The supper that separates



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THE SUPPER THAT SEPARATES

9-27-09

On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther performed one of the most revolutionary, history changing, acts of history
He posted 95 propositions or theses for debate regarding the true nature of the Christian faith
For 1500 years the church had slowly evolved into a mostly monolithic organization

theoretically under the absolute authority of the Pope in Rome
But Luther, himself a Catholic monk, had become convinced through his study of the Bible

that the church had drifted away from what the Bible really taught
and over the course of time added all sorts of innovations that were not taught in the Bible

and in fact almost created a whole new religion
Martin Luther’s two foremost concerns regarded two questions:

How do Christians decide what to believe?

How can people be made right with God? That is forgiven of their sin or saved
Luther rediscovered what the church had for the most part tragically forgotten
That the Bible alone, not creed nor tradition nor Pope, is to be the sole authority for what we believe and do
And that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone

Grace is the source, cause, root of salvation

Works are the fruit of salvation
Luther turned the whole Western world upside down by rediscovering these two fundamental truths
Luther was the cataylst of what has since been called the Protestant Reformation

but other similar Reform movements soon sprang up all over Europe
The second of these movements to come along after Luther was led by Ulrich Zwingli in Zurich
Simply by taking what the Bible actually says, rather than what tradition said it says,

Luther and Zwingli came to most of the same conclusions
But there was one issue about which they significantly disagreed

The nature and purpose of the Lord’s Supper
Because Luther and Zwingli had crawled way out on a limb by breaking from the authority

of the Roman Catholic Church political, even military, conflict was inevitable
And some of the political leaders wanted to try to unite all the Protestants together

so as to preserve and protect their religious freedom
And so on October 1-4, 1529 Luther and his associates and Zwingli and his associates

met together at Marburg Castle to try to work out a doctrinal statement that all Protestants could agree on



Luther wrote 15 articles summarzing the Christian faith and Zwingli agreed with 14 of them

His 15th article concerning the Lord’s Supper
The 15th article made six points about the Lord’s Supper and Zwingli was willing to agree

with Luther about five of those six points
But the one issue they could not agree upon was the exact nature of the bread and wine

in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper



Unlike Roman Catholics Luther did not believe that the bread and wine were literally changed

into Jesus’ body and blood when the Priest performed the Mass
That the elements were transubstantiated, their substance literally changed into Jesus
But while Luther denied that the elements were supernaturally changed he nevertheless

still agreed with them that Jesus was literally present in the elements
Zwingli on the other hand argued that the elements were not in any sense truly Jesus

The elements rather symbolized Jesus’ body and blood
Luther saw Jesus as omnipresent and enable to inhabit every goblet of wine or loaf of bread

in a communion service
Zwingli saw Jesus as still incarnate, in a human body, at the Father’s right hand in heaven
Since these were both very intelligent, very brave, outspoken men

it is not surprising that their four days together were spend in heated debate
They had both already written several publications arguing for their viewpoints

and criticizing each other’s viewpoints
And so during the course of their debates at Marburg for example,

they were not above shouting at each other and making personal attacks and insults
Luther accused Zwingli of such poor logic, that he reminded him of a school boy

who should be caned and sent to the corner of the room
Zwingli told Luther than John 6 was going to break his neck to which Luther reminded Zwingli:
“Don’t boast too much. Necks do not break that easily here.

You are in Hesse (Germany), not Switzerland.”
The first day of debate ended like this:
Zwingli: “I have proved that Christ was in one place.

You prove, on the contrary, that He exists without space or in many places simultaneously.
Luther: “In the beginning you set out to prove that it were impossible and that our reasoning were false.

You are obligated to prove this and not demand proof from us, for we do not have to prove our position.
Zwingli: “It would be a shame to believe in such an important doctrine, teach, and defend it,

and yet be unable or unwilling to cite a single Scripture passage to prove it.”
Luther took a peice of cloth off of the table where and uncovered where he had written

on the table with chalk:
“This is My body! Here is our Scripture passage.
You have not taken it from us, as you set out to do; we need no other.
My dearest lords, since the words of my Lord Jesus Christ stand there, Hoc est corpus meum,

I cannot truthfully pass over them, but must confess and believe that the body of Christ is there.”
(above cited from E.G. Schwierbert Luther and His Times, p. 708 and Cameron MacKenzie, “Defining the Boundaries of Evangelicalism in the 16th Century: Luther and Zwingli at Marburg,” ETS Paper 11-14-01)
Luther and Zwingli could not agree on how Jesus was or was not literally present

in the elements of the Lord’s Supper
Luther declared Zwingli to be a false teacher
“Luther refused to accept the Swiss as fellow Christians.” (Macy 156)
For example, Luther said: “If anyone knows that his Pastor teaches the Zwinglian way publicly,

he ought to avoid him.
He should rather abstain from the sacrament all his life, than to receive it from him,

and even die and suffer all things.” (Quoted by Macy p. 155)
The Protestant movement split in two and tragically has been splitting ever since
Indeed still today almost 400 years later the primary difference between all Protestant denominations

relates to exactly how we understand Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
Now we are going back to pick up where we left off in 1 Corinthians last Spring, that is 1 Cor. 11



The whole second half of 1 Corinthians is devoted to the Lord’s Supper

It is the lengthiest passage in all the New Testament concerning the Lord’s Supper
But before we begin working through this passage two weeks today

all of today is going to be an introduction to the passage
Before we work our way through the passage and attempt to see what God really says about the Lord’s Supper

we are going to survey what Christians have claimed God says about the Lord’s Supper

Why don’t we just have Christian churches?

Or at least just Catholic and Protestant Churches?
Why are there Lutheran and Presbyterian and Baptist and Methodist and every other kind of church?

One of the primary reasons has been the inability to agree on the nature and purpose of communion
The Supper that Jesus intended to be about communion, about sharing together

in celebration of what He has done for us, has tragically separated us rather than united us
The Devil must be laughing his rear end off

Is that okay to say in church?


Well here we go, grab hold and hang on tight

It’s a challenge to summarize 2,000 years in 20 minutes
Before Luther and the Protestant Reformation came along the church’s ideas about

Communion or the Lord’s Supper slowly evolved with two different emphases
In the early church you can find people on Luther’s side of this debate

and people on Zwingli’s side of this debate
The amazing thing is actually how little is written explaining the nature of the Lord’s Supper for centuries
Gary Macy in his history of the Lord’s Supper writes:
“... the first book written specifically on what the eucharist means for us, and how the eucharist

extends God’s offer of salvation to us, did not appear on the scene until the ninth century.
Indeed, not much more was written on this subject until the eleventh century.”

(The Banquet’s Wisdom, p. 15)

Macy summarizes the early history of the church by saying (58):
“Discussions of the eucharist sprang up in the father’s works in the midst of other topics.
They did not sit down and carefully work out a consistent understanding, nor did they compare notes

with their fellow theologians and bishops to see if everyone was preaching the same thing.
The result is .. that one is faced with a number of common themes, but no common theology.
What the fathers of the early church bequeathed to their followers was not a theology

of the eucharist, but a pluralism of themes out of which any number of theologies could develop.”


In order to try to make this as simple as possible I made you a chart that is in your bulletin

that lays out the four primary views of the Lord’s Supper
Let’s walk our way through this chart
The first view, that has often been called Transubstantiation, is the belief that when a Priest

consecrates the bread and wine in the Mass they are literally transformed into Jesus’ body and blood
Thus whenever the Mass is performed Jesus is in some sense sacrificed again
And those who participate in the Mass can receive forgiveness what Catholics call ‘venial sins’
What are supposedly lesser sins that won’t cause someone to go to hell but must be paid for

in this life or in purgatory
One of the ways they can be paid for in this life is by participating in the Mass
Now obviously the ideas that I am describing are those of Roman Catholicism
Through the course of church history the church slowly developed all sorts of traditions

that were not really taught by the Bible
And that’s again what caused the Protestant Reformation

Martin Luther protested against anything that was not clearly taught by the Bible
Martin Luther led the church to reform and to return to it’s roots as revealed in God’s Word

But over the course of church history all sorts of traditions developed around the Lord’s Supper
Many, like Irenaeus and Hilary and Ambrose and Cyril (NOT cypril as your chart unfortunately says)

argued for views that evolved into the idea of Transubstantiation
That is that Jesus was truly, physically present in the elements of the Lord’s Supper

[“Justin Martyr ... is careful to point out that the table celebration of the Christians involves the

presence of the risen Lord, but that only bread and wine are eaten.” (Macy 20)
Macy (22): “Not until the third century did Christians speak readily of the Lord’s Supper as a

sacrifice’ of praise, or the celebrant as a ‘priest’ or of the ceremony itself as a ‘representation’ or ‘recreation’

or ‘participation in’ the one sacrifice of the high priest Jesus. ... Cyprian, bishop of Carthage in the middle

of the third century, more clearly than most early writers identified the sacrifice of Jesus with the Christian

celebration.”
However one of the sources for the idea that Jesus is literally present in the elements

was as a reaction to gnosticism
One of the heresies that challenged the early church was gnosticism



Gnostics, like Christian Scientists today, viewed matter as an evil illusion

and thus they taught that Jesus only appeared to have a human body
And in reaction to the gnostics some Christians started speaking of Jesus being really present in communion
Macy (24) explains: “..very realistic language was used to refute the claim made by the gnostics

that, first of all, Jesus Himself had no real body, and secondly, Christians were not saved physically,

but only spiritually. The language of Irenaeus and others like him worked well in opposing the gnostics,

but, when read by later authors, the strong realism of their language could be disconcerting or even

downright confusing. This, however, was not the concern of the second century. Besides ... people

throughout Christian history had a much different concept of ‘real’ than we do in the twentieth century,

and this makes their ‘realistic’ language mean something very different than ours.”

Macy further explains the influence of neoplatonism on the early church (41): “Nothing is more

important in understanding Christian thought on the eucharist than the simple insight that for most of

Christian history, people who wrote about the eucharist just assumed Plato was right. The most ‘real’

things were those grasped by the mind; the least ‘real’ things were those things that were sensed.

Essences’ (or ‘substances’ or ‘forms’) were always more real than some data. ... When the writers talk

about what is ‘real,’ they mean that which the mind grasps, either through reason or in faith.”
“The Alexandrians were the first to appeal to the sacrament. Writing in the early fifth century,

Cyril, the patriarch of Alexandria ... insisted the body of Christ was so inseparably linked to the second person on the Trinity that, through contact with the Lord’s body in the eucharist, Christians shared in

divine immorality.” (Macy 43)
“According to Gregory of Nyssa, in order for our bodies to be saved as well as our souls, we need to be infused with the body of the risen Lord.” (Macy 49)
Ambrose: “after the consecration, I tell you, it is then the body of Christ.”

(“On the Sacraments,” Bk. 4 cited by Macy 50)
Cyril: “Do not think of the elements as mere bread and wine. They are, according to the Lord’s

declaration, body and blood. ... the perceptible bread is not bread, though it is bread to the taste,

but the body of Christ ...” (“Mystagogical Catechesis” 5; cited by Macy 51)]

The first theological treatise of any real significance on the Lord’s Supper was written

by Paschasius Radbertus around 831 AD (On the Body and Blood of the Lord)
Radbertus “insisted that the body of Christ present in the eucharist was the same body

as that born of Mary.” (Macy 70)
[“... at least one of Paschasius’ contemporaries accused him of a realism bordering on cannibalism.

But this is to misunderstand Paschasius. He went out of his way to insist that the reception of the Lord’s body is always to be understood in a spiritual sense. ...” (Macy 71)]


But through the course of church history others like Cyrian, Ignatius, Origen and Augustine

argued either that Jesus was only symbolically represented in the elements or that He was somehow spiritually present in them
Some of these men are hard to categorize and I’d really like to study their work more

before I put them into one of these categories
But after Paschasius wrote his book defending Jesus’ real presence in the elements
Ratranmus, who lived in the same monastery as Radbertus, wrote a book arguing for the opposite perspective

Jesus is only symbolized in the elements (Macy 72-74)

In the 11th century a French theologian named Berengar of Tours produced the next significant

work on the nature of the Lord’s Supper
Berengar denied that the elements were changed into Jesus’ literal body and blood

Jesus was only spiritually present in the elements (Macy 76)
He even ridiculed those who believe that Jesus was literally present
Macy summarizes (76): “To believe that the Lord was physically present in the eucharist would mean that ‘little bits’ of Christ’s flesh would daily be subject to cannibalism, to digestion, to desecration

by rot, fire and animals. If the body of the Lord appeared every day in every liturgy all over the world, then surely every day the body of the Lord would grow bigger and bigger, and finally there would be a mountain of Jesus’ body.”
Berengar was involved in a whole series of controversies for his views

He was excommunicated, he’d recant his statements and then go back to proclaiming them (Macy 77-81)
Roman Catholic
“The first official use of the term ‘transubstantiation’ appeared in a creed directed against the

Cathars at the Lateran Council of 1215.” (Macy 84)
[Hugh of St. Victor then argued against this (Macy 84-87)]
And this became the dominant view of the middle ages
When the Priest performs the mass the wine and bread are supernaturally changed

into the literal body and blood of Jesus
This led to both idolizing and fearing the elements
They came to be so special that most Christians only received them once a year at Easter (Macy 88)
The Priests would perform the Mass and receive the elements but “lay people” only watched



When “laymen” did receive the elements they received only the bread since wine could be spilled

(cf. Macy 124)

“Not until the mid-thirteenth century would theologians begin to suggest that transubstantiation

was the only way in which the real presence could be explained.
[Unfortunately, the creed of the Fourth Lateran Council would be understood during the reformation (and this misunderstanding continues to the present day) to define transubstantiation as a doctrine of the church. In fact, it doesn’t define anything; it was merely intended to insist on the real presence in opposition to the Cathars.” (Macy 104)]
And it was Thomas Aquinas who most fully articulated the Roman Catholic understanding

of the communion as it was know to the Reformers and to us today
[“Thomas Aquinas is important, first, because he was the most brilliant exponent of this theory, and, seond, because it is his understanding that the Council of Trent and most Roman Catholic theologians have adopted as the standard teaching of their church.

Thomas argued that transubstantiation ought to be understood quite literally as a change in substance. More precisely, the substance of the bread and wine are changed by the blessing of the priest into the substance of the body and blood of the risen Lord. The accidents (sense data) of the bread

and wine, however, remain exactly as they were before. ... the change Thomas is talking about is not anything that can be sensed in any way. For us, it means that it is not a ‘physical’ change, since for us physics has to do with what can be sensed (or at least observed). It is an intellectual change; that is,

it has to do with what we grasp with our minds. ...

One must keep firmly in mind here that for Thomas (and Plato and Aristotle) what the mind grasps

is what is most real. So, the most real part of the bread and wine (the substance) becomes the most real part of the risen body and blood of the Lord. This particular use of Aristotelian metaphysics solved many

problems associated with the medieval teaching that the same body of Christ that lived on earth, died and ascended into heaven was present on each altar during every mass. Since the substance has not quantity (quantity is an accident which underlies all the other accidents) it can be anywhere (or everywhere) at once. Christ can be present in heaven and many places on earth at the same time. Further, anything that might befall the consecrated bread and wine, such as reception by an unworthy person, or fire, or rot, or desecration by an animal, only happens to the accidents of bread and wine,

not to the substance of the body and blood.” (Macy 107)
“Thomas, following the teaching of his master, Albert the Great, insisted that the substance remained under the accidents, even if the accidents were in the stomach of a mouse. Jesus would be unaffected, of course, and the mouse would get no particular benefit from the divine visit, but still the substance would have to stick with the accidents. ... Albert and Thomas seemed to have been the first to insist that once transubstantiation had taken place it couldn’t be reversed.” (Macy 110)
“Bonaventure followed his teacher, Alexander of Hales, in holding to the theological principle tha the eucharist was fundamentally a sacrament, a sign. Therefore, only those capable of understanding and using signs, that is, human beings, coiuld receive the eucharist.” (Macy 110)

“In conclusion, then, although by the end of the middle ages transubstantiation was certainly the most common theological explanation of how the body and blood of the risen Lord became present in the Lord’s Supper, it was an explanation which was always seen as problematic . ... Transubstantiation was a very important theological position, which would be roundly attacked by the reformers and stoutly supported by Roman opponents of the reformers at the Council of Trent. This ambivalence to the idea was not new in the sixteenth century, however. Transubstantiation always had problems, and especially in our own age, which no longer adheres to the philosophy of Aristotle, it still does.” (Macy 114)

“During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, three somewhat different theological ideas merged in a way that would cause havoc in the sixteenth century. ...”
Theologians insisted “that the mass was not another sacrifice, but rather a sign of the once and for all sacrifice of Calvary. ... Theologians, however, began to add an interesting twist to this teaching. Christ’s

once and for all may have freed us from sin, but the application of those benefits to particular people took place through the commemorative sacrifice of the mass. Further, the minister could specify to whom the benefits of a particular mass could be applied.” (Macy 115)
“People would pay a lot of money to make sure that they had the best possible chance to get into heaven and particularly to get out of purgatory.” (Macy 115)
“In short, although all theologians agreed that Jesus died once and for all to free all people from sin, the actual application of that salvation took place in the commemoration of Calvary during the liturgy.”

(Macy 116)
“In the final stages of this process, enough money was accumulated for the saying of such masses that priests could be hired full-time to do nothing else but to say masses in the memory of

generous donors.” (Macy 116)
When the forerunners of the Reformation came along

they challenged what had become Catholic dogma as the Reformers later did
John Wycliff felt that transubstantiation was absurd and led to “gross impieties.” (Macy 121)
He said: “There has never been a heresy more cunningly smuggled into the church than transubstantiation.
And it is a “veritable abomination of desolation in the holy place.”

(above two quotes cited from Bridge & Phyphers, Communion, p. 80)


After the Reformation the Council of Trent “reiterated the medieval positions on the eucharist with little change.” (Macy 177)
But lest you think that these different views of the Supper only amount to theological nitpicking

for professional theologians and don’t make any difference
Let me quote what Roman Catholicism officially determined after the Reformation:
Trent: “if anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist are contained truly, really, and substantiatlly the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ,

and consequently the whole Christ, but says that He is in it only as in a sign, or figure, or force, let him be anathema.” (Canon 1)
Trent: “If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist the subtance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood, the appearances only of bread and wine remaining, which change the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation, let him be anathema.” (Canon 2)
Trent: “If anyone says that the sacrifice of the Mass is one only of praise and thanksgiving; or that it is a mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross but not a propitiatory one; or that it profits him only who receives, and ought not to be offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities, let him be anathema.” (Session 22, Canon 3)
In other words, according to official Roman Catholic dogma if we don’t subscribe to this

first perspective of the Supper then we won’t go to heaven
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