The Lord’s Supper and Communion with Christ – the different views

In the midst of the ongoing dialogue pertaining to the differences between Protestants and Catholics, there was a comment made as to why Protestants do not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper.  After reading that comment I decided it was necessary to discuss the Protestant view of the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord’s Supper is a fascinating subject.  It is the only practice found in every Christian denomination.  Christian churches may baptize different ways, worship in their own unique fashion, and even preach for different reasons, but for the most part every Christian church I know of has some kind of activity which involves bread and wine (or unfermented juice for Baptist).

To get straight to the point, the primary difference in each tradition is discovered when we ask a very simple question: WHY?

It is my desire to attempt to answer that question the next few days.  I begin today by trying to discuss the different views:

  • The Roman Catholic position teaches that the body and wine are the physical body and blood of Christ.
  • The Lutheran view says that Jesus is physically present “in, with, and under” the elements, though they remain bread and wine.
  • Calvin maintained that Jesus is spiritually present with the elements.
  • The Baptist view teaches that the elements symbolize Jesus’ body and blood.

Please note: the core difference is the meaning of Jesus’ statement at the Last Supper:

19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Luke 22:19-21 (underline added)

Catholic theologians believe in transubstantiation; that is Jesus meant his words to be understood literally, so that the bread and the wine change their substance to become his body and blood when the administering priest consecrates the elements during Mass.  They still appear to be bread and wine, but their essence changes to that of Jesus’ body and blood.

As explained to me by a Luther brother just week, Luther argued that Jesus’ words were meant literally, but that they do not require the elements to change their substance.  Rather, Jesus’ physical presence is “with” the elements.  This is a belief sometimes described as consubstantiation.  Luther spoke of an iron bar in the fire-it is still iron, though the heat of the fire is physically present in the bar.

Calvin saw Jesus’ presence at Communion to be spiritual rather than physical.  In the same way the sun remains in the heavens but radiates light and heat on the earth, so Jesus mediates his presence spiritually through the elements of his Supper.

Baptists interpreted Jesus’ words to be symbolic in intent: as we break bread in our hands and teeth, so Jesus’ body was “broken” on the cross; as we drink wine made from the “blood” of crushed grapes, so Jesus’ blood was poured out for us.  The Supper causes us to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19), remembering Jesus’ sacrifice with gratitude.

The discussion continues tomorrow.


2 Responses to “The Lord’s Supper and Communion with Christ – the different views”

  1. 1 Phillip Johnson
    October 28, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.

    Some common words are appearing regarding perspectives on the various aspects of beliefs. Pastor Ryan in yesterday’s blog asked not to use John 6 as a proof text concerning the doctrine of Transubstantiation because “Jesus’ words are obviously symbolic.” Obviously, there are many who do not share the symbolic perception, therefore the “obviously symbolic” nature of the meaning is based on the perception of the individual or collective body who chooses to accept this meaning whether under their interpretation of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration or for sake of convenience to fit scripture to a belief instead of the truth as scripture is written.

    Pastor Ryan, as you continue your excellent approach to examining these fundamentals, would you please comment on the word “remembrance.” The scripture used today (and by me yesterday) in Luke speak to me “obviously” that Christ is emphatic in referring to His body and blood. Is not the Greek word “remembrance” more than just “think about me by recalling this event to mind.” Is it not a word fraught with sacrificial overtone, used in the Bible to mean “remind yourself of something by participating in a sacrifice”? Would it not be a strange word to use if Jesus did not intend to set up the Eucharist as a sacrifice?

  2. 2 John
    October 28, 2008 at 3:35 pm


    As Ryan would be the first to point out, I am not Ryan, but let me comment on the word “rememberance.” The word used by Jesus is only used in the Lord Supper discussions in Luke and in 1 Cor 11 and in Hebrews 10. The writer of Hebrews makes an interesting connection with the word in verse 3, “But in these sacrifices there is a reminder (that’s the same word) of sin every year.”

    He uses that word when speaking of sacrifices made every year which were “a shadow of the good things to come…” Why would Jesus say we need to sacrifice His body over and over again at the mass when His work was declard to be finished on the cross? How could a priest actually sacrifice Jesus’ body over and over again? In verses 9 and 10 the writer said, “He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that we have been sancitified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

    I guess I am wondering what part of “It is finished” and “Once for all” the Catholic church doesn’t understand? In answer to your question…NO! The word is not “fraught with sacrificial overtone…It means to “remember or to recall.”

    In Christ,

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