by Matt Slick
The Roman Catholic position on the Lord's Supper is that when the priest offers the Mass, at the consecration in the Lord's Supper (Communion), the bread and wine offered in the ceremony are transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus and stop being bread and wine though they still appear to be bread and wine.
Paragraph 1376 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states,
"The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation," (CCC 1376).
First of all, Protestants reject this doctrine that they consider to be a violation of Scripture regarding eating blood. "For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off," (Lev. 17:14). Also, consider what James said in the Jerusalem council,
"Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 20 but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood . . . 27 “Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell,” (Acts 15:19-20, 27-29).
Certainly, the disciples would not have told people to abstain from consuming blood if they understood it to actually be the body and blood of Christ.
Second, transubstantiation is a violation of the incarnation since it implies that Jesus is physically present in more than one place at a time. Jesus is still a man (Col. 2:9, 1Tim. 2:5; Acts 1:11), and by definition, a human being can only be in one place at a time. Jesus' divine nature is omnipresent, but his physical is not.
Jesus instituted the supper before his crucifixion
Third, when Jesus instituted the Lord's supper, his sacrifice had not yet occurred. Think about it. Jesus was at the table with the disciples. He instituted the supper by saying,
"And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom,” (Matt. 26:26-29).
Now, we have to ask what Jesus was doing when he instituted the supper. You see, the Roman Catholic Church says that the Eucharist is the sacrificed body and blood of Christ; and this is important.
"And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner," (CCC 1367).
Are we to believe that when Jesus offered the bread and wine before he was crucified, that he was actually offering them the crucified body and crucified blood? The Roman Catholic is required to say that it is, but how can their response be rational? When I press them on this, the answer I receive is that God can do anything he wants; therefore, it is the actual sacrificed body and blood of Christ.
I find this argument to be ridiculous. While it is true that God can do anything he wants, there is nothing in the text to signify that the Roman Catholic explanation is correct. At best, all they have is an explanation of faith--not rational and biblical truth.
Remember, when Jesus instituted the supper, the crucifixion had not yet happened. If the Roman Catholic Church wants to maintain that the bread and wine that Jesus held in his hands were the sacrificed body and blood of Christ, then when Jesus was offering the bread and wine he was speaking prophetically. If he was speaking prophetically, then he was not speaking literally regarding the bread and wine he was holding in his hands. Rather, he was speaking of the coming crucifixion.
What did Jesus say?
- "for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom,” (Matt. 26:28-29).
- “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 “Truly I say to you, I shall never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God," (Mark 14:24-25).
Notice that while Jesus was explaining the Communion supper to them, he refers to the wine as the "fruit of the vine." This is a reference to wine - not literal blood. Therefore, Jesus himself still refers to the wine as wine even after he said: "this is my blood."
Therefore, we conclude that Jesus was speaking symbolically as he did in other verses. "I am the bread of life," (John 6:48); "I am the resurrection and the life," (John 11:25); "I am the true vine," (John 15:1). The Communion Supper is a representation of the actual sacrifice of Christ. It is not the literal body and blood of Jesus.