Sunday, November 27, 2022

The Presence of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:17-34)

This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:25b).

Today we will examine four views concerning the question of the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.

The Roman Catholic Church maintains that the sacramental union is physical. The sign of the bread and wine do not simply signify the body and blood of Christ but actually become His body and blood. This transformation is called transubstantiation. When the priest says, “Hoc est corpus meum” the bread and wine undergo this miraculous change. Though the elements continue to look and taste like bread and wine, their substance or essence is changed while their properties remain the same. This view violates the humanity of Christ, which cannot be in many places at one time. It also perpetuates the mass, which continues the sacrifice of Christ.

The Lutherans do not believe the elements are changed into the body and blood of Christ; rather, they hold that Christ’s body is really physically present in, under, and around the sacrament. This position is called consubstantiation. Because Christ is physically present in the sacrament, the partakers of the Lord’s Supper eat and drink the Lord’s body and blood. Like the Catholic view, this position perpetuates the unfathomable doctrine of the ubiquity of Christ’s human nature. Unlike the Catholics, however, Lutherans reject the mass.

The Zwinglian view runs counter in every way to the Catholic and Lutheran view. Zwingli believed that Christ is not present in the Lord’s Supper in any way. It is simply a memorial to the work of Christ on the Cross. However, Zwingli did believe that the sacrament holds deep significance and serves as a means of grace in the life of the believer. I prefer this "memorial view" of the Lord's Supper, communion is a symbol or token of the believer’s previous participation in the benefits of the atonement—Christ’s broken body and shed blood. Communion is symbolic of “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” (John 6:53–54), which terms are figurative of participation in the benefits of His cross work by faith. It is a “sharing” in the body and blood of Christ, obviously in a symbolic, non-sacramentarian manner (1 Cor 10:16).

According to the Reformers, Christ is really present in the Lord’s Supper—not physically but spiritually. Calvin emphasized the mystical union between believers and the entire person of Christ. Though Christ is physically present in heaven, believers are unified with Him by the Holy Spirit. In the sacrament, believers partake of the virtues and effects of the sacrifice of Christ, and their faith is strengthened and nourished as their hearts are lifted into the very presence of Christ.

In what way is Christ present in the Lord’s Supper? How is He not present? Why can He not be physically present? Why is Catholic Mass wrong? How is the Lord’s Supper a means of grace to His people? Ask God to deepen your understanding of Christ’s spiritual presence when you partake of this sacrament.