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Christ’s Presence in the Lord’s Supper

It is to be regretted that the Lord’s Supper, which symbolizes the unity of the family of God is the subject of so much division and debate among the people of God.  Nevertheless, the issues are not unimportant.

The major issue, of course, has to do with whether and how Christ is present in and at the Lord’s Supper.  One’s views on this matter have a great deal to do with how one uses the supper – superstitiously or believingly, carelessly or carefully.

The different views are:

First, the view of Roman Catholicism, called “transubstantiation,” which teaches that the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper are changed into the body and blood of Christ when blessed by the priest.  This view sets faith aside, for all one needs to do to receive Christ is to eat the bread and drink the wine.  It also lays the groundwork for the doctrine of the mass, for when the bread, which supposedly is no longer bread, but body, is broken, then Christ’s sacrifice is repeated all over again (“mass” means “sacrifice”).

Secondly, the view of Lutheranism, which teaches that the physical body and blood of Christ are present with the bread and wine, also called “consubstantiation.”  This view, though it does not include the doctrine of the mass, is open to the same criticism as the view of Rome, since both views teach a physical presence of Christ in the Supper.

Thirdly, the view of most evangelicals today, which was reputedly also the view of the Reformer, Zwingli, i.e., that Christ is not present in any fashion in the Lord’s Supper, but that the Supper is just a memorial or remembrance of the death of Christ.  This view, which clearly avoids the errors of Romanism and Lutheranism, nevertheless is not Biblical, as we shall see; and does not explain which the Lord’s Supper must be used with such care, i.e., there is little need for self-examination and little need to fear of “damnation” (I Cor. 11:29) if the Lord’s Supper is just a remembrance.

Finally, the Reformed view of the Lord’s Supper is that Christ is really present, but spiritually, not physically.  He is, in other words, present to the faith of God’s people and has fellowship with them and feeds them through Himself through faith and in connection with the bread and wine which point their faith toward Him.     

That view is clearly taught in I Cor. 11:27, 29, which speak of being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord and of “discerning the Lord’s body” in the Lord’s Supper.  It is also implied in Jesus’ own words at the institution of the Lord’s Supper, when He said, “This is my body.”  It is, in fact, only because Christ is present that a person can eat or drink judgment to himself when eating or drinking without proper self-examination.

This view, which we believe to be Biblical, not only explains the passages of Scripture which we have mentioned, but gives much more meaning and profit to the Lord’s Supper.  In the Lord’s Supper we meet with and enjoy Christ in all His fullness, as our Savior and Redeemer.  Let us so use it.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 8
  • Issue: 15
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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    13823 Clear Lake Rd.
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