By Greg Litmer
One of the acts of worship that we are commanded to perform is partaking of the Lord’s Supper. The words of Jesus, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me,” and, “This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24, 25) emphasize the importance of this supper. Acts 20:7 instructs us as to how often and on what day of the week we are to partake. This action constitutes part of the doctrine of Jesus Christ (2 John 9).
Since this is such an important function of our lifes as Christians it is important that we perform it properly and leave no room for misunderstanding on the part of unbelievers. Many times in our worship services we have people attending who are not members of the Body of Christ. It is so very important that these people not be given the wrong impression by our actions and words concerning the Lord’s Supper.
The area I would like to give closest attention to is that of giving our thanks for the bread and fruit of the vine. Often the prayer is worded in this manner, “Father, we thank you for this bread; which is to us, by faith, the broken body of our Lord and Saviour Jesus.” Those of us who are Christians understand what that prayer means. To those who are not Christians, I am afraid that that is a simple statement of the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. The Catholics believe that the bread actually becomes the body of Jesus, by faith. The same is true of the fruit of the vine. They believe that it actually becomes the blood of Jesus. If we say, “Father, thank you for this fruit of the vine: which is to us, by faith, the blood of Jesus,” we are merely stating the Catholic position. As a former Catholic who was for a time an uninformed visitor to the services of the Lord’s church, I can say that this is the impression that is given by those statements.
To set forth the Catholic position, 1 would like to quote from the Modern Catechism (page 146). This book was printed in 1964 and bears the Imprimatur of Albert Cardinal Meyer, who was the Archbishop of Chicago. In answer to the question, “What food do we eat in Holy Communion?” the book says, “We eat the bread of life, Christ himself. At the Last Supper Jesus took bread and wine, blessed them, and gave them to his apostles. `This is my body,’ he said. `This is the chalice of my blood.’ Then he directed his apostles to observe this sacred ceremony in memory of him. When the priest repeats this ceremony today, bread and wine give way to the body and blood of the Lord. This change takes place at the consecration of the Mass.” All of this is truly a matter of faith.
The Bible does not teach this doctrine of transubstantiation and we should be careful not to imply that it does. The words of Jesus in Matt. 26:26-29, Mark 14: 22-25, Luke 22:19-20, and 1 Cor. 11:24-25 clearly show that the bread and fruit of the vine are remembrances of our crucified Savior, representative of His body and blood. The very fact that Jesus Himself was standing there saying those words shows that the bread and the fruit of the vine were not actually His body and blood. This was figurative language.
Another example of this type of language occurs in John 10:7-9. There we read, “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Jesus was not an actual, physical door here anymore than the bread and fruit of the vine were His actual, physical body and blood. The Bible simply does not teach that they are His actual body and blood by faith or by anything else.
Let us take care, therefore, to always be clear in our prayers concerning the Lord’s Supper. Our visitors need to know what the Bible says as we go about fulfilling one of the commands of Jesus.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 40, p. 650
October 11, 1979