The biblical truth
We (Bible Catholics) believe we receive the body and blood of Christ at Holy Communion for one reason only, that's what Christ himself promised when he commanded us to celebrate his new covenant in remembrance of him. (Edited 2-20-12)
Also see links to articles on the about the Mass page
A literal word-for-word translation of the Bible from the Greek into English: (Matthew 26:26-28) And they, taking Jesus the bread and blessing. He broke and gave to the disciples and said, Take eat, this is the body of Me. And taking the cup and giving thanks, He gave to them saying, Drink of it all, for this is the blood of Me of the New Covenant that concerning many is being poured out for the remission of sins. (Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Third Edition, J. P. Green Sr. editor)
Many will tell me that I am in error because I believe that when I receive the bread and wine at Holy Communion, I receive exactly what Christ promised, his very body and blood. Why do I believe that? ONLY because that's exactly what Christ himself promised:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matt. 26:26-28)
Those who claim that Christ didn’t really or literally mean what he said here have several reasons for claiming the belief that we receive his very body and blood is a misinterpretation. So I guess I must join St. Paul in being a “misinterpreter” of Holy Scripture. For Paul plainly tells me such things as “Therefore, whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:27)
Sinning against His body and blood?
Here, the word of God, spoken through Paul, tells us that if we eat and drink, in other words, if we receive the bread and wine in an unworthy manner, we are guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord! Did you know you could specifically sin against the very body and blood of the Lord?
So how can so many theological experts assure me the bread and wine are only symbolic when, as we read above, God's word says otherwise, from multiple sources. First, Jesus commands me to eat the bread and wine and promises me his body and blood. How can they assure me the bread and wine are only symbolic when Christ says otherwise? How can they assure me it's symbolic while the apostle Paul warns me that how I receive this bread and wine can cause me to sin against the very body and blood of Jesus?
I've got both a command and a promise from Jesus, God in the flesh Himself, as well as a blunt warning from the apostle Paul in the Bible, which most of us Christians believe is the very word of God. It's a pretty easy decision, isn't it? Choose to believe Jesus' command and promise and Paul's warning--or simply go with certain theological experts. Yes, that's easy, I'll go with Jesus and Paul.
Must there be a "change" in the elements?
I'll also go with Jesus and Paul when it comes to dismissing the Roman Catholic teaching that the bread and wine must undergo a radical change (transubstantiation) in order for us to receive the body and blood of Christ. The Roman church claims that, while the appearance of the bread and wine does not change, the substance does, it is totally replace by not only the body and blood of Christ, but also his soul and divinity--the whole Christ.
Just because the pagan philosopher Aristotle taught about "accidents and substances" and just because Thomas Aquinas and others creatively used that as a basis to try to explain the unexplainable and call it "transubstantiation"—does not compel me to believe it. Aquinas, as with the others who attempted to explain this mystery, were doomed to failure. Even Luther, who taught that Christ is "in, with and under" the bread and wine and Calvin who generally taught that Christ is received in a "spiritual and heavenly manner" all fell short in their attempt to explain what is truly a "mystery."
The word mystery comes to us from the Greek word "mysterium," from which we get the Latin word "sacramentum" or "sacrament." They all mean the same thing— "mystery." In other words, something that, for whatever reason, Christ has chosen not to fully reveal to us. That's why the sacraments of Holy Communion and of Baptism are so hotly debated even today—certain individuals keep trying to explain the unexplainable or to refute or discount what they cannot explain. Yet, these mysteries are not to be completely understood nor comprehended nor discounted but they are simply to be believed as Christ's own commands ("do this") and Christ's own promises ("this my body...this is my blood")!
Do you and I need to believe that the bread and wine undergo this change? The concept is found nowhere in the Bible and Jesus himself indicates there need not be a physical change in the elements for us to receive what he promised us. In the following verse, he identifies the wine as his blood yet he adds that he will drink no more wine or "fruit of the vine" until he comes again, which certainly does not indicate a change in substance. Read Jesus' words for yourself: "Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matthew 26:27-29)
Christ indicates no change in the substance of the wine, yet he tells us this is my blood of the new testament..." Likewise with the bread, the apostle Paul signals no change when he tells us "whoever eats the bread" and "drinks the cup." However, as mentioned earlier, Paul is the same guy who insists that the bread and wine are important because when we eat and drink it unworthily, we sin against the very body and blood of the Lord.
Therefore, I urge you to believe what Jesus and Paul say, that when you and I receive the bread and wine at the Lord's Supper, we receive exactly what Christ promised: his very body and blood! Why? Only because that's what Jesus himself promised and we know that God always keeps his promises.
God's word accomplishes what he pleases
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah spoke the word of God to promise that when God tells us something, he means it and what God speaks is accomplished and even prospers in those to whom his word is directed. Here's the verse I'm talking about:
“For as the rain cometh down, and the
snow from heaven, and returns not, but waters the earth and makes it
bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to
In these few verses, God is making a promise. He is telling us that when he says something—it happens! He says his word never returns to him void—but instead it accomplishes exactly what he pleases. He also tells us that the word he speaks shall “prosper” it will do good and benefit whatever “thing” he sends it to. He says you can count on his word to do exactly as he says it will.
Now we fast-forward, roughly 400 years, to find a living example of the words of God coming from his only son, God in the flesh, Jesus:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Jesus declares "this is my body" and "this is my blood..." and Isaiah tells us the word that goes forth from Jesus' mouth never returns to him void. In fact, that word of God will prosper in whoever he decides to send it.
And as for our ability to understand or comprehend how we can consume bread and wine and yet truly receive Jesus' body and blood? God appears to have addressed that too just a few verses earlier in the same chapter of Isaiah:
My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the
Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways
higher than your ways, and My thoughts (higher) than your thoughts.” (Isaiah
This awesome God, whose ways and thoughts are always higher than ours, joins himself to us through the body and blood of his only Son. This is Holy Communion, this is the Lord's Supper. His word accomplishes that which he pleases, and "prospers in the thing whereto he sends it."
Shouldn't I be able to stop this little essay right here? Do we really need to go to the gospel of John chapter 6 and read as Jesus declares "My flesh is true food and my blood is drink indeed." You and I may not understand that, but as Christians, do we really have the right not to believe it?
Other teachings on the Lord's Supper
Can you see how even these few verses from Jesus and Paul tend to rule out virtually all the historical (man-made) explanations out there? For instance, If, as yet others teach, the Lord is made only “spiritually and heavenly” present to me through the bread and wine—how can I be guilty of sinning against the very body and blood of the Lord? "Spiritually and heavenly" is not flesh and blood, yet the apostle tells me I am guilty of sinning against the Lord's body and blood if I receive unworthily. And how is it that it's okay for me to use such qualifiers as "spiritually and heavenly" when describing how it is that I receive Christ at Holy Communion when Christ himself did not use such words or qualifiers? Surely, I am letting my pride get away from me to attempt to add to the words of Christ.
The answer should be obvious: I simply cannot use such qualifiers or limited explanations. Even terms such as "represents" or "true presence"--for all of these qualifiers and limited explanations are from men who are attempting to explain something that Christ would clearly have us receive without explanation. When I receive the bread and wine at Holy Communion, I should simply believe that I receive exactly what Christ promised; his very body and blood. And—if anyone should ask—I simply admit that I can't explain it but the Lord promised it, so I receive it! It is Christ's promise to me. His word tells me it is so. And oh, how I do believe it! Christ himself said it. How could I believe anything else? We can't explain why we were given the gift of faith either, can we? But we have certainly been given the faith to believe in Christ and we are certainly grateful for it! There is nothing quite like knowing that Christ has indeed saved or rescued us from the fires of hell.
Carry it around? Worship it? Limit the number of elements?
I do believe that when I receive the bread and wine in this context of Holy Communion or the Lord's Supper that I receive the body and blood of the Lord as he himself promised. Does that give me license to put portions of this meal—specifically the bread—on display on an altar or carry it around and tell my friends to worship it?
Of course not, Christ himself gave me this bread and wine in the specific context of a very special meal. Only in this context of worship can I eat and drink bread and wine and yet expect to receive his body and blood. So it is in this context, the context of a holy meal, that the bread and the wine should remain. His word gives me no authority to do anything else with it.
To take the bread away from the wine and to display it or carry it around and worship it (Eucharistic adoration) is something only our depraved minds could have conceived as a way to exercise control over what is holy. By taking the bread out of its natural context, we are "playing" with something that God has declared holy and we are doing so with no permission from him--no matter how noble we may feel in marching around with it.
It should come as no surprise that those who would attempt to make the Lord's Supper something that is "carried about and worshipped" would also alter the Supper itself. They not only make of it a so-called "propitiatory sacrifice" that is designed to turn back the wrath of God against sins recently committed, they also refuse to follow Christ's own directive in the matter. Though Jesus strictly commanded that all should drink of the cup at his supper, the Roman Catholic Church has long decided it would be just fine to ignore that. Instead, its leaders invented a teaching that the "whole Christ" is available when we eat the bread alone--so only the priest need drink the wine!
Don't like what Christ commands in telling all to drink from the cup? No problem, says the Roman Catholic leaders, we'll invent an alternate teaching about the whole Christ being available in the bread alone or the wine alone. Is it really any wonder why some Roman Catholics are accused of picking and choosing what church teachings they will obey? They're just following their leaders who pick and choose from Jesus' commands!
So, Jesus announced the New Covenant of his body and blood in the specific context of a meal during his Last Supper. Christ tells me through his word, the Bible, that this bread and wine are given to me to show forth his broken body and shed blood that he gave for me and all who believe in him. He plainly states that his body is broken for the forgiveness of sins ("which is shed for many for the remission of sins"). He promises me he will not let me perish in my sins and no one will snatch me from his hand (John 10:28-30). He promises that he is going to prepare a place for me (John 14:1). He bids me to live as one who is watching for his return and his apostle promises me that he is faithful and just to forgive my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
This meal that Christ has commanded for me is the most intimate way on earth of showing me that he truly lives in me. It confirms, in a very physical way, that He is with and in me and my sins are forgiven in and through him, because he has chosen me to be a beneficiary of his New Covenant of grace. I am a beneficiary of his "undeserved favor" or grace towards me.
For some unexplained reason he chose me "before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4) that I should be "holy and without blame before him in love." For he clothes me in his own righteousness (Isaiah 54:17, 61:10). He has commanded me to eat this meal with fellow believers as we gather as a community of believers—as the body of Christ on earth.
And so he joins his perfect body to ours (which is admittedly imperfect)—and reminds us that we are indeed clothed in a righteousness that is not our own—a righteousness that is his and his alone. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. ... they are justified (made right with God) by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-22,24) ...because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14).
What about of all those other explanations?
Who eats and drinks "unworthily?"
In fact, the verse in 1 Corinthians (11:27) we cited earlier from Paul is framed as a warning to those who eat and drink unworthily—those who fail to "examine...and judge" (11:28, 31) themselves to be sinners. In other words, those who fail to approach the meal acknowledging their sins with a repentant heart, trusting in Christ to forgive them as he promised in his New Covenant words at his Last Supper "poured out for the remission of sins." They show by this lack of preparation that they are not viewing as important this meal that Christ left us as a true sign of his Gospel forgiveness.
Because they are not repentant, they are expressing a type of unbelief in Christ's promise and Paul warns that God will discipline them for this in order to turn them back to him. As Paul relates in the next few verses in Corinthians 11, God sometimes uses physical weakness and sickness to turn us back to him.(1 Corinthians 11:30).
He goes so far as to say that "many sleep." We take that to mean that "many die" because they receive unworthily. As for those who die, those who are believers will turn to him before death (they will judge themselves to be sinners in need of Christ's salvation— Cor. 11:31). Those who are unbelievers will "drink damnation to himself" (themselves) for rejecting Christ (Cor. 11:29). Some commentators say the King James goes too far with the word damnation and should read instead "judgment." The Greek word for sleep here is the verb koimao which is supposed to mean the death of a believer. "These believers had not lost their salvation, but had lost the privilege of service on earth." Still another commentator says that "drinketh judgment to himself" means earthly or temporal punishment, not eternal punishment. We have Christ's promise that he will let nothing snatch us away from him (John 10:28).
What an interesting mystery all of this is. There certainly seems more then enough reason to believe that there is much more to the "Lord's Supper" than many would have us believe. Believing in the word of God—Christ's commands and his promises—is certainly very "biblical."
More excuses for denying his promises
In other words, the fact that we don’t fully understand or can't fully explain all of Christ's words at the Last Supper, by no means makes those words in any way "empty" words. Nor does that make them simple "analogies" as in "I am the door" or "I am the gate." Instead Christ is making a clear command to us, thus "this is my body" is no more an analogy than Paul's warning that by eating and drinking the bread and wine unworthily, we are guilty of sinning against Christ's body and blood.
Nevertheless, some will always try to "reason" their way to an explanation of this mystery and often sidetrack themselves from the blessing of participating in this Christ-commanded meal. They remind us that we do indeed believe that Christ, in his glorified body, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty. And yet, they would try to convince us that Christ is somehow "imprisoned" at the Father's right hand and somehow unable to keep his promise to give us his very body and blood.
They should remember that while he was on earth, in his earthly, fleshly body, Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes not once but twice for thousands! How is he then somehow less able to keep his promises at the right hand of God the Father, where we are clearly told in scripture that he "intercedes for us?" The answer must be that he is not less able but fully able to do as he promised and give us his body and blood!
No matter how foolish or "distasteful" the world may tend to view these words, we know the Lord has not made us "cannibals" as they say but instead he has given us simple bread and natural wine to forgive our sins by feeding us with himself. In this way he enters into us and confirms in a very physical way how he is truly our bread of life who alone won everlasting life for us on the cross. He confirms, in a very physical way, how he lives in us, sustains, strengthens and preserves us during our earthly journey.
But what about grace, what about "means of grace" (these paragraphs were recently updated)
I certainly agree that we are saved by Christ alone and not the sacraments he left us. No, the sacraments do not save us, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do us any earthly good. Clearly Christ left them to allow us to repeatedly put him and his sacrificial saving work before us as we worship him. But I will also be the first to admit that I certainly believe I receive God’s grace every time I receive the very body and blood of Jesus at Holy Communion—and yes, I believe his body and blood does me some earthly good!
How can I believe otherwise? This is God, giving me his body and blood as bread and as wine. The bread and wine have not changed in any way that I can perceive, I require no change to simply believe that in this specific context of worship, when I receive this ordinary bread and simple grape wine, I truly receive his body and blood.
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. John 6:56
Yes, I believe my God can make all He promises happen! I believe He fulfills all his promises and more--whether I fully understand them or not.
In this sense, yes, Holy Communion becomes a means of receiving God's grace for anyone who believes Christ's promise. Of course, the Lord's Supper is not what secures our salvation. Christ did that on the cross. God's grace is our comfort here on earth, our strength. God's grace continually confirms the realization that Christ is holding onto us and he alone has enabled us to trust in him for our salvation, everlasting life with him.
Yes, the wonderful thing is that we need not fully understand nor even remotely comprehend this “mystery” of the bread and wine that Christ has left us, in order to accept it and reaffirm in our hearts his promise of everlasting life to all who believe in him--a promise sealed in his very body and blood. We simply believe that we receive his body and blood with gratefulness and return our small, limited minds to the blessings that flow from the precious gift of faith in him that he alone has given us. As Queen Elizabeth I reportedly put it:
“Christ was the word that spake it,
He took the bread and brake it;
And what His words did make it
That I believe and take it.”
God, give your Christian Church this kind of faith in you and your word. Help us to see that there are certain mysteries you have left us that we should simply believe—and even appreciate—just because you said so! -- Bro. Jim
A final word about the prideful claims of the Roman Catholic Church
We (the Catholic Church) have the "body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ" in other words "Look, Christ is here!"
"Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not." (Matthew 24:23)
The Roman Catholic Church tells people that the "whole Christ" resides in the tabernacle (a decorative box, usually made of metal, placed in a conspicuous place--often near the altar) of its churches. That's where the bread (hosts) consecrated (prayed over) for Holy Communion during the Mass is kept. They teach that the consecrated bread is no longer bread but the actual "body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ--that is--the 'whole' Christ." This means that Christ himself actually occupies the tabernacle in the form of bread.
A candle is kept lit above each tabernacle to remind those who enter the church that the "whole Christ" is present with them. The Roman church's benediction (a worship service often held on Sunday evenings) is all about worshipping the "whole Christ" who dwells in the tabernacle. One of the hosts is taken from the tabernacle and placed in a decorative holding device with a transparent center called a monstrance. The monstrance, with the host set in its transparent center, is placed upon the altar where all can adore the "whole Christ" for a time. By the time the benediction service reaches its end, the host is returned to the tabernacle as the faithful essentially bid Christ "good night."
This practice of the adoration of the host, the "whole Christ," has caused a practical problem among some Catholics who decide that they really aren't getting the full impact from their prayers until they pray them before the "whole Christ," in other words, until they pray in front of the tabernacle or monstrance at church. While the church continues to reassure them that they can pray to Christ anywhere, it is a hard sell when they have the option of praying to the "whole Christ--body, blood, soul and divinity" that they are assured resides in the tabernacle. Why pray at home by yourself, when you can pray before the Lord himself! they reason.
The problem of praying to the "whole Christ" at church verses the "unseen Christ" at home is further compounded by the practice of "perpetual adoration" which is an ongoing attempt by the hierarchy of the church to get each parish to display the host (bread) in the monstrance around the clock--24 hours, 7 days a week. In this way, the faithful may come to church at anytime of the day or night and worship the "whole Christ."
Some Catholics, with easy access to a church, can find this mode of worship very addictive. I know, because I did. I found it very reassuring to believe that I was praying in front of Christ himself, although in a different form (as bread). I could simply knee down for about an hour and pray the rosary before Christ and think about those things in my own life and in the lives of friends and family that needed mending and give them to Christ. While I was doing this, I would not only look upon the monstrance or the tabernacle but the many reminders of Christ and his sufferings also usually found in the church, such as the crucified Christ portrayed on the crucifix.
It all combined to make for what felt like a very productive worshipful experience. Unfortunately, as good and productive as it may have felt, it was pure idolatry. It is a concept of worship that has nothing to do with the Christ of the Bible, who never mentioned much less commanded such a mode of worship--it is all manmade with it seeds in the idolatry of paganism.
In fact, it seems Christ himself may well have been warning us against just such a practice when he speaks about the end times and when he will come again. He warns us that, before he comes again, many will lie to us and tell us that Christ is here or Christ is there. But, he also strictly warned us, not to believe them.
"Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not." (Matthew 24:23)
"Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth; behold he is in the secret chambers; believe it not." (Matthew 24:26)
In much the same way, the priests, bishops and deacons of the Roman Catholic Church try to convince us that "Lo, here is Christ--he is in the secret chambers" when they teach us that Jesus is present in a unique way--body, blood, soul and divinity--in the tabernacle of each one of their churches. They invite us to come and worship him in the tabernacle or the monstrance and essentially declare "Here he is!" As Christ warned us "believe it not."
As Paul seems to warn us in his words to the pagan Athenians on Mars Hill:
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; Acts 17:24-25
Christ promised us that he will make sure everyone from God haters to true Christians will know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he has returned. They won't know the time of his return, ahead of time, but they will know at the moment he actually arrives back on earth, that he is indeed back--body, blood, soul and divinity!
"For as the lightening commeth out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Matthew 24:27) (Luke 17:24)
As plain as lightning that lights up the sky, we will know without a doubt, the moment the Son of God returns to earth. In the meantime, let us find a prayerful place in our homes and be as the Lord of Lord and King of Kings advises us--ever watchful!
"Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." (Matthew 24:42) (Mark 13:33)
The following is taken from the Fourteen Theses of the Old Catholic Union Conference at Bonn, Germany – September 14-16, 1874:
XIV. 1) The Eucharistic celebration in the Church is not a continuous repetition or renewal of the propitiatory sacrifice offered once forever by Christ upon the cross; but its sacrificial character consists in this, that it is the permanent memorial of it, and a representation and presentation on earth of that one oblation of Christ for the salvation of redeemed mankind, which according to the Epistle to the Hebrews (9:11,12), is continuously presented in heaven by Christ, who now appears in the presence of God for us (9:24).
2) While this is the character of the Eucharist in reference to the sacrifice of Christ, it is also a sacred feast, wherein the faithful, receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord, have communion one with another (I Cor. 10:17).
The following is taken from The Declaration of Utrecht by the Old Catholic Bishops, September 24, 1889:
6. Considering that the Holy Eucharist has always been the true central point of Catholic worship, we consider it our duty to declare that we maintain with perfect fidelity the ancient Catholic doctrine concerning the Sacrament of the Altar, by believing that we receive the Body and the Blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ under the species of bread and wine.
The Eucharistic celebration in the Church is neither a continual repetition nor a renewal of the expiatory sacrifice which Jesus offered once for all upon the Cross; but it is a sacrifice because it is the perpetual commemoration of the sacrifice offered upon the Cross, and it is the act by which we represent upon earth and appropriate to ourselves the one offering which Jesus Christ makes in Heaven, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews ix. 11, 12, for the salvation of redeemed humanity, by appearing for us in the presence of God (Heb. ix. 24). The character of the Holy Eucharist being thus understood, it is, at the same time, a sacrificial feast, by means of which the faithful, in receiving the Body and Blood of our Saviour, enter into communion with one another (1 Cor. X. 17).