The Lord's Supper / Eucharist
Physical Reality or Spiritual Picture
This brief article was written in to answer questions from our many Roman Catholic friends. As they study Scripture, many have noticed inconsistencies between the Bible and Catholic tradition. Three common examples are purgatory, indulgences, and the immaculate conception of Mary - through which the Vatican claims Mary was born without sin (1).
But their greatest struggle is often the question of the Eucharist. They do not find Scriptural support for the Vatican's claim that the Mass is the literal and continual crucifixion of Jesus' actual body & blood - "transubstantiation" (2). Yet, they are afraid to question this tradition with Holy Scripture and speak out, because the Councils of Trent, Vatican I, & II all label any person who questions tradition as "anathema" (accursed). Nevertheless, each person is responsible before God to answer the following important question: "Is my personal authority God, through His Word; or is it merely men through man-made tradition?"
MAT 15:6-9 ... "Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 'And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' "
WHAT DOES HOLY SCRIPTURE SAY IN CONTEXT?
The primary passage used by Roman Catholic theologians to justify the doctrine of transubstantiation is John chapter 6. This passage, as with all of Scripture, must be studied in its full context to protect against misunderstanding. Any verse or short passage taken out of context, becomes divorced from the flow of meaning contained in the passages that come before and after it. So let's carefully study God's Word in context from John chapter one to John chapter seven.
THE PURPOSE OF JOHN'S GOSPEL
The Holy Spirit inspired John to write this gospel for one primary reason: John 20:31 "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."
And in the first epistle of John, the Holy Spirit further clarifies that we can know right now whether or not we have eternal life:
1 John 5:11-13 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God."
JOHN CHAPTER ONE
John's gospel begins with the declaration of Jesus' deity. Then in John 1:12-13 it says one must RECEIVE Jesus in order to be born of God and become God's child.
John 1:12-13 "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." The crucial question that the following chapters will answer is: [Must we RECEIVE Jesus physically by literally eating His body and blood, or spiritually by faithful submission to Christ as Lord and Savior?] Many things in Scripture are clearly to be taken literally, but not all.
As we study John's Gospel, please watch for the following common theme in John chapters 1-6. People misunderstood Jesus' figurative teachings, because they were thinking physically and literally, rather than spiritually! Remember, in John 16:25, Jesus plainly says that much of His teaching was in figurative language:
"These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father."
John CHAPTER TWO
In John 2:19-22 Jesus revealed that He came to be crucified, buried, and resurrected for our salvation. This is the gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ.
John 2:22 "Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said."
John CHAPTER THREE
In this chapter, a religious man named Nicodemus, comes to Jesus for spiritual counsel. Jesus tells him he must be born again in order to enter the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus misunderstands Jesus and thinks Jesus is telling him he must re-enter his mother's womb. THE MAN MISUNDERSTOOD, BECAUSE HE TOOK AS LITERAL AND PHYSICAL, WHAT JESUS MEANT AS FIGURATIVE AND SPIRITUAL.
Then Jesus had to correct him saying: John 3:6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
John CHAPTER FOUR
In this fourth chapter, Jesus meets a woman at a well of water. He tells her that He has water that is "living water" (4:10). Like Nicodemus, the woman misunderstands Jesus and wonders how He can give her this living water, since He didn't have a bucket and rope to draw water out of the deep well (John 4:11).
SHE MISUNDERSTOOD, BECAUSE SHE TOOK AS LITERAL AND PHYSICAL, WHAT JESUS MEANT AS FIGURATIVE AND SPIRITUAL.
Jesus had to correct her saying:
". . . Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4:13-14
John CHAPTER FIVE
In this chapter, Jesus proclaims his authority to give eternal life:
John 5:24 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life."
He says that anyone who simply believes in God who sent Him to be crucified, HAS (RIGHT NOW) everlasting life, and has passed from death to life eternal. It is not enough to merely believe ABOUT God. One must believe IN Him, which means to submit to His Lordship; His Word.
JOHN CHAPTER SIX
This chapter is central to the understanding of the Eucharist. Remember in chapters 3 & 4, a man and a woman misunderstood Jesus because they took His words literally and physically, when He meant them to be taken figuratively and spiritually. Here in John 6, Jesus speaks again of the need to receive him personally:
John 6:51 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."
Then the Jews were confused because just as Nicodemus and the woman at the well, they took His words literally and physically, when He meant them to be figurative and spiritual.
The listeners misunderstood Jesus just as Nicodemus and the woman at the well:
John 6:52 "The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?"
Then Jesus continues to proclaim that they must receive Him personally:
John 6:53-58 "Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. "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 food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. "This is the bread which came down from heaven--not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever."
Then in John 6:60 even many of the disciples stumbled over His message: "Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?" So Jesus had to correct them, just as He did Nicodemus and the woman at the well:
John 6:61-65 "When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you? "What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. "But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."
Please remember the common theme in chapters John 1-6:
People misunderstood Jesus' figurative teachings, because they were thinking physically and literally, rather than spiritually!
And remember, in John 16:25, Jesus plainly said that much of His teaching was in FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE: "These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father."
FINALLY, JOHN CHAPTER SEVEN:
To see not only the context of the chapters leading up to John 6 but also the flow of meaning that follows John 6, we must look at chapter seven. And in this chapter, Jesus continues to reveal the spiritual meaning of the previous chapters.
In John 7:37-39 Jesus says: ". . . If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke concerning the SPIRIT, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
Remember in John 1:12-13, the Scripture said that a person must RECEIVE Jesus, in order to become a child of God. From chapter 1 and continuing on to this clear statement in chapter 7, Jesus tells us that He must be RECEIVED SPIRITUALLY NOT PHYSICALLY. We RECEIVE Jesus through RECEIVING the HOLY SPIRIT, not physical water or physical blood or physical flesh!
Therefore, the doctrine of transubstantiation is incorrect because it is not biblical. Even sincere faith in the work of a priest to give you Jesus through a physical ritual is not biblical faith in Jesus alone. Trusting a human ritual is actually trusting Jesus plus the works of man. Unfortunately, many who believe the unbiblical tradition of the Mass, live under fearful bondage to a human institution rather than the only Lord, Jesus Christ. But, no man stands between you and Jesus.
1 Tim 2:5 "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus...."
Jesus offers His eternal life through the gift of His Holy Spirit, not by eating His physical flesh and blood. He loves you and is ready to personally save whoever will simply submit to Him in faith, trusting His finished work on the cross for your sin.
In contrast to Catholicism's Eucharist, the biblical Lord's Supper, as practiced by protestant churches is a very special memorial in which we remember and celebrate what Christ has already done for us on the cross 2,000 years ago. Jesus said in 1 Cor. 11:25-26, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in REMEMBRANCE of Me. "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you PROCLAIM the Lord's death till He comes."
Jesus did not say to do this as a continued real sacrifice of Him, but simply in remembrance of Him. The ceremony merely "proclaims" his finished (John 19:30) death. The cup "is" (represents) His new covenant bought by His blood. The word, "is", can be taken either literally or representatively, depending on the context.
Please..... "beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, ... and not according to Christ." Colossians 2:8
"And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. . . . . For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another-- He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, ONCE at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered ONCE to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation."
The New King James Version
[Emphasis added to many of the Scripture references]
Resources For Further Study:
Far From Rome Near To God.
[The testimony of 50 ex-Catholic priests who converted to Biblical Christianity - compiled by Richard Bennett, former Dominican Catholic priest, along with Martin Buckingham. This wonderful book is not an attack on Roman Catholicism, but simply a loving effort to compare God's Word with man's traditions.] 1994. Associated Publishers & Authors, Inc. PO Box 4998, Lafayette, IN 47903.
The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Catholic Tradition and the Word of God. by James G. McCarthy, Harvest House Publishers. 1995.
1. Catechism of the Catholic Church (Imprimi Potest). [The first official Catholic catechism in over 400 years] 1994.
(Purgatory - pp. 268-269) (Indulgences - pp. 370-374) (Immaculate Conception of Mary - pp. 123-125)
2. Ibid., pp. 346-356. Transubstantiation. The following quotations from the official Catechism of the Catholic Church are quite clear that the Roman Catholic institution teaches a real transformation or conversion of the substance of the bread and wine, into the real body and blood of Jesus.
"In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist 'the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.' 'This presence is call 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."
[emphasis in the original document]
"It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament."
". . . . The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: '. . . .that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."
". . . . The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord's body and blood."