January 16, 2021

The Baptist Way: The Lord’s Supper (1)

winebread.jpgUPDATE: A related issue to the meaning of the Lord’s Supper is the methodology for receiving it. Alastair takes on the wine in communion issue, along with a number of other questions.

UPDATE II: In this BHT post, I demonstrate the the language of Baptist confessions avoided the word “symbol” until the BFM. Note the change from the New Hampshire Confession.

UPDATE III: Here is a recent IM post on weekly communion. I’ll reference it here, and again in my next post on “The Baptist Way: Recovering the Lord’s Supper.” (soli deo is now almost officially ended, so I am grieving the loss of any kind of communion.)

UPDATE IV: My friend Trevin Wax, one of those young SBCers leaning more towards a reformed view of the LS, interacts with this post at his blog.

This post begins a new IM series on “The Baptist Way.” These posts will feature resources and interviews focusing on issues in the Baptist tradition that I feel are being neglected in theological discussion today.

This first post will introduce the Baptist view of the Lord’s Supper. Today, many younger Baptists are identifying with a more reformed theology, and many are moving toward other views of the Lord’s Supper. It will be important to understand the Baptist views, and its strengths and weaknesses, as this kind of interaction/evolution occurs among Baptist evangelicals.

For a short historical look at the various Western views of the Lord’s Supper and their historical origins, visit this page at Luther Seminary. Today’s Baptists have a position deeply influenced by Zwingli, but not completely rejecting the language of Calvin.

If you know nothing about the Baptist practice, visit the Wikipedia entry on Baptist ordinances. (It’s not weaponry.) There are many excellent resources on the Baptist view of the Lord’s Supper. Let me suggest several to reacquaint readers with what Baptists believe. (Consult Baptist creeds, confessions and catechisms for a start.)

Dr. Tom Nettles, professor of Church History at Southern Seminary, has an essay on “Baptists and the Ordinances”
with a good summary of the classical Baptist view of the Lord’s Supper. Note especially Nettle’s comments on Zwingli’s so-called “bare symbolism.”

Baptists practice the Lord’s Supper in conformity with the Zwinglian view of its essence. John Gill states very simply that it is “to Shew forth the death of Christ till he come again; to commemorate his sufferings and sacrifice, to represent his body broken, and his blood shed for the sins of his people.” Any who desires to take it should examine himself to discern if he “has true faith in Christ, and is capable of discerning the Lord’s body.”

The emphasis on commemoration and representation reflect Zwingli’s interpretation of Scripture and his understanding of the distinctive idioms of human nature in conformity with the teachings of the Council of Chalcedon concerning the undivided person of the two-natured Christ. In his Exposition of the Faith sent to King Francis of France, Zwingli argued that “in the Lord’s Supper the natural and essential body of Christ in which he suffered and is now seated in heaven at the right hand of God is not eaten naturally and literally but only spiritually.” The Roman Catholic view of transubstantiation he contended was not only “presumptuous and foolish” but, more importantly, “impious and blasphemous.”

Though this view has been described as “bare symbolism,” for Zwingli it was no more bare than powerful spiritual meditation on the truths of the gospel. “To eat the body of Christ spiritually,” he explained, “is equivalent to trusting with heart and soul upon the mercy and goodness of God.” This meditation may become a spiritual feast and a means of renewed assurance and sanctification. Zwingli sought to make this clear to the Roman Catholic King Francis:

So then, when you come to the Lord’s Supper to feed spiritually upon Christ, and when you thank the Lord for his great favour, for the redemption whereby you are delivered from despair, and for the pledge whereby you are assured of eternal salvation, when you join with your brethren in partaking of the bread and wine which are the tokens of the body of Christ, then in the true sense of the word you eat him sacramentally. You do inwardly that which you represent outwardly, your soul being strengthened by the faith which you attest in the tokens.

The Supper may only be taken by those who are baptized. The major Protestant confessions agree on this…

I want to strongly recommend Dr. Peter Gentry’s summary of the Baptist position in the Baptist Faith and Message Series at Baptist Press. This summary is outstanding, and later in this post, Dr. Gentry will answer some specific questions on the Lord’s Supper.

What is most helpful about Dr. Gentry’s summary is his connection of the Lord’s Supper with the Jewish Passover meal. It is the Passover meal’s symbolic nature that lays the most obvious foundation for a non-sacramental view of the Lord’s Supper.

The accounts in the Gospels show that the Christian ceremony of the Lord’s Supper has its roots in the Jewish Passover festival. This festival was a ceremony observed by the Jewish people to remind them of the Exodus — that awesome event when the Lord rescued them from 400 years of degradation and slavery in Egypt.

Through great miracles and displays of power, Yahweh brought them out of Egypt, rescued them from the cruel oppression of Pharaoh and brought them into a beautiful land they could call their own. Although by definition the Exodus was a non-repeatable event, its significance was preserved for future generations of Israelites by the institution of the ceremony of the Feast of Passover (Exodus 12:24-27), celebrated every year at the Spring Equinox.

Just before Jesus was betrayed and handed over to the rulers to be crucified, he celebrated this “freedom meal” with his 12 disciples. As he did so, he turned the symbolism of the meal in a new direction.

He used the Passover festival to act out in symbolic drama the meaning of his coming death at the hands of the Jewish and Roman rulers. The unleavened bread and the wine were no longer symbols of deliverance from slavery in Egypt, but pictured him as the Passover Lamb sacrificed so that his people might be delivered from slavery to sin and death. As the leader of a new exodus, he instituted a new ceremony to commemorate it.

Read and master this superb presentation. It is the finest short defense and explanation of the Baptist view that I have found.

Dr. John Piper has several excellent sermons on the Lord’s Supper from a Baptist point of view. The series “Why We Eat the Lord’s Supper” is excellent.

1 Corinthians 11:24 and 25, “Do this in remembrance of me.” “This is my body” means: Let this representation of my body and blood remind you of me. First, the death of Christ is proclaimed. And then by this proclamation we are reminded of Christ. Remember me, Jesus says, sitting with you in fellowship. Remember me being betrayed – and knowing all along. Remember me giving thanks to the God who ordained it all. Remember me breaking the bread just as I willingly gave my own body to be broken. Remember me shedding my blood for you so that you might live because I died. Remember me suffering to obtain for you all the blessings of the new covenant. Remember me promising that I would drink this fruit of the vine new in the kingdom (Mark 14:25). Let the memories of me, in all the fullness of my love and power, flood your soul at this table. Which leads to the third and final meaning of the words, “This is my body.”

These sermons are available in print and for download. There are other resources at Desiring God about the Lord’s Supper as well. The sermon “Why and How We Celebrate the Lord’s Supper” is a fine, short summation of the Baptist view of what the scriptures teach. I commend it as well.

Charles Spurgeon had a more reformed rhetoric about the Lord’s Supper, but stayed within the Baptist view, changing his catechism to say “ordinance” rather than sacrament, and carefully saying “represents” and “instructs” as often as he spoke of “feeding on Christ.” Spurgeon also led his church to take the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day. There are many sermons in any collection of Spurgeon’s sermons that show the pastoral use of the Lord’s Supper in a “frequent celebration” context.

For example, this sermon on “Fencing the Table” is a good example of Spurgeon’s view of the how the Lord’s Supper should work in a Baptist context.

The other ordinance is the Lord’s Supper; and, as baptism sets forth, typifies, (mark you, nothing more than typifies,) and is the emblem of the new birth, so the Lord’s Supper is the emblem of the spiritual feeding of that new life. Now, though a man is born only once, he eats a great many more times than once, and drinks a great many more times than once. Indeed, to eat and to drink often, are necessary to the maintenance of our life. If we neglected to do so, we should soon find ourselves in an ill case. Hence, the Supper of the Lord, representing, as it does, the spiritual feeding of the new-born life upon the body and blood of Christ, (and only representing it, mark you,—not really doing it in any carnal sense,) is oftentimes to be repeated. We find that the early Christians very frequently broke bread together; I think they did so almost every day. It is recorded, by some of the early fathers, that the first Christians seldom met together, on any day of the week, without commemorating the death of Christ. Augustine mentions this and he seems to have taught that, at least once in the week, on that blessed day which celebrates the resurrection of our Lord, Christians should meet for the breaking of bread. I think that, the oftener we meet for this purpose, the better it is for us. The Holy Spirit specifies no particular time; we are not under a law which binds us to this period or to that. Our Lord leaves it very much to our own loving hearts; but the words that Paul quotes, “This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me,” certainly imply that we should often “do this” in remembrance of our dear Lord and Savior.

Indexes to Spurgeon’s sermon topics are available at several sites.

Southern Baptists first writing theologian was J.L. Dagg. In his Manual of Church Order, Dagg includes an important chapter on “Communion,” and deals with not only the Baptist view (including closed communion,) but also a response to other views.

The simple ceremony is admirably contrived to serve more than a single purpose. While it shows forth the Lord’s death, it represents at the same time the spiritual benefit which the believer derives from it. He eats the bread, and drinks the wine, in token of receiving his spiritual sustenance from Christ crucified. The rite preaches the doctrine that Christ died for our sins, and that we live by his death. He said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” These remarkable words teach the necessity of his atoning sacrifice, and of faith in that sacrifice. Without these, salvation and eternal life are impossible. When Christ said, “My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed,” he did not refer to his flesh and blood, literally understood. He calls himself the living-bread which came down from heaven. This cannot be affirmed of his literal flesh. To have eaten this literally, would not have secured everlasting life; and equally inefficacious is the Romanist ceremony, in which they absurdly imagine that they eat the real body of Christ. His body is present in the eucharist in no other sense than that in which we can “discern” it. When he said, “This is my body,” the plain meaning is, “This represents my body.” So we point to a picture, and say, “This is Christ on the cross.” The eucharist is a picture, so to speak, in which the bread represents the body of Christ suffering for our sins. Faith discerns what the picture represents. It discerns the Lord’s body in the commemorative representation of it, and derives spiritual nourishment from the atoning sacrifice made by his broken body and shed blood.

Tom Nettles Catechism for Boys and Girls, (based on earlier Baptist catechisms) is available at the Founder’s Ministries’ website and has an excellent catechetical summary of the Baptist Way.

1. Q. What two ordinances did Christ give to his Church?
A. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Mt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-26).

2. Q. Why Did Christ give these ordinances?
A. ‘To show that his disciples belong to him, and to remind them of what he has done for them (Mt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-26).

3. Q. What is Baptism?
A. The dipping of believers into water, as a sign of their union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (Jn. 3:23; Acts 2:41; 8:12, 35-38; Col. 2:12).

4. Q. What is the purpose of baptism?
A. Baptism testifies to believers that God has cleansed them from their sins through Jesus Christ (Acts 22:16; Col. 2:11-14).

5. Q. Who are to be baptized?
A. Only those who repent of their sins, and believe in Christ for salvation should be baptized (Acts 2:37-41; 8:12; 18:8; 19:4, 5).

6. Q. Should babies be baptized?
A. No; because the Bible neither commands it, nor gives any example of it.

7. Q. What is the Lord’s Supper?
A. At the Lord’s Supper, the church eats bread and drinks wine to remember the sufferings and death of Christ (Mk. 14:22, 24; 1 Cor. 11:23-29).

8. Q. What does the bread represent?
A. The bread represents the body of Christ, broken for our sins (Mt. 26:26; 1 Cor. 11:24).

9. Q. What does the wine represent?
A. The wine represents the blood of Christ, shed for our salvation (Mt. 26:27, 28; 1 Cor. 11:25).

10. Q. Who should partake of the Lord’s Supper?
A. The Lord’s Supper is for those only who repent of their sins, believe in Christ for salvation, receive baptism, and love their fellow men (Mt. 5:21-24; 1 Cor. 10:16, 17; 11:18, 20, 27-33; 1 Jn. 3:24-27; 4:9-11).

Other Baptist resources may appear in the comment threads or in updates to this post.

In closing this post, I want to return to Dr. Peter Gentry, who kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the Baptist View of the Lord’s Supper. Here are those questions. (I much appreciate Dr. Gentry responding as he was leaving for Germany for the summer.)

1) Many younger Baptists are attracted to Calvin’s view of the supper, primarily because it seems a step above the “bare bones” symbolism they heard growing up in church. What would be your response to a reformed Baptist who said that we should change our view of the supper to a more Presbyterian/Calvinistic view?

Just because an interpretation is favoured by a particular tradition (e.g. Calvinistic or Presbyterian) is essentially irrelevant and does not make the interpretation right or wrong. Every Christian group has had some things right and some things wrong. The key issue is: what does the Bible really teach? We should test all aspects of every tradition, including our own, against the Scriptures. I am more interested in being a Christian faithful to Scripture than in supporting a particular tradition. It just happens that in large measure what I think the Bible teaches is what church historians may identify as baptist tradition.

2) So many of the controversies about the Lord’s Supper revolve around the kind of language Jesus and Paul use. Is there a compelling reason you don’t believe “this is my body” can refer to the bread on the table?

There is a compelling reason why the phrase “this is my body” cannot literally refer to the bread on the table. And this is the fact that the Lord’s Supper is instituted as a “revision” of a Jewish Passover Meal. Since this is the context, the bread and the wine must be interpreted symbolically and not literally. All of the items in the Passover Meal are also symbol. See Exodus 12:26 where the children ask, “What does this ceremony mean to you” (NIV).

3) Many evangelicals are hungering for more frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper in their churches. (The average SBC church celebrates 5 times a year.) What would be your view on the value frequent communion in the Baptist tradition?

The Christian tradition in which I grew up celebrated the Lord’s Supper every week. I wrote an entire paper once to show that the Lord’s Supper, according to the teaching of the Apostles, is the very heart of Christian Worship. Acts 2:42 lists it as one of four items to which the early Christians were absolutely devoted. Churches in which the practice of the Lord’s Supper is so marginal (only five times a year) are in my view deficient in their understanding of Scripture. I think what I wrote in my article on the Lord’s Supper defends this view.

In another post, I’ll make some observations on the Baptist view of the Lord’s Supper.


  1. It always bugged me when one of my Baptist pastors said, “These are mere symbols.” What’s mere about them?

    But then again, having been about everywhere else in the Lord’s Church (Mennonite, Restoration movement, Vineyard, EvFree, flirtations with RCC, evangelical Presb), I always felt that the Baptists got shortchanged.

    When we celebrate every week (Independent Christian), I’m very happy to stick with the scriptural language. “Is” somehow might just mean “is.”

  2. Outstanding discussion of the LS from Sam Storms here:

  3. “There is a compelling reason why the phrase ‘this is my body’ cannot literally refer to the bread on the table. And this is the fact that the Lord’s Supper is instituted as a ‘revision’of a Jewish Passover Meal. Since this is the context, the bread and the wine must be interpreted symbolically and not literally. All of the items in the Passover Meal are also symbol.”

    This type of argument surprised me. If I were to accept it, I may also be lead by its logic to deduce the following:

    John the Baptist boldly states Jesus is the Lamb of God yet I am obligated to assume His Incarnational sacrifice is to be understood symbolically. In its context, John’s baptism draws upon the traditional ceremonial cleansing, which was merely symbolic. Therefore based in this form of argumentation, I must interpret Jesus’ place as the Lamb of God figuratively; he’s just a mere symbol of the lamb because I must interpret John’s words (just like the I must interpret Jesus’ words) in light of the context of the Jewish rite (???)

    I believe this meal is not a mere “revision”, it is the fulfillment in all its splendor and mystery. The reality of glory of the New Covenant in His blood I partake of in memorial, for me as a Christian, is of surpassing value than a cup of wine shared at a Passover Sedar (however lovely and moving it may be) in remembrance.

    He is the Paschal Lamb. He is our Eucharist.


  4. I’m your target audience. I have always felt a little uneasy by the “mere symbolism” attitude in my Southern Baptist circle and the neglect of the Lord’s Supper that goes along with it. I’ve been toying with all the alternative understandings, but I never quite realized how rich and reverent even symbolism alone can be. After reading this, I’m beginning to think that perhaps the problem with our Baptist Lord’s Suppers isn’t theological so much as that we just don’t do it, and when we do, we trivialize it. So straightforward, it’s no wonder I didn’t think of it.

  5. AMEN.

    You just wrote part 2.

    We just DON’T DO IT. And that’s the problem. If we would elevate what it is, preach what it is, celebrate and practice what it is, we wouldn’t have so many of us feeling we need to move towards sacramentalism.

    I agree with the other poster: Christ is our sacrifice. Once and for all and forever. “Do this in remembrance of me.”

  6. I wonder if you are familiar with the work of John Colwell, who is a tutor here in England at Spurgeon’s College, and has developed a robustly sacramental (and Baptist) understanding of the supper in his book ‘Promise and Presence’. One of the things he writes is this: “…the Lord’s supper is the irreducible centre of the Church’s life and worship. Where the Lord’s Supper is marginalised the definition of the church is jeopardised if not forfeited.”

    Speaking as an Anglo-Catholic I thought it was a superb book – but that probably means that he’s isolated amongst Baptists! For me (and on the question of symbolism) this quotation from Irenaeus sums it up: “In the same manner in which you ascribe to the Eucharist only the value of a symbol, so also the incarnation is reduced (by you) to mere appearance: there is not more flesh in the one than in the other. The incarnation does not differ from the Eucharist.” If symbolism (and not “real presence”, however understood – and I have no sympathy for transubstantiation etc) is how we understand the supper, then what is to stop symbolism being how we understand incarnation, or redemption, or resurrection? I just think that it was precisely this shift in understanding communion (predating the Reformation) which laid the groundwork for the liberals and atheists….

  7. Jenny, you raise an interesting point, one which highlights the difficult of using English to poke at deep issues. As Greek informed Plato’s views, so does English inform ours.

    At the risk of sounding ex-Presidential, and without revealing my own views (irrelevant right now), I believe that it all depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.

    Jesus was born a human child, and grew up to be a man. He had two human arms, and two human legs, and spoke human language. He didn’t baa like a sheep or walk around on all fours. He ate human food, not grass or grain. He was, in every sense, a man and not a sheep. To say He was a sheep (absent context) is wrong.

    And yet we are also told that He is the Lamb of God. In what sense is that? People get hung up on the words “literal” and “symbolic” and read too much into them, so let me try something else. Within the context and the meaning of atoning sacrifice, He is the Lamb of God. Within the context and the meaning of anything else, He is not.

    So is He a Lamb or a man? Both — but within context. Is He *really* a Lamb? Yes! But within context, and for a specific stated purpose.

    The conflation of “figuratively” with “*mere* symbol” is puzzling to me, and reminds me much of Plato. What is it about our culture or our language that causes us to think that figures or symbols are less than reality? Plato thought the exact opposite, that figures and symbols were *more* real than what we could see!

    I’m inclined to think the same way, at least when it comes to Christ. To say the He is the fulfillment of the sacrificial system, the ultimate atonement, fills me with joy! That’s *better* than Him having been a human, not worse. The “symbol” or “figure” is *greater* than the mundane “reality” in my view! And which then is more real?

    Well, it’s too early in the day for Plato, so I’ll let it go. I merely suggest that our feelings about the relative merits of “literal” vs “symbolic” have more to do with ourselves than the truth of those statements. 🙂

  8. Can’t agree with you there. The problem is that “remembrance” of an event in the Old Testament was more than simply “symbolism.” Passover isn’t just a “symbolic” event in which participants remembered what happened years earlier – it was a participation in the actual events. This understanding was partly why every generation of Israelites could affirm that God brought them out of Egypt.

    Zwingli had a problem with a body-spirit dichotomy (“the flesh profiteth nothing”), and that plays out in his theology of Communion. Paul’s rendition of Jesus’ words of institution are similarly by something more than a “this [represents] my body” understanding. His assertion in 1 Cor 11:27, “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord” – seems to have this Jewish understanding of the symbolic. It transcends the spiritual/physical dualism of the Western mind-set and affirms the reality of the mystery.

  9. Bill Haynes says

    Michael good survey and analysis on the Lord’s supper — and a lot of great resources. One little antidote I thought you might find interesting. In 1999 while pastoring in Orlando, I had the privilege of having Dr.Roger Nicole as a member of the church. I asked Dr. Nicole to do the message one evening when we were observing the Lord’s Supper. As he progressed through the message, he reached in his pocket and held up a picture of Annette, his dear wife. He then said “This is my wife, Annette.” After a few seconds pause, he then asked the congregation, “How many of you immediately thought that I was married to this small piece of cardboard?” Thus he went on to explain, at least to me, clearly what the Lord meant when He said of the bread and wine, “This is my body and blood.”

  10. WEZLO — I think describing Passover (and thus LS) as participatory by proxy in that event is fascinating. Are there sources that you know of that would back that view up? I’d like to see them.

    If LS is particaptory, existential, and experiential than it greatly transcends the “mere” symbolism of most Evangelical churches. We don’t actually believe that the bread is really flesh, or the wine (probably grape juice) is really blood, but neither do we believe that it really is participatory in the sense that it is by proxy. Seems like we’re stuck on the “remembrance” part of the text — LS is a memorial. But it seems like it could be so much more! That also begs the question then of baptism; is baptism a proxy event linked to Christ’s baptism or is it a proxy event based on Christ’s death and resurrection? The latter seems to be the “symbolic” take in regards to baptism.

  11. Patrick Kyle says

    I used to hold to the Baptist view of the Lord’s Supper, but over the years several things have caused me to embrace a more sacramental and literal view of it.

    First, the rememberance view makes the benefit of the LS totally dependent on the quality and reverence of my remembering and the depth of my understanding of the symbolism. So the LS becomes entirely my work.

    Second, when the One who said”Let there be light.”and there was light says, “This is My body.” I say OK. My conscience would no longer let me reply to those words “No its not” or “You don’t really mean that its your real body.”

    Finally, in 1Cor. Paul talks about the LS being a participation in the blood and body of Christ. Some of those who abused this died. Did they die because they remembered Jesus flippantly or irreverently? Did they mishandle or mistreat the Symbols and thus incur death? It seems to me a lot more is going on there than a memorial meal gone bad or a failure to properly recognize symbols.

  12. Dolan McKnight says


  13. Dolan McKnight says

    I have always been bemused by the heated discussions in the Boar’s Head Tavern concerning the various views on the Eucharist. When all is said and done, they seem to me to be functionally equivalent in that, in partaking of the Supper, there is a communion between Christ and the recipient that supports the belief of Christ dwelling within and a common meal for all Christians.

    When the concept of “mere symbolism” is attacked as taking communion too lightly, I must reply that symbolism can be much more important to a person than just “mere.” The flag being raised on Iwo Jima represented a determined patriotism that ennobled an entire American generation and the burning of it foreign demonstrations enrages us.

    Similarly, the symbol of the wedding ring is a constant and important reminder of the joys and responsibilities of marriage.

    Therefore, considering the bread and wine to be symbols of His body and blood can and should be part of a profound experience. One does not have to believe that the bread and wine become Christ to experience the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist.

    As a Baptist for over fifty years who now belongs to a Methodist community, I have found that their and the Orthodox more amorphous belief in the “Real Presence” in the Eucharist allows for what should be occurring in the Eucharist – the sharing of the meal by all Christians rather than destroying our fellowship over arguments of what ultimately is an unanswerable mystery.

  14. The caveat there about transusbstantiation, i.e. that it is the literal body and blood, seems to run up against a prohibition about consuming blood/flesh in the Torah, not to mention the prohibitions about human sacrifice as NOT being pleasing to God in the Torah from the literal prohibitions to sacrificing humans to the Akedah story of Genesis (Abraham attempting to present Isaac as a human sacrifice). I know that the human sacrifice issue bumps into other cherished doctrines, i.e. vicarious atonement, but for the sake of the conversation on LS, wouldn’t a literal interpretation a la transubstantiation, be an issue in regards to consuming flesh and blood in the Torah?

  15. John 6:53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (ESV)

    What I said regarding symbolism is that there’s nothing *mere* about it. By adding many explanations to it, we may end up heaping judgment upon ourselves. Scriptural language is powerful, and has purpose.

    Jesus’ offering of bread and wine explains and fulfills Abraham (w/Melchizedek) and Moses (w/the Passover) and introduces a new covenant in Him. The reminder, the symbol, and the reality is far too rich to degrade with the word “mere.” And it’s far too fleshy to describe with the clinical “transsubstantiation” or “consubstantiation.”

  16. caplight says

    The problem isn’t that Baptists don’t do it(LS) or do it often enough. They don’t do it or do it often enough because they have such a limited view of it. As a former Baptist I have come to appreciate the depth of the sacrament beyond anything I ever would have imagined.
    Jenny is on the right track about the power of memory in the ancient Hebrew mind. Think OT to get the basis for the LS.
    Also Paul talks about the cup of demons versus the cup of thanks. He views both as real spiritual participation in the spirit or Holy Spirit that is in the symbol. that ain’t mere memory.

  17. Patrick Kyle says


    In John:6 Jesus says three times that we must eat His flesh. The last time He used the Greek word that means ‘to grind with the teeth.’ Thats why many of the disciples turned away at that point, because they clearly understood what He meant, and being devout Jews were scandalized. So in answer to your question, as far as Jesus is concerned, apparently not.

  18. Aaron,

    Check out Gerhard Von Rad’s OT theology, Volume II, Chapter G, section 1, “The Origins of Hebrew Thought about History.” You don’t have to buy into Von Rad’s source criticism to appreciate his insistance that we understand the Old Testament from the ancient Hebrew’s conception of time as opposed to our linear conception. Their understanding of Passover as something they participated in was directly related to their understanding of time and history.

    WEZLO is right, in the Passover the Hebrew’s participated in the Exodus, and in the Lord’s Supper, Christians participate in the Body and Blood of Christ.

  19. chrisstiles says

    Further to the passover point, Christ also fulfills the other OT sacrifices [including the peace offering, which was partly eaten].

    On John 6, it strikes me to wonder if original offence taken was over the concept of drinking blood – which would have been anathema to Jews.

  20. Phillip,

    I’m terrible with Philosophy, please forgive me and my poorly formed thoughts. Like you, I do not believe Jesus an animal, but see Him in the context of atoning sacrifice and in great mystery by the Holy Spirit, in Eucharist a continuation of His incarnation in our midst.

    Hmmm… I guess what I was getting at is this, what in his argument NECESSITATES the required “must be interpreted symbolically and not literally” ? Ultitmately, the Paschal Lamb prefigured symbolically Christ not vice versa. He is our New Passover and its substance is not subject to be defined by what has come before.

    I just found this, it says infinitely clearer what I’m trying to say:

    “When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup.” CCC 1334

    “By celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning Jesus’ passing over to his father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom.” CCC 1340

    I’m running into quotes from St. Irenaeus and St. Justin I’d love to include but don’t desire to be a gluttonous consumer of Michael’s space :O).

    Best to You!

  21. Excellent post. In my own (United Methodist) tradition there is a move towards weekly observance as well. I think it is ironic that the need for weekly communion was one of the teachings of most of the major Reformers (in keeping with the book of Acts as you say) as opposed to the medieval practice of 3 or so times a year for the average lay person, yet now it is by and large the Roman Catholic Church that has fully implemented this Protestant reform and most Protestants have missed it.

    Have you ever thought of a higher view of “Real Presense” (my tradition does hold this) in terms of “anamnesis” and “prolepsis”? I think this IS in keeping with Jewish passover practices. N.T. Wright talks about this in his lecture (at Calvin College, I believe) “Space Time and Sacraments” on http://www.ntwrightpage.com.

  22. bookdragon says

    Aaron and all, for a look a Jewish though about physical vs spiritual and symbol and meaning, look at


    It’s not just memory in Passover btw. There is a tradition that every Jewish of every generation stood at Sinai – that’s part of saying ‘we’ rather than ‘our ancestors’.

  23. Nicholas Anton says

    The question of “The Real Presence” is not so much about Jesus’ actual presence, but whether that presence is physical or spiritual, and whether that presence is in the wine and wafer, or in/with the believer.
    When one considers the word;
    “Remembrance” G364 anamnēsis
    “From G363; recollection: – remembrance (again).”
    What does it mean in its context?

    Note how the author to the Hebrews uses the term.
    Heb 10:3-4;
    “But in those sacrifices there is a REMEMBRANCE again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
    He continues;
    Heb 10:10-12;
    “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;”

    In other words, the “remembrance” looking forwards “sacrifices” were made multiple times. THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS WAS ONCE FOR ALL. The “remembrance” looking backwards “Communion” is made multiple times.

    Note what Jesus said;
    Joh 6:48-65;
    I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: THE WORDS THAT I SPEAK UNTO YOU, THEY ARE SPIRIT, AND THEY ARE LIFE.

    In this passage, Jesus Himself tells us that the flesh and blood He is speaking of IS SPIRITUAL and not physical.

    Not only the words, “flesh” and “blood” are used in a “spiritual” sense, but likewise the word “body”.
    1Co 12:27;
    “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”

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