Rev. Dr. Martin Luther said: “The bread and wine in the Supper are the true body and blood of Christ.” He went onto say: “Such a mystery cannot be grasped except by faith and is revealed alone in the Word.”1 To say more than the Word indicates is to step out-of-bounds. We embrace the mystery every time we take Communion.
Some other helpful points as we think about this:
- We take Jesus at His word. “This is my body.” “This is my blood.” The context in which Jesus spoke these words and ate this meal was His last meal with His disciples before He would be crucified. The mood is somber and serious, with little room for jokes or riddles. Here we take Jesus literally.
- God uses created elements to convey His mercy. God is in the business of creating and re-creating. Jesus is God “incarnate,” in the flesh. In the same way, He likes to convey Himself in real things.
- As God and man, Jesus’ divine nature is shared with His human nature, allowing a supernatural presence whenever and wherever He wills.
In Christianity, there are typically three prevalent views of the Lord’s Supper:
- Transubstantiation/Consubstantiation: The bread and wine become the body and blood, leaving no trace of bread and wine. This understanding is held by the Roman Catholic Church.
- Remembrance Meal: The bread and wine stay the way they are, and the meal is simply remembering the Last Supper. This understanding is held by many Reformed Churches, including Baptist and Non-Denominational Traditions.
- Real Presence: The bread and wine, after the Words of Institution have been said, become the body and blood of Christ while still being bread and wine. Jesus is truly in the Sacrament, just as He said, but wine and bread are still there as well.
As Lutheran-Christians, we believe in the “Real Presence.” One Lutheran theologian said: “The Lutheran teaching does not make the bread imaginary bread, nor does it make the body of Christ an imaginary body. It teaches a true, essential bread and the true, essential body of Christ in the Sacrament because the Words of Institution state both.”2 He went onto say: “As water and the application of water are a part of Baptism, so bread and wine and their reception are the earthly element of the Lord’s Supper. As we do not venture to substitute some other fluid for water in Baptism, so neither in the Lord’s Supper do we dare to substitute for bread and wine.”3
- Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 508.
- Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, electronic ed., vol. 3 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953), 298.
- Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, electronic ed., vol. 3 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953), 353-354.