As of late, my twitter timeline has been full of tweets from brothers and sisters discussing topics such as Calvinist vs Arminian vs Lutheran vs Presbyterian doctrines, limited atonement vs unlimited atonement, attacks on preachers from both sides of the aisle, paedo vs credo baptism, and so many more topics that it sometimes makes me want to cancel my twitter account or dump all the people I follow and re-follow new people (that have the same convictions as I do of course). I have to be honest and say that I’ve given serious thought to leaving twitter but then it dawns on me that I have met many people on this social media platform that have been of great encouragement and have taught me and shown me so much over the years that I just can’t walk away.
When I am reading and studying God's Word, sometimes I come across passages that are difficult to decipher. When this happens, and it happens often, you should see me scramble as I start grabbing all the different versions of the bible I have here in my study hoping that one version will be more clear than the next. Once I have exhausted every avenue of understanding, I contact one of my "go to" friends from twitter.
One of those "go to" friends is @MatthewJanzen . Yesterday on twitter, he and I had been discussing the different views on baptism (I'll save those results for a later blog topic). After the discussion was over, I decided to DM Matthew and ask him to give me his understanding of communion and his understanding of the significance of communion. I was glad to hear that he and I are on the same page with our belief. Out of all the people I converse with on twitter, Matthew is the most versed when it comes to all things Old Testament. His extensive study of scripture is awe-inspiring and I knew he would be able to help me piece together what I was unable to do.
Below is the email Matthew wrote and sent to me on the topic of communion. Please take the time to read it as it is thorough and well written on the subject...
Some people I’ve met not only have a difficult time understanding the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, but also have a difficult time even pronouncing such a word. Don’t let the big word scare you though; it is just a theological way of describing the Roman Catholic position on what takes place during the Lord’s Supper. Literally transubstantiation means the changing of one substance into another. In view of the Lord’s Supper, Catholicism believes that the bread and wine actually change from that substance into the substance of the body of Christ and the blood of Christ.
A similar view yet held distinct by such Protestant Reformers as Martin Luther is consubstantiation. While Luther did believe that the bread and wine were the body and the blood of Christ, he also maintained that bread and wine were actual bread and actual wine. In other words there was a coexistence of the two. Both substances existed at the same time in the partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
I believe both positions above are inaccurate beliefs. The Bible just does not teach either of the two. What sacred Scripture does teach is that the Lord’s Supper is a memorial or a showing forth of Christ’s death until He comes. In short, the bread and the wine are representative of the body and blood of Christ; they are symbols which aid to remind us of the sacrificial death of our precious Savior. Of course there are those that would disagree with my assertions, and we need to understand why the disagreement exists. Why is it that Rome and even Lutherans maintain that the body and blood of Christ are literally there at communion?
I have in my possession here in my office a little pamphlet entitled, “Why Does the Church Teach That?” subtitled, “Biblical Answers to Questions about Catholicism.” This pamphlet is printed by Saint Joseph Communications a Catholic ministry out of California . I do not seek to misrepresent the Catholic teaching, so allow me to quote directly from the portion of the tract that deals with this particular issue.
Why do Catholics believe that the Eucharist is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ?
Catholics believe that the Holy Eucharist is the actual Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ because that is what Christ said It is, “This is my body … This is my blood” (Matt. 26:26-28; Luke 22:19-20; Mark 14:22-24). Also, because Christ said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you …” (John 6:48-52; 54-56), and because this is what the Apostles believed, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). Finally, Catholics believe that their Holy Communion is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ because that is what all Christians believed until the advent of Protestantism in the 16thcentury.
Should we argue with Scripture? After all, the Catholics here site numerous Scriptures to back up their beliefs in this doctrine. Why would we want to argue with plain Scripture?
The fact is that it is not Scripture that I would argue with, but rather the Catholic understanding and perception of the verses quoted in the above paragraph. What did Christ mean when He said, “this is my body … this is my blood.”
I definitely will not argue with the words of Yeshua, but I will argue that Yeshua did not mean what the Catholics argue He meant. Let’s deal first with the partaking of the last Supper just before the betrayal of Yeshua by Judas Iscariot. Passages such as Matthew 26:26-28 record Yeshua making the statements “this is my body … this is my blood.”
We need to recognize from the get go that Yeshua was alive while making this statement. It was He who uttered the words and it was He who was giving the bread and wine to His disciples. Furthermore Yeshua was a Hebrew, a Judahite-Israelite. Each disciple was also a Judahite-Israelite. Knowing the beliefs of Israel cause us to know that in a Hebrew context the disciples would have never believed that they were drinking the actual, literal blood of their Messiah. This is because their law specifically prohibited the eating/drinking of blood (Leviticus 17:11-14). The fact that (1) Yeshua was alive in the presence of the disciples when making this statement, and (2) the Hebraic context in which the statement was made, completely dismantles the idea that what Yeshua meant was that the bread and wine were actually, literally His body and blood. What He rather meant was that the bread and wine were representative of His body and blood, and the words “this is my body…” do no damage to this understanding. This was a common idiomatic or Hebraic way of stating that this item represents this other thing or item.
Allow me to illustrate this. Do you remember the story of Joseph? Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers and eventually ended up in prison for being falsely accused of adultery. While in prison his fellow inmates were astonished at his ability to interpret dreams and because of this ability Joseph would ultimately be placed in front of the Pharaoh of Egypt to interpret a dream about seven scrawny cows and seven fat, healthy cows (Genesis 41:1-8). Joseph, in interpreting this dream stated the following:
25And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath showed Pharaoh what he is about to do.
26The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.
27And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine.
28This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he showeth unto Pharaoh.
29Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt :
30And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt ; and the famine shall consume the land;
31And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.
32And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass. [Genesis 41:25-32]
Notice that Joseph (a Hebrew) said in verse 26 to Pharaoh, “The seven good kine are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years…” Were the good cattle being equated with the good years? Yes, but not in identity; only in representation. In other words the seven good cattle were representative of the seven years of plenty. We could likewise say that the seven scrawny cattle were the seven years of famine. This does not mean that they actually were identical, but rather that one represented the other.
Maybe a second illustration will make this clearer. King David is a well known historical person in Scripture, but the fact that David had mighty men to battle for him is not as well known. 2 Samuel 23:10 tells us that one of these men was such a fierce warrior that he battled so long with the Philistines causing his hand to grow weary and cleave to his sword. What a warrior!
2 Samuel 23:14 begins to report an account for us concerning one battle these mighty men were in. We will pick up the story here.
14And David was then in an hold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem .
15And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem , which is by the gate!
16And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto Yahweh.
17And he said, Be it far from me, O Yahweh, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? Therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men. [2 Samuel 23:14-17]
Here we see that David’s warriors went to fetch their King a drink of water, but in doing so risked their lives for the King. David makes the statement “Is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives?” Of course we know what David meant when he said this; he never thought that the cup given to him was literal blood, but in a manner of speaking the cup represented the lives of his mighty men, i.e. their blood. Idioms as this are found time and time again in the Hebrew Scriptures, it would do us well to understand this Hebrew background of the Hebrew Messiah, Yeshua.
As mentioned previously Catholics also argue from John chapter 6. I once got into a discussion with a Catholic gentlemen and this chapter was brought to the forefront. His plea to me was that I could not have eternal life without eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son. John 6 was the Scripture he referenced. After all, his words echoed the words of the Savior in John 6:54-56.
The gospel according to John not only records Yeshua saying these words but it also records Yeshua making other statement such as, “I am the door of the sheep…” (John 10:7) and “I am the vine, ye are the branches…” (John 15:5). Are we to believe that Yeshua is a literal door replete with hinges, a knob, and a lock? At the same time are we to also believe that Yeshua is a literal vine and His disciples were really branches hanging off of the vine? Ridiculous you say, yes, but these points thoroughly show the utter nonsense that some theological positions support.
To understand Yeshua’s words in John 6 properly we must go back to the statements He made prior to uttering these words.
35And Yeshua said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
Here Yeshua states that coming to him fulfills hunger and believing on him fulfills ones thirst. In other words “eating Yeshua” means that you come to Yeshua; “drinking Yeshua” means that you believe upon Yeshua. This backdrop let’s us know why Yeshua made statements like, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” (John 6:53) These verses are not even dealing with the Lord’s Supper but rather with accepting Yeshua for who He really is. Coming to Him and believing upon Him and all that He stands for.
Roman Catholics sometimes point out that the Judahites hearing Yeshua that day in John 6 took Him literally because they said He spoke a hard saying (John 6:60). They seem to not even give the option that these men could have misunderstood Yeshua. Even Yeshua’s disciples misunderstood Him when He told them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:6-7). They thought He was speaking about literal bread, but of course He was not.
To close out this section let me make the point that Yeshua’s sacrifice was made once and for all time, and is not a sacrifice that gets repeated over and over again every time a “Priest” says the words “this is my body … this is my blood.” The author of Hebrews makes it very plain that Yeshua was sacrificed and that it was a one time event.
24For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. [Hebrews 9:24-28]
11And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
12But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
13From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
14For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. [Hebrews 10:11-14]
Let the uses of the words “one” and “once” permeate in your mind. The Catholic mass seeks to have a continual, more than once offering of the body of Yeshua in their doctrine of communion. This directly contradicts the epistle to the Hebrews, as well as the Hebraic roots of Yeshua’s words the night before He was crucified.
 I use the term Judahite-Israelite because of Yeshua being of the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:14) and thus from one tribe within the nation of Israel . While many people as well as Bible translations use the term “Jew” a much better rendering is Judahite. This rendering allows the reader to understand that a reference to someone from the tribe, house, or geographical location of Judah is being spoken about.