In his short chapter “Of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper” in Table Talk, Martin Luther challenges the Roman Catholic view of how the sacrament (i.e. communion, Lord’s Supper, the Table) is administered. This short chapter does not tell us everything that Luther believed about the Lord’s Supper, but it points to his general convictions.

Luther’s Issue with the Church
The root of Luther’s critique of the administration of the Lord’s Supper in the Catholic Church is not in the administration of the sacrament itself. His critique is primarily concerned with the false authority that the church places on its bishops. For Luther, the root issue was apostolic succession. Apostles were elected by God, whereas bishops are appointed by man. Apostles never had “supremacy” over another and neither should priests, especially over the church and the sacrament.

As for the administration of the sacrament itself, Luther takes issue with “elevation,” at which point the body and blood of Christ is transubstantiated through the priests words hoc est corpus meum (“this is my body”). Luther calls this doctrine “mere idolatry.” Luther still believed Christ’s presence is somehow in the elements, but not because of the priest’s words. It is rather through Christ’s word and institution that he is present in the bread and cup. Therefore, Luther fights against the meaning behind the practice, while not finding it necessary to change the tradition itself.

This immediately gets the modern evangelical’s blood boiling. Jesus literally in the bread and cup! No! It is true, for Luther does not dispute the fact that Christ is somehow present in the elements; it is simply not the priest’s words that cause Christ’s presence to be there. Luther believes that Jesus body and blood are in the “present administering, although they may be understood as fulfilled on the cross.”

Unlike the Catholic priests, who believed that the Lord’s Supper gave grace through performing the act, Luther held that it was for “the strengthening of our faith, not doubting that Christ’s body and blood were given and shed for us, and that our sins by Christ’s death certainly are forgiven.” In short, Luther believed that the fruit of the sacrament was the assurance of forgiveness. He did not believe the sacrament was the cause of grace.

Why does this matter for us today?
The contemporary evangelical will rightly fire back at Luther for his lack of haste to completely repudiate the doctrine of transubstantiation. At the same time, evangelicals can praise God that Luther resisted Rome’s claim to apostolic succession and supreme authority in faith and practice, as well as the Church’s insistence on grace/salvation through/by works. Still, evangelicals can view the Lord’s Supper, with Luther, as solely for sinners who are desperate for grace and find, at the Table, an opportunity to proclaim Jesus’ death for them once again—and continually until he returns (1 Cor. 11:26). Despite the fact that we do not hold to transubstantiation, we can, with Luther, wholeheartedly agree that the Supper is connected to ongoing covenant renewal in the gospel, providing a means of grace to reinforce repentance to and faith in Jesus.

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4 thoughts on “Martin Luther and the Lord’s Supper

  1. What the “contemporary evangelical,” as you label them, does is rebuke the actual presence of Christ in Holy Communion, because of an inability to physically see the elements as flesh and as blood as they understand the latter elements to appear on Earth. However, with the same mouth, the “contemporary evangelical” will claim and give praise to the Holy Spirit within them- an invisible being that they have never seen in physical form- as they understand beings to appear on Earth. In that same regard, they praise and worship a god they have never physically seen. It seems that, based on the “contemporary evangelical” line of thinking, if it cannot be seen or logically rationalized within the confines of the human mind and in accordance with the physical attributes of like on Earth, then it cannot possibly be true.

    Luther professed that although the Catholic belief of transubstantiation (the metaphysical transformation of bread and wine into blood and flesh) is “mere idolatry,” Christ is persistently and actually present in, under, and through the elements of Holy Communion. This belief is known today as consubstantiation. Largely, it points to a necessity of faith, which is something largely demanded by Christianity. Can we see God himself? No. Though we can see acts of God, and can even see his likeness in ourselves and in our fellow man, we cannot physically see God here on Earth. Is that grounds for discrediting any existence of God? Certainly not! That way of thinking presents numerous logical fallacies. Though we cannot see actual flesh and blood (as we know it), we acknowledge that Christ spoke the words He did, “This is my body,” and, “This is my blood,” according to the Scriptures and we have faith in that which was said, even though we are unable to completely explain it based on our ability or inability to process it with our human, constrained minds.

  2. Did you ever see a Catholic pass by the church they cross themselves, tip their hats, and so forth?

    Now, just think of how many Catholics, Lutherans and Protestants, what they call it, taking first communion. And they call that “Holy Eucharist,” which means, a Latin word, “Holy Ghost.” What is god? “That little piece of bread.” That little piece of bread, round, made like the sun-god that they worship, laying on the altar where the mice and roaches pack around, overnight. That’s not God. I’ll tell you that now. “First communion, confirmed to the church.” Nonsense.

    Instead of making the single bread from wheat, the catholic organization replaced pieces of a round unleavened wafer.

    But that’s what they did. It took away the Spirit and give them a pieces of a thin, round unleavened wafer. some pieces of unleavened wafer that some priest made, or some nun made. That’s what they did. THAT’S EXACTLY UNBIBLICAL. Go, ask now. looking back in history, and see if it isn’t right.
    Don’t the bible say, FOR WE BEING MANY ARE ONE BREAD, AND ONE BODY: FOR WE ARE ALL PARTAKERS OF THAT ONE BREAD.
    1 CORINTHIANS-10:17

    The Catholic unleavened Host and wafers used for the communion is called PAGANISM or PAGAN WORSHIP.

    Now, if Baal is a round god. Now, catch this word by word, and you’ll get the rest ending of this message. That God was a round god, a sun god. They had great big brass plates that would reflect the sun and look like fire. And then the bread that Jeremiah said here that they. The women would bake these cakes unto Baal, that it was made round like the sun. Well, then it was laid upon the altar, the pagan altar for the communion, and made round like the sun or like the moon, because it was the sun god or the moon god.

    INSTEAD OF A BROKEN PARCEL LIKE THE BODY OF CHRIST, THEY WOULD MAKE IT ROUND LIKE THE SUN OR LIKE THE MOON.

    Now, the Roman priest. Then they adopted this by taking and making the communion. The first thing come up was making the communion. INSTEAD OF A BROKEN PARCEL LIKE THE BODY OF CHRIST, THEY WOULD MAKE IT ROUND WAFER’S LIKE THE SUN OR LIKE THE MOON. And to this day, it’s still round. Sure. It’s still a round wafer and not a broken piece of His body. It’s round and smooth. Roman priests today lay this round wafer on the altar and call it the literal body of Christ.

    NO CHRISTIAN TABLE HAS ROUND BREAD ON IT.

    Now, there’s a great stand-back between some of the high Episcopalians and so forth and the Catholic church, is upon that subject, WHETHER IT IS THE LITERAL BODY OR IT REPRESENTS THE BODY. The Roman Catholic says it is the literal body, because that was the literal body of Baal the sun god that reflected himself on that piece of brass and made it round. No Christian table has round bread on it.

  3. How that this little round wafer is the literal body of christ?
    Now, the Catholic church, Lutherans and Protestants believes that. Did you ever notice, in passing a church, they cross themselves. It isn’t the church, it’s that wafer in there, “that body that the priest has turned from a wafer to the literal body of Christ,” where the rats and mice could pack it away. Why, you don’t, can’t think of civil thinking and think that a piece of bread would be a body of the Lord Jesus! It cannot be.

    THE REAL COMMUNION IS THE HOLY SPIRIT SPEAKING BACK.
    Commune is “to talk to, commune with, something that you can speak to and it’ll speak back to you.” That’s communing. A wafer cannot speak back. So, really, the real communion is the Holy Spirit speaking back. When you ask Him, then He speaks back, that is correct communion. This is a memorial, to take of his crucifixion and His resurrection, and not a communion. We call it that, but it isn’t.

    This is the true meaning of Lord’s supper?
    See, Christ. God is a Spirit. Christ means “the anointed one, a man anointed with God,” which made Him the Christ. Now, Christ said, “I am Food and Drink.” Not a wafer, not a wafer that we take here. That isn’t Christ. The wine that we drink at the altar, is not Christ. It represents Him, in a figurative way. But Christ is the Holy Spirit, the anointing that’s upon the Church, that is the Meat and the Drink. , I do believe that communion (what we call “communion,” now) is “the Lord’s supper.”

    APOSTLE PAUL’S commentary about COMMUNION: That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread, and brake it and give it to the disciples, and said, “TAKE AND EAT, THIS DO IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME.”

    Apostle Paul said, “I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, ‘That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread, and brake it and give it to the disciples, and said, “TAKE AND EAT, THIS DO IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME.” For as often as you take this bread, you show forth His death till He comes.'”

    Now, “After the same manner also,” 25th verse: After the same manner also he took the cup, and when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me. Remember now! For as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do shew forth the Lord’s death till he comes. (How long? “Until He comes!” See?
    Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.

    But it isn’t the lord jesus’ body! It’s only in commemoration of his body.
    That has been misrepresented down through the years!

    Now, we take, what we call communion, is the bread and the wine. Now, that has been so misrepresented till it’s not even good to speak of it. Oh, how that has been misrepresented down through the years! That is really not communion, that is just keeping a commandment. See? Now, the reason we call it communion, is because it come from the Catholic association of being the “Holy Eucharist, which is literally the body of the Lord Jesus.” But it isn’t the Lord Jesus’ body! It’s only in commemoration of His body.

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