As someone who has spent all 47 years of my life in Lutheran churches, I am very familiar with Martin Luther's complex teaching regarding the Lord's Supper. I have seen plenty of people over the years struggle to grasp his puzzling perspective that Christ's literal body and blood are located "in, with and under" the bread and wine. Luther's highly nuanced description of communion 500 years ago was a curious twist on the Roman Catholic position.
This controversial dissection of the elements seems to distort the true meaning of the meal our Lord instituted. It is an unfortunate distraction which takes attention away from the cross where Christ died for sinners. The real purpose of communion as stated in Scripture is to "proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." (1 Cor. 11:26) Amidst the many chains which fell off Martin Luther when he placed his faith in Christ alone, he couldn't seem to shake loose of his Catholic obsession with the communion elements. You won't find this obsession in the teaching of our Lord or His apostles.
Even though the Lutheran church does not teach that believers chew Christ's flesh or swallow His blood at the Lord's Supper, there nevertheless tends to be an enormous emphasis upon "the real presence" of Christ in the bread and wine. In response to Luther's perplexing opinion on this matter, I have often asked people: "What about the real presence of Christ in the heart of every believer 24 hours a day?"
Before Jesus ever instituted the Lord's Supper, He taught what it means to "eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood." (John 6:53) The words of our Lord in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John clearly lay out the biblical teaching on this matter. Jesus said, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him." (John 6:54-56) This eating and drinking of Christ's flesh and blood is a spiritual eating and drinking. Those who are trusting in Christ and His death on the cross for their salvation are eating and drinking His flesh and blood every hour of every day, which includes those brief moments when they participate in the Lord's Supper.
Religious people who have not been born again through repentance and faith in Christ are not spiritually eating His flesh and drinking His blood. In those instances, their participation in the Lord's Supper provides no spiritual benefits. A preoccupation with "Christ's body and blood" being located in the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper misses the point of the meal. It is a misguided fixation held by many today. I guess that shouldn't surprise us. The early believers in Corinth didn't do any better.
The early Christians often held an "agape (love) feast" when they came together. Today, we call such meals "potluck dinners." Christians brought food and wine to those early love feasts. Unfortunately, some in Corinth who could afford to bring more than others tended to share it among themselves rather than with everyone. They were humiliating some of their fellow believers. It was a travesty and St. Paul rebuked them with these words: "I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good….there are divisions among you…..as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk….Do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?" (1 Cor. 11:17-22) Needless to say, they were not "keeping it real" with God or with one another. Keep reading.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
The Lord's Supper Helps Christians 'Keep it Real'
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 9:55 AM