The Lord's Supper

April 7, 2022

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 which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me” (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-24)

In the midst of the Passover meal Jesus introduced and instituted what is called ‘The Lord’s Supper’ or ‘Communion’. The observance includes unleavened bread and wine. Four major ‘doctrinal’ interpretations regarding the bread and wine exist today.

(1) Transubstantiation - the official teaching of Roman Catholicism. Trans means ‘change’, and substantiation means ‘substance’. When the bread and wine are blessed by the priest during the Mass, they are transformed into the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ. The form of the bread and wine doesn’t change, they still look, smell, and taste like bread and wine, but the substance has changed; the inner, hidden essence of the bread and wine has completely changed. So, when a person eats the bread and drinks the wine, they take into themselves the actual body and blood of Christ, and therefore the grace of God. The one who refuses to take the bread and wine puts their soul in grave danger; they refuse the grace of God.

(2) Consubstantiation - Martin Luther (1483-1546) disagreed with this view of the Lord’s Supper. He taught consubstantiation. Con means ‘together with’, and substantiation means ‘substance’. Luther argued that rather than the bread and wine changing completely into the flesh and blood of Jesus, the substance of the bread and wine coexists with the body and blood of Jesus. Jesus is present in, with, and under the bread and the wine whenever the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. The analogy people sometimes use is a sponge full of water - the sponge isn’t the water, the water isn’t the sponge, but the two are together with each other.

(3) Memorial - Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531), who was around at the time of Luther in the 16th century, taught the memorial view of the Lord’s Supper. He said that Jesus commanded us to do this in remembrance of Me, and that is all the Lord’s Supper is - an act of remembrance. The bread and wine are merely symbols, reminding us that Christ’s body was broken for us, and His blood was shed for us. 

(4) Spiritual Presence - John Calvin (1509-1564), who was also around at the same time, taught that the Lord’s Supper is to be viewed as the spiritual presence or real presence of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine. They are certainly symbolic, but the symbols do more than merely represent Jesus - they actually bring into us the presence of Jesus Christ and His benefits. 

Which view is correct biblically? Most Evangelical Christians agree with the Memorial view, while the very conservative Evangelical Christian agrees with the Spiritual Presence view. But the point is that Jesus taught that the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to remind us of His sacrificial death on the cross for our sins, apart from which there is no salvation. Amen.


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