Tuesday, March 8, 2016
The Lord’s Supper
The following is an extract from a chapter in Dr. William F. Kerr’s book, “Conservative Baptist Distinctives.” I think it is a good summation of what the Bible teaches in regards to the Lord’s Supper (“Communion”).
This teaching [transubstantiation] is contrary to the Scriptures, for the Bible shows the Lord’s Supper to be only a memorial. In 1 Corinthians 11:24 and 26 we are instructed: “. . . This do IN REMEMBRANCE of me” and “ye do show forth the Lord’s death till He come.” Such a celebration could not be a remembrance if Christ were actually there as the Roman Catholic Church teaches. And it couldn’t be a showing till He comes if He were already present on the altar. To state that the words “This is my body; this is my blood” must be taken literally and not figuratively is contrary to the language often used by Christ. For instance, we read in John 8:12: “Then spake Jesus unto them, saying, I am the light of the world . . .” Does that mean He was a literal physical light? Obviously not! . . .
Even the very words of the institution of the Lord’s Supper belie the concept of transubstantiation. For in 1 Corinthians 11:25-26 there is a double figure of speech: “After the same manner also he took the cup when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” Here the cup in one instance equals the new covenant; in another it equals the wine. Does this mean then that the cup was literally transformed into the new covenant or into wine? Obviously not! Yet on the basis of Roman literalism of figurative language, the cup should be so changed. Obviously the sacrifice of Calvary cannot be repeated in the observation of the Mass. This is clear from many Scripture verses: for this he did once, when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:27; compare also Hebrews 9:26, 28: 10:10). . . .
To the Roman Catholic view of the actual presence of Christ and to the Lutheran view of the real presence of Christ we pose this question: “How could the disciples believe that when Christ handed them the elements that the body and blood of Christ were either actually present or really present?” (Matthew 26:26-29). They could obviously believe no such thing. Was He not there right before their eyes? He could be seen, felt, handled and the elements were recognized for what they were—bread and wine. It takes theological and philosophical juggling to make them otherwise. . . .
To the holders of Reformed theology, there was neither the actual nor the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. However to Calvin and his followers, the Lord’s Supper was a sacrament and thus had more than mere symbolical or memorial significance. To them when one celebrated the Lord’s Supper, he was eating and drinking spiritually of the body and blood of Christ. There is, therefore, in the Lord’s Supper a spiritual though not an actual means of grace. Through its observance, one grows spiritually in the Lord Jesus Christ and receives spiritual food. To this extent the Presbyterian view shares in sacramentarianism. But even such a spiritual eating is a contradiction to the Bible’s teaching that the Supper is simply a memorial. For it states, “this do in remembrance of me.” . . .
That the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is merely a symbol or memorial of the work of Christ for us is evident from the Word of God. It merely symbolizes: (a) The death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It brings the scene of Calvary before us; it reminds people what was done by Christ on their behalf (1 Corinthians 11:24, 26); (b) The Christian’s faith. The apostle Paul reminds us that as we observe the Lord’s Supper together that we are also witnessing to others about our faith. It becomes a visible sermon in action. It demonstrates that we are members of the body of Christ by the saving act of faith in Christ’s shed blood and broken body. He writes: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; compare John 6:51-54).