According to Luke 22:7-15, as Jesus was celebrating the Passover with His disciples one final time before He died, He “changed the words of the liturgy and told His disciples that the bread was His body, which was about to be broken for them (v.19). In so doing, He changed the significance of the Old Testament Passover. Then He took the wine for the Passover meal and declared that it was His blood (v.20).” So, there in the upper room, “the new covenant was established …. As God had used the Old Testament Passover as a remembrance of the people’s deliverance from the plague of the death of the firstborn in Egypt, so Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper as a remembrance for the church of His death for redemption.”
HOW CHRIST IS PRESENT: THREE MAJOR VIEWS
“Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists all agree that Christ is truly present in the Lord’s Supper; the debate concerns how He is present, whether physically or spiritually.”
“The Roman Catholic view is called ‘transubstantiation.’ 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. This doctrine was shaped using the philosophy of Aristotle.” In his attempt to define reality, Aristotle made a distinction between the innermost core of an object and its physical qualities – such as, its color and shape. Rome said that the inner core of the bread and the wine changes to the body and blood of Christ even though the physical qualities of the bread and wine remain the same. This view not only contradicts the Bible, but also science, because the inner core of a thing cannot be separated from its external qualities.
Luther argued that the presence of Christ does not take the place of the inner core of the bread and wine, “but instead is added to the bread and wine, albeit invisibly.” This view “is sometimes called ‘consubstantiation.’ The prefix con– means ‘with,’ and indicates how the body and blood of Jesus attend the physical elements of bread and wine. So Luther insisted that Christ’s body is physically present in the Supper, a conviction he based on Jesus’ words… ‘This is my body.’ Luther argued that Jesus would never have said that the bread was His body if, in fact, it was not.
“Calvin stressed that a physical body, such as the one Jesus had, can be in only one place at a time, and since Jesus’ body is in heaven, He cannot be physically present in the sacraments. However, the divine nature of Jesus can be everywhere at once; therefore, He is truly present at the Lord’s Supper, albeit spiritually.”
THE TIME FACTOR
“With respect to the past, the Lord’s Supper is a remembrance of the Lord’s death for sinners.” “At the same times, there is “a present benefit of meeting the risen Christ in person at His table,” and “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. “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes’ (Luke 22:18).”
[Adapted from R.C. Sproul, Everyone’s a Theologian]