God used the Passover to remind His people of how the blood of the lamb applied to their door posts protected them from the plague of the death of the firstborn in Egypt. As Jesus and His disciples were celebrating the Passover one final time before He died, Jesus took the bread and said it was His body, which was about to be broken for them. Then He took the wine and declared that it was His blood – the blood of the new covenant, which was about to be shed for their sins (Matt. 26:26-28). Jesus showed how the Passover pointed to Him – that “indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7). Believers in Israel were saved by Christ’s blood soon to be shed on the cross; believers in the Christian church are saved by Christ’s blood already shed on the cross. The Lord’s Supper is our regular reminder of Christ’s sacrifice.
THREE MAJOR VIEWS
Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists agree that Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper; they debate how He is present, whether physically or spiritually.
The Roman Catholic view is called “transubstantiation,” which means “change of substance.” In simple terms, the Roman Catholic church believes that a miracle takes place when the priest blesses the bread and wine during the Mass. The ordinary elements of bread and wine are transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, so that only the form and appearance of bread and wine remain; whereas the inner core is Christ’s flesh and blood.
The Lutheran view is called “consubstantiation,” which means “with the substance.” Luther argued that the bread and wine do not change into Christ’s body and blood, but rather Christ’s body and blood are added with [con] the bread and wine (“in, with, and under”). Luther insisted that Christ’s body is physically present (albeit invisibly) in the Lord’s Supper, a conviction he based on Jesus’ words, “This is My body.”
Calvin (and Reformed Churches) argued that, “This is My body,” simply means, “This symbolizes My body.” They stressed that a physical body can be in only one place at a time, and since Jesus’ physical body is in heaven, He cannot be physically present in the bread and wine. However, since His divine nature can be everywhere at once, He is spiritually present at the Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Supper causes believers to think of the past, as they remember Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. There is a present benefit of meeting the risen Savior in person and giving Him thanks for His sacrifice. The Lord’s Supper also causes us to think of the future, when we will sit at the table of the Lord in heaven, at the marriage feast of the Lamb (Luke 22:18).
[Adapted from R.C. Sproul, Everyone’s a Theologian]