Balthasar Hübmaier: A Form for Christ’s Supper

A Form of the Supper of Christ
1527

1. The brethren and sisters who wish to hold the table of the Lord according to the institution of Christ, Matt. 26:26ff.; Luke 22:19ff.; Mark 14:22ff.; 1 Cor., 11:23ff., shall gather at a suitable place and time, so there may be no division, so that one does not come early and another late and that thereby evangelical teaching is neglected. Such the apostles desired when they asked Christ, “Master, where wilt thou that we prepare the passover lamb?” Then he set for them a certain place. Paul writes, “When you come together ... etc.,” 1 Cor. 11:20ff. Then they should prepare the table with ordinary bread and wine. Whether the cups are silver, wood, or pewter, makes no difference. But those who eat should be respectably dressed and should sit together in an orderly way without light talk and contention, 1 Pet. 13; Eph. 4:29; Heb. 12.

2. Since everyone should begin by accusing himself and confessing his sins and recognising his guilt before God, it is not inappropriate that the priest first of all should fall on his knees with the church and with heart and mouth say the following words:

“Father we have sinned against heaven and against thee Luke 15:21. We are not worthy to be called thy children. But speak a word of consolation and our souls will be made whole. God be gracious to us sinners, Luke 19:1ff. May the almighty, eternal and gracious God have mercy on all our sins and forgive us graciously, and when he has forgiven us, lead us into eternal life without blemish or impurity, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

3. Now let the priest sit down with the people and open his mouth, explaining the Scriptures concerning Christ, Luke 24:31, so that the eyes of those who are gathered together may be opened, which were still somewhat darkened or closed, so that they may recognise Christ, who was a man, a prophet, mighty in works and teaching before God and all people, and how the highest bishops among the priests and princes gave him over to condemnation to death and how they crucified him, and how he has redeemed Israel, that is, all believers. The priest shall also rebuke those who are foolish and slow to believe all the things that Moses and the prophets have spoken, that he may kindle and make fervent and warm the hearts of those at the table, that they may be afire in fervent meditation of his bitter suffering and death in contemplation, love, and thanksgiving, so that the congregation with its whole heart, soul, and strength calls out to him:

Stay with us, o Christ! It is toward evening and the day is now far spent. Abide with us, O Jesus, abide with us. For where thou art not, there everything is darkness, night, and shadow, but thou art the true Sun, light, and shining brightness, John 8:12. He to whom thou dost light the way, cannot go astray.

On another day the servant of the Word may take the 10th or 11th chapter of Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, or the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, or 17th chapter of John. Or Matthew 3 or Luke 3 on changing one’s life, Sirach 2 on the fear of God, or something else according to the opportuneness of the time and persons. No one shall be coerced herein, but each should be left free to the judgement of his spirit. But there must be diligence so that the death of the Lord is earnestly proclaimed, so that the people have a picture of the boundless goodness of Christ, and the church may be instructed, edified, and led, in heartfelt fervent and fraternal love, so that on the last day we may stand before the judgement scat of Christ with the accounts of our stewardship, Luke 16:8, and shepherd and sheep may be held together.

4. Now that the death of Christ has been proclaimed, those who are present have the opportunity and the authority to ask, if at any point they should have some misunderstanding or some lack, 1 Cor. 14:26ff.; but not with frivolous, unprofitable, or argumentative chatter, nor concerning heavenly matters having to do with the omnipotence or the mystery of God or future things, which we have no need to know, but concerning proper, necessary, and Christian items, having to do with Christian faith and brotherly love. Then one to whom something is revealed should teach, and the former should be quiet without any argument and quarrelling. For it is not customary to have conflict in the church. Let women keep silence in the congregation, If they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home, so that everything takes place in orderly fashion, 1 Cor. 11; 14.

5. Let the priest take up for himself the words of Paul, 1 Cor. 11, and say:

Let every one test and examine himself, and let him thus eat of the bread and drink of the drink. For whoever eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks a judgement upon himself, as he does not discern the body of the Lord. And if we thus judged ourselves, we would not be condemned by the Lord.

Now such examination comprises the following: First, that one believes, Matt. 26:26ff.; Mark 14:22ff.; Luke 22:19f.; 1 Cor. 11:24ff., utterly and absolutely that Christ gave his body and shed his crimson blood for him on the cross in the power of his words, as he said: “This is my body, which is given for you, and this is my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.”

Second: Let a person test himself, whether lie has a proper inward and fervent hunger for the bread which comes down from heaven, from which one truly lives, and thirst for the drink which flows into eternal life, to eat and drink both in the spirit, faith, and truth, as Christ teaches us in John 4; 6; and 7. If the spiritual eating and drinking does not first take place, then the outward breaking of bread, eating and drinking is a killing letter, 2 Cor. 16; 1 Cor. 11:29, hypocrisy, and the kind of food and drink whereby one eats condemnation and drinks death, as Adam did with the forbidden fruit of the tree in Paradise, Gen. 3:6.

Third: Let one also confirm himself in gratitude, so as to be thankful in words and deeds toward God for the great, overabundant, and unspeakable love and goodness that he has shown him through his most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, John 3:16; Rom. 8:32. Namely that he now gives praise and thanks from the heart to God. Further, that he be of an attitude and ready will to do for Christ his God and Lord in turn as lie had done for him. But since Christ does not need our good deeds, is not hungry, is not thirsty, is not naked or in prison, but heaven and earth are his and all that is in them, therefore he points us toward our neighbour, first of all to the members of the household of faith, Matt. 25:34ff.; Gal. 6:10; 1 Tim, 5, that we might fulfil the works of this our gratitude toward them physically and spiritually, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, consoling the prisoner, sheltering the needy. Then he will be ready to accept these works of mercy from us in such a way as if we had done them unto him. Yea, he will say at the last judgement, “I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was naked, in prison, and homeless, and you clothed me, visited me, and housed me,” Matt. 25. He says I, I, I, me, me, me.’ From this it is certain and sure that all the good that we do to the very least of his, that we do to Christ himself. Yea, he will not let a single drink of cool water go unrewarded, Matt. 10:42. If one is thus inclined toward his neighbour, he is now in the true fellowship of Christ, a member of his body, and a fellow member with all godly persons, Col. 1:4.

Fourth: So that the church might also be fully aware of a person’s attitude and will, one holds fellowship with her in the breaking of bread, thereby saying, testifying, and publicly assuring her, yea, making to her a sacrament or a sworn pledge and giving one’s hand on the commitment that one is willing henceforth to offer one’s body and to shed one’s blood thus for one’s fellow believers. This one does not out of human daring, like Peter, Matt. 26:33, but in the grace and power of the suffering and the blood shed by our Lord Jesus Christ, his (i.e., meaning Peter’s) only Saviour, of whose suffering and death the human being is now celebrating a living commemoration in the breaking of bread and the sharing of the chalice.

This is the true fellowship of saints, 1 Cor. 10:16. It is not a fellowship for the reason that bread is broken, but rather the bread is broken because the fellowship has already taken place and has been concluded inward in the spirit, since Christ has come into flesh, John 4:27. For not all who break bread are participants in the body and blood of Christ, which I can prove by the traitor Judas, Matt. 26:25. But those who are partakers inwardly and of the spirit, the same may also worthily partake outwardly of this bread and wine.

A parable: We do not believe because we have been baptised in water, but we are baptised in water because we first believe. So David says: “I have believed, therefore I have spoken,” Ps. 116:10; Matt. 16:16; Acts 8:30. So every Christian speaks equally: “I have believed, therefore I have publicly confessed that Jesus is Christ, Son of the living God, and have thereafter had myself baptised according to the order of Christ, the high priest who lives in eternity.” Or: “I have fellowship with Christ and all his members, 1 Cor. 10:16, therefore I break bread with all believers in Christ according to the institution of Christ. Without this inner communion in the spirit and in truth, the outward breaking of bread is nothing but an Iscariotic and damnable hypocrisy, it is precisely to this fellowship and commitment of love that the Supper of Christ points, as a living memorial of his suffering and death for us, spiritually signified and pointed to by the breaking of bread, the pouring out of the wine, that each one should also sacrifice and pour out his flesh and blood for the other. Herein will people recognise that we are truly disciples of Christ, John 13; 14; 15; 16; 17. All of the words which Christ spoke about the Last Supper tend toward this. For just as water baptism is a public testimony of the Christian faith, so is the Supper a public testimony of Christian love. Now he who does not want to be baptised or to observe the Supper, he does not desire to believe in Christ nor to practice Christian love and does not desire to be a Christian. How much someone cares about the flesh and blood, that is about the suffering and death of Christ Jesus, about the shedding of his crimson blood, about the forgiveness of sins, about brotherly love and communion in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, yea the communion of the whole heavenly host and the universal Christian church outside of which there is no salvation, just this much he should care about the bread and the wine of God’s table. Not that here bread and wine are anything other than bread and wine; but according to the memorial and the significant mysteries for the sake of which Christ thus instituted it. If now one had no other word or Scripture, but only the correct understanding of water baptism and the Supper of Christ, one would have God and all his creatures, faith and love, the law and all the prophets. So whoever makes a mockery of the Supper of Christ, the Son of Man will mock before God and his angels. So much for self examination.

6. Since now these ceremonies and signs have to do completely and exclusively with fraternal love, and since one who loves his neighbour like himself is a rare bird, yea even an Indian phoenix on earth, who can sit at the supper table with a good conscience? Answer: One who has thus taken to heart and has thus shaped himself in mind and heart and senses inwardly that lie truly and sincerely can say, “The love of God which he has shown to me through the sacrifice of his only begotten and most beloved Son for the payment of my sins, John 3:16; 1 John 4:9; Rom. 8:32, of which I have heard and been certainly assured through his holy Word, has so moved, softened, and penetrated my spirit and soul that I am so minded and ready to offer my flesh and blood, furthermore so to rule over and so to master it, that it must obey me against its own will, and henceforth not take advantage of, deceive, injure, or harm my neighbour in any way in body, soul, honour, goods, wife, or child, but rather go into the fire for him and die, as Paul also desired to be accursed for his brethren and Moses to be stricken out of the book of life for the sake of his people,” Rom. 9:3; Exod. 32:32. Such a person may with good conscience and worthiness sit at the Supper of Christ.

You say: “This is humanly impossible.” Answer: Certainly for the Adamic human nature. But all things are possible to the Christian, Mark 9:23, not as persons, but as believers, who are one with God and all creatures, and are (except for the flesh) free and independent of themselves.” For God works such willing and doing in his believers, Phil. 2:14, through the inward anointing of his Holy Spirit, so that one stands in complete freedom to will and to do good or evil. The good one can do is through the anointing of God. The evil comes from one’s own innate nature and impulse, which evil will one can, however, master and tame through the grace given by God, Deut. 30:1ff.; Gen. 4:17; Rom. 10; Matt 19; John 1:12.

It is not sufficient that sin be recognised through the law, nor that we know what is good or evil. We must bind the commandments on our hand, grasp them and fulfil them in deeds, Deut. 6:8; Matt. 11:30; John 3. To do this is easy and a small thing to the believer, but to those who walk according to the flesh, all things are impossible. Yet the believing and newly born person under the gospel is still also [a person] under the law. He has just as many trials as before, or even more. He finds (however holy he may be) nothing good in his own flesh, just as Saint Paul laments the same with great seriousness regarding the conflict and the resistance of the flesh, Rom. 7:18. Nevertheless the believer rejoices and praises God that the trial is not and cannot be so great in him, but that the power of God in him, which he has received through the living Word which God has sent is stronger and mightier 1 Cor. 10:13; Rom. 8:11. He also knows certainly that such resistances, evil desires, and sinful lusts of his flesh are not damning for him if he confesses the same to God, regrets them, and does not follow after them, but reigns and rules mightily over the restless devil of his flesh, 1 Cor. 9:27, strangles, crucifies, and torments him without letup; holds in his rein, does not do his will, cares little that that breaks his neck, Exod. 34:20. So every one who is a Christian acts and behaves so that lie may worthily eat and drink at the table of the Lord.

Know thou further, righteous Christian, that to fulfil the law it is not enough to avoid sins and die to them. Yea, one must also do good to the neighbour, Ps. 37. For Christ not only broke the bread, he also distributed it and gave it to his disciples. Yea, not only the bread, but also even his own flesh and blood. So we must not only speak the word of brotherly love, hear it, confess ourselves to be sinners, and abstain from sin, we must also fulfil it in deeds, as Scripture everywhere teaches us:

Forsake evil and do good, Ps. 37.

Brethren, work out your salvation, Phil. 2:12.

While we have time let us do good, for the night comes when no man can work, Gal. 6:9.

Wilt thou enter into life, keep the commandments, Matt. 19:17.

For not those who hear the word are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be justified, Rom. 2:7.

Not all those who say to me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of the heavens but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven, will enter into the kingdom of heaven, says Christ, and adds: Everyone who hears my words and does them, he shall be likened unto a wise man who built his house upon a rock. But everyone who hears my word and does it not shall be likened to a fool who built his house on sand, Matt. 7:21 27.

In sum: God requires of us the will, the word, and the works of brotherly love, and he will not let himself be paid off or dismissed with words, Matt. 14; Luke 8:21; Rom. 8:1; Luke 17; Isa. 64:5ff.; Col. 2:10; Ps, 32:1f.; Rom. 4:5; 5; 7; 8. But what innate weaknesses and imperfections constantly are intermingled with our acts of commission and omission because of our flesh, God – thanks to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ – will not reckon to our eternal condemnation; for in Christ we have all attained perfection, and in him we are already blessed. What more do we lack?

7. Since now believers have inwardly surrendered themselves utterly to serve their fellow members in Christ at the cost of honour, goods, body, and life, yea even to offer their souls for them to the point of hell with the help of God; therefore, it is all the more needful sincerely to groan and pray to God that he may cause the faith of these new persons to grow, also that he may more deeply kindle in them the fire of brotherly love, so that in these two matters, signified by water baptism and the Lord’s Supper, they might continually grow, mature, and persevere unto the end.

Here shall now be held a time of common silence, so that each one who desires to approach the table of God can meditate upon the suffering of Christ and thus with Saint John rest on the breast of the Lord. After such silence the “Our Father” shall be spoken publicly by the church, reverently, and with hearts desirous of grace as follows, Matt. 6:9ff.; Luke 11: 2ff.:

Our Father who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name,

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

Amen.

8. Now the priest shall point out clearly and expressly that the bread is bread and the wine wine and not flesh and blood, as has long been believed.

Whoever now desires to eat of this bread and drink of the drink of the Lord’s Supper, let him rise and repeat with heart and mouth the following pledge of love:

The Pledge of Love

Brothers and sisters, if you will to love God before, in, and above all things, in the power of his holy and living Word, serve him alone, Deut. 5; 6; Exod. 20, honour and adore him and henceforth sanctify his name, subject your carnal and sinful will to his divine will which he his worked in you by his living Word, in life and death, then let each say individually:

I will.

If you will love your neighbour and serve him with deeds of brotherly love, Matt. 25; Eph. 6; Col. 3; Rom. 13:1; 1 Pet. 2:13f., lay down and shed for him your life and blood, be obedient to father, mother, and all authorities according to the will of God, and this in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down and shed his flesh and blood for us, then let each say individually:

I will.

If you will practice fraternal admonition toward your brethren and sisters, Matt. 18:15ff.; Luke 6; Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:10, make peace and unity among them, and reconcile yourselves with all those whom you have offended, abandon all envy, hate, and evil will toward everyone, willingly cease all action and behaviour which causes harm, disadvantage, or offence to your neighbour, [if you will] also love your enemies and do good to them, and exclude according to the Rule of Christ, Matt. 18, all those who refuse to do so, then let each say individually:

I will.

If you desire publicly to confirm before the church this pledge of love which you have now made, through the Lord’s Supper of Christ, by eating bread and drinking wine, and to testify to it in the power of the living memorial of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ our Lord, then let each say individually:

I desire it in the power of God.

So eat and drink with one another in the name of God the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. May God himself accord to all of us the power and the strength that we may worthily carry it out and bring it to its saving conclusion according to his divine will. May the Lord impart to us his grace. Amen.

9. The bishop takes the bread and with the church lifts his eves to heaven, praises God and says:

We praise and thank thee, Lord God, Creator of the heavens and earth, for all thy goodness toward us. Especially hast thou so sincerely loved us that thou didst give thy most beloved Son for us unto death so that each one who believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life, John 3:16; 1 John 4:9; Rom. 8:32. Be thou honoured, praised and magnified now, forever, always and eternally. Amen.

Now the priest takes the bread, breaks it, and offers it to the hands of those present, saying:

The Lord Jesus, in the night in which he was betrayed, took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and said: “Take, eat. This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in my memory.” Therefore, take and eat also, dear brothers and sisters, this bread in the memory of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he gave unto death for us.

Now when everyone has been fed, the priest likewise takes the cup with the wine and speaks with lifted eyes:

“God! Praise be to thee!”

and offers it into their hands, saying:

Likewise the Lord Jesus took the vessel after the Supper and spoke: “This cup is a new testament in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink, in memory of me.” Take therefore also the vessel and all drink from it in the memory of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins.

When they have all drunk, the priest says:

As often as you cat the bread and drink of the drink, you shall proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes, 1 Cor. 11:26.

Now the church is seated to hear the conclusion.

10. Most dearly beloved brethren and sisters in the Lord. As we now, by thus eating the bread and drinking the drink in memory of the suffering and shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of our sins have had fellowship one with another, 1 Cor. 10:17; 12:12; Eph. 4:4; Col. 1:3; Eph. 1; 4; 5, and have all become one loaf and one body, and our Head is Christ, we should properly become conformed to our Head and as his members follow after him, love one another, do good, give counsel, and be helpful to one another, each offering up his flesh and blood for the other. Under our Head Christ we should all also live, speak, and act honourably and circumspectly, so that we give no offence or provocation to anyone, Matt. 18; Mark 9; Luke 17; 1 Cor. 8. Rom. 14. So that also those who are outside the church might not have reason to blaspheme our head, our faith, and church, and to say: “Does your head Christ teach you such an evil life? Is that your faith? Is that your baptism? Is that your Christian church, Supper, and gospel, that you should lead such an ungodly and shameful life in gluttony, drunkenness, gambling, dancing, usury, gossip, reviling, cursing, blasphemy, pride, avarice, envy, hate and wrath, unchastity, luxury, laziness, and frivolity? Matt. 18:6. Woe, woe to him who gives offence! It would be better for him that a millstone should be hung around his neck and he should be cast into the depth of the sea. Let us rather take upon ourselves a righteous, honourable, and serious life, through which God our Father who is in heaven may be praised.

Since our brotherly love requires that one member of the body be also concerned for the other, therefore we have the earnest behest of Christ, Matt. 18:14ff., that whenever henceforth a brother sees another erring or sinning, that he once and again should fraternally admonish him in brotherly love. Should he not be willing to reform nor to desist from his sin, he shall be reported to the church. The church shall then exhort him a third time. When this also does no good, she shall exclude him from her fellowship. Unless it should be the case that the sin is quite public and scandalous; then he should be admonished also publicly and before all, so that the others may fear, 1 Cor. 5:1; 1 Tim. 5:20; Gal. 2:11.

Whereupon I pray and exhort you once more, most dearly beloved in Christ, that henceforth as table companions of Christ Jesus, Luke 22:15, you henceforth lead a Christian walk before God and before men. Be mindful of your baptismal commitment and of your pledge of love which you made to God and the church publicly and certainly not unwittingly when receiving the water and in breaking bread. See to it that you bear fruit worthy of the baptism and the Supper of Christ, that you may in the power of God satisfy your pledge, promise, sacrament, and sworn commitment, Matt. 18; Luke 3:8. God sees it and knows your hearts. May our Lord Jesus Christ, ever and eternally praised, grant us the same. Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters, watch and pray lest you wander away and fall into temptation, Matt. 24:42; 25:13; Luke 16. You know neither the day nor the hour when the Lord is coming and will demand of you an accounting of your life. Therefore watch and pray, I commend you to God. May each of you say to himself, “Praise, praise, praise to the Lord eternally!” Amen.

Arise and go forth in the peace of Christ Jesus. The grace of God be with us all.
Amen.

Truth Is Unkillable.

To the noble Lord Buriano of Cornitz, my gracious sovereign.

Grace and peace in Christ, noble and Christian Lord. Although the majority of people who stand by the gospel recognise that bread is bread and wine wine in the Lord’s Supper, and not Christ, Acts 1:9; Mark 16:19; Heb. 1:3; 12:2; Matt. 22:44; Ps. 110. For the same ascended into heaven and is sitting at the right hand of God his Father, whence he will come again to judge the living and the dead. Precisely that is our foundation, according to which we must deduce and exposit all of the Scriptures having to do with eating and drinking. Thus Christ cannot be eaten or drunk by us otherwise than spiritually and in faith. So then he cannot be bodily the bread either but rather in the memorial which is held, as he himself and Paul explained these Scriptures, Luke 22; 1 Cor. 11. Whoever understands them otherwise does violence to the articles of our Christian faith. Yet the restless Satan has invented another intrigue to hold us in his snare. Namely, that such a Lord’s Supper should be established without a prior water baptism, something which again Scripture cannot suffer. When the three thousand men and Paul had been instructed in the Word and believed, only thereafter did they break bread with the brethren, Acts 2:41f.; Acts 9. For as faith precedes love, so water baptism must precede the Lord’s Supper. So that Your Grace may know in what form the Lord’s Supper is celebrated in Nicolspurg, I have had it printed, for the praise of God, the honour of Your Grace, and the salvation of all believers in Christ. So that no one might think that we fear the light or that we are unable to give reasons for our teaching and actions. May Your Grace be commended to God and graciously accept from me this written token of respect, through my dear brother Jan Zeysinger.