. 4, 2012 at Cornerstone PCA in Youngstown, Ohio, voted to receive its study committee report on intinction. The study committee was formed at the Nov. 6, 2010 Presbytery meeting in Columbus in answer to an overture from the Session of Zion Reformed Church (PCA) in Winesburg, Ohio.

The overture petitioned Ohio Presbytery “to erect a committee to study the practice of intinction, and to determine if it is theologically sound, and in accord with Scripture and our constitution.” Intinction was defined in the Zion overture: as “the practice of dipping the bread in the cup and partaking the elements simultaneously.”

A Presbytery can “receive” or “adopt” a reports from its committees. Receiving a report means that the church court acknowledges the work of its committee and commends the report to its churches for study and discussion. If a church court adopts a report it means it is expressing the opinion of the court at a particular meeting and can be noted as an opinion but is not binding on the member churches and officers. With regard to Ohio Presbtery, a motion to adopt was made but defeated by the Presbytery.

The report’s Summary states, in part, the following:

This study committee affirms that the mode of practicing communion by way of intinction is not a disputable matter or a matter of indifference left to each to decide by way of conscience. The committee has, to this point, concurred within itself, to declare that this is a significant issue to be considered because the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of the church, and the right administration of the sacrament is one of the marks of a true church.

With reference to the previous section on the theology of intinction (i.e., responses to Questions 2 and 3), this study committee found strong, compelling biblical and theological support for the practice of partaking of the elements separately – of “eating” AND of “drinking”. Therefore, intinction is out of accord with Scripture.

Practical considerations appear to be the primary reasons for intinction. During this study, the committee heard a variety of pragmatic reasons for the practice, including: (a) it is one of the “touch points” for a more meaningful worship, (b) it saves time, (c) it takes longer, (d) it may better appeal to those who come from church traditions that practice intinction (e.g., Catholic, Orthodox), (e) it avoids the Congregationalist practice of distributing the elements in the pews, (f) it better enables communion in the battlefield, and (g) it is practiced in the PCA.

The study committee acknowledges that within the PCA, there is a diversity of worship practices that span the spectrum between the regulative and normative principles of worship. Intinction would be practiced by churches that subscribe to the normative principle of worship or interpret the regulative principle in a more normative sense. The argument could be made that, under a more normative interpretation of the worship principle, that intinction is not out of accord with the BCO that forms part of the PCA constitution.

Therefore, the study committee commits this report to the Presbytery for dissemination, with the exhortation to all our churches to study this matter further and to act as appropriate, so our worship practices will be more conformed to the Scriptures, to the glory of our Heavenly Father.

The Summary also states:

The communicant who does not commune with Christ in “eating” and “drinking” does nonetheless come to Christ by faith but does so being robbed of some of the intended spiritual benefits. Whether we receive one or the other element apart from “eating” or “drinking,” we set ourselves up to feed in a more limited manner upon Christ and fail to behold the wonder of the entire work of Christ wrought for us in salvation. Scripture has spoken about the issue of mode of celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and has done so clearly when Christ simply said, “Take, eat” and “Drink” being commanded for our growth in grace unto maturity.

Here is the whole Report.

Ohio Presbytery Intinction Study Committee Report
February 2012
Introduction
At its November 2010 stated meeting, the Ohio Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) erected this intinction study committee in response to an overture from Zion Reformed Church (PCA) in Winesburg, Ohio (Attachment A). The members of this committee are RE Sam Foster, RE Tim Ling, TE Jason Strong and RE Rae Whitlock. Others who served on the committee for part of this study were TE Todd Naille and TE Matt Timmons. RE Tim Ling was elected as Chairman of this committee.

The committee focused its work only on the matter of intinction, which is defined in the Zion overture: as “the practice of dipping the bread in the cup and partaking the elements simultaneously.” Therefore, the committee did not address other aspects of communion, such as other modes of distributing the elements, frequency of communion, type of bread, wine or grape juice, pew/table/altar communion, persons who may serve the elements, paedocommunion and communicant non-voting members.

The committee decided to structure its work around answering the five questions provided in the Zion overture:

1. When and how did the practice of intinction come into the PCA?
2. Is intinction merely a “disputable matter” (Romans 14:1) allowing liberty of conscience in its practice, or is it a practice that is theologically out of accord with Scripture (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26) and our constitution (BCO 58-5)?
3. Does the preservation of the “single cup” in communion theologically trump the keeping of the elements separate?
4. Can candidates for the ministry be examined on intinction, including their views of it?
5. If it is determined that intinction is out of accord with Scripture and our constitution, then what should be done to instruct and assist Sessions and churches in the Presbytery that practice intinction to come back into accord with Scripture and our constitution?

These five questions were organized under the following general areas of study regarding the practice of intinction: History (Question 1), Theology (Questions 2 & 3), and Application (Questions 4 & 5).

History of Intinction
Question 1: When and how did the practice of intinction come into the PCA?
The history of intinction is related to that of paedocommunion [1] and the communion of the sick [2]; however, as stated previously, this study does not address paedocommunion beyond the following historical reference. For more information on paedocommunion, the reader is referred to the 1988 “Report of the Ad-Interim Committee to Study the Question of Paedocommunion” of the 16th General Assembly of the PCA (http://www.pcahistory.org/pca/2-498.pdf).

The earliest evidence for paedocommunion appears with Cyprian of Carthage (c. 200 – 258) who “advocated infant communion on the grounds of an ex opere operato interpretation of John 6:53.” [3] The practice of intinction was soon developed to deal with the fact that “infants were unable to chew and swallow the consecrated bread. By dipping it in the wine, the bread was softened and thereby made swallowable for an infant.” [4]

The existence of this practice was attested to in a response by Pope Julius I in AD 340:

Although every crime and sin is blotted out by the sacrifices offered to God, what else will be given to the Lord in expiation, when the defects are committed in the very act of offering the sacrifice? For we have heard that some, occupied by ambition, contrary to the divine commands and apostolic custom, offer milk instead of wine at the divine sacrifice. Also others, for the fulfillment of communion, give the people Eucharist that has been intincted. And still others, in the Sacrament of the Lord’s chalice, offer pressed wine; others even reserve linen rags soaked in fresh grape juice for an entire year and, in the time of sacrifice, dip a part of it in water and thus offer. That this is contrary to the evangelical and apostolic teaching and against ecclesiastical custom will be proven without difficulty by the very source from which the ordained sacramental mysteries themselves came forth. For when the Teacher of truth entrusts the true sacrifice of our salvation to His disciples, we know that he gave not milk, but only bread and chalice in this Sacrament. For the gospel truth says, “Jesus took bread and cup, and blessing them, gave them to his disciples (Matt. 26).” Therefore it is remiss to offer milk in the sacrifice because it makes sport of the manifest and evident example of evangelical truth which does not permit anything other than bread and wine to be offered. But their practice of giving the people intincted Eucharist for the fulfillment of communion is not received from the gospel witness, where, when he gave the apostles his body and blood, giving the bread separately and the chalice separately is recorded. [5]

The practice of intinction was and is practiced in the Eastern Church to the present day by immersing or dipping the bread in the wine, and typically administering it with a spoon [6]. However, the Western Church had uniformly resisted the practice of intinction. The Council of Braga in AD 675 decreed against intinction, while “Pope Urban II (1088-1099) similarly prohibited it except in cases of necessity and so did his successor Pascal II (1099-1118). The Convocation of Canterbury (1175) similarly condemned this practice.” [7] The practice virtually disappears from the Western Church around AD 1200 [8], which corresponds to when the cup was withdrawn from the laity – with no cup there’s nothing to dip into [9]. However, intinction may have been practiced by a minority in the Western Church, as advocated by a 12th century theologian, Rolandus of Bologna:

The reason why intinction should be permitted, according to Roland, is that it is an easier way to administer communion than by the host and chalice separately. The fear of dropping the host, or of accidentally spilling the contents of the chalice, he notes, may make some communicants anxious. This anxiety may undercut the proper state of devotion and receptivity which they need to bring to the sacrament. Their worry, indeed, may keep them away from communion altogether. And so, for practical pastoral reasons (curis secularibus) intinction should be allowed. [10]

The committee was not able to find any work by the Reformers addressing intinction specifically. This dearth of information on intinction from the Reformers may be due to the medieval practice of restricting the cup to the celebrant/priest being still in effect in the Roman Catholic Church of their day – this practice was not relaxed until the Second Vatican Council in 1965.

The Hussites, as forerunners of the Reformation, denied the legitimacy of this Roman Catholic practice of withdrawing the cup from the laity, and argued for communion in both kinds (bread and wine) [11]. The 16th century Reformers also insisted that communion in both kinds alone had Scriptural warrant, and this practice was adopted in all Protestant churches. In a study by the Dutch scholar, W.F. Dankbaar, “Communion Practices in the Century of the Reformation” (Communiegebruiken in de eeuw der Reformatie), Dankbaar does “a precise and detailed study of how each congregation and refugee congregation celebrated the Lord’s Supper, which indicates that not one of these congregations that he studied practiced intinction.” [12]

It is possible that intinction was re-introduced into a minority of Protestant churches with the return of the cup to the laity. While the Reformers universally speak of eating the bread and drinking the wine in communion [13] [14], the New England Puritan, John Cotton, may have had to deal with questions of intinction or of keeping the elements separate when he states “that the double consecration follows Christ’s example in instituting the Lord’s Supper and that the elements are ‘not less together, but either of them apart; the bread first by it selfe and afterwards the wine by it selfe; for what reason the Lord himself best knoweth.’” [15]

In the modern era, intinction has been revived in Protestant churches, such as the Anglican [16], Episcopal, Presbyterian (i.e., PCUSA), Lutheran, Methodist, some Baptist and some Congregational churches [17]. The influence of these groups and denominations appears to be the most probable path for the introduction of intinction to the PCA, such as PCUSA churches coming into the PCA, theological works by seminaries and individuals in these groups/denominations, and elders who came into the PCA from these other denominations.

Anecdotally, the committee is aware of a Reformed Presbyterian Church-Evangelical Synod (RPCES) church in St. Louis, Missouri that practiced intinction around 1970, and a PCA church in Arlington, Virginia that practiced intinction from its inception in 1982 until about 2005. Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida would be one of the higher profile PCA churches to practice intinction, which they began in February 2011.

As part of this study, the committee undertook a survey of the PCA presbyteries regarding the practice of intinction. To date, 42 presbyteries (out of a total of 79 presbyteries) have responded, indicating that about 4.6% of PCA churches practice intinction either exclusively or occasionally.

The study committee also looked into the influence of the military chaplaincy on the practice of intinction in the PCA. Several chaplains were consulted, including TE Doug Lee, Executive Director of the Presbyterian & Reformed Joint Commission (PRJC) [18]. The feedback indicates that most PCA chaplains do not practice intinction; however, some PCA chaplains practice intinction while serving communion in the field (but not in a chapel or church setting), given the logistical difficulties of serving communion in the field. It is also unlikely that chaplains returning as pastors of PCA churches would advocate for intinction as the communion practice in these churches; the only exception that the study committee found was the PCA church in Arlington, Virginia – mentioned previously as practicing intinction in 1982 – that was planted by a retired PCA chaplain.

From interviews with graduates from a cross-section of Reformed seminaries, including Covenant Seminary, the study committee did not find any information that these seminaries were advocating for the practice of intinction. However, individual professors in these seminaries could be sympathetic to the practice, but it does not appear that they are advocating for the practice in their pedagogy.

Ohio Presbytery was formed in 2010 from Ohio churches in the Great Lakes and Ascension Presbyteries. Intinction was practiced only once at a Great Lakes Presbytery meeting worship service circa 1999 – 2001, but has not been practiced at any Ascension Presbytery meeting.

Intinction was first practiced at the General Assembly (GA) level during the opening worship service of the 37th GA in Orlando in June 2009. As a result, the 38th GA had to act on Overture 14 from Westminster Presbytery regarding this matter (see Attachment A for a copy of Overture 14), which it answered in the negative on the following grounds, “Directions concerning administration of the Lord’s Supper at future General Assemblies should be addressed through changes to the Rules of Assembly Operations. Moreover, the administration of the Lord’s Supper is adequately governed by the Scriptures and the Book of Church Order.” [19]

Theology of Intinction

Question 2: Is intinction merely a “disputable matter” (Romans 14:1) allowing liberty of conscience in its practice, or is it a practice that is theologically out of accord with Scripture (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26) and our constitution (BCO 58-5)?

It is with great joy to know that God’s Word in every respect is trustworthy and reliable. Solomon writes, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, English Standard Version [ESV]). The questions around intinction as a practice are not new to our times and have been a part of historical discourse and discussion in the past.

Historical

At first we had concern that little might be found that would aid in our discussion of the matter, and yet we have come across the voice of the church, reaching as far back as AD 340. Julius I, who was a church leader, was part of the Arian conflict and supported Athanasius in that debate. Julius spoke to defects, according to his estimation, in the practices concerning the Lord’s Supper in his day, one of which was the practice of intinction:

“Although every crime and sin is blotted out by the sacrifices offered to God, what else will be given to the Lord in expiation, when the defects are committed in the very act of offering the sacrifice? For we have heard that some, occupied by ambition, contrary to the divine commands and apostolic custom, offer milk instead of wine at the divine sacrifice. Also others, for the fulfillment of communion, give the people Eucharist that has been intincted. And still others, in the Sacrament of the Lord’s chalice, offer pressed wine; others even reserve linen rags soaked in fresh grape juice for an entire year and, in the time of sacrifice, dip a part of it in water and thus offer. That this is contrary to the evangelical and apostolic teaching and against ecclesiastical custom will be proven without difficulty by the very source from which the ordained sacramental mysteries themselves came forth. For when the Teacher of truth entrusts the true sacrifice of our salvation to His disciples, we know that he gave not milk, but only bread and chalice in this Sacrament. For the gospel truth says, “Jesus took bread and cup, and blessing them, gave them to his disciples (Matt. 26).” Therefore it is remiss to offer milk in the sacrifice because it makes sport of the manifest and evident example of evangelical truth which does not permit anything other than bread and wine to be offered. But their practice of giving the people intincted Eucharist for the fulfillment of communion is not received from the gospel witness, where, when he gave the apostles his body and blood, giving the bread separately and the chalice separately is recorded.” [20]

Julius’ concern was, in fact, recognized later and appeared to be validated at the Council of Braga dating to AD 675. One of this council’s eight decrees declared that no one should offer in sacrifice milk and grapes, but bread and wine mixed with a drop of water in a chalice, nor should bread soaking in wine be used [21].

Therefore, the early church spoke – first by Julius I in AD 340 and then at the Council in Braga in AD 675 – and asserted, by way of decree, that the practice of intinction was not a disputable matter. It had forbidden the practice of intinction when it condemned the action of celebrating the supper by “dipping bread into wine”. Julius explained why he believed that this was not a disputable matter when he wrote, “But their practice of giving the people intincted Eucharist for the fulfillment of communion is not received from the gospel witness, where, when he gave the apostles his body and blood, giving the bread separately and the chalice separately is recorded.”[22]

Scripture was appealed to and cited as the grounds for Julius’ statement and nothing else. He was attempting to be faithful to the written record and commands of Christ. Nothing more could be commendable from our brother and may it be our badge also in matters of the church.

The practice of intinction was eventually allowed as a mode for administering the Lord’s Supper some time in the early 12th century, but ceased for the most part when communion under one kind (communicants receiving only the bread) was enforced. Intinction was commented on by Dr. Martin Chemnitz (AD 1522-1586) in his work “Examination of the Council of Trent” as an event that proceeded the withdrawal of the cup altogether from the communicants [23].

By the time of the Protestant Reformation, when communion under both kinds was reinstituted, the command to have both bread and wine was a gift to the communicants. The idea that some may have preferred to intinct, having been recently admitted to freely, by faith, feed on Christ, and passed the privilege to drink, seems highly unlikely. They had been withheld the privilege of drinking from the cup of the Lord, but communicants could now freely feed upon Christ completely. Thus the practice of intinction was not generally practiced in the Reformed churches.

Historically, the practice of intinction may be an old tradition, but it is evident that it has been addressed in the past by the church and judged to be an unacceptable practice. More recently, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod passed a resolution in 1944 about the practice of intinction citing the words of institution as its basis for its rejection:

“We definitely reject intinction, because while distributing the bread, the Savior said, “Take, eat!” Matt. 26:25; Mark 14:22; and while giving the wine, He said, “Drink ye all of it!” Matt. 26:27; Mark 14:23. Intinction would be a direct violation of the words of institution.” [24]

The Lutheran tradition accepts in worship that which is not forbidden and yet they condemn the practice of intinction and find it out of accord with the express Word of God. The Presbyterian tradition, by affirming the regulative principle, asserts that only that which is commanded for worship ought to be included in the worship of God Almighty. Presbyterians have historically held to the conviction that God alone regulates His worship, so we shall now consider what the Scriptures declare in the examination of whether intinction is biblical.

Biblical
The Word of God is the only rule by which any judgment concerning orthodoxy should be measured. The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) states the following about the Holy Scripture.

“….All which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life.” (WCF 1:2)

“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. …” (WCF 1:6)

“All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” (WCF 1:7)

“The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” (WCF 1:9)

“The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.” (WCF 1:10)

History may give us a judgment on an issue but the sole arbiter of any question needs to be settled ultimately by the Scriptures. Human wisdom has left the church and her people wandering in the desert of godlessness as it is given first rule over them in matters pertaining to faith and life. As we consider any issue, it is of first importance to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to God’s Word as both infallible and inerrant.

One of the Church Fathers, Cyprian, in his address of a concern regarding the cup of the Lord and water used instead of wine, writes:

“Cyprian to Caecilius his brother, greetings. Although I know, dearest brother, that very many of the bishops who are set over the churches of the Lord by divine condescension, throughout the whole world, maintain the plan of evangelical truth, and of the tradition of the Lord, and do not by human and novel institution depart from that which Christ our Master both prescribed and did; yet since some, either by ignorance or simplicity in sanctifying the cup of the Lord, and in ministering to the people, do not do that which Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, the founder and teacher of this sacrifice, did and taught, I have thought it as well a religious as a necessary thing to write you this letter, …” [25]

Cyprian reflected, during his days, that same commitment to God’s Word that we hold today. Simply, what Jesus did and taught, ought to define the limits of our thoughts, lest we begin to stray from His side to varying degrees into novelties of faith.

It is not with any fear that the practice of intinction is considered. No one on this study committee is questioning the validity or legitimacy of those who practice intinction as brothers in Christ. It is simply and sincerely the desire of the committee to examine the practice against the light of Scripture and to consider if our practice follows from Scripture alone. It is a matter over which confusion has arisen and so appropriately Scripture alone ought to arbitrate and clarify for the sake of a uniform witness for Christ. We desire to humble ourselves to Christ our King, trust the clear words of our King, who knows better what we need than we understand ourselves.

We find the commitment to God’s Word reaffirmed by Cyprian when examining the deviant practice of substituting water in the cup of the Lord, but His maxim (did and taught) enables us to rightly consider the difference between a “circumstance” (where latitude is allowed) and a “substance” (a core element) in worship. Julius I applied Cyprian’s maxim in AD 340 in his approach to the mode of distribution by way of intinction. Luther applied this maxim during the Protestant Reformation, and it ought to continue to be asserted in the Church today.

Up to this point one may be laboring under the impression that the discussion around intinction centers on the lack of employing/consumption of two distinct elements. The real point of discussion is simply this – Jesus has commanded us to “drink” as part of our communion with Him and that this is absent when practicing intinction.

As we direct our attention to some specific passages of Scripture we find that they speak of “eating and drinking”. The Gospel accounts offer no deviation from this practice. Each text may not be equally clear as the next, however each account is clear when considered in light of the consideration of each passage together.

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28, ESV)

“And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” (Mark 14:22-24, ESV)

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:19-20, ESV)

It clearly states in 1 Corinthians 11 that they ate and drank (verses 20-21). Before the instruction of the apostle, he first takes up the abuse that was manifesting itself among the early church. Eating and drinking was understood by the disciples because the abusive practice surrounded eating too much while others were getting drunk (1 Cor 11:17-21). What we discover in the cited abuse of the communicants is that the apostle’s correction concerning the aberrant practices indicates that the communicants were eating and drinking. Intinction, which would have been a practice that could have been employed to prohibit such abuses as drunkenness during the sacramental meal, was not offered as an option for resolving this abuse. Instead, the apostle simply condemns those who were abusing the cup and essentially calls them to stop such actions. Then after the address of the abuse, he recounts the institution of the sacred meal.

How do we know that intinction was a known option that the apostle could have appealed to for help in resolving this abuse? We discover two prominent occurrences of it in Scripture. First in Ruth then at the side of our Savior. We have the historical witness of such actions as with Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 2:14). Also, Judas performed the action of intinction with our Lord (John 13:26), although this does not mean the act of dipping bread into wine is a Judas-like activity. Therefore, the practice of intinction was known but not referred to as a viable solution to those who were misusing the cup. Rather, the apostle reaffirms eating and drinking during the sacred meal in verse 26 of the same chapter.

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, ESV).

Intinction was known of but not employed in the Biblical accounts of institution and in the corrections of certain abuses. Therefore it is not right to consider any mode other than that of “eating” and “drinking” as Biblical, or that the idea of the mode is a mere “circumstance” of worship.

Still some have attempted to appeal to Ruth 2:14 for Biblical support of this modern mode of distribution because it refers to the act of intinction. Ruth was told to dip the bread into the wine while under the care of Boaz. Some offer this occurrence as a justification for the practice of intinction by arguing that it was a prefigurement to the institution of the sacred meal of Christ. The idea of a prefigurement taking precedent to the direct command of Christ has a weak foundation to rest upon for practice. This passage in Ruth loses weight when compared to the direct command of Christ to eat and drink.

The following text from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion has been cited to support the assertion that the PCA Directory for Worship is silent on how the elements are distributed because there is a diversity of practice amongst Reformed churches through the ages:

“In regard to the external form of the ordinance, whether or not believers are to take into their hands and divide among themselves, or each is to eat what is given to him: whether they are to return the cup to the deacon or hand it to their neighbor … is of no consequence. These things are indifferent, and left free to the Church…” [26]

To be sure, there was diversity in the method of administering the supper but Calvin also speaks of eating and drinking. To cite this text from Calvin’s Institutes as support for the practice of intinction is to make an argument from silence. What is clear about Calvin’s statement is that the cup was being received by the communicant – the question being, “Does this really matter?”

It is recorded in John 13:26 that Jesus dipped a morsel before he gave it to Judas. We have a clear, distinct word in the Greek language which speaks of “dipping” and yet this word is not employed when instituting the divine meal. The word for “dip” is distinct from the word “drink” in the Greek language. They do not share the same etymology, and thus do not offer to us a range of experience. They are two entirely different words.

The point of the committee is this – if Jesus would have desired for communion to be practiced by way of “dipping” he could have stated as such. However, none of the passages which speak of this institution employ the use of the word meaning “dip” but restrict themselves to the consistent use of the word “drink”. We must conclude that Jesus intended for us to “drink” and not “dip” because He commanded us with the word “drink”.

Matthew 26:26-28 highlights another important aspect of the institution of this sacrament – the use of the imperative mood in the verbs “take”, “eat” and “drink” uttered by Christ – which is significant to our understanding of His will/expectation for us. They direct us, as the Greek grammarians Dana and Mantey remind us:

“The imperative is the mood of command or entreaty- the mood of volition. It is the genius of the imperative to express the appeal of will to will. In ordinary linguistic communication the primary appeal is from intellect to intellect, but in the imperative one will addresses another. It expresses neither probability nor possibility, but only intention, and is therefore, the furthest removed from reality.” [27]

Speaking to the imperative mood in Greek, J. Gresham Machen, in his Greek grammar, says, “There is no distinction of time between the tenses in the imperative mood. The aorist imperative refers to the action without saying anything about its duration or repetition…”[28]

These verbs in Matthew’s Gospel account, when parsed, are identical to that of the imperative “making disciples” in Matthew 28:19 (“Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”). In no way have we ever given conception to the thought that “making disciples” is an optional work of the church. We are merely trying to wrestle with a command given and our obedience to that command. Christ has not regulated all the disciple making activities that the church employs but simply has given us a command to do so – and what Christ commands, we should seek to perform.

There needs to be a certain consistent application in the use of the imperative. How these three imperatives by Christ in the institution of the Lord’s Supper are weighed, the like understanding should bear upon the passages of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19. What Christ has commanded us to perform ought to be continued until He Himself declares an end to our performance of the command. Nothing but the King’s rescinding of the order is adequate grounds for omission of practice.

We should “make disciples” and equally we should “drink” because both activities are commanded of us. Jesus could have just left the activity in communion to “take”, but he went still further to direct us to eat and drink in addition. When commanded by Christ our King, we are expected to continue to perform this task of “disciple making” until the King tells us to stop, and so ought we to understand all of His commands.

Christ commanded, “Take, eat” and “Drink” (Matthew 26:27 & 28). He said to eat bread, and He said to drink from the cup. How an imperative command can be relegated to a circumstance is to rest on tenuous ground. Some may be inclined at this point to argue that we then ought to fellowship around a table as was practice during the institution of this sacrament, etc.; however, Christ did not command anything other than eating of bread and drinking from the cup.

Theological & Ecclesiastical

Why eat and drink? John Cotton spoke to the mystery of this double action. This esteemed laborer for Christ, who declined to attend the Westminster Assembly, found it safest and wisest for followers of Christ when confronted with some matters of faith that may be perplexing, to abide in the written word of God and trust Him. In so many words, John Cotton taught us to humble our reason to His revelation. He wrote;

“After they have all partaked in the bread, he taketh the cup in like manner, and giving thanks a new, (blesseth it) according to the example of Christ in the Evangelist, who describes the institution Mat. 26.27 Mark. 14.23 Luke 22.17. All of them on such a way as setteth faith the Elements, not blessed together, but either of them apart; the bread first by it self, and afterwards the wine by itself; for what reason the Lord himself best knoweth, …” [29]

The Westminster Confession of Faith – our theological commentary of first choice in the PCA – states the following regarding the celebration of the Lord’s Supper: “…and to take and break bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; …”(WCF 29:3). In the Larger Catechism Q/A #169, we further read: “…to take and break the bread, and to give both the bread and wine to the communicants: who are, by the same appointment, to take and eat the bread, and to drink the wine, in thankful remembrance that the body of Christ was broken and given, and his blood shed, for them.” Still further, the Shorter Catechism Q/A #97 warns of the judgment belonging to those who “eat and drink” unworthily.

In addition to the Westminster standards, we also have the Book of Church Order (BCO) as part of our standards which – as our commentary of first choice concerning ecclesiastical matters – seems to recognize the only practice of eating and drinking given in BCO 58-5:

“The bread and wine being thus set apart by prayer and thanksgiving, the minister is to take the bread, and break it, in the view of the people, saying; “That the Lord Jesus Christ on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks , He broke it, gave it to His disciples, as I ministering in His name, give this bread to you, and said, “Take, eat: this is my body which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (Some other biblical account of the institution of this part of the Supper may be substituted here.)

Here the bread is to be distributed. After having given the bread, he shall take the cup, and say: “In the same manner, He also took the cup, and having given thanks as has been done in His name, He gave it to the disciples, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Drink from it, all of you.”

While the minister is repeating these words, let him give the cup.”

It is worth noting that while the preface to Part III (The Directory for the Worship of God) of the BCO states, “The Directory for Worship is an approved guide…However, it does not have the force of law and is not considered obligatory in all its parts…”, it proceeds to state that “BCO 56, 57 and 58 have been given full constitutional authority by the Eleventh General Assembly…” Therefore, BCO 56, 57 and 58 do have the force of law and are considered obligatory in all their parts.

Summary

The committee has, to this point, concurred within itself, to declare that this is a significant issue to be considered because the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of the church, and the right administration of the sacrament is one of the marks of a true church.

It is apparent from church history that, as early as AD 340, the church did not initially view the practice of intinction favorably, nor do the very words of Christ our King bid us to practice intinction, nor do our commentaries of first choice in the PCA (i.e., WCF, Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and BCO). Therefore, we affirm that the mode of practicing communion by way of intinction is not a disputable matter or a matter of indifference left to each to decide by way of conscience.

Matters of conscience are only those that Scripture is silent toward. Clearly Christ has commanded us indisputably to “drink”. During this study committee’s discussions, those on the committee who currently practice intinction have acknowledged that the act of drinking is absent when the mode of intinction is practiced.

The communicant who does not commune with Christ in “eating” and “drinking” does nonetheless come to Christ by faith but does so being robbed of some of the intended spiritual benefits. Whether we receive one or the other element apart from “eating” or “drinking,” we set ourselves up to feed in a more limited manner upon Christ and fail to behold the wonder of the entire work of Christ wrought for us in salvation. Scripture has spoken about the issue of mode of celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and has done so clearly when Christ simply said, “Take, eat” and “Drink” being commanded for our growth in grace unto maturity.

There are many other considerations about the Lord’s Supper, such as the element of time in the Supper (the bread given during the meal while the cup was given after the supper), communion (idea of communing with Christ and one another as a body), and the sacrifice of Christ of which we are to take, eat and drink. To this the committee is very pleased to assert that those who currently practice intinction as a way of administering the sacrament are not attempting to minimize the once for all sacrifice of Christ upon whom we are called to feed on by faith. Those who employ the mode of intinction by dipping bread into the cup, and those who employ a mode of administration which includes eating and drinking, assert that the bread is representative of the body of Christ broken.

One needs time to consider in this hurried world, the life of Christ which makes Him fit to be our atoning sacrifice. He was the Lamb slain for us and it was His perfection as the Lamb without blemish that makes His offering of Himself for us of value. We ought to offer due consideration of the active work of Christ as He lived for us perfectly, enabling His broken body to satisfy the judgment of God against his people. The active work of Christ is what was prefigured for us in the Old Testament sacrifices, having now been fulfilled in the great work of our Savior Jesus Christ.

More is held forth for us in this sacred meal than just the active work of Christ which was offered up in sacrifice for us. As Hebrews 9:22 declares, without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins. Christ, the spotless Lamb, had to offer more than perfect obedience. It was requisite that he satisfy the demand of the Just God in paying for our debts completely. The cup testifies of this aspect of Christ’s work, as taught by Calvin in his catechism: [30]

“As the body of Christ was once sacrificed for us to reconcile us to God, so now also is it given to us, that we may certainly know that reconciliation belongs to us.”

“That as Christ once shed his blood for the satisfaction of our sins, and as the price of our redemption, so he now also gives it to us to drink, that we may feel the benefit which should thence accrue to us.”

“Therein the Lord consulted our weakness, teaching us in a more familiar manner that he is not only food to our souls, but drink also, so that we are not to seek any part of spiritual life anywhere else than in him alone.”

Christ is to be held in front of us from first to last in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. His complete sacrifice for us ought to be contemplated by a people who are quick to forget the means with which He holds us within His house of refuge. There was time between the distribution and consumption of the elements of the supper. This aspect of the celebration ought to teach us, if nothing else, that this sacrament of the church should not be rushed through regardless of its mode of distribution. A hurried distribution will only diminish the communicant’s opportunity to consider the full work of Christ and the extent of His profound love for us and finished work accomplished for us as we feed on Christ by faith.

Question 3: Does the preservation of the “single cup” in communion theologically trump the keeping of the elements separate?

This question arises from the argument that intinction is the more biblical mode of distributing the elements in keeping with the passing of the common cup at the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:27, Mark 14:23, Luke 22:17). The committee answered Question 3 in the negative – the preservation of the “single cup” in communion does not theologically trump the keeping of the elements separate.

We had to ask about the single cup idea as offering support for the practice of intinction. In other words, does Jesus’ taking of “a cup”, which some intinction advocates point to as grounds for its practice, as recorded in the texts of Scripture, take more priority than the command of Christ to “drink”? The Scripture texts cited in the previous biblical discussion clearly command all to eat and drink; this is the way that we are called to feed upon Christ, by Christ, in His sacrifice for us. The common cup held with intinction as its mode of distribution violates the direct command of Christ who told His people to drink, which doesn’t occur in intinction, to its adherents own admission.

Application of Intinction

Question 4: Can candidates for the ministry be examined on intinction, including their views of it?

This question arises from the actions of the Moderator who ruled that questions about intinction were out-of-order during the sacraments portion of an ordination examination at the August 28, 2010 Ohio Presbytery meeting in Youngstown. The reason given for this ruling was that these questions had “shifted from an examination of the candidate’s knowledge of sacrament theology, to his views concerning sacraments and as such belonged more appropriately in the context of a views exam rather than the sacraments exam.” [31] The problem with questions on intinction during the theological views examination is that this theological views examination is also administered during the licensure examination, which does not have the sacraments examination. It would not be fair to subject candidates for licensure to questions about this sacrament-specific topic, whereas other sacrament topics would not be asked of the candidate for licensure.

Therefore, the committee answered Question 4 in the affirmative – candidates for the ministry can be examined on intinction, including their views of it, appropriately during the time of the sacraments section of the ordination examination.

Question 5: If it is determined that intinction is out of accord with Scripture and our constitution, then what should be done to instruct and assist Sessions and churches in the Presbytery that practice intinction to come back into accord with Scripture and our constitution?

This study committee affirms that the mode of practicing communion by way of intinction is not a disputable matter or a matter of indifference left to each to decide by way of conscience. The committee has, to this point, concurred within itself, to declare that this is a significant issue to be considered because the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of the church, and the right administration of the sacrament is one of the marks of a true church.

With reference to the previous section on the theology of intinction (i.e., responses to Questions 2 and 3), this study committee found strong, compelling biblical and theological support for the practice of partaking of the elements separately – of “eating” AND of “drinking”. Therefore, intinction is out of accord with Scripture.

Practical considerations appear to be the primary reasons for intinction. During this study, the committee heard a variety of pragmatic reasons for the practice, including: (a) it is one of the “touch points” for a more meaningful worship, (b) it saves time, (c) it takes longer, (d) it may better appeal to those who come from church traditions that practice intinction (e.g., Catholic, Orthodox), (e) it avoids the Congregationalist practice of distributing the elements in the pews, (f) it better enables communion in the battlefield, and (g) it is practiced in the PCA.

The study committee acknowledges that within the PCA, there is a diversity of worship practices that span the spectrum between the regulative [32] and normative [33] principles of worship. Intinction would be practiced by churches that subscribe to the normative principle of worship or interpret the regulative principle in a more normative sense. The argument could be made that, under a more normative interpretation of the worship principle, that intinction is not out of accord with the BCO that forms part of the PCA constitution.

Therefore, the study committee commits this report to the Presbytery for dissemination, with the exhortation to all our churches to study this matter further, [34] and to act as appropriate, so our worship practices will be more conformed to the Scriptures, to the glory of our Heavenly Father.

Attachment A
Zion Reformed Church (PCA) Overture
OVERTURE TO OHIO PRESBYTERY TO
STUDY THE ISSUE OF INTINCTION

WHEREAS, intinction is the practice of dipping the bread in the cup and partaking the elements simultaneously;

WHEREAS, intinction was practiced at the opening worship service during the 37th General Assembly in 2009, resulting in an overture from Westminster Presbytery to the 38th General Assembly in 2010 (attached);

WHEREAS, prior to the recent GA actions, intinction did not come to the attention of this presbytery, such as in the examination of candidates for the ministry, as well as in the stated views of presbyters;

WHEREAS, questions about intinction were ruled to be out-of-order during an ordination examination at the recent August 28, 2010 Ohio Presbytery meeting in Youngstown;

WHEREAS, we are a confessional, Reformed and Protestant denomination;

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Session of Zion Reformed Church (PCA) in Winesburg, Ohio petitions the Ohio Presbytery to erect a committee to study the practice of intinction, and to determine if it is theologically sound, and in accord with Scripture and our constitution;

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the study committee must, at a minimum, answer the following questions:

(1) When and how did the practice of intinction come into the PCA?
(2) Is intinction merely a “disputable matter” (Romans 14:1) allowing liberty of conscience in its practice, or is it a practice that is theologically out of accord with Scripture (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26) and our constitution (BCO 58-5)?
(3) Does the preservation of the “single cup” in communion theologically trump the keeping of the elements separate?
(4) Can candidates for the ministry be examined on intinction, including their views of it?
(5) If it is determined that intinction is out of accord with Scripture and our constitution, then what should be done to instruct and assist Sessions and churches in the Presbytery that practice intinction to come back into accord with Scripture and our constitution?

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the study committee must either complete its work one (1) year from the date of the adoption of this overture, or report on its progress and request for an extension with a specific deadline.

In Christ’s Service,
The Session of Zion Reformed Church, Winesburg, Ohio

RE Caleb Moan
Clerk of Session

OVERTURE 14 from Westminster Presbytery (to OC)
“Prohibit Use of Intincture at the General Assembly”

Whereas we are a confessional denomination;

Whereas Chapter 58 of the Book of Church Order has full constitutional authority;

Whereas the method of distributing the elements is prescribed in the Book of Church Order and the constitution specifically separates the distribution of bread and wine;

Whereas the constitution is in full submission to the inspired Word of God and the Word records that our Lord Jesus Christ distributed the elements individually, separately, and discreetly (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20);

Whereas the practice of dipping the bread in the cup and partaking the elements simultaneously is a practice that is out of accord with Scripture and our constitution;

Therefore be it resolved that Westminster Presbytery overtures the 38th General Assembly to prohibit in the future at General Assembly meetings the practice of intincture that was used at the 37th General Assembly during opening worship service.

Adopted by Westminster Presbytery at its stated meeting, April 10, 2010
Attested by /s/ TE Daniel J. Foreman, stated clerk

[1]“The History of Paedocommunion”, Chapter I, Report of Minority No. 2 of the Committee on Paedocommunion, Minutes of the Fifty-fourth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1987): pp. 229-251. (http://www.opc.org/GA/paedocommunion.html)

[2] Charles Hodge, “The Distribution and Reception of the Elements”, Systematic Theology, vol. III, Chapter XX, §15 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1940): p. 444. (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/hodge/theology3.txt) – “(3) That it is against the nature of the sacrament, when instead of the two elements being distributed separately, the bread is dipped into the wine, and both are received together. This mode of administering the Lord’s Supper, was, it is said, introduced at first, only in reference to the sick; then it was practiced in some of the monasteries; and was partially introduced into the parishes.”

[3] Ibid. 1, Section A.3

[4] Ibid. 1, Section B.2

[5] “Decreta Julii Papae I decem Juxta Gratiam et Ivonem” Migne, Patralogia Latinae, Vol. 8: pp. 969-970 (cf. Examination: pp. 352-353, 363, 422). Cited by Jonathan G. Lange, May 5, 2008. “This Do In Remembrance of Me” – The Institution and the Essence of the Lord’s Supper, Presented to the Spring Pastors’ Conference of the Wyoming District, Trinity Lutheran Church, Rock Springs (http://wy.lcms.org/pastoralconference/spring08/papers/lange_thisdo.pdf).

[6]TE Mark Herzer, July 12, 2011. “Intinction”. Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church Blog, Warminster, PA. (http://www.blog.ccpc-pca.com/?p=72#)

[7] Ibid.

[8] E.A. Livingstone, “Intinction”, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997): p. 841.

[9] E-mail communication on April 16, 1996 by Rev. Andrew Byars, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Prescott, Arizona. (http://listserv.cuis.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A3=ind9604&L=WITTENBERG&E=0&P=47324&B=–&T=text%2Fplain&header=1)

[10] Ibid. 6. Cites from Marcia L. Colish, Peter Lombard (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994): p. 570.

[11]Ibid. 8. “Communion in both kinds”: pp. 386-387.

[12]E-mail communication on June 16, 2011 by TE Ron Gleason, Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA), Yorba Linda, California.

[13]The Westminster Larger Catechism Question 169

[14] John Calvin, “Concerning the Sacraments”, Section V, The Genevan Catechism (1545) (http://www.reformed.org/documents/calvin/geneva_catachism/geneva_catachism.html)

[15]John Cotton, The Way of the Churches of Christ in New England (London: Matthew Simmons, 1645): pp. 74-75. (http://web.mac.com/quintapress/PDF_Books/The_Way_of_the_Churches.pdf)

[16]Ibid. 8

[17] “Intinction”, Wikipedia.com (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intinction)

[18]Telephone discussion on Friday, September 9, 2011 with RE Tim Ling

[19]Minutes of the 38th PCA General Assembly, 2010: p. 351.

[20] Ibid. 5.

[21] “Third Council of Braga”, Wikipedia.com (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Council_of_Braga)

[22] Ibid. 5.

[23] Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, Part II (St. Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 1978), pp. 421-423.

[24] Saginaw Convention Proceedings, 1944, 254-5. Cited by Jonathan G. Lange, May 5, 2008. “This Do In Remembrance of Me” (http://wy.lcms.org/pastoralconference/spring08/papers/lange_thisdo.pdf)

[25] Cyprian, Epistle LXII: On the Sacrament of the Cup of the Lord (ca. 253), Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson, eds. Ante-Nicene Fathers (ANF), Vol. 5: 359 §1.

[26] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.xvii.43 (1559) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997)

[27] H.E. Dana & J.R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York: MacMillan, 1957): p. 174

[28] J. Gresham Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners (New York: MacMillan, 1923): p. 180

[29] Ibid.15

[30] Ibid.14

[31] Don Clements, “Correction to Previous Article on recent actions by Ohio Presbytery (PCA)”, The Aquila Report, Nov. 12, 2010. (http://theaquilareport.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3355:correction-to-previous-article-on-recent-actions-by-ohio-presbytery-pca&catid=50:churches&Itemid=133)

[32] “Regulative principle of worship”, Wikipedia.com (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulative_principle_of_worship)

[33] “Normative principle of worship”, Wikipedia.com (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normative_principle_of_worship)

[34] A good recent article by a PCA elder for further reading – http://www.barlowfarms.com/index/cm_id/1868301

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