October 13, 2015

Did the Early Church Believe in Transubstantiation?

by Nathan Busenitz

Today’s post is intended to answer an important question from a historical standpoint. However, it ought to be stated at the outset that Scripture must be our final authority in the determination of sound doctrine and right practice.last_supper

The word “eucharist” means “thanksgiving” and was an early Christian way of referring to the celebration of the Lord’s Table. Believers in the early centuries of church history regularly celebrated the Lord’s Table as a way to commemorate the death of Christ. The Lord Himself commanded this observance on the night before His death. As the apostle Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:23–26:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

In discussing the Lord’s Table from the perspective of church history, at least two important questions arise. First, did the early church believe that the elements (the bread and the cup) were actually and literally transformed into the physical body and blood of Christ? In other words, did they articulate the doctrine of transubstantiation as modern Roman Catholics do? Second, did early Christians view the eucharist as a propitiatory sacrifice? Or put another way, did they view it in the terms articulated by the sixteenth-century Council of Trent?

In today’s post, we will address the first of those two questions.

Did the Early Church Fathers Hold to Transubstantiation?

Transubstantiation is the Roman Catholic teaching that in the eucharist, the bread and the cup are transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ. Here are several quotes from the church fathers, often cited by Roman Catholics, in defense of their claim that the early church embraced transubstantiation.

Ignatius of Antioch (d. c. 110): “Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God.   . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1).

Irenaeus (d. 202): “He took from among creation that which is bread, and gave thanks, saying, ‘This is my body.’ The cup likewise, which is from among the creation to which we belong, he confessed to be his blood” (Against Heresies, 4:17:5).

Irenaeus again: “He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?” (Against Heresies, 5:2).

Tertullian (160–225): “[T]he flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may be filled with God” (The Resurrection of the Dead).

Origen (182–254): “Formerly, in an obscure way, there was manna for food; now, however, in full view, there is the true food, the flesh of the Word of God, as he himself says: ‘My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink’” (Homilies on Numbers, 7:2).

Augustine (354–430): “I promised you [new Christians], who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. . . . That bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ” (Sermons 227).

How should we think about such statements?

Obviously, 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?

In answering such questions, at least two things ought to be kept in mind:

* * * * *

1. We ought to interpret the church fathers’ statements within their historical context.

Such is especially true with regard to the quotes cited above from Ignatius and Irenaeus. During their ministries, both men found themselves contending against the theological error of docetism (a component of Gnostic teaching), which taught that all matter was evil. Consequently, docetism denied that Jesus possessed a real physical body. It was against this false teaching that the apostle John declared, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 7).

In order to combat the false notions of docetism, Ignatius and Irenaeus echoed the language Christ used at the Last Supper (paraphrasing His words, “This is My body” and “This is My blood”). Such provided a highly effective argument against docetic heresies, since our Lord’s words underscore the fact that He possessed a real, physical body.

A generation after Irenaeus, Tertullian (160–225) used the same arguments against the Gnostic heretic Marcion. However, Tertullian provided more information into how the eucharistic elements ought to be understood. Tertullian wrote:

“Having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, Jesus made it His own body, by saying, ‘This is My body,’ that is, the symbol of My body. There could not have been a symbol, however, unless there was first a true body. An empty thing or phantom is incapable of a symbol. He likewise, when mentioning the cup and making the new covenant to be sealed ‘in His blood,’ affirms the reality of His body. For no blood can belong to a body that is not a body of flesh” (Against Marcion, 4.40).

Tertullian’s explanation could not be clearer. On the one hand, he based his argument against Gnostic docetism on the words of Christ, “This is My body.” On the other hand, Tertullian recognized that the elements themselves ought to be understood as symbols which represent the reality of Christ’s physical body. Because of the reality they represented, they provided a compelling refutation of docetic error.

Based on Tertullian’s explanation, we have good reason to view the words of Ignatius and Irenaeus in that same light.

* * * * *

2. We ought to allow the church fathers to clarify their understanding of the Lord’s Table.

We have already seen how Tertullian clarified his understanding of the Lord’s Table by noting that the bread and the cup were symbols of Christ’s body and blood. In that same vein, we find that many of the church fathers similarly clarified their understanding of the eucharist by describing it in symbolic and spiritual terms.

At times, they echoed the language of Christ (e.g. “This is My body” and “This is My blood”) when describing the Lord’s Table. Yet, in other places, it becomes clear that they intended this language to be ultimately understood in spiritual and symbolic terms. Here are a number of examples that demonstrate this point:

The Didache, written in the late-first or early-second century, referred to the elements of the Lord’s table as “spiritual food and drink” (The Didache, 9). The long passage detailing the Lord’s Table in this early Christian document gives no hint of transubstantiation whatsoever.

Justin Martyr (110–165) spoke of “the bread which our Christ gave us to offer in remembrance of the Body which He assumed for the sake of those who believe in Him, for whom He also suffered, and also to the cup which He taught us to offer in the Eucharist, in commemoration of His blood(Dialogue with Trypho, 70).

Clement of Alexandria explained that, “The Scripture, accordingly, has named wine the symbol of the sacred blood” (The Instructor, 2.2).

Origen similarly noted, “We have a symbol of gratitude to God in the bread which we call the Eucharist” (Against Celsus, 8.57).

Cyprian (200–258), who sometimes described the eucharist using very literal language, spoke against any who might use mere water for their celebration of the Lord’s Table. In condemning such practices, he explained that the cup of the Lord is a representation of the blood of Christ: “I marvel much whence this practice has arisen, that in some places, contrary to Evangelical and Apostolic discipline, water is offered in the Cup of the Lord, which alone cannot represent the Blood of Christ” (Epistle 63.7).

Eusebius of Caesarea (263–340) espoused a symbolic view in his Proof of the Gospel:

For with the wine which was indeed the symbol of His blood, He cleanses them that are baptized into His death, and believe on His blood, of their old sins, washing them away and purifying their old garments and vesture, so that they, ransomed by the precious blood of the divine spiritual grapes, and with the wine from this vine, “put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man which is renewed into knowledge in the image of Him that created him.” . . . He gave to His disciples, when He said, “Take, drink; this is my blood that is shed for you for the remission of sins: this do in remembrance of me.” And, “His teeth are white as milk,” show the brightness and purity of the sacramental food. For again, He gave Himself the symbols of His divine dispensation to His disciples, when He bade them make the likeness of His own Body. For since He no more was to take pleasure in bloody sacrifices, or those ordained by Moses in the slaughter of animals of various kinds, and was to give them bread to use as the symbol of His Body, He taught the purity and brightness of such food by saying, “And his teeth are white as milk” (Demonstratia Evangelica, 8.1.76–80).

Athanasius (296–373) similarly contended that the elements of the Eucharist are to be understood spiritually, not physically: “[W]hat He says is not fleshly but spiritual. For how many would the body suffice for eating, that it should become the food for the whole world? But for this reason He made mention of the ascension of the Son of Man into heaven, in order that He might draw them away from the bodily notion, and that from henceforth they might learn that the aforesaid flesh was heavenly eating from above and spiritual food given by Him.” (Festal Letter, 4.19)

Augustine (354–430), also, clarified that the Lord’s Table was to be understood in spiritual terms: “Understand spiritually what I said; you are not to eat this body which you see; nor to drink that blood which they who will crucify me shall pour forth. . . . Although it is needful that this be visibly celebrated, yet it must be spiritually understood” (Exposition of the Psalms, 99.8).

He also explained the eucharistic elements as symbols. Speaking of Christ, Augustine noted: “He committed and delivered to His disciples the figure [or symbol] of His Body and Blood.” (Exposition of the Psalms, 3.1).

And in another place, quoting the Lord Jesus, Augustine further explained: “‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,’ says Christ, ‘and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.’ This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure [or symbol], enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us (On Christian Doctrine, 3.16.24).

A number of similar quotations from the church fathers could be given to make the point that—at least for many of the fathers—the elements of the eucharist were ultimately understood in symbolic or spiritual terms. In other words, they did not hold to the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

To be sure, they often reiterated the language of Christ when He said, “This is My body” and “This is My blood.” They especially used such language in defending the reality of His incarnation against Gnostic, docetic heretics who denied the reality of Christ’s physical body.

At the same time, however, they clarified their understanding of the Lord’s Table by further explaining that they ultimately recognized the elements of the Lord’s Table to be symbols—figures which represented and commemorated the physical reality of our Lord’s body and blood.

  • Those looking to read more on this subject might be interested in William Webster’s helpful treatment, which can be found here

Nathan Busenitz

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Nathan serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Church and teaches theology at The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles.
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  • marygiel

    I’m glad to see Protestants reading church fathers. The author being a Protestant seeks out crumbs from the vast feast that is church fathers on the real presence doctrine. It would be very good for anyone reading this post to go seek out the passages quoted in the article and read them in the context they were written in. No one who does that will come away with the conclusions that the author came up with.

    The fathers are very very clear about this doctrine. They teach what the Catholic Church teaches. Which makes sense since they were all Catholic. Not just Roman Catholic but eastern churches teach this. Oriental churches teach this. In fact all churches dating back to the time or apostles teach this.

    Read the fathers. It will do you good. It will clear away the teachings of men like Calvin and Luther and other men who ignore the truth and puff up their own errors. In fact read even early reformers who also held some version of real presence.

    If you don’t like to read history because you are afraid of what you will see, read the bible. I find it very interesting that the only place in the whole bible where Jesus’s disciples leave him because of doctrine is when he insists time and time again that the true bread from heaven is his flesh and true drink is his blood. Not a symbol. No one would leave him if he was talking about a symbol. How would that make any sense? This doctrine is so clear in the bible that it boggles my mind that the apparent bible Christians miss it!!!!

    It happens of course because you read the bible through Protestant traditions of men. Putting your errors first then trying To read them into the text of the bible and the church fathers.

    Just few quotes from the people that the author quotes as being against the Catholic understanding (which is the biblical understanding):

    Jusin Martyr

    “And this food is called among us Eucharistia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.

    For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” – (First Apology, 66)

    Clement of Alexandria

    “The Blood of the Lord, indeed, is twofold. There is His corporeal Blood, by which we are redeemed from corruption; and His spiritual Blood, that with which we are anointed. That is to say, to drink the Blood of Jesus is to share in His immortality. The strength of the Word is the Spirit just as the blood is the strength of the body. Similarly, as wine is blended with water, so is the Spirit with man. The one, the Watered Wine, nourishes in faith, while the other, the Spirit, leads us on to immortality. The union of both, however, – of the drink and of the Word, – is called the Eucharist, a praiseworthy and excellent gift. Those who partake of it in faith are sanctified in body and in soul. By the will of the Father, the divine mixture, man, is mystically united to the Spirit and to the Word.”,

    -“The Instructor of the Children”. [2,2,19,4] ante 202 A.D.,

    “The Word is everything to a child: both Father and Mother, both Instructor and Nurse. ‘Eat My Flesh,’ He says, ‘and drink My Blood.’ The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients. He delivers over His Flesh, and pours out His Blood; and nothing is lacking for the growth of His children. O incredible mystery!”,

    -“The Instructor of the Children” [1,6,41,3] ante 202 A.D.. ,

    Also it may be a shock to our protestant brothers and sisters but the church like the church fathers (doh) teach both that the eucharist is real presence and a symbol.

    From the council of Trent:

    “This, indeed, the most Holy Eucharist has in common with the other sacraments, that is a “symbol of a sacred thing and a visible form of an invisible grace (DS 1639)”

    – See more at: http://www.catholicconvert.com/blog/2015/01/07/do-the-fathers-claim-the-eucharist-is-a-symbol-and-not-the-real-presence/#sthash.INGILi5s.dpuf

    The fathers and the church are consistent and teach the same. It takes a protestant to distort the clear teaching of the church, church fathers, and the bible. Why? Because it doesn’t agree with their traditions of men!

    • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

      Mary, why then did Jesus say (in context), “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63)

      • marygiel

        Because Jesus’s words are spirit and life. Just like when God says “Let there be light and there was light” His words created light. Same with Jesus. When Jesus says “This is my body” His words are spirit and life. What he says Happens!! He is God after all.

        • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

          Mary, Matthew, whoever you are, you said…

          “I find it very interesting that the only place in the whole bible where Jesus’s disciples leave him because of doctrine is when he insists time and time again that the true bread from heaven is his flesh and true drink is his blood.”

          Please note that Jesus’ true disciples did NOT leave him at this point, only the unbelieving Jews who couldn’t understand the spiritual and a large group of gentiles who were looking for another free meal. Some things you say make me question if you’re truly reading any of the Bible in context.

          • MatthewRygiel

            The bible is plain that is was his disciples. John 6:66 They left cause they could not accept what he was saying. If he was talking about a symbol there would be no reason to leave. He meant what he said, and they left because of it. John 6:71 First time we are told Judas will betray Jesus. Did he lose his faith there? Maybe this doctrine was to much for him too.

            Real presence seems to be the doctrine on which the faith is shaken. No wonder protestants don’t like it. Protestant churches abandoned the clear biblical teaching just like the disciples that left Jesus.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            Yes, I agree, the doctrine of real presence was the defining moment in shaking the faith of those who followed Jesus. But only to those whose eyes were blind to the spiritual message He was trying to convey.

            Protestants fully embrace the doctrine of real presence. We just believe that to be Jesus Christ living within us. And what an eternal, joyful communion that is of every moment, every day.

          • MatthewRygiel

            That’s wonderful, and I fully acknowledge the Protestant devotion to Jesus. Some of the most Christ filled Christians I’ve ever met were Protestants. But John 6 story is more then spiritual message.

            Just follow the reading from John 6:50 – 59. how many times did Jesus said to eat his flesh, drink his blood, over and over.

            John 6:60. Disables starting to get very uncomfortable about what he is saying. “This is a hard saying…” what does Jesus do next? Does he reassures them that he is speaking of a spiritual presence?

            He says John 6:61-65 “Do you take offence at this?” He scolds them for not believing him. His words are spirit and life! For some of his disciples this was too much. And remember they just saw him perform the miracle of the multiplication of bread, yet they could not believe that we have to eat him and drink his blood.

            The only explanation for his disciples leaving is if Jesus meant what he said. We are to eat his flesh and drink his blood.

            Later at last supper he said over bread “This IS my body” over the cup “This IS my blood” (Do protestants have a different definition of “IS”?)

            His words are spirit and life.

            Later Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:27-28

            For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.

            How can you be guilty of body and blood of the Lord if you are eating a symbol!

          • KPM

            As Luther said,

            “I would rather drink blood with a Papist than mere wine with a Zwinglian”

          • Christian Finne

            If Satan can turn God’s Word upside down and pervert the Scriptures, what will he do with my words — or the words of others?

          • KPM

            Read what Luther said about the sacraments. He believed whole-heartedly in the Real Presence of the Lord in the sacrament of communion. You can download Luther’s Small and Large Catechism on your iPhone for free from the bookstore. Scroll through and see what he says for yourself.

            I also downloaded the Works of Martin Luther for free. You can search the entire volume and read Luther for yourself.

          • KPM

            Hi Jane. I think you’re confused. Baptists deny the Real Presence in the Supper. Some Presbyterians redefine the Real Presence, and some deny it. If you believe that the Real Body and Blood of Jesus are present in the Sacrament, you are not a Baptist (whether you’re a non-denominational Reformed Baptist, or whatever you want to call it).

          • Christian Finne

            KPM, you and your romanistic friends are cannibals! Are you so
            stupid that when Jesus said I am the door, that he means that he is a
            door? Or what about the way, the light or the bread of life? Give me a break man, and don’t be such a fool!

          • KPM

            Yo Christian! Careful who you call a fool, homeboy. The majority of Protestant Christians in the world today (and all Christians throughout the history of the church) have taken Jesus’ words literally here. It’s a minority of Christians worldwide who don’t take Christ’s words regarding the supper literally. Huss, Wycliff and Luther all took Christ’s words literally regarding the supper, and without these dudes, we’d still be attending church services in Latin! Certainly, you’re not going to call them romanistic cannibals, stupid, and fools, are you?

            Also, Christ says, “I am the door” in a couple of places, but he doesn’t go out of his way to clarify that he’s actually speaking literally, and not metaphorically.

            Jesus doesn’t say, for example, “I am the door, indeed (i.e. truly), and unless you turn my door knob and open me you can’t get into heaven.” However, when it comes to the supper, he goes out of his way to clarify, “My body is truly food and my blood is truly wine.”

            He also repeats this teaching at the Last Supper, saying “This IS my body.”

            What do you think Paul means when he says, “Whoever eats without DISCERNING the body and blood of the Lord is guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord”?

            Does Paul say anything about it being symbolic?

            There doesn’t seem to be one instance in the scripture of the Lord’s Supper being referenced as a symbol.

            Do some reading of church history, my friend. This teaching is not “romanish” only, it is Lutheran, it is Anglican/Episcopalean, it is Methodist. Calvin believed the sacraments were sacraments and a means of grace, and not just symbols. He didn’t affirm the Real Presence, but he did see them as more than just a symbol.

            The only people in the history of the church to reject the sacraments in such an extreme manner are Anabaptist, Baptists, and heretical restoration movements. This isn’t historic, reformation, or biblical Christianity. It’s innovative. It’s new. It’s a-historical. It’s dangerous.

          • MatthewRygiel

            Latin is cool. You made it all the way to Luther. You are almost there!

            And great reply. History is a great taboo to most Protestants. It is amazing how little they know about their past and how new their corrupt doctrines are.

          • Christian Finne

            Matthew, you and your romanistic friends are cannibals! Are you so stupid that when Jesus said I am the door, that he means that he is a door? Or what about the way, the light or the bread of life? Give me a break man, and don’t be such a fool!

          • MatthewRygiel

            Interesting that early Christians were accused to be cannibals too precisely because they believed Christ and his words. So thank you I take what you say as a compliment. 🙂

          • MatthewRygiel

            And its Matthew. marygiel << old user name got confusing when people started to call me Mary 🙂

          • Adam

            Matthew
            From John 6 and the words of Christ;
            vs. 29 – “This is the work of God, that ye BELIEVE on Him whom He hath sent.”
            vs. 35 – He that BELIEVETH on Me shall never thirst.”
            vs. 40 – “And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that everyone which seeth the Son and BELIEVETH on Him , may have everlasting life: and I will raise Him up at the last day.”
            vs. 47 – “Verily verily I say unto you, He that BELIEVETH on Me hath everlasting life.”
            vs. 63 – “It is the spirit that quickeneth; THE FLEASH PROFITETH NOTHING…”
            Say what you will about John 6 being a justification for the Eucharistic model of Roman Catholicism, but you still have to contend with these verse in which Jesus links eternal life solely with the principle of faith. Just like He does in John 3:15 and 16; just like He does in John 5:24; 7:38, 11:25 and 26. In these verses there is no link whatsoever to “ingesting” the “body and blood” of Jesus as a requirement for eternal life. Ahhhhhhh… the simplicity of childlike faith in the Supreme and Glorious resurrected Lord. How this pleases HIm! Set Free at last! Set free at last! Praise God Almighty I’m set free at last!

          • MatthewRygiel

            Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.

            That’s Jesus talking not me.

            Why do I have to contend with the verses you pointed out??? Do you somehow assume that Catholics do not BELIEVE in Jesus?????? Of course faith is important, what makes you think I or any Catholic does not think so? Catholics not only believe in Jesus we also believe in what Jesus says. So when he says “This IS my body” that is what we believe. 🙂 When he says “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” we believe it. If you have a problem with that talk to Jesus.

            Also the article is about believe in Real Presence, not faith. So I focus on bible text dealing with that.

            God Bless.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            Matthew, we could scripture spar all day long, but truthfully it’s not getting us anywhere. But I do have one final question if I may. In an earlier post you mentioned that you came from a loving evangelical background and converted to Catholicism. May I ask what denomination you grew up in?

          • MatthewRygiel

            No I don’t think that was me. I was born a Catholic, raised as a Catholic. 🙂

            Please also note that I’m not here on this clearly protestant blog to cause trouble. I am here mainly because protestants very often misrepresent the Catholic Church. I am here to state what we believe.

            I know our back and forth may not be getting us anywhere, but I hope that it at least it shows that the Catholic position is not as dumb as you thought initially. There is biblical basis for every Catholic doctrine. I have made it a point to stick mainly to the bible in my replies to objections just to show that one can read the same text and come up with different interpretation of it.

            What we do agree on however is that we both love Jesus.
            I know you love Jesus. I can tell by the way you talk about him. That is something we have in common. I love Jesus. He is my Lord.

            God bless.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            Sorry about that mix-up. Since I thought you were a woman before I’m having some gender confusion here. 🙂

          • MatthewRygiel

            Haha. No problem. Take care.

          • Adam

            Matthew, my point in citing other texts outside John 6 was simply to show that Jesus does not link faith in Him with anything else when it comes to having eternal life. You somehow have to explain that in light of John 6. Context is a basic rule of proper interpretation, and the context of these additional texts says nothing about the body and blood of Jesus in a Eucharistic context. You have one text where it appears that Jesus is linking eternal life with “consuming” His bodily elements. I have cited multiple texts showing where He does not. To argue then that the text from John 6 somehow trumps the multiple texts I did cite is an interpretive inconsistency. Redundancy was a Jewish method of teaching to emphasis a point. With the exception of John 6, there is no where else in the Gospel records where Jesus uses such language. BUT, he does repeatedly emphasis faith alone in Him for eternal life throughout the 4 Gospels.
            Secondly, you have to interpret John 6 from a Jewish perspective. The consumption of blood was forbidden under the Levitical law which was why many people were offended at what Jesus said in John 6. For Jesus to be speaking in a manner contrary to the law of Moses, and exhorting others to do so would have been a transgression against the law and therefore sinful. Jesus was without sin and therefore could not have been speaking in a literal sense. He said in John 6 that “the flesh profits nothing” but it is the Spirit that gives life. In other words, to consume His body and blood would do the people no good, the Spirit has to give them life. This is consistent with His message to be born again of the spirit in John 3:1-8 as a requirement to enter the kingdom of God, after which in verses 14-18 Jesus then immediately makes the essential link to faith alone in Him with having eternal life . There is NO mention of consuming His body and blood either in the born again text nor the verses that immediately follow.

          • KPM

            Do you believe that faith can be conveyed through means of grace?

            For example, is the Word of God a means of grace? The Holy Spirit works through the proclamation of the word of God. It is a means of grace.

            Can the Holy Spirit work through other means of grace without compromising Sola Fide? For example, can we be baptized into Christ as a means of grace? Does Romans 6 teach that Christians are actually baptized into Christ as a means of grace, or does it teach that baptism only symbolizes an inward reality?

            You’d be hard pressed to find any text of scripture which says baptism symbolizes anything.

            Instead, Peter says that “baptism…now saves you…as an appeal to God for a good conscience.” Paul says that we are baptized into the death of Christ, and can therefore be assured that we will be raised with him in a life like his. Jesus says that unless you’re born of water and the Spirit, you can’t see the Kingdom. In Acts, Peter preaches to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins.

            Nothing in the Bible says that baptism is a symbol. It’s a means of grace, just like the Lord’s Supper. Nothing in the Bible says that the Lord’s Supper is a symbol.

            The only way you can see those things symbolically is if you explain away why countless verses that seem to say one thing actually mean another thing. It’s hermenuetically irresponsible.

          • Adam

            No, I do not believe the Word of God/ Bible is a means of grace because the Bible itself does not teach that! The Bible is a Revelation; in particular, of the will of God and how we can obtain the means of His grace. There is a world of difference between stating I can obtain God’s grace by reading His word versus stating that I can know the means of obtaining God’s grace by reading His word. Do not confuse the two. God does nor impart saving grace to a sinner simply because they are reading His word. We obtain grace, as the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2:8, through the vehicle of faith. More specifically, a faith that’s rests upon Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:7) This is the revelation the Bible gives and it is now up to us to receive it’s truth in a personal way by receiving Christ (John 1:12-13) And when we do, God imparts His saving grace to us, not because of works, but because of our faith in Christ. (Ephesians 2:9) The Bible led us to the Means, but was not the means itself.
            As far as not knowing whether I am saved if I have no outward sign such as a sacrament to confirm to me I am and that I have participated in a means of God’s grace, well, the Apostle John says you are wrong!! “These things have I written unto you that BELIEVE on the name of the Son of God; that YE MAY KNOW YE HAVE ETERNAL LIFE, and that ye may BELEIVE on the name of the Son of God. ” (1 Jn. 5:13) The Apostle John assures me I can know for sure that I have eternal life through my faith in Jesus Christ. Take note that He doesn’t link faith to any sacrament nor eternal life to any sacrament. He links faith only to one thing which is not a thing (such as a sacrament is), but to a Person – the Son of God. I will trust the Revelation of God that I can KNOW I have eternal life if I believe on the Son of God.
            You talked about not having enough faith or not repenting enough and I guess this is what is so hard for Catholics to understand considering the works-based system you are from. Salvation is NOT ABOUT YOU! It is not about some type of quantity of religion that I have, whether in term of faith or repentance. It’s about HIM – JESUS CHRIST AND HIS SUFFICIENCY. It’s not about how much faith I have in Him, it about how much love He has for Me as shown through His cross. It’s not about how much I have repented, it’s about how sufficient His grace and mercy is when I do.
            Little faith and little repentance matter little. What matters is the Eternal Son of God giving His life for Me in all His Divine perfections. Remember that the woman with the issue of blood didn’t have to lay hold of the entire garment of Christ, just a little edge, that’s all. But in touching that edge she touched omnipotence and so was healed. If I only have a small measure of faith, or a small measure of repentance, I touch that same omnipotence as the woman in Luke’s Gospel. I touch infinite mercy, infinite love, infinite grace, infinite kindness, infinite goodness. The quantity of my faith and repentance is irrelevant. What matters is the quantity of what Christ has to offer me in terms of His mercy and grace when I do lay hold of Him by faith.
            The sign/confirmation you seek via the sacraments is not necessary and does in fact, show a lack of faith. You need some visual/objective confirmation to “prove” you are saved rather than simply resting and trusting in the sufficiency of Christ Himself by faith. And so Paul writes to the Jews who also sought some form outward confirmation to “prove” the faith was real – “For the Jews require a sign…” (1 Cor. 1:22)
            Tell me, if I were to give the Gospel to someone on their death bed who never went to church and partook of the sacraments, would the infinite love, mercy, and grace of God be sufficient to save them if they gladly received the Son of God by faith instead of through a sacrament? Think about it.

          • KPM

            Yo Adamus Maximus!

            The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…

            My word will not return to Me void, but will accomplish what I please…

            How will the believe unless they hear, and how will they hear unless someone preaches…

            Sounds to me like God’s word is powerful and as it goes fourth from his mouth it accomplishes what he has declared. That’s all that is meant by “a means of grace.” The grace of God is conveyed in the word of God, and the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to accomplish what God the Father desires.

            If you give someone the gospel on their death bed and they accept it, will they go to heaven? Darn tootin my friend. In that instance, God worked through the Word (means of grace) to convict of sin and show them their need of Christ. Praise God for the means of grace he’s given us.

            If a person is baptized into Christ, God also confirms and strengthens faith in them, in the same way that he does when they hear the word of God preached on Sunday morning. It’s not much different.

            Or do you believe that the word of God is not intended to convey grace to people? Do you believe that the word of God can give believers assurance, or strengthen their faith?

            Well, God says the same thing about the other sacraments as well.

          • Adam

            You still are not proving the Bible is a means of grace. You have simply shown certain qualities of God’s revelation. Why is God’s word sharper than any two edged sword? Because it takes us back to the God behind the Word making it such. In the end the Bible is still a revelation that always takes us back to God Himself. He is our means of grace. There is power in the Word because there is power in God, as such, unless I lay hold of HIM I have received nothing of His saving grace though I may have read and learned about it in His word.

          • KPM

            My flesh is food, indeed and my blood is drink, indeed…

            Listen guys, my body really is food. My blood really is drink. Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no part in me.

          • MatthewRygiel

            Adam, you have the words of Jesus in the bible. I am simply pointing them out. You say I should link John 6 to other texts, Well yes of course but so do YOU.

            Like I explained before if Jesus was talking about a symbol then there would be no problem with Jews. He was not talking about a symbol that is why John 6 is so clear that many people stopped walking with him, it was for the reason you point out. Drinking blood was forbidden for a Jew, so hearing Jesus insist on it over and over again made some Jews turn away from him. He didn’t stop though, he kept on repeating it over and over again.

            “the flesh profits nothing”, Indeed, you cannot understand this passage in a fleshy way, only the Spirit can give you the understanding. If he meant what you say he meant then there would be NO REASON for the disciples to leave. This was further revealed to the apostles at last supper when he took bread and said “This IS my body” and wine “This IS my blood” Notice he didn’t say “This is a symbol of my body” last time I checked “IS” means “IS”.

            John 3:1-8, Read it again, it says “WATER and spirit” Jesus consistently ties spiritual things with material things. John 6: Body and blood of Jesus gives you spiritual life,

            John 3:1-8 We are born again by Water and spirit. (Baptism)

            John 3: 14-18, DO you see the world alone in there? I don’t. Find “Faith Alone” in the bible please.

            It is not Catholics that pick and chose bible passages, it it protestants. Catholic understanding takes ALL the words of Jesus into account. We don’t throw away John 6 for John 3. All are inspired words of Jesus.

            And please do search for “faith alone” in the bible.

            God bless.

          • Adam

            I will trust forever in the sufficiency and supremacy of Christ to save me until the day of my redemption! And I will do so via the simplicity of faith. Do your “deeds” if you chose, complicate and distort the Gospel if you will, and I will instead choose to rest in Him! Look how desperate you and other Catholics are to try and prove a wafer saves. How sad.
            QUESTION: If the wafer and wine literally turn into the body and blood of Jesus, then how is it the wafer still looks and tastes like a wafer and the wine still looks and tastes like wine? Literal means literal, and as far as I can objectively see, the elements still literally look UNCHANGED and still literally look and taste like they did before the priest performs his incantation over them after which the metamorphosis is supposed to take place. I think you have a contradiction with your doctrine there. At best. you have you side with the Lutherans who believe only a spiritual rather than literal transformation takes place. Trust in Christ alone. He will save you.

          • KPM

            Ah, yes, the desire to be “logically consistent” trumps the desire to be biblical faithful in Calvinistic theology.

            Wouldn’t it just be easier to say that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, so we won’t always be able to construct a perfectly logical system? Let’s let God be God, so that when he speaks something into existence, or declares that something is as he says it is, we can just accept it as true.

          • KPM

            Also, so you know, Lutheran’s don’t teach that only a “spiritual rather than literal transformation takes place.” They teach that the bread remains bread, but also becomes the literal body of Jesus. The spiritual transformation thing is more Calvinistic than Lutheran. The symbolism only thing is Zwingli and the radical reformation.

            And I’m not a Catholic. I just left a MacArthurite church because their teaching left me constantly desperate, depressed and confused because I was always doubting my salvation. I read the Mortification of Sin three times in my ten years there. Last night, I literally burned that book in charcoal grill so that I’ll never be beholden to that kind of legalism again.

            I’m a Lutheran in process, you might say. I’ve been attending a Lutheran church and studying Lutheran theology for a couple of months now, and I’m so grateful for the freedom in Christ that I’m experiencing for the first time.

            I’m also grateful to be free from the constant judgmental, self-righteous spirit I felt as a MacArthurite. I was always encouraged to be judgmental and to look down on other Christians who didn’t hold to all 5 points of Calvinism. I was taught to hate the pope. I was taught to doubt if my family members were “really” Christians because they didn’t see things exactly the same way that we did. I was told that the only way we ever need to love unbelievers is by preaching to them. It’s a step-away from the fundamentalism of the Westboro Baptists.

            I’d love to see some of you MacArthurites study the Lutheran distinction between Law and Gospel, and how that should be applied in the lives of Christians. Don’t just assume you know what I mean, cause you probably don’t even have the right categories.

          • KPM

            For a “Reformed” guy who gets this, I’d point you to Michael Horton. He’s a Reformed Church guy, but he kicks around with a lot of Lutherans and he understands the distinction between Law and Gospel in essentially Lutheran terms. He’s a cool dude.

            He’s also more “high-church, sacramental” than most of the Young, Restless, Reformed folks. He’s much more of a traditional Calvinist.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            So KPM, may we assume that you are no longer desperate, depressed and confused because of always doubting your salvation? Has the bread and the wine given you the assurance of heaven with all the joys that contains?

          • KPM

            Lutheran theology has, because I understand now that I do not have to prove I am really saved by constantly doing good works. I don’t have to always look to my life and say, “Have I really made Jesus the Lord of my life?”

            I will never successfully make Jesus the Lord of my life, as much as I ought, and as much as I try. I will always remain Simul Iustus et Peccator, until our Lord returns.

            So, yes, I recall my baptism and I am grateful that God promises in Romans 6, that as I have been baptized into Christ, I also will be raised with him. I have faith in the promises of God that are for us in baptism, and you also ought to have the faith.

            I am meeting with the pastor tonight because I would like to start taking communion as the pastor administers the keys to the kingdom and pronounces absolution. I look forward to a participation in the body and blood of Jesus and the experience of cleansing and forgiveness that is offered there.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            KPM, Lutheran theology can’t save you. Communion and sacraments can’t save you. This isn’t about what you believe or what you do, it’s about who you believe and what He’s done!

            Accepting Christ and receiving His assurance is between you and Christ, not a pastor administering something you hope will cleanse and forgive you. Christ cleanses and forgives you through faith.

            Please take time to pray before you go. The forgiveness and cleansing is yours through simply confessing your faith and belief in the One who loves you immensely. Please. Pray.

          • KPM

            Jane, I appreciate your care and concern, but what you’re saying is not the message you get from MacArthur and his disciples. They try to maintain that justification is by faith, but look at the back of your JMac Study Bible. What will you find? The necessary evidences of God’s grace in your life. If you don’t see those evidences, then you have no reason for assurance, in the Lordship Salvation / MacArthurite tradition. Same goes with the writing of the Puritans. They say, “saved by faith” but cannot give any assurance of salvation. Instead, they thrust Christians back upon their works as the source of their assurance. What are they trusting? God’s grace, or their works? In practice, they’re trusting in their works.

            The Bible does not separate God’s grace from his means of grace and neither should we. Means of grace also do not contradict justification by faith. God says, “repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.” He also tells us that all who have been baptized into Christ will also be raised with Christ. If you have faith in the God of the bible who tells us these things, then accept his words and obey his commands. If you repent and are baptized, then you cling to faith in God who says that if your repent and are baptized you will be saved. It’s all about faith in God and his promises.

            If the question is, “am I real, or am I a sham? Am I sincere enough in my faith,” then you’re opening up your soul like an onion. Peal layer after layer until you peal away all the layers and there is nothing left. Is this motive sincere? What about the motive that caused me to have that motive?

            If your assurance is dependent upon whether you can prove that you’re really saved by introspection and works, you’re left with no assurance at all.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            KPM, I don’t own a MacArthur study bible, nor am I a follower of any man, so you know. I became a Christian by reading the Bible, not learning someones theology. God is a pretty amazing teacher if you believe He’s willing to teach.

            Also, I do not question my assurance because it is not based on what I do, but in my faith in what Christ has done for me. I am justified by grace, proven by my fruit (necessary evidence). That is not a contradiction.

            In other words, if someone is truly saved, if they have received the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ, their life will naturally change. They will show evidence of that grace in what they do, how they think, their affections and their devotions. Grace will permeate every aspect of their life. It is an ever present, overwhelming love, continually confirmed in the Holy Spirit.

            So if those evidences are not present, especially internally, there is a good chance they were never truly saved. We are justified by faith alone with subsequent evidence. And that is in perfect alignment with scripture.

          • MatthewRygiel

            Trust in Christ alone says a men who doesn’t believe Christ’s own words. Interesting.

            How exactly are you trusting Christ?

            Are you saying that God who made heaven and earth and all in it out of nothing would have difficulty turning bread and wine into his body and blood? How little trust and faith you must have.

          • Adam

            When God created the world He literally created light, land, sea, birds, etc. When you are saying He literally makes the wafer and wine the literal body and blood of Christ you have a problem because the wafer and wine remain unchanged no matter how to try to rationalize it! He has changed/created nothing. The properties of the wafer and wine remain the same as they were when they were bought from the supplier, prayed over by the priest, and ingested by the congregants.
            As far as how I am trusting in Christ is simple. I am not relying on anything I do to save me. I am fully relying on His perfect, sinless life and redemptive sacrifice to redeem me from an eternity in hell. I fully acknowledge that He is all-sufficient through His once-for-all sacrifice to provide the sole means of my forgiveness. And in receiving these truths by faith I receive Him! Not via a sacrament, but through an inward trust and reliance on Him plus nothing.

          • MatthewRygiel

            Well that’s great. Except that’s not what the bible teaches.

            How do you square what you said with book of James? With Jesus’s reply to the rich young man? How do you square it with Paul talking about obedience? Are you going to ignore all those too? You have theology. You only look at the bible passages that agree with it. You ignore the vast majority that doesn’t agree with it.

            You don’t want to trust Jesus when he says over bread This is my body. I trust him. He said it. I believe it.

            This conversation is going nowhere. You trust your men made traditions more then Christ.

          • Adam

            You apparently refuse to compare your claims of a literal transformation of the elements and what is presented objectively before you. Question: Does the wafer still look and taste like a wafer after the consecration? How about the wine? Explain, then, just how it LITERALLY is now the body and blood. You are making claims for literalism but I can prove objectively how it is not – it still looks and tastes like a wafer and wine. Is this true or not? If there is a literal change it must be literally observable. Did God literally change the Nile from water to blood or not? Did Jesus literally change the water into wine at Cana or was it figurative? In both instances it was objectively observed and experienced by all that a definite and indisputable literal transformation took place. Use the same criteria for proving the elements are changed in the same way!!

          • MatthewRygiel

            You are correct the Eucharist tastes like bread and wine. Thank God for that.

            I’m not making claims for literalism that you keep talking about. That is not the teaching of the Church. At least find out what the church teaches before you attack it. Otherwise you are just arguing with a straw man you created for yourself.

            I’m making claims for transubstantiation. See title of the article. There is a reason the church chose that word. Look it up. I don’t have time to explain the philosophical concepts behind it. It’s easily available for you to look up.

            You have no problem with eternal God being present in his human nature as Jesus. Incarnation. But you have a problem with eternal God being present in his substance God forever United to his human nature under the appearance of bread and wine? Really?? This is your difficulty??

            How much is one more difficult then the other to almighty God?

          • Adam

            You are arguing for literalism by saying Jesus sais This IS my body. Well, if it doesn’t literally become His body and blood then there is only a spiritual presence. Yet this is not what the official teaching of the RC church is. Article 1376 of the Catechism says: “…this holy council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a CHANGE OF THE WHOLE SUBSTANCE of the bread INTO THE SUBSTANCE OF THE BODY OF CHRIST our Lord and of the WHOLE SUBSTANCE of the wine INTO THE SUBSTANCE OF HIS BLOOD. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called Transubstantiation.” What is the substance of Christ’s body and blood? Same thing as yours and mine. Yet I see nothing of the sort in the wafer and wine. Nothing has been changed as the Catechism claims. The wafer is a wafer and the wine is the wine. Once again, you at best can only claim some form of spiritual, not literal presence is there. That is all.

          • MatthewRygiel

            I already said that I’m not arguing for literalism in the way you have repeatedly stated. Yet you say that I am. Let me say it again I am not.

            You seem to have trouble understanding what substance is. I am linking to an article on transubstantiation which explains it better then I could. https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/eucha4.htm

            We have 2 things.
            1) clear biblical statements from Jesus himself. This is my body. This is my blood. Eat my flesh. Drink my blood.

            2) we know that when he said those words the bread still looked like bread.

            Transubstantiation as you finally looked it up says that the substance of the bread. (The thing that makes bread bread) is transformed into the substance of Jesus (God almighty). There is no more bread. There is only Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine. Appearance is not the same as substance.

            Jesus appeared human. And he was. But he was also God. He didn’t stop being God (His substance) when he was on earth.
            His appearance was human.

            The Eucharist appears to be bread and wine. It is not. It is Jesus.

            You may not agree with what the church teaches, but the church teaches only what Jesus said. If you have a problem with that I encourage you to talk to Jesus.

    • Jason

      The Catholic church didn’t officially clarify and adopt this doctrine until the 1100’s after the view was developed in the 900’s. This at least shows a change in doctrine and development. So even history tells us this is not a 2000+ year doctrine.

      • marygiel

        Development yes. “Transubstantiation” was formally defined in 13th century. The doctrine of Trinity was not “defined” untill 3-4 century, doesn’t mean that Christians did not believe in it before. Doctrine obviously develops. The Church tends to define things when things are questioned and heresy arise which speak against a doctrine.

        • Jason

          sorry, I was commenting so when others read your diatribe, they’d have more information you left out 🙂

          Hebrews 10:10 and 14 say, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. . . . For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified”

          Catholic Catechism says:
          The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: ‘The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.’ ‘And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner . . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1367).

          These do not coordinate. Only one has authority (Hebrews). So, I’m going to go with the one written by our Lord. Have a good day. 🙂

          • marygiel

            Hebrews says One sacrifice, Catechism says One sacrifice. What is the problem? How many times did Jesus die? Once. How is this one time sacrifice presented to the Father in heaven? Eternally! God is outside of time. Christ’s sacrifice is ever present to him. Why did Jesus say “Do this in memory of me?” What is “THIS”

            1 Corinthians 11:26-30
            In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 27Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.…But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.

            Must be some powerful symbol if it causes people to die.

          • Jason

            I’d disagree with your understanding of body. And the emphasis on the catechism quote comes from “propitiatory”. I actually have an article on this, you’re welcome to see my full thoughts: http://www.parkingspace23.com/can-a-christian-participate-in-mass/#.Vh0uW9Y4FRE

          • MatthewRygiel

            Excellent. I will reply on your blog.

    • KPM

      Anyone who is confused on whether the Lord’s Supper really is “The Body and Blood” of Jesus, should read John 6 from beginning to end. Jesus says, my flesh is food, indeed and my blood is drink, indeed. Another way to say that would be, “My body is really food, and my blood is really drink.” He also says, in the same discourse, “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have not part in me.”

      It takes a lot of explaining to take Jesus’ words and make them mean anything but the Real Presence of Christ. If I said to you, “my body is really food and you need to eat it to take part in me,” it would be ridiculous for you to say, “Oh, I get it. Your body isn’t real food and I don’t need to eat it to be a part of you.”

      Luther believed in the Real Presence. Anglicans believe in the Real Presence. Methodists believe in the Real Presence. Calvin held somewhat of a modified view of the Real Presence, but Zwingli was the only Reformer who didn’t hold to the Real Presence. It was the radical reformation that rejected the Real Presence. It was the English Particular Baptists that denied that the sacraments were sacraments. It’s not Reformation theology.

      What kills me about these guys, is that they love to parade as the inheritors of the Reformation Tradition, but they deny practically all that the Reformation gave us.

  • Randy

    Nathan, I was wondering if you could be so kind to answer me a question related to the Lords Supper but not exactly on your subject?

    My wife and I are wondering if we should be leaving a church that only celebrates the Lords Supper one time per year?

    I have been convicted lately that we should be recognizing our Lords sacrifice SO much more then we do in our church and wondering if this is something we should consider leaving for?

    What do you think?

    • Have you tried approaching your elders/pastors about it and seeing if they would hear your opinion on the matter, first? I’d say in on otherwise good church that may not be a compelling reason to leave…

      • Randy

        Thanks for your responds Michael. No I really have not only because this was set up by the founding pastor years ago and the son is now the pastor for the past 15 years. It is a pastor run church and not a plurality of leadership. I am not saying it would never change but speaking from experience I would highly doubt it.

        • Without knowing you or the situation too well, my impression would be that you should go to him and tell him your concern and then see how he responds then respond from there.

          It isn’t really fair to respond to what you think someone would or wouldn’t say…even if you are right. It sounds like you have more problems with your church than how they do communion.

          I feel we have a responsibility to try to help our churches and not ‘just leave.’ I’m not saying you are ‘just leaving’ but I thought I’d say that. Praying for you to have wisdom and God’s power to affect your church!

  • As long as it’s Welch’s and not the cheap stuff.

  • tovlogos

    Thanks Nathan — a good exercise in making the point. One can see the barrier that prevents
    spiritual acquisition (for example 1 Corinthians 2:14). In Nicodemus’ case he eventually grasped the essence of what Jesus tried to make him comprehend.

  • Nate_Busenitz

    Clearly, a lot has happened in the comments section here over the past two days. My apologies for not being able to interact due to other responsibilities.

    In looking through the comments this evening, it seems things have derailed a bit from the actual post (which focused on a patristic view of the Lord’s Table). For that reason, I am going to close this thread. But first let me make three comments:

    1. MatthewRygiel (our Roman Catholic commenter) insists that I have taken the church fathers out of context. Yet, he fails to address the context of the actual quotes I have provided. If he had done so, I would be happy to discuss the context of each patristic citation (which is why I included source information). I believe my assertions can be defended from the texts cited above. Consequently, I stand by what was written in the post.

    I might add that Matthew seems entirely unaware of some of the debates in church history about how the body and blood of Christ were viewed with regard to the eucharist. The controversy between Ratramnus and Radbertus in the 9th century is one such example, demonstrating that the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation was not the universal view of church leaders even in the early middle ages.

    2. KPM (our Lutheran commenter) insists on a Real Presence view, celebrating the fact that a number of the Reformers held to consubstantiation. In response, I might note that I could also produce a list of Reformers who did not hold to either transubstantiation or consubstantiation, including Ulrich Zwingli, Heinrich Bullinger, John Calvin, John Knox, and even Philip Melanchthon — http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc8.iv.xv.xvi.html.

    As John Knox explains:

    “And as concerning these words, Hoc est corpus meum, “This is my body,” on which the Papists depend so much, saying that we must believe that the bread and wine are transubstantiated unto Christ’s body and blood: we acknowledge [declare] that it is no article of our faith which can save us, nor which we are bound to believe upon pain of eternal damnation. . . . For it is not his presence in the bread that can save us, but his presence in our hearts, through faith in his blood, which has washed out our sins, and pacified his Father’s wrath towards us. And again, if we do not believe his bodily presence in the bread and wine, that shall not damn us, but the absence out of our hearts through unbelief.”

    (Online source: http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/summarls.htm)

    3. Finally, although this was not the subject of this post, I reject the Roman Catholic notion that Jesus’ words in John 6 are a reference to the Lord’s Table. Our Lord spoke those words on a different occasion to a substantially different audience months prior to the Last Supper. For contextual and exegetical reasons, I find Catholic arguments from John 6 to be simply unconvincing. But perhaps that will have to be the subject of another post.

    NB

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