Communion/Eucharist

Loutzenhiser's picture

* "Transubstantiation" — the substance (fundamental reality) of the bread and wine is transformed in a way beyond human comprehension into that of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, but the accidents (physical traits, including chemical properties) of the bread and wine remain; this view is that taught by the Roman Catholic Church and by the Eastern Orthodox Synod of Jerusalem, and is held by many Anglicans, especially in Anglo-Catholic circles.
* "In, with and under the forms" — the body and blood of Jesus Christ are substantially present in, with and under the substance of the bread and wine, which remain. This is the view held by most Lutherans, and some Anglicans. Lutherans and non-Lutherans refer to this view as 'consubstantiation'. Although, for some, this term is difficult to understand, it remains the confessed understanding of the Lutheran faith.
* "Objective reality, but pious silence about technicalities" — the view of all the ancient Churches of the East, (including the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, the Eastern Catholic Churches) and the Assyrian Church of the East as well as perhaps most Anglicans. These, while agreeing with the Roman Catholic belief that the sacrament is not merely bread and wine but truly the body and blood of Christ, and having historically employed the "substance" and "accidents" terminology to explain what is changed in the transformation, usually avoid this terminology, lest they seem to scrutize the technicalities of the manner in which the transformation occurs.
* "Real Spiritual presence", also called "pneumatic presence", holds that not only the Spirit of Christ, but also the true body and blood of Jesus Christ (hence "real"), are received by the sovereign, mysterious, and miraculous power of the Holy Spirit (hence "spiritual"), but only by those partakers who have faith. This view approaches the "pious silence" view in its unwillingness to specify how the Holy Spirit makes Christ present, but positively excludes not just symbolism but also trans- and con-substantiation. It is also known as the "mystical presence" view, and is held by most Reformed Christians, such as Presbyterians, as well as some Methodists and some Anglicans, particularly Low Church Reformed Anglicans. See Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 29. This understanding is often called "receptionism". Some argue that this view can be seen as being suggested — though not by any means clearly — by the "invocation" of the Anglican Rite as found in the American Book of Common Prayer, 1928 and earlier and in Rite I of the American BCP of 1979 as well as in other Anglican formularies:

And we most humbly beseech thee, O merciful Father, to hear us, and of thy almighty goodness, vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine; that we, receiving them according to thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed body and blood.

* "Symbolism" — the bread and wine are symbolic of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and in partaking of the elements the believer commemorates the sacrificial death of Christ. This view is also known as "memorialism" and "Zwinglianism" after Ulrich Zwingli and is held by several Protestant and Latter-day Saint denominations, including most Baptists.
* "Suspension" — the partaking of the bread and wine was not intended to be a perpetual ordinance, or was not to be taken as a religious rite or ceremony (also known as adeipnonism, meaning "no supper" or "no meal"). This is the view of Quakers and the Salvation Army, as well as the hyperdispensationalist positions of E. W. Bullinger, Cornelius R. Stam, and others.

What is your position on this subject and how do you support it scripturally?

michael_legna's picture

Multiple interpretations of the same symbols?


This issue came up in the book group on the study of John and rather than debate the issue there I figured I would bring it up here as I addressed the other posters previous posts in this thread.

The problem I find with most Protestant interpretations of the scriptures relating to the Eucharist as merely symbolic is that they must all use a different metaphor. They imply by their interpretations that each discussion is trying to teach a completely different point about what the bread and wine represent.

The synoptic Gospels…

Matt 26:26-29 26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.


…and…

Mark 14:22-25 22 And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. 23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. 24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. 25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.


…and…

Luke 22:17-21 18 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: 18 For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. 19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. 21 But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.


…are so close in their rendition that most Protestant commentators handle them the same way claiming that the bread and wine are symbolic of the body and blood. That because Jesus was not yet crucified they couldn't be the real body and blood – even though Jesus says that the blood IS shed and of course the wine is never shed.

Still as we shall see this is just the first of the spiritualization's of the meaning of the scripture, and it is one that is not consistent with all the others these commentators have to come up with the explain this repeated theme throughout the New Testament.

Barnes has – " This represents my body." and " This “represents” my blood, as the bread does my body."

Matthew Henry tells us – "The body of Christ is signified and represented by bread" and "The blood of Christ is signified and represented by the wine"


But when we get to the Gospel of John…

John 6:47-69 47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. 48 I am that bread of life. 49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. 52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? 53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live forever. 59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. 60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it? 61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.


…these same commentators need to resort to a new and different interpretation because the symbolism of the real blood and body does not work. Instead they suggest that Christ is not being literal in His symbolism but is referring to the word of God, the doctrines contained in the Scriptures in His reference to eating His body. Indeed there are some in the account who take Christ literally and reject Him because of it, so of course the modern Protestant commentators cannot hold here to their symbolic interpretation of the synoptic accounts otherwise they side with those who leave. There are of course a host of other problems with their use of this new symbolic interpretation but I want to focus here on just the fact that they need to create this new interpretation and cannot remain consistent across the Scriptures as the issue comes up each time.

Barnes puts it as – "My doctrines and the benefits of my mediation are that real support of spiritual life of which the manna in the wilderness was the faint emblem." and " Is truly food. My doctrine is truly that which will give life to the soul."

Matthew Henry says that – "The Lord's supper was not yet instituted, and therefore it could have no reference to that; it is a spiritual eating and drinking that is here spoken of, not a sacramental." and " In Christ and his gospel there is real supply, solid satisfaction; that is meat indeed, and drink indeed, which satiates and replenishes"


Moving on to 1 Corinthians we find two accounts…

1 Cor 10:16-21 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. 18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? 19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. 21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.


In this instance the typical Protestant commentator suggest we see the recreation of the Last Supper as a symbolic feast with the Lord as a commitment to fellowship with Him, and that we must choose between that fellowship and fellowship with idols. They in effect see the Eucharist as a replacement for the practice of eating from the altar of idols which was the common manner of fellowship of the pagan worshippers of that time.

Barnes says – "Christians, by partaking of the Lord’s Supper, are solemnly set apart to the service of the Lord Jesus; that they acknowledge Him as their Lord, and dedicate themselves to him, and that as they could not and ought not to be devoted to idols and to the Lord Jesus at the same time, so they ought not to participate in the feasts in honor of idols, or in the celebrations in which idolaters would be engaged"

Matthew Henry has similarly – " Is not this sacred rite an instrument of communion with God? Do we not therein profess to be in friendship, and to have fellowship, with him? Is it not a token whereby we professedly hold communion with Christ, whose body was broken, and blood shed, to procure remission of our sins, and the favour of God? And can we be in alliance with Christ, or friendship with God, without being devoted to him? In short, the Lord's supper is a feast on the sacrificed body and blood of our Lord, epulum ex oblatis. And to eat of the feast is to partake of the sacrifice, and so to be his guests to whom the sacrifice was offered, and this in token of friendship with him. Thus to partake of the Lord's table is to profess ourselves his guests and covenant people. This is the very purpose and intention of this symbolical eating and drinking; it is holding communion with God, and partaking of those privileges, and professing ourselves under those obligations, which result from the death and sacrifice of Christ; and this in conjunction with all true Christians, with whom we have communion also in this ordinance."


In the second account we have…

1 Cor 11:20-34 20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. 21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. 23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come. 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.


In this instance the interpretation and symbol changes once again, but even the Protestant commentators are divided on this one.

The first camp has the disrespect being paid not toward the actual, literal presence of the Lord but toward the symbols of the Eucharist. This in effect has Paul teaching a form of idolatry – that a symbol could be so important that an act of disrespect toward that symbol could bring about judgment or damnation.

But again I won't side track the issue here, which is that the only way to interpret this verse is to introduce yet another new meaning for the symbols since neither the symbolic representation of the real body and blood (used in the synoptics) nor the word of God (used in the Gospel of John) nor the idea of fellowship with Christ through memorial consumption of an offering (used in 1 Cor 10:16-21).

Barnes has – "Not discriminating between the bread which is used on this occasion and common and ordinary food. Not making the proper difference and distinction between this and common meals. They did not regard it in a proper manner, but supposed it to be simply an historical commemoration of an event, such as they were in the habit of observing in honor of an idol or a hero by a public celebration. They, therefore, are able to “discern the Lord’s body” in the sense intended here, who with a serious mind, regard it as an institution appointed by the Lord Jesus to commemorate his death; and who “distinguish” thus between this and ordinary meals and all festivals and feasts designed to commemorate other events. "

Matthew Henry tells us – "They profane the institution, and in a manner crucify their Saviour over again. Instead of being cleansed by his blood, they are guilty of his blood." and "They provoke God, and are likely to bring down punishment on themselves. No doubt but they incur great guilt, and so render themselves liable to damnation, to spiritual judgments and eternal misery. Every sin is in its own nature damning; and therefore surely so heinous a sin as profaning such a holy ordinance is so." and "The Corinthians came to the Lord's table as to a common feast, not discerning the Lord's body - not making a difference or distinction between that and common food, but setting both on a level: nay, they used much more indecency at this sacred feast than they would have done at a civil one."


The other camp sees the problem with this inherent idolatry of such a notion and suggests that the body being referenced is the Church. That the rebuke offered in the Scriptures is about proper behavior during the celebration and the disrespect it shows to the body of Christ - the Church. That the failure to discern the body is a failure to show proper respect to the Church by profaning the celebration. Again there is a whole slew of problems (at least for Protestants who focus on the individual in their search for salvation) with the idea of calling down judgment or condemnation on the person who participates in the Church unworthily or fails to discern the Church. But the main point I am making here is of course that they have to come up with yet another new symbolism because the others don't fit.

I could not find any commentators of renown who held this position, but I have heard it frequently enough I thought I should cover it.

In summary none of the standard Protestant interpretations that work for one section of scripture works for any of the others. The only interpretation that does is the acceptance of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist just as He claimed.




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