For centuries Christians have disputed amongst themselves the meaning of the new sacramental meal. Different theories of what Jesus meant with the words He used that night, those phrases we have come to call the Words of Institution. Some, as far as I know only Roman Catholics, teach transubstantiation. In other words, the bread and wine literally become the Body and Blood of Jesus and they remain that once it has happened. Therefore , unused wafers and wine, once consecrated, can be “adored” by believers for they are now considered to be permanently the true divine Body and the true divine Blood. On the other hand, those who follow the teachings of the Reformer Huldrich Zwingli say that the Communion meal is simply a remembrance of the Lord’s sacrifice for us, a physical reminder of His love displayed. Christ could not be physically present, these folks argue because He ascended bodily and has chosen to be in the Body for eternity and a physical body cannot be in more than one place at a time.
Those we call Calvinists try to split the difference, contending that Christ is truly present in the Sacrament, it is not simply an act of remembrance, but His presence is spiritual and not physical. The Holy Spirit comes into each believer as he or she receives the elements while Christ remains in heaven while non-believers would receive only bread and wine. And then there are Lutherans—don’t you know we’re out there by ourselves. We utterly reject the transubstantiation argument of Catholics because it is obvious that we still have bread and wine no matter what is said over them. But Christ said that the bread was His Body and the wine His blood, without any restrictions attached so we accept what He says as truth and speak of His Body and His Blood as being somehow under the elements. We truly receive what Christ promised and we’re willing to let it go at that. There is an urge in all of us to try to explain everything so it makes sense to us, but we can’t always do that when it comes to things divine. Faithfulness does not require a complete understanding of those mysteries that are understood by God alone. For believers it is enough to simply accept Jesus’ words as Truth and not try to parse them out so our feeble minds can somehow grasp divine meaning. As it has been said, if I could understand God and His ways completely—I would be God.
These disagreements are not going to go away until Jesus comes again. However, what we believe, teach and confess about the Sacrament does not determine our salvation. So we should remember to be generous to those brothers and sisters with whom we disagree, but neither should we ignore something so fundamentally important to our faith as the Holy Supper. Nor should we try to play down what we believe in order to have earthly fellowship, for to go against conscience is ultimately destructive of our faith.
For part one see:
God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 1
More to come …..
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little confused by your statement in light that you acknowledge the presence of Christ.
“we believe, teach and confess about the Sacrament does not determine our salvation. ”
Yet ” Nor should we try to play down what we believe in order to have earthly fellowship, for to go against conscience is ultimately destructive of our faith.”
For example.. 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.…
How do you understand this verse as it is so important to your faith, to deny it is destructive to faith? Are those who do not eat and drink have life in them and are raised up as well?
For believers it is enough to simply accept Jesus’ words as Truth, but others who misunderstand Jesus words, it has no effect on their faith?
Dan, You have asked a good question. Since this post was actually part of a sermon given by my husband, a Lutheran pastor, I am going to let him respond. Here’s what he has to say: St. Paul tells us in Romans 10:9 that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart God has raised Him from the dead, we shall be saved.. In Mark we read that those who believe and are baptized shall be saved, but those who do not believe are already lost (notice no mention of baptism in the example of someone being lost). Our justification is not a function of the Sacraments, it is a function of God’s gracious resolve to save us via faith which is implanted in us by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2). The quotation from John 6 is considered by many (if not most) Lutheran theologians to refer not to the Sacrament but to faith (see verse 47). So the Sacrament, as important as it is, is not salvific. Grace given faith is salvific. The Sacrament is meant to strengthen our faith through sharing the Body and Blood of Christ, as part of our union with Him. It is also meant to be a public practice both to witness to our faith in Christ and to tie us closely to our brothers and sisters in Him. I hope this answers your question to your satisfaction.. Blessings in Christ.
Thanks for your response, This perhaps is the wrong place to have this discussion, but I will just make my observations and let you respond if you wish and leave it be.
Throwing in Baptism has made it less clear for me. Confess and believe , then believe and Baptism for Salvation is the requirement. Because unbelievers are not saved, Confessing and Baptism are thrown out, as never really being a requirement, even though it was mentioned as a requirement.
If I understand the real presence of Christ is only to strength faith as you determine in John 6,
Even though Christ is very graphic about this eating, and claims it is very real and ye have no life in you otherwise, Christ dwells in me, and I in him. He loses followers and the Apostles are shaken, they murmured and were offended. I am surprised that you only look at this as faith building.
and secondary like confessing or baptism. Christ dwells in me, and I in him sounds very much like salvation itself.
Anyway thanks for your time, perhaps I have it wrong in my understanding of your explanation.
I do think you’re misunderstanding my point. Salvation is by faith which comes to us from God’s grace through the work of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is God’s claim upon the life of the elect and the incoming of a saved saint into the covenant community. It does not save you, faith does. Nor does the celebration of Holy Communion save anyone, but it is for the strengthening of the faith of believers. As I pointed out in my first response, the thrust of John 6 is about faith, not about the Sacrament itself. When many followers leave it is because they lack a saving faith. Hope this helps