I had heard various arguments for the doctrine of the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in communion before but never accepted them. My rejection was mostly based on ignorance of both scripture and the true Biblical confession of the doctrine.
I have come to think that most protestants really just don’t understand why so many Christians have always believed this, and they end up misrepresenting the belief that they try to refute.
The focus of this post is to demonstrate how I was forced by the word to accept this teaching. It was not a belief that I came to easily, but slowly as every objection that I had was removed through study it became something that I confess and now feel blessed to receive. Before getting started, I need to define some terms on various views related to this topic as I understand them.
Transubstantiation: The conversion of the substance of the Eucharistic elements into the body and blood of Christ at consecration which can only possibly be performed by a Roman Catholic Priest with the power granted to him by the earthly Pope, only the appearances of bread and wine still remain.
Consubstantiation: The belief that the communion bread and wine become a new third substance that is a combination of bread, wine, and Christ. Like a mixture.
Real Presence: The belief that the actual presence of Christ’s literal body and blood are in, around, and under the Eucharistic elements. Accepted simply because the Bible says so without any speculation as to how or by what earthly means which the Bible is silent on.
It would be most accurate in my opinion to say that Confessional Lutherans confess the Real Presence. The Bible teaches that the real Body and Blood of Christ truly do exist in the Bread and Wine. The Bible does not say how this happens or specifically in what manner it happens. The Bible also doesn’t deny the existence of bread and wine in communion. Because of this, I believe it would be accurate to say that you receive with your mouth bread and wine, which are also the true body and blood of Christ, and that this is a mystery. We are to believe it because the Bible teaches it and for no other reason.
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:26-28 ESV
“15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” 1 Corinthians 10:15-17 ESV
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 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.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 1 Corinthians 11:23-30 ESV
“this IS my body”.
“this IS my blood”.
“participation in the blood of Christ”
“participation in the body of Christ”
“For the forgiveness of sins”
By the grace of God I am not willing to deny such clear texts. They say what they say, this is further driven home by the fact that all of the Church believed and confessed these verses as true, even from the earliest of writings. It was not until very recently that the Real Presence was denied. Truly, though we cannot understand it the bread and wine must be the Body and Blood of Christ. We only get to pick whether or not we want it. This is why I will no longer accept juice and crackers.
Below is a breakdown of John 6:25-65
26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.…. 31
Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…
47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.
58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” John 6:26-65 ESV
I have condensed the above passage for brevity, if you want to read the whole thing click HERE.
In John chapter six Christ reiterates the same point with greater and greater clarity eleven separate times. It appears to me as if he is spelling out something that is difficult to understand as clearly as possible so that there can be no confusion. How do you explain something simple to your children when they don’t understand? You look them in the eye and speak as clearly as possible, and then if you have to, you rephrase and repeat yourself until the message breaks through. That is what I think Christ is doing here.
“my flesh is true food”
“my blood is true drink”
To anyone who would now tell me that this is symbolic and not true food of flesh and true drink of blood, I would tell them that he didn’t say his flesh was “symbolic” food or that his blood was “symbolic” drink. Jesus said that this flesh is “true” food and that this blood is ”true” drink. I simply refuse to unwind these words from their clear meaning. My conscience simply will not allow it.
Furthermore, I find it compelling that Christ likened the understanding of himself as manna with the exodus in the wilderness. As we are dead in trespasses and sins so were the Israelites in bondage in Egypt. As we were baptized and freed from sin and death so were the Israelites freed from Egypt and sprinkled in the waters of the red sea. Just as we are sustained and covered by the blood of Christ so too did the Israelites receive the blood of the old covenant (Exodus 24:8). Just as we are sustained in this age by the true manna from heaven, the body of Christ, so to were the Israelites sustained by food from heaven. Just as we are promised heaven in the age to come, so to did the Israelites receive the promised land.
I was not always so clear on my understanding though. I thought that the Bible could not be speaking literally as Jesus also said other things that we all interpret figuratively. I will address these now as I suspect I know which verses are popping into your head as I stress literalism.
“I am the light of the world” John 8:12
“I am the true vine” John 15:1
“I am the door” John 10:9
I actually have not seen a true theologian use the above verses to dismiss the Real Presence. I am not saying there isn’t one out there, I am just saying I have never seen one. This is generally an argument used by the laity, it is one I used to use myself. The reason that is not turned to by serious students of the word is that it is very easily refuted if any thought or consideration is put into it. Before I do that I am going to give an example to make a point:
This is a Tree
To which one would rightly respond, no that is only a picture of a tree!
But suppose we go into the woods together and I point to a tree planted by the water and tell you “This is a Tree”. Then it is an entirely different matter. Why is that?
The reason is context, in one scenario I am presenting to you a photo and in the other an actual tree. The context in the first example is the presence of the photo, the photo itself presents a context in which it is clear to one that they are seeing a picture of a tree, which is in fact a tree if one goes to the location where the tree resides.
This is the difference between those three verses in John and the teaching of the real presence. Please allow me to explain:
“I am the Light of the world”
“12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.” John 8:12-16 ESV
Notice that it says whoever “follows” Jesus will “not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” which is further defined as his “testimony” that he shares with the father. The context of the light of Christ is his testimony, which for us is the Holy Scriptures. One can honestly ascertain from the context that Jesus Christ is using an earthly example to teach a heavenly truth.
“I am the true vine”
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:1-5 ESV
The above is an obvious simile because Jesus uses the words “as the” in verse 4. This is a direct comparison of one to the other, an earthly example to teach a heavenly truth. We are to remain in the “word” that he has spoken to us so that we will “bear fruit” in Christ. The context here is the teachings of Christ, just as the photo was the context of the tree.
“I am the door”
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:7-19 ESV
Here we see an earthly example of a door to teach a heavenly truth of salvation. The context here is the teaching that there is one means of salvation which is Christ Jesus. Neither Buda, Ghandi, nor Mohammad will save you. Only Jesus will save you from the righteous judgment for all of your sins.
Let’s revisit Matt 26:26-28
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:26-28
Here we see neither metaphor nor simile at play. The context of “this [bread] is my body” and “this [wine] is my blood” is “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”. The only explanation that stays true to the text here is that Christ has delivered his very body in bread and his very blood in wine from 2000 years ago to us today. We receive this through the communion bread and wine. Furthermore, with the painfully intense emphasis in other texts that the Body and Blood are true food and drink there exists no reason in the text to interpret as symbols. One has to eisegete a symbolic reading, which was never done by any Christian until Ulrich Swingli about 500 years ago.
As I said above today those who deny the Real Presence do not use the three verses I pointed out in John, they instead rely heavily on a philosophical interpretation of Hebrews. And if I don’t mention it now someone is bound to in the comments.
“12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” Hebrews 10:12 ESV
I agree with the above verse 100%, I do not believe that Christ is re-sacrificing himself at the altar of every communion as some have taught in Roman Catholicism. Jesus Christ died once for all sins for all time. What we also see here though are the words:
“Offered for all time a single sacrifice”
The sacrifice here is a noun not a verb. This is not an act being repeated over and over but a singular noun of which was offered 2000 years ago as the propitiation of sins and is delivered to us today in bread and wine. The very body and blood of Christ given for us for the forgiveness of sins.
When I express this, some have told me that Christ is at the right hand of the Father in Heaven and thus cannot also be on earth in communion. I think this is a very sad argument, because it is a confession that Christ is not powerful enough, which is not Biblical at all and is a notion that I reject. Furthermore, none of the verses used in Hebrews can be argued to be teaching on communion anyways, one has to bring that category to the text philosophically.
Devoid of any clear relevant text that requires a symbolic interpretation of the Communion elements, and whilst everything else speaks to the contrary, I see no reason why to deny them except that of holding steadfast to American Protestant tradition. Seeing as it was placing Church Tradition over the Word of God that lead to the protestant reformation in the first place I don’t find that as a compelling reason to deny the Real Presence.
Maybe you agree? Maybe you don’t? Either way at the very least I hope I have convinced you to study and pray on this further. Below is a link to a video on YouTube that was the turning point for me on this belief. Perhaps you might be interested in watching it.