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What Luther Says

Lord's Supper As A Means Of Grace

Earlier in the week, we explained what the "Means of Grace" are.

Yesterday, we took a closer look at Baptism.

Today, I thought we could look at the Lord's Supper.

Like my beliefs about Baptism for so many years, I had always viewed the Lord's Supper (a.k.a. Holy Communion) as something I DID to show my commitment, devotion, love, and obedience to Jesus for all the public to see when, in reality, it is something HE DID/DOES to show His commitment, devotion, love, obedience to me!

Coming out of Evangelicalism, it was this Biblical, proper understanding of the Sacraments, God's Means of Grace, held by the Lutheran church, that really provided me with great comfort, peace, and joy!

I mean, once I discovered that Baptism and the Lord's Supper weren't just "symbolic" acts that we perform from time-to-time it was a beautiful revelation of Christ's deep love for me personally in the here-and-now.

More that that, it was also something "tangible" in a sense that I could touch it and feel it and hold on to it, but something that was so much more than just mere physical elements too, because whether it was water, bread, or wine, they were all coupled with the holy Word of God and the promises contained within the Word, and that's what made them so special!

If you're not a Lutheran, then this is all probably really difficult for you to accept and understand. I don't say that condescendingly, but only as someone who was once in the very same position you're in today.

I know better than most how skeptical you are about all of this, but the proof is found in God's Word if you're only willing to read it and accept it at face value.

Ok, so what does the Bible actually say about this Sacrament known as the Lord's Supper then? What do Lutherans actually believe, teach, and confess about this particular Means of Grace?

The following article is quoted partially from the Christian Cyclopedia provided by The LCMS and it should provide us with some crystal clear answers to those key questions.

Lord's Supper As A Means Of Grace 
1. Names of This Sacrament. 
Names by which this Sacrament is known are derived partly from Scripture (Breaking of Bread, Matthew 26:26 and 1 Corinthians 10:16; Holy Communion, 1 Corinthians 10:16–17; Lord’s Table, 1 Corinthians 10:21; Lord’s Supper, 1 Corinthians 11:20; Eucharist [from Greek eucharistesas, “when He had given thanks”], 1 Corinthians 11:24), partly from church usage (e.g., Sacrament of the Altar).

2. Institution of The Lord’s Supper. 
Matthew 26:17–28; Mark 14:22–24; Luke 22:19–20; 1 Corinthians 11:23–25. These accounts agree in all essentials, but supplement each other in details. All quote Christ’s words: “This is My body.” With regard to the cup, Matthew and Mark emphasize the blood of the New Testament, given with the cup; Luke and Paul stress the blessing given with the cup, the forgiveness of the new covenant, procured by the blood of Christ, which is offered to the communicant in the Sacrament.

3. Real Presence. 
The words of institution, “Take, eat; this is My body,” clearly state: “With this bread I give you My body.” So these words are explained 1 Corinthians 10:16. There is no transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, nor any consubstantiation or impanation. In, with, and under the bread and wine a communicant, also an unbelieving communicant (1 Corinthians 11:27–29), receives Christ’s true body, given into death, and His true blood, shed for sins. This is the point of controversy between Lutherans and Reformed. The question is not whether Christ is present according to His divine nature in the Sacrament, or whether the soul by faith is united with Christ (spiritual eating and drinking), or whether the believing communicant receives the merits of Christ’s shed blood by faith (all of which is acknowledged as true by both Lutherans and Reformed). In Lutheran terminology the eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine is called sacramental eating and drinking. The Reformed deny that the words of institution should be taken in a literal sense, or that in, with, and under the bread and wine the true body and blood of Christ are really present (Real Presence, a mystery). The Reformed teach instead the real absence of Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament by resorting to a figurative, or symbolical, interpretation. Karlstadt sought the figure in “this,” H. Zwingli in “is” (making “is” mean “represents”), John Calvin and others in “body” (making “body” mean “the sign of My body”), and others (e.g., W. Bucanus, B. Keckermann, and H. Zanchi) in the entire statement. The multifarious attempts to pervert the proper sense of the words are but so many evidences of the persistent refusal of the words to yield to perversion.

4. Elements In The Sacrament. 
The heavenly elements in the Sacrament are the true body and the true blood of Christ; the earthly elements are true bread and true wine, for which no substitutes should be used, since the use of any substitute makes void, or at least renders uncertain, the Sacrament (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18; 1 Corinthians 11:21). Jesus used not unfermented grape juice but wine, used in the Old Testament on festive occasions (Genesis 14:18; Job 1:13; Isaiah 5:12). Bread and wine are received in a natural manner; the body and blood of Christ, though received orally, are received in an incomprehensible, supernatural manner (no Capernaitic eating; FC SD VII 64). The Sacrament should be received by all communicants sub utraque specie (“under both kinds”), according to Christ’s institution in Roman Catholic practice the celebrating priest receives the bread and wine, other communicants usually only bread (sub una specie, “under 1 kind”).

5. Purpose of The Lord’s Supper. 
The Lord’s Supper is essentially an application of the Gospel, with all its spiritual blessings, in a sacred act. It offers, conveys, and seals to the communicant forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation; strengthens faith; promotes sanctification through strengthening of faith; increases love toward God and the neighbor; affords patience in tribulation; confirms hope of eternal life; and deepens union with Christ and His mystical body, the church (1 Corinthians 10:17). It also serves a confessional purpose (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 10:20–21; 11:26). All these blessings are mediated through the Gospel-promise in the Sacrament (“Given and shed for you for the remission of sins”) and are apprehended by faith in the divine promise. The words “This do in remembrance of Me” do not mean merely that the communicant is to remember the absent Christ, who atoned for his sins; they invite the communicant to accept the forgiveness offered in the Sacrament (“Do this in remembrance of Me” means: remember Christ’s blessings and accept them by faith; cf. Ap XXIV 72). The Lord’s Supper differs from the preaching of the Gospel, which is addressed to all hearers, believers and unbelievers, and from Absolution, which is individually addressed to believers, to the believers as a penitent group, in that the Sacrament offers forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation individually to each communicant under pledge of Christ’s body and blood, received with the bread and wine. Since the Sacrament may be received unto damnation (or judgment; 1 Corinthians 11:29), close Communion should be observed, the pastor as the steward of the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:1) admitting only such as are able to examine themselves (1 Corinthians 11:28).

There's really so much more we could share about the Lord's Supper, but I think this is a great starting point for right now.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, for all the talk about having a "Personal Relationship With Jesus" in American Evangelicalism today, it's sad that most Christians fail to realize that there's nothing more "personal" than having Christ's body and blood not only shed for you, but having it touch your sinful lips for the forgiveness of your sins in, with, and under the bread and wine.

NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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