Read: Matthew 26:26-29
The church of Rome teaches that during the Lord’s Supper, the bread and wine are changed into the literal body and blood of Christ. This change is termed ‘transubstantiation,’ literally “change of one substance into another”. In the language of the debate about the meaning of transubstantiation, the church of Rome states that even though the bread and wine continue to look like, feel like, and taste like bread and wine, they are in fact really the body and blood of Christ. The change of the elements takes place when the priest in the mass repeats the words of consecration. The church of Rome teaches that the word ‘is’ used by Jesus when He said, concerning the broken bread in the Lord’s Supper: ‘this is my body,’ and concerning the wine: ‘this is the new testament in my blood’, must be taken literally.
The errors that followed from these teachings of the church of Rome are that in the mass, communicants must imagine that Christ is literally present and being consumed. Rome teaches that the transubstantiated elements are even worthy of being worshiped as though they are Christ Himself. Furthermore, the elements of the sacrament have in themselves the power to save and bless those who receive them. Christ can be taken and received by the physical hand and mouth of the communicants. Also in the church of Rome, the cup of wine was taken away from the ordinary members of the church. It was feared that there was a danger of sacrilege should a drop of wine, which had been transubstantiated into the blood of Christ, accidentally fall to the ground from the lips of a communicant. So in the church of Rome, only the priest drinks the wine, and he is said to do this on behalf of the whole church. Also, a debate was held that led to the teaching that the whole Christ is in each one of the elements and even in every single consecrated wafer of the Lord’s Supper.
The Reformed Church maintains the truth that the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper always remain ordinary bread and wine even though in a sacramental way, these elements are signs and pledges of the sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus on the cross.
It is quite obvious that when Jesus first instituted the Lord’s Supper, He could not have meant by the words of consecration, that the bread and wine were changed into His body and blood. In fact, at the time of the institution of the Supper, the Lord was present with His disciples in the wholeness of His body. He did not pluck off his flesh and give it to the disciples nor drain some of his blood to give to them. Jesus did not say concerning the elements of the Supper, that they change into something which they quite obviously do not appear to be. Such a gross misunderstanding and superstitious ideas of the Lord’s Supper confuse the simplicity of its teaching as intended by the Lord.
The meaning of the word ‘is’ in scripture often is “this signifies”. This is true also in common language today. Jesus Himself used the language “I am the way”, “I am the door”, “I am the bread of life”, “I am the living water”. In none of these expressions did Jesus mean that there is the change of substance of the sign into reality.
Communion with Christ is nowhere in scripture presented as a matter of mere physical and carnal contact with Him. Our communion with Christ is definitely a spiritual act and not a carnal one. We receive the blessings which Christ has merited for us by His sacrifice on the cross only in the spiritual way of faith.