“Whatever men please to think or say, the Romish doctrine of the real presence, if pursued to its legitimate consequences, obscures every leading doctrine of the Gospel, and damages and interferes with the whole system of Christ’s truth. Grant for a moment that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice, and not a sacrament–grant that every time the words of consecration are used the natural body and blood of Christ are present on the Communion Table under the forms of bread and wine–grant that every one who eats that consecrated bread and drinks that consecrated wine does really eat and drink the natural body and blood of Christ–grant for a moment these things, and then see what momentous consequences result from these premises. You spoil the blessed doctrine of Christ’s finished work when he died on the cross. A sacrifice that needs to be repeated is not a perfect and complete thing. You spoil the priestly office of Christ. If there are priests that can offer an acceptable of God besides Him, the great High Priest is robbed of His glory. You spoil the Scriptural doctrine of the Christian ministry. You exalt sinful man into the position of mediators between God and man. You give to the sacramental elements of bread and wine an honour and veneration they were never meant to receive, and produce an idolatry to be abhorred by faithful Christians. Last, but not least, you overthrow the true doctrine of Christ’s human nature. If the body born of the Virgin Mary can be in more places than one at the same time, it is not a body like our own, and Jesus was not ‘the second Adam’ in the truth of our nature. I cannot doubt for a moment that our martyred Reformers saw and felt these things even more clearly than we do, and, seeing and feeling them, chose to die rather than admit the doctrine of the real presence. Feeling them, they would not give way by subjection for a moment, and cheerfully laid down their lives. Let this fact be deeply graven in our minds. Wherever the English language is spoken on the face of the globe this fact ought to be clearly understood by every Englishman who reads history.”
– J.C. Ryle, Five English Reformers, p.26-27
“Once again we see that the Christian family life is to imitate the divine family life. If our loving commitment to our Christian brothers and sisters is less than it should be, it can only mean that we have lost sight of the wonder of the cross. The cross is not only the centerpiece of the Christian faith, it is the pulse-beat of the Christian life. We never graduate beyond it. Where love is failing, our great need is not so much to be exhorted to love, but to be reacquainted with the Saviour’s selfless sacrifice for sinners.”
– Iam Hamilton, Let’s Study the Letters of John, p.45
“Jesus is the model and the exemplar of what it means to love one another. ‘By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers’ [1 John 3:16]. Here John lays down a pattern that is imbedded throughout God’s Word: God’s commands to us are rooted in the wonder of his grace to us in his Son.
“What constrains obedience is not merely the fact that God himself commands us, though that would be a sufficient motive. Being the God of grace that he is, our Father seeks always to give us further powerful reasons for obedience. We see this pattern in Exodus 20:1-17 when God, through Moses, gave his people the Ten Commandments. Before he says, ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (verse 3), he says, I am the LORD [the covenant Lord] your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery’ [verse 3]. What a glorious incentive to obedience! God had rescued and redeemed them; he was their God, the covenant Lord who has made them his people.”
– Iam Hamilton, Let’s Study the Letters of John, p.44
“The ark of the covenant was the place of presence. While the Lord was present among His people in the exodus (Ex. 13:17–18, 21–22), He localized this presence in the tabernacle for the benefit of His sinful people. The tabernacle was constructed so that the Lord would be among His people: ‘And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst’ (Ex. 25:8). But in an even more specific way, the ark served as the place of the presence of God. As we read in Exodus 25:22,
‘There I will meet with you … on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you’ (Ex. 25:22; emphasis added).
Here is such a mind-blowing idea about the God of the Bible that we have to pause for a moment. The eternal God who is not constrained by the existence of time, the infinite God who is not bound by the constraints of space, the transcendent God who dwells above and beyond all time and space, and the immense God who fills all time and space condescended to the weakness of His people and became manifest for their benefit in one locale. This God is not bound by time, but He bound Himself to the time-bound experience of His people. This God is not bound by space, but He bound Himself to this box. He is above all creational constraints, but He bound Himself to them. He is everywhere, but He was there.
The psalmist set this truth about the nature of Israel’s God to song so that His people could celebrate Him:
‘The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory is above the heavens!
Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?’ (Ps. 113:4–6)
What a God we have. What a God has us. He chose to stoop very low and to humble Himself very far for the sake of His wandering people in the wilderness. Even more, He chose to stoop and to humble Himself for us in His Son, Jesus Christ, and then to stoop as low as death: ‘he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Phil. 2:8).
The fact that the ark was the place of the Lord’s presence among His people brought great assurance to the people of God. This high, lofty, majestic, and resplendent King dwelt among His grumbling, complaining, bickering, and sinful people (Ex. 15:24; 16:2, 8, 9, 12; 17:2). Does that sound familiar? We, too, are grumbling, complaining, bickering, and sinful people. Thankfully, God is not far off in another land, but He is near to us who are sinners. The promise to the new-covenant believer is that the Lord is near to us by the power of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us (1 Cor. 6:19), even as Jesus promised His helpful presence (John 14:16). The assurance His nearness brings was described by the prophet Isaiah much later in this history of salvation. Just as God accompanied Israel when they wandered in a wilderness, so, too, He was with them in the days of their restoration from exile. Thus, the prophet said, ‘In all their affliction he was afflicted’ (Isa. 63:9).”
– Daniel Hyde, God in Our Midst
“The historical manifestation of God’s love in Christ not only assures us of his love for us, but lays upon us the obligation to love one another. No-one who has been to the cross and seen God’s immeasurable and unmerited love displayed can go back to a life of selfishness. Indeed, the implication seems to be that our love should resemble his love: since God so loved, we also ought – in like manner and to a like degree of self-sacrifice – to love one another. Cf. 3:16, where the duty of Christian self-sacrifice is deduced from the self-sacrifice of Christ.”
– John Stott, The Letters of John, p.166