Here are some of the central thoughts from my recent sermon: “Christ our Bread & Wine: Affirming the Eucharist as one bread and cup, for one body and refuting sectarian views that damage, divide or distort the unity of the faith.
Many Protestants are unaware that holding any other view than the Roman Catholic View of Transubstantiation is considered and declared this way by the RCC:
The RCC Charge: The Council of Trent – Session 13,Chapter 1
“It is indeed a crime the most unworthy that they should be wrested, by certain contentions and wicked men, to fictitious and imaginary tropes, whereby the verity of the flesh and blood of Christ is denied, contrary to the universal sense of the Church, which, as the pillar and ground of truth, has detested, as satanical, these inventions devised by impious men; she recognising, with a mind ever grateful and unforgetting, this most excellent benefit of Christ.”
5 Trent Anathema’s: CANON XI “But if anyone shall presume to teach, preach, or obstinately to assert, or even in public disputation to defend the contrary, he shall be thereupon excommunicated.”
- Regarding Sectarianism:
“Understanding that the teachings of the Lord and the Apostle’s regarding the One Bread & Cup, equips us to refute any position on salvation, authority, tradition or practice that advocates sectarianism. Christians are called to stand and maintain “the Unity of the Spirit”, “until we reach the unity of the Faith (Eph 4:3 & 13). When we at JWC say we are ‘Non-denominational, that is an ‘AFFIRMATION’ not a ‘Denunciation’. We are affirming that we stand with all those who call Jesus Lord, confess the historic, apostolic faith, have been baptized and seek to live godly lives in word and deed.”
2. Regarding John 6:47-68: “Eat my flesh and drink my blood”:
“The Christian seeking to understand the teaching of Jesus in this passage most naturally, according to the common methodology of reading narrative, can rest in the explantation of Jesus, regarding his statements about ‘eating and drinking him’ when he says: ‘The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Acknowledging that Jesus’ words are ‘spirit and life’ makes room for a humble apologetic that embraces reason and mystery. One doesn’t have to divorce the mystical and the rational, one can submit that they can apprehend but not fully comprehend the truth presented in the Eucharist.“
3. Regarding the Keys of the Kingdom:
“The connection to the Lord’s Table with the Keys of the Kingdom, confession and forgiveness and loosing and binding, have to do with the authority of proclaiming and believing the gospel.”
4. What Did the Church Fathers Believe?
There is no disputing the fact that the patristic authors made statements like, “The bread is the body of Christ” and “The cup is the blood of Christ.” But there is a question of exactly what they meant when they used that language. After all, the Lord Himself said, “This is My body” and “This is My blood.” So it is not surprising that the early fathers echoed those very words. But what did they mean when they used the language of Christ to describe the Lord’s Table? Did they intend the elements to be viewed as Christ’s literal flesh and blood? Or did they see the elements as symbols and figures of those physical realities?
We ought to interpret the church fathers’ statements within their historical context.
Early Church fathers like Ignatius and Irenaeus (later half of the 1st century) found themselves contending against the theological error of docetism (doe-see-tism) Docetism was an error with several variations concerning the nature of Christ. Generally, it taught that Jesus only appeared to have a body–that he was not really incarnate. This error developed out of the dualistic philosophy which viewed matter as inherently evil–that God could not be associated with matter; and that God, being perfect and infinite, could not suffer. Therefore, God as the word, could not have become flesh.”
-Did the Early Church Believe in Transubstantiation? by Nathan Busenitz
5. The Reformers Statement on disagreement on the Eucharist:
“And although at this time, we have not reached an agreement as to whether the true body and blood of Christ are bodily present in the bread and wine, nevertheless, each side should show Christian love to the other side insofar as conscience will permits and both sides should diligently pray to Almighty God that through his Spirit he might confirm us in the right understanding. Amen.”
-The Marburg Articles 1529
The articles of the agreement signed at Marburg by Luther, Zwingli, and eight other preachers. It documents how an affair that began with a quarrel about the doctrine of the literal Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (Luther for, Zwingli against) led to a joint statement that touched on all of the leading doctrinal points. The central issue, the Eucharist, is treated in the final and longest article (Article 15), which acknowledges the lack of full agreement and includes a pledge to tolerance until the matter could be finally settled.
A great quote:
“Now if anyone should ask me how this takes place, I shall not be ashamed to confess that it is a secret too lofty for either my mind to comprehend or my words to declare. And, to speak more plainly, I rather experience than understand it. Therefore, I here embrace without controversy the truth of God in which I may safely rest. He declares his flesh the food of my soul, his blood its drink [John 6:53ff.]. I offer my soul to him to be fed with such food. In his Sacred Supper he bids me take, eat, and drink his body and blood under the symbols of bread and wine. I do not doubt that he himself truly presents them, and that I receive them.” (Institutes, 4.17.32)
“It is a mystery too sublime for me to be able to express, or even to comprehend; and, to be still more explicit, I’d rather experience it than understand it.”
A their tasty morsel for the hungry from C.S, Lewis on the Eucharist:
“I don’t know and can’t imagine what the disciples understood our Lord to mean when, His body still unbroken and His blood unshed, He handed them the bread and wine, saying they were His body and blood…I find ‘substance’ (in Aristotle’s sense), when stripped of its own accidents and endowed with the accidents of some other substance, an object I cannot think…On the other hand, I get no better with those who tell me that the elements are mere bread and mere wine, used symbolically to remind me of the death of Christ. They are, on the natural level, such a very odd symbol of that…and I cannot see why this particular reminder – a hundred other things may, psychologically, remind me of Christ’s death, equally, or perhaps more – should be so uniquely important as all Christendom (and my own heart) unhesitatingly declare…Yet I find no difficulty in believing that the veil between the worlds, nowhere else (for me) so opaque to the intellect, is nowhere else so thin and permeable to divine operation. Here a hand from the hidden country touches not only my soul but my body. Here the prig, the don, the modern , in me have no privilege over the savage or the child. Here is big medicine and strong magic…the command, after all, was Take, eat: not Take, understand.”