The Roman Catholic Church believes that in the remembrance of the Lord’s Supper the bread and wine are transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ. Rome teaches that when the priest utters the words of consecration, the bread and wine are changed into the literal body and blood of Christ. The external appearances of bread and wine remain, but the elements are changed so that the substance is no longer that of bread and wine. This is known as transubstantiation.1
This Roman Catholic Doctrine on transubstantiation was officially dogmatized at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 A.D. The Council of Trent confirmed this teaching centuries later. Trent defined the following decrees in its thirteenth session that took place on October of 1551:
(Canon 1) If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist are contained truly, really and substantially 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. (Bold emphasis ours)
(Canon 2) If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist the substance 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. (Bold emphasis ours)
(Canon 8) If anyone says that Christ received in the Eucharist is received spiritually only and not also sacramentally and really, let him be anathema. (Bold emphasis ours)
Eleven years later in the twenty-second session of Trent held in 1562 the following decree, “Doctrine Concerning of the Mass,” was issued. The decree’s second chapter states:
And inasmuch as in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass is contained and IMMOLATED in an unbloody manner the same Christ who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross, the holy council teaches that this is truly PROPITIATORY and has this effect, that if we, contrite and penitent, with sincere heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence, draw nigh to God, we obtain mercy and find grace in seasonable aid. For, appeased by this sacrifice, the Lord grants the grace and gift of penitence and pardons even the gravest crimes and sins. For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. The fruits of that bloody sacrifice, it is well understood, are received most abundantly through this unbloody one, so far is the latter from derogating in any way from the former. Wherefore, according to the Apostles, it is rightly offered not only for the sins, punishments, satisfactions and other necessities of the faithful who are living, but also FOR THOSE DEPARTED IN CHRIST BUT NOT YET FULLY PURIFIED. (Bold and capital emphasis ours)
In other words, not only is the bread and wine transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ but the offering of the Eucharist is seen as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. In fact, Trent claims that Christ is being immolated (i.e. sacrificed) in an unbloody manner during the offering of the Mass. They justify this by claiming that the Eucharist is not a new sacrifice or a re-sacrifice of Christ, but rather the same sacrifice of Calvary repeated over and over again. According to this decree, it is not only the living that benefit from the atoning nature of the Mass but also those who have died in the Lord! This is due to the Catholic belief that those who die in a state of impurity must enter into purgatory for the purging of venial sins. Offering Mass on behalf of the departed can speed up this process of purgation. To say that these statements are incredulous would be a wild understatement.
In light of Rome’s view on the nature of the Mass, we ask the following questions.
Why does Rome claim that in the Mass Christ’s sacrifice is repeated over and over again for the forgiveness of sins seeing that the Scriptures teach that Christ offered one sacrifice for all time? The Scriptures clearly teach that this sacrifice cannot be repeated again. Furthermore, the same Scriptures teach that Jesus’ one sacrifice makes perfect all that come to God through him and, as a result, there is no need for sacrifices anymore. In fact, the Holy Bible states that after Christ offered himself as a propitiation for sin, the Lord Jesus ascended to the right hand of God where he sits on God’s throne. The Lord Jesus will remain seated in heavenly glory until the time comes for God to make the enemies of Christ his footstool:
“For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin ONCE FOR ALL; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” Romans 6:9-10
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Hebrews 1:3
“Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save COMPLETELY those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need-one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices DAY AFTER DAY, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins ONCE FOR ALL when he offered himself. Hebrews 7:23-27
“The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” Hebrews 8:1-2
“When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place ONCE FOR ALL by his own blood, HAVING OBTAINED ETERNAL REDEMPTION. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” Hebrews 9:11-15
“For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself AGAIN AND AGAIN, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared ONCE FOR ALL at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed ONCE to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:24-28
“And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE FOR ALL. DAY AFTER DAY every priest stands and performs his religious duties; AGAIN AND AGAIN he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered FOR ALL TIME ONE SACRIFICE FOR SINS, HE SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by ONE SACRIFICE HE HAS MADE PERFECT FOREVER THOSE WHO ARE BEING MADE HOLY. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’ Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, THERE IS NO LONGER ANY SACRIFICE FOR SIN.” Hebrews 10:10-18
“For Christ died for sins ONCE FOR ALL, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,” 1 Peter 3:18
Therefore, Rome’s claim that Christ is being offered continually as a sacrifice in an unbloody manner is contrary to the inspired Word of God.
Why does the Roman Church insist on taking Jesus’ words “This is my body” and “This is my blood” literally? Didn’t the Lord Jesus employ figures of speech on the very night of the Last Supper when addressing his disciples? Several examples include:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:1-8
Should we assume that Jesus is a literal vine, his Father is a literal gardener, and that his disciples are literal branches that bear literal fruit?
“‘Though I have been speaking FIGURATIVELY, a time is coming when I will no longer use THIS KIND OF LANGUAGE but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.’ Then Jesus’ disciples said, ‘Now you are speaking clearly AND WITHOUT FIGURES OF SPEECH. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.’” John 16:25-30
Therefore, in light of Jesus’ own words where he plainly testifies to having used figurative language on the very night of his celebrating communion with his followers, Protestants are thoroughly justified in viewing the Lord’s Supper in a symbolic or purely spiritual sense.
Why does Rome believe that Jesus’ words in John 6:50-58 on eating his flesh and drinking his blood refers to the partaking of communion? The context clearly defines what eating his flesh and drinking his blood means, namely through believing and trusting in him:
“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’ Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to BELIEVE in the one he has sent.’” John 6:26-29
“Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘from now on give us this bread.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who COMES TO ME will never go hungry, and he who BELIEVES IN ME will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that EVERYONE WHO LOOKS TO THE SON AND BELIEVES IN HIM shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.’” John 6:32-40
“Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; THE FLESH COUNTS FOR NOTHING. The WORDS I have spoken to you ARE SPIRIT AND THEY ARE LIFE. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.’ From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have THE WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’” John 6:61-69
Since Rome believes that Jesus was speaking literally, how does it deal with the fact that Jesus actually ate from the same bread and drank from the same cup that Rome claims became his actual body and blood?
“Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and make preparations for US to eat the Passover.’ ‘Where do you want us to prepare for it?’ they asked. He replied, ‘As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I MAY EAT THE PASSOVER with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.’ They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired TO EAT THIS PASSOVER with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I WILL NOT EAT IT AGAIN until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.’” Luke 22:7-16
“Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them. ‘I tell you the truth, I WILL NOT DRINK AGAIN OF THE FRUIT OF THE VINE until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.’” Mark 14:23-25
“Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until THAT DAY when I drink it anew WITH YOU in my Father’s kingdom.’” Matthew 26:27-29
And here is what an apologist for Rome wrote concerning this issue:
“But the Lord was not yet arrested. After having spoken thus, the Lord rose from the place where He had made the Passover and had given His Body as food and His Blood as drink, and He went with His disciples to the place where He was to be arrested. But He ate of His own Body and drank of His own Blood, while he was pondering on the dead. With His own hands the Lord presented His own Body to be eaten, and before He was crucified He gave His Blood as drink; and He was taken at night on the fourteenth, and was judged until the sixth hour; and at the sixth hour they condemned Him and raised Him on the cross.”
Commentary: Here Aphraates sets aside the very thing that many critics of the Catholic doctrine have used to deny the Eucharist. He affirms that Christ actually held His own body, in the flesh, at the Last Supper. (Robert A. Sungenis, Not By Bread Alone: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for the Eucharistic Sacrifice [Queenship Publishing Company 2000], pp. 204-205; underline emphasis ours)
Why was Jesus eating his own flesh and drinking his own blood? What sins did Christ need to be forgiven of seeing that Rome believes that the Mass is a propitiation for sins? Does not the Scripture say that Jesus had no need of sacrifices for the forgiveness of any sins he committed seeing that he was sinless?2
“Such a high priest meets our need–one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. UNLIKE the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, FIRST FOR HIS OWN SINS, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” Hebrews 7:26-27
Furthermore, these passages state that the Lord Jesus and glorified believers will celebrate his Second Coming by partaking in the Passover meal and drinking of the cup again. In light of Rome’s belief that the bread and the cup are the actual body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sin, why would glorified saints need to drink the blood of Jesus again seeing that they are forever made sinless? Please note the following passages:
“The LORD within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame. ‘I have cut off nations; their strongholds are demolished. I have left their streets deserted, with no one passing through. Their cities are destroyed; no one will be left-no one at all. I said to the city, “Surely you will fear me and accept correction!” Then her dwelling would not be cut off, nor all my punishments come upon her. But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did. Therefore wait for me,’ declares the LORD, ‘for the day I will stand up to testify. I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them-all my fierce anger. The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger. Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder. From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshipers, my scattered people, will bring me offerings. On that day you will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from this city those who rejoice in their pride. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. But I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the name of the LORD. The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid.’” Zephaniah 3:5-13
“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’” 1 Corinthians 15:42-55
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Hebrews 12:22-24
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.’” Revelation 21:1-8
“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Revelation 22:12-15
Furthermore, does this mean that the bread and cup will actually transubstantiate into the body and blood of Christ even though Jesus will be physically present with the believers at this point?
In light of all these problems with Rome’s view, the only view that makes sense is that Jesus was speaking figuratively when referring to the bread and cup as his body and blood.
Both the Old and New Testaments expressly forbid consuming blood:
“And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man.” Genesis 9:1-5
“‘Moreover, if his offering is a goat, then he shall offer it before the Lord, and he shall lay his hand on its head and slay it before the tent of meeting, and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar. From it he shall present his offering as an offering by fire to the Lord, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys. The priest shall offer them up in smoke on the altar as food, an offering by fire for a soothing aroma; all fat is the Lord’s. It is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall not eat any fat or ANY BLOOD.” Leviticus 3:12-17
“And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats ANY blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘No person among you may eat blood, nor may any alien who sojourns among you eat blood.’ So when any man from the sons of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, in hunting catches a beast or a bird which may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 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.” Leviticus 17:10-14
“Only be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh.” Deuteronomy 12:33
“After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, ‘Brethren, listen to me… Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 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. For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.’ Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas—Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, and they sent this letter by them, ‘The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings. Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: 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 15:13, 19-29
“But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” Acts 21:25
Does the Roman Catholic church really expect us to believe that the Lord Jesus violated this prohibition by having his followers literally drink his blood? Furthermore, do they also want us to accept the fact that the Lord consume his own blood, and therefore personally violated one of the very commands that he, as God, revealed to his prophets and apostles? Moreover, isn’t it obvious from the passages in Leviticus that the blood which was shed for atonement was to be presented at the altar, and doesn’t this tie in perfectly with the testimony of Hebrews which states that Jesus entered the heavenly tabernacle in order to present his blood to the Father?
“And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year WITH BLOOD THAT IS NOT HIS OWN. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” Hebrews 9:22-28
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to THE SPRINKLED BLOOD, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” Hebrews 12:22-24
Since the inspired book of Hebrews clearly says that Jesus’ blood was presented (in fact, sprinkled) before the heavenly altar, why would Rome violate this teaching by saying that his blood was shed so that Christians could actually eat or drink from it?
According to both Luke and Paul, Jesus states that the cup is actually the new covenant ratified in his blood:
“In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’” Luke 22:20
“In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” 1 Corinthians 11:25
Since Rome insists on taking Jesus’ words literally, does that now mean that the cup is actually transformed into the new covenant and therefore all that partake of it ingest the new covenant into their bodies?
Rome insists on understanding the following passage as an argument for the Lord’s Supper being the actual body and blood of Christ:
“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
That believers are actually participating in the blood and body of Christ is used as proof for transubstantiation. Yet when we read Paul in context a whole different picture emerges:
“Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” 1 Corinthians 10:18-22
Seeing that Paul also claimed that Israel partook in the altar and that pagans participated with demons when eating their sacrifices, should we now assume that the Israelites actually ingested the actual altar and that pagans were actually eating demons? If the Roman hermeneutic were to be accepted this would be the only logical conclusion.
Hence, we are again left with the conclusion that believers’ participation with the Lord Jesus is spiritual, not physical.
If transubstantiation is true why does Paul still refer to the Eucharist as the bread and the cup? Notice what the inspired Apostle writes:
“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 1 Corinthians 11:26-29
In fact, the Lord Jesus himself continued to refer to the cup as the fruit of the vine even after proclaiming that it was his blood:
“Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of THIS FRUIT OF THE VINE from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.’” Matthew 26:27-29
If transubstantiation were true this would mean that the bread and wine no longer remain as such. The external appearance of bread and wine remain, but the actual substance is completely changed. The fact that the Lord Jesus and Paul still referred to the Lord’s supper as bread and as the fruit of the vine clearly demonstrates that neither held to Rome’s view of transubstantiation.3
The Chalcedonian Creed was adopted at the Fourth Ecumenical Council, held at Chalcedon, located in what is now Turkey, in 451 A.D., as a response to certain heretical views concerning the nature of Christ. It established the orthodox view that Christ has two natures (human and divine) that are perfectly united in a single divine Person. One of the aims of the Creed was to safeguard the distinction of the two natures within the one Person of the Lord Jesus Christ against those that mixed or compounded these natures together. Here is what it states:
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.
Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants alike have adopted this Creed as accurately summing up the Holy Bible’s teaching on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, seeing that the Roman Catholic Church ascribes to this Creed why then does Rome confuse and confound the two distinct natures of Christ? To claim that the bread and cup literally transform into the actual body and blood of Christ is to ascribe the quality of omnipresence to Jesus’ humanity. In other words, the only way for Christ to be physically present any time and place the Mass is celebrated is if his physical body was capable of being present everywhere. Yet this conclusion destroys and blurs the distinction between Jesus’ Divine and human natures. As God, Christ is personally (but not physically) present everywhere (Cf. Matthew 18:20; 28:20; John 14:21, 23; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:7-10; Colossians 3:11).
Yet as man with a glorified physical body he is not omnipresent. Rather, the man Christ is physically seated in heaven and will reappear physically, bodily at his Second Coming:
“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’” Acts 1:9-11
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you-even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” Acts 3:19-21
“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” Acts 7:55-56
“which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:20-21
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior FROM THERE, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Philippians 3:20
“so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:28
“… It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and IS AT God’s right hand-with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” 1 Peter 3:21-22
“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’” Revelation 1:7-8
In light of these biblical truths one cannot hold to Rome’s position on the Mass. Rome’s view destroys the distinction between Jesus’ Divine and human natures, falsely and indirectly attributing to Jesus’ human nature things that are only true in relation to his Divine nature.
Why does the Roman Catholic Church insist that their interpretation of the Mass is consistent with the early Church’s view seeing that the Church Fathers were divided over the very nature of the Mass? To support this claim we provide some quotes from the Fathers themselves.
Responding to Catholic Apologist Timothy Staples’ assertion that all the Church Fathers believed that the Eucharist was the actual body and blood of Christ, protestant apologist Dr. James R. White writes:
At this point, Tim has a common assertion:
The Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist was a doctrine believed and taught unanimously by the Church since the time of Christ. And the Catholic “literal” sense was the only sense the early Christians understood.
Most Protestants are completely stumped when faced with such claims. And sadly, most Catholics really believe such sweeping, yet utterly untrue, statements. Mr. Staples has, in the past, claimed that every single early Church Father agreed with the Roman interpretation of Matthew 16:18 and the “rock” as well: a claim so transparently false it almost takes one’s breath away. This statement likewise partakes of the same kind of historical inaccuracy. Given that Tim has made a universal statement, a single counter example is all that is needed. When Augustine commented on this passage he wrote:
“He that comes unto Me: this is the same as when He says, And he that believes on Me: and what He meant by, shall never hunger, the same we are to understand by, shall never thirst. By both is signified that eternal fulness, where is no lack.”
There is no literality in Augustine’s understanding. Note his further comments on the passage:
Let them then who eat, eat on, and them that drink, drink; let them hunger and thirst; eat Life, drink Life. That eating, is to be refreshed; but you are in such wise refreshed, as that that whereby you are refreshed, does not fail. That drinking, what is it but to live? Eat Life, drink Life; you will have life, and the Life is Entire. But then this shall be, that is, the Body and Blood of Christ shall be each man’s Life; if what is taken in the Sacrament visibly is in truth itself eaten spiritually, drunk spiritually. For we have heard the Lord Himself saying, It is the Spirit that gives life, but the flesh profits nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and Life.”
Here are a few more just for the fun of it:
Augustine (Faustus 6.5): “while we consider it no longer a duty to offer sacrifices, we recognize sacrifices as part of the mysteries of Revelation, by which the things prophesied were foreshadowed. For they were our examples, and in many and various ways they all pointed to the one sacrifice which we now commemorate. Now that this sacrifice has been revealed, and has been offered in due time, sacrifice is no longer binding as an act of worship, while it retains its symbolical authority.”
Augustine (Faustus 20.18, 20): “The Hebrews, again, in their animal sacrifices, which they offered to God in many varied forms, suitably to the significance of the institution, typified the sacrifice offered by Christ. This sacrifice is also commemorated by Christians, in the sacred offering and participation of the body and blood of Christ. . . . Before the coming of Christ, the flesh and blood of this sacrifice were foreshadowed in the animals slain; in the passion of Christ the types were fulfilled by the true sacrifice; after the ascension of Christ, this sacrifice is commemorated in the sacrament.
Where is the literality? It is not there, which is why there were debates a thousand years after Christ concerning this very issue: and Augustine was one of the chief Fathers cited by those who opposed the absurdly literal interpretation that lead to transubstantiation. Note the words of church historian Philip Schaff:
In both cases the conflict was between a materialistic and a spiritualistic conception of the sacrament and its effect. The one was based on a literal, the other on a figurative interpretation of the words of institution, and of the mysterious discourse in the sixth chapter of St. John. The contending parties agreed in the belief that Christ is present in the eucharist as the bread of life to believers; but they differed widely in their conception of the mode of that presence: the one held that Christ was literally and corporeally present and communicated to all communicants through the mouth; the other, that he was spiritually present and spiritually communicated to believers through faith. The transubstantiationists (if we may coin this term) believed that the eucharistic body of Christ was identical with his historical body, and was miraculously created by the priestly consecration of the elements in every sacrifice of the mass; their opponents denied this identity, and regarded the eucharistic body as a symbolical exhibition of his real body once sacrificed on the cross and now glorified in heaven, yet present to the believer with its life-giving virtue and saving power.
We find both these views among the ancient fathers. The realistic and mystical view fell in more easily with the excessive supernaturalism and superstitious piety of the middle age, and triumphed at last both in the Greek and Latin churches; for there is no material difference between them on this dogma.703 The spiritual theory was backed by the all-powerful authority of St. Augustin in the West, and ably advocated by Ratramnus and Berengar…
Speaking of Radbertus’ and his promotion of a transubstantiation-like concept, Schaff notes:
His opponents appealed chiefly to St. Augustin, who made a distinction between the historical and the eucharistic body of Christ, and between a false material and a true spiritual fruition of his body and blood. In a letter to the monk Frudegard, who quoted several passages of Augustin, Radbert tried to explain them in his sense. For no divine of the Latin church dared openly to contradict the authority of the great African teacher.
It seems historians do not share Tim’s viewpoint, and for good reason. We could cite from Tertullian and Theodoret and many others, but the most embarrassing for the Roman apologist who makes such claims has to be these words from Pope Gelasius of Rome in his work against Eutyches and Nestorius:
The sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, which we receive, is a divine thing, because by it we are made partakers of the divine-nature. Yet the substance or nature of the bread and wine does not cease. And assuredly the image and the similitude of the body and blood of Christ are celebrated in the performance of the mysteries.
Of course, it is easier to make universal claims about history that are inaccurate than it is to provide a meaningful and truthful response. Most don’t carry around notes with quotations from patristic sources so as to be ready for such claims. How one handles such a claim in a situation such as a family reunion will depend on the circumstances. A basic, “Such claims go far beyond the facts” might be appropriate. (Truths of the Bible or Untruths of Roman Tradition? James White Responds to Tim Staples’ Article, “How to Explain the Eucharist” in the September, 1997 issue of Catholic Digest: http://vintage.aomin.org/MarkandTim.htm; bold emphasis ours)
Protestant author William Webster concurs with Dr. White’s claims. Seeing that Webster has a lengthy discussion on the Father’s different views on the Mass, we will limit our quotes to those Fathers that denied either transubstantiation or consubstantiation, holding instead to a symbolic or spiritual view of the Eucharist:
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that when the priest utters the words of consecration, the bread and wine are changed into the literal body and blood of Christ. He is then offered to God on the altar as a propitiatory sacrifice for sin. The Council of Trent explicitly states that ‘in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner who once offered himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross’. There are thus two aspects of the Roman doctrine: transubstantiation, which guarantees the ‘real presence’ of Christ; and the mass, in which Christ, thus present bodily, is re-offered to God as a sacrifice. This, however, is not the only view which has been expressed in a consistent way throughout the history of the Church. From the beginning of the Church the Fathers generally expressed their belief in the Real Presence in the eucharist, in that they identified the elements with the body and blood of Christ, and also referred to the eucharist as a sacrifice, but there was a considerable difference of opinion among the Fathers on the precise nature of these things, reflected in the fact that the ancient Church produced no official dogma of the Lord’s supper. Interpretation of the meaning of the eucharist in the writings of the Fathers must be done with great caution for it is very easy to take a preconceived theology of the eucharist and read it back into their comments and teachings.
What I believe an objective analysis will reveal is that the views of the Fathers are very consistent with the differing views represented by the Roman Catholic Church and those of the Protestant Reformers. Some of the Fathers taught that the elements are symbols of the body and blood of Christ and that his presence is spiritual, while others maintained that the elements changed into Christ’s body and blood and that his presence is physical. The following examples of the first four centuries reveal this diversity of opinion.
The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, as it is sometimes called, is included in the collection of works known as the Apostolic Fathers, and is one of the oldest documents from the immediate post-apostolic age that we possess. It is an early manual of Church discipline dated from between the late first century and 140 A.D., and it simply refers to the Lord’s supper as spiritual food and drink. There is no indication that the elements are transformed in anyway…
Tertullian (155/160-240/250 A.D.) spoke of the bread and wine as symbols or figures which represent the body and blood of Christ. He specifically stated that these were not the literal body and blood of the Lord. When Christ said ‘This is my body,’ Tertullian maintained that Jesus was speaking figuratively and that he consecrated the wine ‘in memory of his blood’ (Against Marcion 3.19). Some theologians have claimed that the ancient usage of the words ‘figure’ and ‘represent’ suggested that the symbols in some mysterious way became what they symbolized. But Tertullian used the word ‘represent’ in a number of other places where the word carries a figurative meaning… His interpretation of John 6 similarly indicates that when he spoke of the bread and wine as figures of Christ’s body and blood, that is exactly what he meant. He says that Christ spoke in spiritual terms when referring to the eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood and did not mean this literally. He holds that the eating of the flesh of Christ and the drinking of his blood means appropriating him by faith: ‘He likewise called His flesh by the same appellation; because, too, the Word had become flesh, we ought therefore to desire Him in order that we may have life and to devour Him with the ear, and to ruminate on Him with the understanding, and to digest Him by faith.’ Clearly he did not teach the concept of transubstantiation.
Clement of Alexandria (150-211/216 A.D.) also called the bread and wine symbols of the body and blood of Christ, and taught that the communicant received not the physical but the spiritual life of Christ. Origen (185-235/254 A.D.), likewise, speaks in distinctively spiritual and allegorical terms when referring to the eucharist.
Eusebius of Caesarea (263-340 A.D.) identified the elements with the body and blood of Christ but, much like Tertullian, saw the elements as being symbolic or representative of spiritual realities. He specifically states that the bread and wine are symbols of the Lord’s body and blood and that Christ’s words in John 6 are to be understood spiritually and figuratively as opposed to a physical and literal sense… there was a continuing representation by many Fathers of the eucharistic elements as figures or symbols of the Lord’s body and blood, although they also believed the Lord was spiritually present in the sacraments. Pope Gelasius I (492-496 A.D.), for example, believed that the bread and wine in substance at consecration did not cease to be bread and wine, a view shared by Eusebius, Theodoret, Serapion, Jerome, Athanasius, Ambrosiaster, Macarius of Egypt, and Eustathius of Antioch.
However, the theological giant who provided the most comprehensive and influential defense of the symbolic interpretation of the Lord’s Supper was Augustine. He gave very clear instructions and principles for determining when a passage of Scripture should be interpreted literally and when figuratively. Passages of Scripture must always be interpreted in the light of the entire revelation of Scripture, he concluded, and he used John 6 as a specific example of a passage that should be interpreted figuratively.
Augustine argued that the sacraments, including the eucharist, are signs and figures which represent or symbolize spiritual realities. He made a distinction between the physical, historical body of Christ and the sacramental presence, maintaining that Christ’s physical body could not literally be present in the sacrament of the eucharist because he is physically at the right hand of God in heaven, and will be there until he returns. But Christ is spiritually with his people. Augustine viewed the eucharist in spiritual terms and he interpreted the true meaning of eating and drinking as being faith: ‘To believe on Him is to eat the living bread. He that believes eats, he is sated invisibly, because invisibly he is born again.’
These views of Augustine are obviously in direct opposition to those of the Council of Trent. In fact, teachings such as his on the eucharist were anathematized by that Council. This highlights once again the lack of patristic consensus on the teaching of this major doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church… (Webster, The Church of Rome at the Bar of History [The Banner of Truth Trust PO Box 621, Carlisle, Pennsylvania 17013, reprint 1996], pp. 117-121 bold emphasis ours)
Webster quotes directly from the Fathers themselves, a sampling of which are included here. These patristic quotes can be found in his book, pp. 191-195:
Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-211/216 A.D.)
The Scripture, accordingly, has named wine the symbol of the sacred blood.
Cyprian (200/210-258 A.D.)
But when the blood of grapes is mentioned, what else is shewn than the wine of the Cup of the Blood of the Lord? … I marvel much whence this practice has arisen, that in some places, contrary to Evangelical and Apostolic discipline, water is offered in the Cup of the Lord, which alone cannot represent the Blood of Christ… For that waters signify peoples, Holy Scripture declares in Revelations, saying, The waters which thou sawest, on which the whore sitteth, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. This too we perceive is contained in the Mystery of the Cup. For because Christ loves us all in that He bore our sins also, we see that in the water the people are intended, but that in the wine is shewn the blood of Christ. But in the Cup water is mingled with wine, His people are united to Christ, and the multitude of believers are united and conjoined with Him in Whom they believe.
Eusebius (263-340 A.D.)
For by means of the wine, which was the symbol… of His blood, He cleanses from their former sins those who are baptised into His death and have believed on His blood, ‘Take, drink this is My blood poured out for you for the remission of sins; do this for My memorial’; and that the words, ‘His teeth whiter than milk’ signify brightness and purity of the mystic food. For again He gave to His disciples the symbols… of the divine dispensation, bidding them make the image… of His own body.
Athanasius (295-375 A.D.)
Here also He has used both terms about Himself, namely the flesh and spirit; and He distinguished the spirit from what relates to the flesh in order that they might believe not only in what was visible in Him but also in hat was invisible, and might thereby learn that what He says is not fleshly but spiritual. For how many would the body suffice, for eating, that it should become the food for the whole world? But for this reason He made mention of the ascension of the Son of Man into heaven, in order that He might draw them away from the bodily notion, and that from henceforth they might learn that the aforesaid flesh was heavenly eating from above and spiritual food given by Him. For, He says, what I have spoken unto you is spirit and life, as much as to say, That which is manifested, and is given for the salvation of the world, is the flesh which I wear. But this and its blood shall be given to you by Me spiritually as food, so that this may be imparted… spiritually to each one, and may become to all a preservative for resurrection to eternal life.
Augustine (354-430 A.D.)
- Augustine teaches that the Sacraments, including the eucharist, are signs and figures which represent or symbolize spiritual realities:
He committed and delivered to His disciples the figure of His Body and Blood.
A sacrifice, therefore, is the visible sacrament or sacred sign of an invisible sacrifice… for that which in common speech is called sacrifice is only the symbol of the true sacrifice…
- Secondly, because Christ is physically in heaven Augustine interprets the discourse in John 6 of eating Christ’s flesh and drinking his blood figuratively. If a person partakes of the sacrament but does not abide in Christ, he does not eat the flesh of Christ or drink his blood:
… Who is the Bread of the kingdom of God, but He who saith, ‘I am the living Bread which came down from heaven? Do not get thy mouth ready, but thine heart. On this occasion it was that the parable of this supper was set forth. Lo, we believe in Christ, we receive Him with faith. In receiving Him we know what to think of. We receive but little, and we are nourished in heart. It is not then what is seen, but what is believed that feeds us. Therefore we too have not sought for that outward sense.
This is then to eat the meat, not that which perisheth, but that which endureth unto eternal life. To what purpose dost thou make ready teeth and stomach? Believe, and thou hast eaten already…
‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,’ says Christ, ‘and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.’ This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us. (Bold emphasis ours)
In light of the divergent views of the early Church over the nature of the Eucharist, how then can Rome infallibly pronounce God’s curse upon all who disagree with their view? Does this also mean that all these Church fathers are also under the anathema of God for holding to a view other than the Roman Catholic Church?
This concludes our questions. May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ use this article to bring believers to a fuller and more accurate understanding of his Person and work of salvation. Amen. Come Lord Jesus. We love you forever.
1 There are several other views held by different Church denominations on the nature of the Eucharist. The Lutheran view is that Christ is actually present in, with, and under the bread and wine. Christ is believed to be physically conjoined with the bread and wine. This view is known as consubstantiation. The Reformed view is that Christ is spiritually present at the Lord’s Supper and that the supper is a means in which grace is communicated or given. There is believed to be a dynamic presence of Jesus in the elements that is made effective in the believer as he partakes of the Supper. This partaking of Christ is not an actual physical eating and drinking of Jesus’ body and blood. Rather, it is an inner communion with the Person of Christ. Another view, which is the one we share, is that the bread and wine are symbols and reminders of Jesus’ death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 11:24-25), his Second Coming (1 Corinthians 11:26), our union together as the one body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:17), and a reminder of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 11:26).
2 A Roman Catholic may cite the example of Jesus being baptized by John, which was a baptism for repentance from sins (cf. Mark 1:4; Matthew 3:6, 11; Luke 3:3; Acts 19:4), in order to justify Jesus’ eating his own flesh and blood even though he was absolutely sinless. There are a couple of problems with this argument. First, the purpose of Jesus’ baptism was to give his seal of approval to John’s ministry, i.e. Christ was confirming that John had been sent by God to do what he did:
“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him.” Matthew 3:13-15
This was unlike the religious leaders who refused to be baptized by him, thereby calling into question God’s will and wisdom in sending the Baptist to prepare the people’s hearts for the coming of Christ by having them confess their sins, and therefore acknowledge their need of the Savior:
“When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John. ‘To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.” For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon!” The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.’” Luke 7:29-35
Secondly, being from the priestly tribe of Levi (cf. Luke 1:5-25), John was preparing Jesus for his priestly role since the OT required that a person had to be 30 years old (even though in some cases a person could be twenty-five years old), had to be washed in water, and had to be anointed with oil which was symbolic of being anointed by God’s Spirit (cf. Exodus 29:1-9, 44-46; Numbers 4:3, 34-37, 43). According to the NT, Jesus was 30 when John baptized him in water, which was also the time when he was anointed by the Holy Spirit who descended upon him in the form of a dove:
“Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.’ When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli,” Luke 3:21-23
“The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)—you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Acts 10:36
Yet in respect to the Lord’s Supper, there was no need for Jesus to eat it if it were his literal body and blood since he didn’t need to partake of it in order to give it his approval or to be set apart by it for his sacrificial work. As such, the appeal to Jesus’ baptism to justify Rome’s view of the Eucharist is simply fallacious to say the least.
3 Some Roman Catholic Apologists use 1 Corinthians 11:30-34 as a basis for believing in transubstantiation:
“That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.”
It is claimed that for the Eucharist to be merely a symbol would not result in the illness and death of believers who were partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. This supposedly establishes Rome’s view that the Lord’s Supper is the actual body and blood of Christ and to eat of it in an unworthy manner is to incur God’s wrath.
Yet this logic misses the point completely since to partake of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner leads to sinning against what that Supper points to, namely the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is the offense committed against what the Lord’s Supper represents that resulted in God’s judgment upon believers.
Furthermore, does Rome really believe that all who come to the Mass partake of Christ in a worthy manner? If not, then how does Rome prevent one from sinning against the actual body and blood of Christ if indeed Rome’s view of the Mass is correct?