Our churches teach that the body and blood of Christ are truly present and distributed to those who eat the Lord’s Supper. They reject those who teach otherwise. (Augsburg Confession, “Article IX: Baptism”).
The article on the Lord’s Supper is the shortest in the Augsburg Confession. By this time in the reformation, other reformers were denying the biblical teaching that the body and blood of Christ are truly present. The Lutherans wanted to distance themselves from that teaching. And so, writing in this document to the Roman Catholic Church, they simply state that we teach the real presence, and we reject those who teach otherwise. There are differences between Lutherans and Roman Catholics regarding the Lord’s Supper, and the Augsburg Confession deals with those differences later in the document. But for now, they keep it simple: “The body and blood of Christ are truly present and distributed to those who eat the Lord’s Supper.”
The simplicity is similar to the Small Catechism, where Luther writes, “It is the true Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given unto us Christians to eat and to drink, as it was instituted by Christ himself” (“Part V: The Sacrament of the Altar”).
Other denominations get wrapped up in trying to explain how Christ is present. They may come up with a theory that obscures the whole thing, or, not being able to come up with a theory, they reject the presence of Christ. We simply take Jesus at his word when he says, “This is my body,” and, “This is my blood” (Matt. 26:26, 28; Mark 14:22, 24; Luke 22:19, 20; 1 Cor. 11:24, 25). If we can come up with a theory to explain it, great, so long as we remember that it’s just a theory. And if we can’t come up with a theory, we still take Jesus at his word.
The best argument our opponents have is to say that Jesus could have been speaking metaphorically. They compare it to Jesus saying things like, “I am the door” (John 10:7) or “I am the vine” (John 15:1, 5). But the structure of the sentences is reversed. Instead of saying, “I am (insert something imaginary and, therefore, metaphorical),” Jesus takes something real and tangible and says, “This is my body/blood” The context and language is much more concrete.
Beside the simple words of Jesus, the strongest support we have is when Paul says, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27). If the bread and cup were not really the body and blood of Jesus, then how could someone be guilty against the body and blood by eating and drinking them? Food and drink are nothing more than food and drink. Paul taught that earlier in 1 Corinthians (8:1-13). But the bread and wine must be more than food and drink. They are truly the body and blood of Jesus. How? I suppose the most we can say is, “By the power of Jesus’ Word.”
When we insist on this doctrine (or any other doctrine), it’s important to be clear about who we reject and who we do not reject. We reject those who teach otherwise. Do you have questions or doubts about our doctrine? We do not reject you. We invite you to come, learn, ponder, and ask your questions. Even make your objections. We want all people to grow in the knowledge of God and come to an understanding of the truth. So we welcome all who want to learn. And that’s the same reason why we must reject those who teach otherwise. Learners and questioners are moving toward the truth. Those who teach contrary to Scripture are moving others away from the truth.
Regarding the Lord’s Supper, it is important to know what it is, because what it is (the body and blood of Jesus) delivers his gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation to us. So there are two big points we should know about the Lord’s Supper: what it is and what it’s for. It is the body and blood of Jesus, and it is for the forgiveness of our sin.
The peace of Christ be with you all,
Pastor Dan Antal