Christ’s Presence in the Lord’s Supper | Part 2 – The Theological Argument

Academic Articles | Apologetics | Theology

Published on April 15, 2022

In our first article, we considered the historical arguments surrounding Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. We looked at many of the church writers throughout history and their statements concerning the Lord’s Supper and saw that the modern Roman Catholic dogma of transubstantiation doesn’t hold up to historical scrutiny. In this article, we will consider the theological and biblical arguments concerning the presence of Christ in this sacrament to weigh the Protestant and Catholic interpretations. This issue continues to separate Roman Catholics from Protestants, and for important reasons! If the Catholic teaching is wrong, it has tremendous Gospel implications…

The significance of the elements—an analysis of the word “is” [ἐστιν]

It seems crazy that there is much controversy over a little, common word such as “is”. Yet this little word is the source of much debate on this issue!

There are three major interpretations for ἐστιν [estin]—“is”—in this phrase. The Catholic view is that it is substantive, proposing that they “do not refer to the sacrifice that he was to make the next day on the cross but to the sacrifice that he made in the institution of the Lord’s Supper.”[1] However, this is repose with many difficulties.

How could it be the literal broken body of the Lord when he was bodily present there at the same time holding and presenting the elements also having not gone to the Cross yet?[2] Additionally, for Jews, the thought of consuming blood was horrific. The law absolutely forbade it, and this prohibition was even considered binding on all Christians (Acts 15:20, 29).[3] Furthermore, this interpretation of ἐστιν as proof of real corporeal transformation of the elements may have been totally lacking in the original—especially if spoken in Aramaic which would have no such sense to the word. It is likely and possible that translation contributed to this understanding of localized presence in the elements.[4] The ‘literal’ interpretation of his words at his institution at the Last Supper is not plausible which renders invoking divine eternality or atemporality unnecessary. If it was not needed for the original celebration, neither is it necessary today.[5]

The second interpretation is that it is symbolic—that the elements “stand for” or “represent” the body and blood of Christ. However, this still entails a symbolic consumption of blood which would be similarly vile for Jews. Nor is it likely that the cup or wine could symbolize or substantively be the new covenant, which is a relationship not an object.[6] Interpreting ἐστιν as merely “stands for” or “represents” lessens the force of Jesus’ offer at the Lord’s table and takes away from the effectiveness of his demonstrated prophetic act and any ‘real presence’.[7]

However, Calvin rejected the concept of the Lord’s Supper as a sacrifice and the literal bodily presence of Christ in the elements. He instead interpreted Christ’s words, “this is my body” as metonymical (a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is called not by its own name but rather by the name of something associated in meaning with that thing or concept) and admitted to the spiritual presence of Christ with his people during the Supper.[8] This is reflected in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which says that “sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent” however, “in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine.”[9]

The preferred interpretation is that ἐστιν is “significative”. That is saying, “This bread means my body and this wine means my blood.”[10] Similar usage of ἐστιν is also in Luke 8:11, where Jesus says the parable of the soils “is this”—then explains it. He isn’t saying that the parable is manifestly what follows next, or that it is a representation of that parable, but rather that it is an interpretation of the meaning of the parable. Similarly, the elements mean what Jesus himself means in his obedient sacrifice of his entire Person— which is salvation. Salvation is not what Jesus only stands for or represents, it is what he is and what he means.[11]

This view doesn’t have the difficulty of an offensive consumption of blood and retains a deeper level of redemptive significance and meaning to the Sacrament lost in a purely symbolic representation. This is therefore a very Hebraic reading of ἐστιν, whereas other interpretations go contrary to certain Hebrew beliefs and become inconsistent in their interpretation of ἐστιν for varying forms of the Eucharistic words.

OT prophets often utilized symbolism as a dramatization of the living, effectual word of the Lord. For example, Ezekiel made a miniature of Jerusalem and laid siege to it (Ezekiel 4:1-3) or Isaiah walked barefoot and naked in public in Isaiah 20:2-6, demonstrating the sort of disaster that would befall the Egyptians. Jeremiah wore a yoke to tell the kings to submit to the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 27:2-15; 28:10-16).[12] Jesus himself employed such symbolism and methods of depicting the reality of God’s word visibly such as: riding into Jerusalem, cleansing the Temple, cursing a fig tree, and washing the disciples’ feet. In giving the bread and wine, which signify his obedience unto death, the significance of his obedience itself was actually being given to them. Scott McCormick notes,

“What he offered them was not simply knowledge but saving participation; not mere information about, but involvement in, his sacrificial obedience.”[13]

Scriptural Rebuttals

There are two major passages of scripture, John 6 and 1 Corinthians 10 & 11, which are often used in rebuttals by Roman Catholics which we will look at in context to discern what is their proper understanding and what relevance, if any, they have on our understanding of the Eucharist.

John 6

Roman Catholics regularly cite John 6 in reference to the Eucharist. However, Scott McCormick in his book The Lord’s Supper, has said that, “The sacramental understanding of Jesus’s ‘Bread of Life’ discourse in John 6:22-58, an interpretation that is crucial for Catholic theology’s doctrine of the actual presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist, is highly unlikely.”[14] Furthermore, Roman Catholics charge that the belief in transubstantiation is believing that God can do anything. However, the question is not whether God can do it—as we do believe in God’s omnipotence—but rather if he has done so. Proponents of transubstantiation argue that this is precisely what those hearing Jesus’ discourse on eating his flesh and drinking his blood were doubting. However, in context, it is clear that his discourse had everything to do with belief and not the Eucharist which is seen directly following in John 6:29-40 that, “everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.”

The theme of Jesus addressing overly literalistic hearers is consistent throughout John’s gospel. In chapter 2, they mistake his reference to destroy the temple, in John 3, Nicodemus misunderstands being born again, in John 4, the Samaritan woman misunderstands Jesus’ speech about living water, in John 8, they misunderstand Jesus’ reference to slavery, and in John 9 the Pharisees think he is talking about physical and not spiritual blindness. It would seem that the Roman Catholic view falls into this same mistake as Jesus’ hearers in John.[15] St. Augustine also seemed to understand this about John 6 in his “Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament,” in Saint Augustin: Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospels, Homilies on the Gospels.[16]

Let’s look closer at the passages in contention. In the first part, verses 22-48, Jesus emphasizes the necessity of faith for salvation. In the second part, verses 49-58, Jesus uses a metaphor about eating and drinking his blood.

“In the first part, Jesus underscores the necessity of faith in himself—the one sent by the Father, and the one who will sacrifice himself for the world—in order to have eternal life. In the second part, Jesus ‘provide[s] a striking metaphor that makes the teaching of the previous verses more vivid, but can hardly be taken to introduce fundamentally new (and sacramental) meaning.'”[17]

Looking at verses 32-33:

“Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father 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.'” (John 6:32-33 ESV)

Here, “the emphasis is upon the present. The institution of the Supper in the future is not the focus of the chapter. The present reality of the living Christ standing before them is.” Jesus draws a parallel from the OT, that just as manna came down from heaven and sustained them, so too Jesus has come down and will be the sustenance and salvation of God’s people.[18]

Furthermore, the emphasis for Jesus in verses 34-35 is that the one who “comes to Me” will not hunger and the one who “believes in Me” will not thirst.

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.'” (John 6:35 ESV)

This is paralleled in verse 54 to “eating” and “drinking”. “There is a clear progression in these terms that leads to the literal and obvious meaning of the text.”[19]

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:54 ESV)

The parallelism between Jesus’ statements in verse 54, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” and verse 40, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” underscore how we must properly interpret this passage. Since the former is a metaphorical way to refer to the latter, to take it as meaning the elements of the Eucharist make the sacrament essential for salvation and contradicts Jesus’ emphasis on faith in the earlier part of this discourse.

This is further strengthened by Jesus’ statement in verse 63 that “the flesh is no help at all” and the “words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”[20] As Yngve Brilioth said, “‘Flesh and blood’ in that chapter does not mean either the material flesh and blood of Jesus, or a symbol or figure thereof; rather, the words taken together signify the wholeness of the person of Jesus; ‘the living bread’ is equated with Jesus himself, then with his flesh.”[21]

Jesus’ statement in verse 51 that the bread he gives the world is his flesh, may recall some reading it to his words of institution in Matthew 26:26. However, the word he uses is flesh—σάρξ [sarx]—and not body—σῶμα [sóma]. The better association within John’s gospel is actually from his prologue in the beginning where the Word becomes σάρξ [sarx] and dwells among us. So, Jesus’ sacrifice is “not his body present in the bread of the Eucharist, but his incarnate self on the cross.”[22] Rather, the “eating” in verse 51—“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51 ESV)—is paralleled with the “believing” of verse 47—“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47 ESV) Therefore, “any attempt to make this a physical action misses the entire point the Lord is making. He who believes has eternal life—he who eats of the true bread from heaven will never die.”[23]

Finally, in verses 53-54, Jesus makes the connection absolutely concrete by pairing “eating his flesh and drinking his blood” with the result of “having eternal life” and “being raised up on the last day.” This puts it in the same position as hearing his word and believing on Him who was sent in 5:24, being drawn by the Father in 6:44, looking to the Son and believing in 6:40, or simply believing in 6:47.[24] So the point of chapter 6 has nothing to do with the elements of the Eucharist and everything to do with the necessity of believing in Jesus unto salvation.

1 Corinthians

Another commonly used scripture is in 1 Corinthians. Paul underscores participation in the blood and body here, but there is no hint of transubstantiation or atemporal re-presentation of a sacrifice. His emphasis is on the proclamation, a non-verbal enactment of the gospel by means of the Lord’s Supper.[25] A simple reading of the flow of the text shows that the problem of “not discerning the Lord’s body” was not that they misunderstood the transubstantiated presence of Christ. Rather, by their behaviour of not waiting for one another to eat, by some eating gluttonously so that others went hungry, they did not grasp the interdependence of the members of the church. Within the context of Paul’s flow of argument, this is abundantly clear.[26]

Furthermore, even after the consecration of the elements in both Matthew and Paul, the elements are continued to be referred to as bread and wine, not the literal body and blood.[27] However, Paul does warn that those partaking in an unworthy manner are “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” which shows the seriousness of observing the Eucharist and along with 1 Corinthians 10:16, seems to point to the presence of Christ when it is celebrated.[28] It is worth noting though:

“According to 1 Corinthians 11:27-30, the apostle does not forbid unworthy participants (for example, people who have committed mortal sin) in the sacrament; rather, he warns against unworthy participation—engaging in the celebration without the proper regard for and relationship with the other members of the church.”[29]

Of the two Christian sacraments, baptism has a once-for-all nature, while Holy Communion is repeated. The life of Christ has been offered for sins once and for all on the cross, and we find life in turning to him—baptism signifies that. At the same time, that life is also offered to us constantly for the nourishing of our spiritual lives day by day—this regular feeding on Christ is what the Eucharist speaks to us. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 speaks of “supernatural food” and “supernatural drink.”

“For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4 ESV)

It finds in the events at the sea and in the wilderness in the days of Moses to be ‘foreshadowings’ of what Christians find in Christ. In Israel the people could eat some of the animal sacrifices offered (1 Cor. 10:18); the Lord’s Supper was, at least in some sense, the counterpart for Christians (cf. Heb. 13:9–12). Christ said, “I am the Bread of life,” and, “My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed”; thus what we have in John’s Gospel (6:35, 55) is close to what Paul implies about the Lord’s Supper expressing the truth of Christian people feeding their spiritual lives on Christ.[30]

To partake of the bread and to drink of the cup is spoken of as having participation or fellowship with Christ. Similarly indeed, sharing in pagan sacrificial meals would mean partaking at “the table of demons” (1 Cor 10:21). “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16). “Participation” is the translation of the Greek word κοινωνία [koinōnia], which is often rendered “fellowship” in NT passages.

When the Lord’s Supper was celebrated, there must often have been a recalling not only of the last supper on the night before Jesus died, but of his presence with his disciples on the first Easter and his making himself known to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30–35). They continued to experience that fellowship with him whom they knew to be “the same yesterday and today and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).[31] In the coming together of the believers to partake of the Supper, it became a ‘fellowship’ in the body and blood of Christ through the communal sharing of the elements.

Means of Blessing—Calvin’s view

Calvin sought to emphasize that the Lord’s Supper is primarily a divinely appointed means of strengthening the faith of believers which he expounded in the Confession of Faith.[32] However, they only properly fulfil their purpose when the Spirit’s power penetrates to open us up and move affections. Without the Spirit’s work in the Sacraments, it would be “like sun shining on blind eyes” or a “voice in deaf ears” (Inst. IV.14.9).[33] The Westminster Confession says that participants of the Eucharist “spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death” are “spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.”[34] Unlike mere symbolism, Calvin shows that the repetition of the Supper is necessary because of “the value Calvin places on the partaking which maintains the connection between the historical and the repeated celebration.”[35]

The Sacraments are not a magical means of automatic blessing but rather confer benefits through the help of outward signs through the work of the Spirit.[36] Without faith of the participant and the working of the Spirit it would be “just as if he were to take the soul away from the body.”[37] It is the Spirit that is key to making us partakers in Christ and conferring benefits through the help of outward signs (Inst. IV.14.16).[38] “In other words, if we focus on the elements and not on the Christ to whom they point, we misunderstand and misconstrue the sacraments.”[39] The elements signify to us that Christ is the bread of life which we continually feed on just as physical bread gives us vigour for life.[40]

Catholics and Orthodox have always contended that some form of grace is conveyed in the sacraments. Michael Perry in his book Preparing for Worship, speaks of his experience once struggling with feeling forgiven being resolved in partaking in the Eucharist.[41] Though not propitiatory itself, perhaps this conveyance of grace in the felt assurance of forgiveness through the sacrament of the Eucharist operates like the father’s kiss in the parable of the Prodigal Son? In partaking of the Eucharist, God seals to believers the benefits of that sacrifice, aiding their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace, and expressing the “bond and pledge of their communion with Him and with each other, as members of His mystical body.”[42] It is a visual and sensory reminder of the forgiveness and salvation offered to us in Christ.

Greek vs Hebrew Thought on the Eucharist

The Aristotelian idea found in the transubstantiation of “substance”—what something is existentially—and “accidents”—what it is perceptibly such as taste, smell and appearance—is not a Hebrew one. It would not have been one that either Jesus or the biblical writers would have had in mind. It is much more likely that they would have had a Hebrew understanding and not a Greek mindset given their backgrounds and upbringing. The reality of the thing, the bread and the wine, would have been seen as one in the same with its physical nature.[43]

Similarly the separation of a Person into parts or as an isolated individual is more Greek than it is Hebrew. “What we differentiate as the ‘psychical’ and ‘physical’ in man were considered to be virtually one and the same.”[44] The Hebrew words בְּשַׂר [besar], or flesh, נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh], translated soul, and ר֫וּחַ” [ruach], translated spirit, refer to the whole person in view. It simply refers to different perspectives of the person’s external existence, their consciousness, and being linked to the Spirit of the Lord, respectively.[45] The distinction is “seen as relational rather than essential.”[46] Similarly, to identify the presence of Christ with the elements is similar to confining the presence of God to the temple in Jerusalem by some Jews.[47]

This Hebrew thought is continued by Paul as he talks in 1 Corinthians 6:16 that, one who joins himself with a prostitute becomes one σῶμα [sóma] or body with her—for the two become one σάρξ [sarx] or flesh. If Paul was talking as a classical Greek, this would be clumsy—but Paul is thinking as a Hebrew and therefore makes no essential distinction between the two but rather views it as a difference of perspective on the whole person.[48]

“The reference of ‘body’ in the bread saying can therefore only be taken to reflect Hebrew psychology. It denotes the sacrifice of Jesus with respect to his entire person.”[49]

Therefore, discerning the Lord’s body is realizing it involved his whole person. So it was not just his body alone broken, but he himself also. It was a breaking of the will in utter and perfect submission to the Father, most clearly demonstrated in his agony in Gethsemane. His was a total, not a partial sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of a Person which the Eucharist calls us to remember. Jesus didn’t give himself in two half parts—his life and death—”the gift of Himself was completely symbolised in the broken food. The wine does not add something new, but points the real inner meaning of the bread, as the Cross does the person.”[50]

Corporate Solidarity

In Semitic thought, the basic unit of personality consisted of the group rather than the individual. The individual’s life was engulfed in that of the group and was considered essentially a corporate being. This integral corporate relationship was so fundamental that what any of its members did affect the group also. This is clearly seen in the OT where the actions of individuals affect the continued well-being of the nation. This sort of “communal thinking” is perhaps lost in our modern individualistic culture. In Greek thought, a person’s σῶμα or body distinguished him from others, allowing the possibility of being a separated entity or hermit. However, there is no Hebrew equivalent for this word as it was not how they thought. Instead, all humankind is bâsar [בָּשָׂר ] (flesh).[51]

This corporate solidarity of humankind is seen particularly in the creation narrative in Genesis. God does not create “a man” but ’ādām [אָדָם], that is “man” or “humankind”. Also, hā-’āḏām [הָֽאָדָם֙], “the man” is represented by a corporate individual (Gen. 2:21-24), a one-flesh humanity. It is this one-flesh or corporate humanity which is seen as involved in the fall in Genesis 3. This corporate nature of humankind is the only adequate way of proceeding to the teaching of “original sin”. So, since hā-’āḏām [הָֽאָדָם֙] had sinned, everyone was involved corporately in it because humankind is one bâsar [בָּשָׂר ]—a corporate body. Therefore when “Adam” sinned, we were all included in it!

Thus we make sense of Paul’s assertion that in one man all sinned and in one man, Christ Jesus, all are made right (Romans 5:12-21). This language of a corporate humanity is further seen in the Bible’s reference to another collective group—the people of God, set apart. This elect group is also seen as corporate—and this understanding is vital to make sense of much of the NT teachings on the body of Christ, oneness in Christ, and the interdependence of the members.[52] So what does this mean for our understanding of the Eucharist?

Real Presence in Community – Agape Feasts

One of the favourable aspects of the Catholic interpretation is the emphasis of Christ’s unique presence in the Eucharist. However, as we have seen, this violates principles of sound biblical interpretation and logic.[53] Christ’s human body is ascended to heaven but we have communion with him “by virtue of the contact we have with the divine nature.”[54] Jesus speaks of this when he says, “I’m going away, yet I will be with you.” Jesus is always really present with his people (Matt 28:20), especially in gathered worship (Hebrews 12:22-24) and congregationally (Matt 18:20), Christ is present.[55]

The first Christians generally celebrated the Lord’s Supper with the accompaniment of a big communal meal, called the “agape” or “love feast” as recorded in Acts 2:42, 20:7, 11.[56] Welker rightly points out, “only in the overall context of the celebration of the meal that the elements of bread and wine are what they are.”[57] They cannot be truly spoken of as “communion” elements apart from their significance in the fellowship of the gathered community. As the Church gathers in community, all the members collectively form the body as Christ is remembered, experienced, and shared in ways that are accessible to the senses.[58] Since solitary observance ignores the intrinsic horizontal relationship, “many Christians instinctively have felt that private participation is incongruous with the meaning of the ordinance.”[59] Fellowship had a major significance of the Lord’s Supper to the earliest believers. The meal sealed the commonality of the body between them. [60]

Perhaps due to the individualism of our present mindset, we have lost some of the significance of this sacrament. Because of the union of Christ with his people—the Church—it should be contemplated whether at Lord’s Supper, Christ is made manifest in the collective fellowship and sharing of the Eucharistic meal, in a manner uniquely distinct to his presence other times. As the various parts or members of his body come together, Christ is perceptively made manifest more fully. Thus, the celebration of the Supper solitarily or virtually misses this significance. The Lord’s Supper, or love feast, was meant to be a joyous time of fellowship when it was initiated—as a full meal replete with the conversation, sharing, acts of charity, eating, and savouring.

As the meal with the elements that signify our common salvation is shared—and communion with one another and Christ takes place—the Gospel is proclaimed in word and visible demonstration to and through his Church. So, the Eucharistic presence takes on a multidimensional aspect to it. It is in this fusion that all the senses are involved, both the physical and spiritual, the personal and corporate, and Christ is more clearly seen and present. Perhaps in the institutionalization of the Supper through the years, some of this joyous simplicity and depth has been lost in the formalization of what should be not just a sacrament with theological meaning but also a fellowship meal.

Maybe there is much benefit to be considered in reinstituting this aspect of the Lord’s Supper. What if churches were to celebrate the Eucharist in the context of a church Bar-B-Que? I wonder how that may significantly change our experience?

An Enacted Parable

Although we cannot see God, He has given us a multi-media sign, to solidify the reality and meaning of our Lord’s atoning death. It is a brilliantly acted parable that communicates the love of God demonstrated on the Cross to us in a way that involves and incorporates us. This thought is seen in Paul when he says, “The bread that we break, is it not κοινωνία [koinōnia] (fellowship) in the body of Christ?”[61] It is our food for spiritual life, as the Lord communicates to us the death of Christ as we eat and drink.[62] At the Last Supper, he didn’t say, “let me explain what’s going happen,” but rather took the elements and made a visible and participatory sermon out of them. It acted out for them what he was about to do on the Cross by involving them in it.[63]

The sacraments as the visible Gospel show the centrality of this message to not just the initiation—in Baptism—but also the continuation—in the Eucharist—of the Christian life. It serves in this way as a “gracious divine accommodation to human weakness” to perceive and receive the Gospel.[64] To borrow from Hebrews 11:1, it is a sort of “hupostasis” or “substance” of that for which one hopes, it is a reified symbol—a reality.[65] So, Holy Communion is also a preaching of the Gospel by means of visual aids, as we “proclaim the Lord’s death” (1 Cor. 11:26). However, how many churches show or take advantage of this evangelistic aspect of the sacrament? Also it is a proclamation of our eschatological hope as we keep in mind that it is done “until he comes.”[66]


Considering the testimony of the early church fathers, the cultural contexts and the exegesis of pertinent scripture, I am convinced that the Reformed or Calvinistic view of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is most convincing. There is a great depth of meaning also when one considers all the various factors of Hebrew thought, community, enacted parables and analogies. It is in this fusion that all the physical and spiritual senses are involved, and Christ is more clearly seen and truly present. Though Protestantism opposes transubstantiation, it often has involved the loss of the inward mystery and as a result, empties the sacrament of some of its didactic value and deepest religious meaning by holding too strictly to a merely symbolic view. We would do well to follow the example of the early church and avoid definitions that can never adequately express the fullness of the Christian experience in the mystery.[67]

Also as an expectation of the joy to come in the Kingdom, do churches that take only a symbolic view of the sacrament manifest this spirit of joy in partaking in it? Sometimes, “it seems that the death of Christ is stressed almost to the exclusion of the resurrection.”[68] Some of this joyous simplicity and depth has been lost through the formalization of what should be not just a sacrament with theological meaning but also a fellowship meal. In this way, the Eucharist should also serve as a present foretaste to the future eschatological hope of “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9) as we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Perhaps one of the reasons some lose sight of this is the lack of the joyous “love feast” fellowship that initially surrounded it, in which believers relished presently in the perfected fellowship of heaven to come.[69] How is it that we may try to revitalize this part of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in our churches today?

In summary, taking into consideration all these aspects we can see how the Eucharist “is” or “means” to us that which it is meant to communicate—salvation through Christ. As we understand the various dimensions, we experience and are reminded of his forgiveness through his atoning sacrifice, the joyous fellowship of being adopted into a household of faith by the sharing of a family meal, and the expectant hope of a Kingdom to come as we proclaim the Gospel “until He comes.” This is, in a brilliant summary held within this one sacrament, what salvation means to the Christian. May we never take the Lord’s Supper lightly, but partake with awe and revel in the glory of the Gospel.


I’ve included a full Bibliography for those who would like to continue their own study of this issue. I’d highly recommend 2 books: “The Roman Catholic Controversy” by Dr. James White and “Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment” by Gregg R. Allison


  • [1] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 26; Howard, Interpreting the Lord’s Supper, 14
  • [2] White, The Roman Catholic Controversy, 176; Brilioth, Eucharistic Faith, 55
  • [3] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 26
  • [4] Brilioth, Eucharistic Faith, 55-56
  • [5] Allison, Roman Catholic Theology, 320-321
  • [6] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 26
  • [7] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 33
  • [8] Howard, Interpreting the Lord’s Supper, 17-19
  • [9] Westminster, The Westminster Confession of Faith, 152
  • [10] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 26
  • [11] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 26-33
  • [12] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 31; see also H. Wheeler Robinson, “Prophetic Symbolism” Old Testament Essays. London: Charles Griffin & Co., Ltd., 1927.
  • [13] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 32
  • [14] Allison, Roman Catholic Theology, 312
  • [15] Moore, A Baptist Response, 138-139
  • [16] See Augustine of Hippo, “Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament,” in Saint Augustin: Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospels, Homilies on the Gospels, 504
  • [17] Allison, Roman Catholic Theology, 313; Carson, The Gospel according to John , 277
  • [18] White, The Roman Catholic Controversy, 169
  • [19] White, The Roman Catholic Controversy, 170
  • [20] Allison, Roman Catholic Theology, 314
  • [21] Brilioth, Eucharistic Faith, 57
  • [22] Allison, Roman Catholic Theology, 314
  • [23] White, The Roman Catholic Controversy, 171
  • [24] White, The Roman Catholic Controversy, 171-172
  • [25] Allison, Roman Catholic Theology, 321
  • [26] Allison, Roman Catholic Theology, 321-322
  • [27] White, The Roman Catholic Controversy, 174
  • [28] Allison, Roman Catholic Theology, 322
  • [29] Allison, Roman Catholic Theology, 325
  • [30] Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1354
  • [31] Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1354
  • [32] Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, 267
  • [33] Hesselink, Reformed View, 61; Calvin, Institutes, IV.14.9
  • [34] Westminster, The Westminster Confession of Faith, 152–153
  • [35] Schweitzer, The Problem of the Lord’s Supper, 64
  • [36] Hesselink, Understanding Four Views, 61, 67
  • [37] Calvin, Antidote to the Council of Trent, 174
  • [38] Calvin, Institutes, IV.14.16
  • [39] Hesselink, Reformed View, 62; See also, Calvin, First Catechism, sec. 29, and Institues, IV.17.10
  • [40] Calvin, Institutes, 1364-1365
  • [41] Perry, Preparing for Worship, 7–8
  • [42] Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, 267
  • [43] Howard, Interpreting the Lord’s Supper, 57
  • [44] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 17
  • [45] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 18
  • [46] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 18-19
  • [47] Howard, Interpreting the Lord’s Supper, 57
  • [48] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 21
  • [49] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 21-22
  • [50] Forsyth, The Church and the Sacraments, 252
  • [51] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 43
  • [52] McCormick, The Lord’s Supper, 44
  • [53] Howard, Interpreting the Lord’s Supper, 15
  • [54] Sproul, What Is the Lord’s Supper?, 50
  • [55] Moore, Understanding Four Views, 73
  • [56]Howard, Interpreting the Lord’s Supper, 58
  • [57] Welker, What Happens in Holy Communion, 91
  • [58] Welker, What Happens in Holy Communion, 97
  • [59] Howard, Interpreting the Lord’s Supper, 60
  • [60] Howard, Interpreting the Lord’s Supper, 59
  • [61] 1 Corinthians 10:16
  • [62]Wenham, Themelios: Volume 20, 15
  • [63]Tinker, Themelios: Volume 26, 18.
  • [64] McGrath, Christian Theology, 408
  • [65] Howard, Interpreting the Lord’s Supper, 36
  • [66] Howard, Interpreting the Lord’s Supper, 42-43
  • [67] Brilioth, Eucharistic Faith, 68
  • [68] Howard, Interpreting the Lord’s Supper, 40 [
  • 69] McGrath, Christian Theology, 413


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