Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Eucharist And "Sacrificial Overtones"

Advocates of transubstantiation and the Eucharist claim that the Lord's Supper contains elements of sacrificial overtones. These apologists are certainly right, but for totally wrong reasons. The elements of the Last Supper have sacrificial overtones because they point to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross at Calvary, not to themselves.

The Lord's Supper---Literal or Symbolic?

  • Defining The Issues:
         -Transubstantiation: the belief that during the Lord's Supper the elements (bread and wine) are changed into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ (to be consumed).
         -There is a change in the substance but not in the appearance of the bread and wine.
-This transformation occurs during the Mass (Catholic/Orthodox worship service) at the elevation of the elements by a priest.
        -The term real presence refers to Christ's actual presence in the elements of the bread and wine that have been consecrated.
       -The center of the Mass is the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is an alleged bloodless re-sacrifice or "re-representation" of Christ. Also Jesus is called the victim or host (the Latin word for host is "hostia", which literally means victim).
      -The most common scriptural references cited to substantiate Eucharistic theology are "This is my body...This is my blood..." (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:17) and "Except ye eat the son of man and drink his blood..." (John 6:51-58).
     -If we are not allowed to judge the validity of the Eucharist on the basis of our senses and reason, then what is stopping us from thinking that the resurrection accounts of Jesus Christ were not mere deceptions or hallucinations experienced by some insane men? How does one know that the bread "consecrated" by the priest is actually transformed into the body of Jesus Christ each time, if ever at all? Why do we never see ordained priests consecrating the elements during Mass services in the New Testament Scriptures? Why are there no examples of transubstantiation? 
  • Biblical Response to Transubstantiation and the Eucharist:
1.) There is no indication that Jesus' words were meant to be literal:
        -The Scriptures refer to the elements as the body and blood. However, they emphatically teach that Christ's words were spiritual words when talking about consuming His flesh and blood (John 6:63; 16:25-30; 1 Corinthians 10:3-4). In other words, we inherit eternal salvation by coming to Jesus and believing on Him (John 6:35-40; 48; 20:31; Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
           -There are no implications in the biblical accounts of the Lord's Supper that the apostles believed that the elements were "changed" into the body and blood of Christ. In fact, we do not have any particle of scriptural evidence for anyone believing in the doctrine of transubstantiation. Neither do we see any instructions for priests who need to know how to conduct the Eucharistic sacrifice in any of the New Testament epistles to the churches. There is not even the slightest implication of such activity. A teaching like this one on the Lord's Supper would be vitally important, especially when it pertains to the salvation of lost souls! Also, there is no scriptural evidence for the worship of the consecrated elements.

2.) After the institution of the Lord's Supper, both the elements were still called bread and wine:
               -Jesus spoke figuratively of His blood as being the "fruit of the vine", even after transubstantiation was to occur (Matthew 26:28-29).
               -The Apostle Paul mentions the Lord's Supper and refers to the element of bread as bread and the element of wine as wine (1 Corinthians 11:23-28).
               -How could one become "drunk" when drinking the communion wine, if the substance of the liquid should have already been transformed into the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:17-21)?  

3.) Illogical and Appalling Implications:
               - If the Lord's Supper was truly a Mass service, then how could Jesus be sitting there at the same time saying that they were His body and blood?
                 -If the human body of Christ is located in heaven at the Father's right hand, then how can it be at the same time in millions of places in Masses all over the world?
                  -How do advocates of the Eucharist explain the fact that Jesus Christ ate the same bread and drank from the same cup that the Church of Rome claims became His actual body and blood (Luke 22:7-16; Mark 14:23-25; Matthew 26:27-29)? Why would Jesus need to eat His own flesh and drink His own blood when He was sinless (Hebrews 7:26-27)?
               -The inspired author of the Book of Hebrews states that the Old Testament sacrifices were imperfect and thus needed to be offered repeatedly (Hebrews 10:3-4). If Christ needed to be sacrificed repeatedly, then it follows that His work on the cross must be insufficient and thus unable to redeem mankind from sin. Furthermore, anyone who believes that he or she is consuming (and thereby digesting) Jesus as the Eucharist must also believe that He is in his or her feces!
              -Transubstantiation involves the impossible, since Jesus Christ would be holding Himself in His own hand when He said. "This is my body..."!

4.) Drinking Jesus' blood violates biblical prohibitions on drinking blood:
                         -The Old Testament Levitical Law condemned the practice of drinking blood (Genesis 9:5; Leviticus 3:17; 17:10-14; 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:23).
                             +The New Covenant was not established until Jesus' blood was shed on the Cross (Luke 22:10; Hebrews 9:15-16). To take Christ's words (especially during the Lord's Supper) literally would make Him an impostor who is guilty of breaking the Levitical Law and leading His disciples astray!
                            -The New Testament also forbids the consumption of blood. This is evidenced by the fact that the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) ruled against the idea of Jews or Gentiles eating or drinking blood (Acts 15:20-29; 21:29).

5.) In Scripture, a genuine example of transubstantiation occurred when Jesus changed water into wine (John 2:1-10):
                              -When Jesus Christ turned water into wine, it no longer tasted like water (v. 9-10). It tasted like high-quality wine. Hence, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches do not have the ability to perform transubstantiation because the consecrated elements do not taste like raw human flesh and blood.
                           -Scripture never mentions "miracles" that take place without any trace of physical evidence.

6.) There is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22):
                               -The Eucharist is an invalid sacrifice because it is an "unbloody sacrifice".

7.) Jesus clearly stated that He was not a "victim" (John 10:17-18):
                 -In other words, Jesus willingly laid down His life by the power of His own intellect, free will, and reason. He cannot be merely labeled a "victim" because He was not forced against His own will to redeem mankind from sin.
                -At this moment, He is waiting in heaven at the right hand of the Father "until His enemies be made His footstool" (Hebrews 10:13). So nobody has the power to bring Him down from the heavenly sanctuary. Who is arrogant enough to believe that Jesus Christ would come down from His thrown in heaven at the command of a mere man, the priest? What devout servant in his or her right mind would tell his or her king to get off his throne for any given reason?

8.)The Lord does not dwell in places made by human hands (Acts 7:48-49; 17;24-25; Hebrews 9:24):
                                 -If God does not dwell in places such as tabernacles or synagogues (where sacrifices are made), then the Eucharist is just an ordinary peace of bread and the priests do not have the power to pull the Lord from heaven into the bread and wine.
                                  -We are not to think of God as being a material object (Acts 17:29). Isn't the Eucharist wafer manna, which is material?
                                  -We have been commanded to not believe people when they claim that Jesus Christ is located in a specific area such as the "inner rooms" (Matthew 24:23-26).

9.) Jesus Christ's body was shed on the cross once for all (more discussion on this later):
             -There are numerous references in Scripture declaring that Jesus fulfilled His mission to save the lost once for eternity and that His work shall never be repeated (John 19:30; Romans 6:9-10; Hebrews 1:3; 7:23-28; 8:1-2; 9:11-15; 24-28; 10:10-18; 1 Peter 3:18).
             -The cross ensures that God will not "remember" sins once He forgives them (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12; 10:17).
  • Atonement Sacrifices Are Offensive To The Son Of God:
             - The idea that we are able to atone for our sins undermines the message of the gospel because if we are able to do such, then the work of Jesus Christ is either moot or supererogatory. He made a sacrifice to save those who are unable to redeem themselves, for the Scripture has concluded that all are under sin (Romans 3:23). But if we are capable of atoning for our own iniquity, then what is stopping us from simply atoning for all of our sins?  We would either not need the work of Christ to rescue us from the flames of hell or it must be insufficient to redeem mankind from sin. Therefore, the Mass is an abomination to God because it is centered around the "Eucharistic sacrifice".       
  • Further Discussion on John 6:51-58:       
              -The surrounding context of this passage is actually about coming to Christ and believing on Him for salvation (John 6:27-29; 32-47; 63-69). In fact, the entire purpose of John's gospel is to convert unbelievers (John 20:30-31).
             -Jesus usually spoke to the crowds using parables (Matthew 13;10-11; 34; Mark 4:11; 34). Some examples of His parables can be found in Matthew 21:28-31, Mark 12:1-12, Luke 14:15-24, 18:9-14, Matthew 25:1-13, Mark 13:28-31, and Matthew 25:14-30.
           -Notice that the Gospel of John itself records many symbolic statements made by Jesus. Examples would include "born again", "living water", "meat that ye know not of", and "destroy this temple". Furthermore, Christ made several "I am" statements throughout John's gospel (John 15:5; 8:12; 10:7; 10:11). Out of the four gospels, only in John are these terms used by Jesus. Thus, we have good reason to believe that He was speaking metaphorically in John chapter 6.
               +We can symbolically liken Jesus unto bread and wine because His body was shed and broken on the cross and His blood was poured out for the remission of our sins. We proclaim the work or Christ by eating bread and drinking wine. It's a great memorial service,
      -Just as God called Abraham's circumcision (which was a symbol) a "covenant" (Genesis 17:10-11), so does Jesus call the SYMBOL of the bread and wine a "covenant" (Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
      -If we must literally eat the flesh of Jesus Christ, then we come across a major dilemma in biblical interpretation because He would literally be teaching that everybody who eats His body would have a guarantee of entering the gates of heaven (i.e. John 6:55). He said that "all" who "eat His flesh" will be given "eternal life".
       + First of all, there are many unbelievers and apostates who partake of the communion meal. And secondly, this would mean that anyone, including people from different religions, would definitely get saved simply because they ate His flesh. Are we saved by believing in His work (John 3:14-18) or by literally partaking of His flesh and blood (John 6:50-58)? The Scriptures never state that both conditions are required for inheriting eternal salvation in heaven. Neither does Jesus specify that "only believers" can "eat His flesh and drink His blood". Furthermore, Jesus Christ emphatically taught that He is the only path to salvation with God (Matthew 7:13-28; John 14:6). So He cannot simply be speaking literally about eating His flesh and drinking His blood! He clearly taught only one, symbolic message: coming to Him and trusting in His work on the cross.                      
    - A grammatical study of 'the sentence structure between John 6:40 and John 6:54 makes it abundantly clear that Jesus was speaking symbolically in this text.
   -We also have Scripture passages metaphorically occupying the word "eat" to mean ingesting spiritual nourishment from the Lord (i.e. Psalm 34:8; 37:4; Isaiah 55:1; Ezekiel 3:2-3; Jeremiah 15:16; 1 Peter 2:2-3; Revelation 10:1-11). The entire theme of Scripture is about getting spiritual nourishment from Lord, which would eventually be channeled through His Son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16)! This message was simply elaborated on throughout John chapter six, and throughout the entire Gospel According to John! Hence, why Jesus Christ so repeatedly and forcefully said to "eat" His flesh and "drink" His blood. This gospel is known as the evangelistic gospel because it constantly emphasizes the need to come directly to Jesus for eternal life.
  •   Indeed a Symbol: 
            -Jesus used the bread and wine figuratively to provide Christians with symbols to celebrate as a memorial of His work.
            - If "This is my body..." literally means that the bread is transformed into the body of Christ, then "this cup is the new testament" (covenant) must mean that the literal cup becomes a literal covenant (Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25). A covenant is an intangible thing!
  • Responses To False Catholic/Orthodox Arguments:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  -"Why did many disciples leave Him? Was it because they literally had to eat His flesh and drink His blood?"                                                                                                                                   +No, they left Jesus Christ because they did not believe the claims that He established (John 6:52).  Unbelievers, who were the crowd of Jews in the case of the Bread of Life Discourse, are not fully able (or even able) to understand the transcendent concepts of the supernatural realm (1 Corinthians 2:14). Faith is what enlightens our darkened reason. After the departure of the 5,000, Jesus told His remaining disciples that the WORDS OF HIS SPEECH WERE SPIRITUAL, and that THEY are what quenches the hunger and thirst of the soul (John 6:63). The "FLESH" mentioned in this context does not "profit" us anything because His words were metaphorical.   
           -"Repetitive" nature argument:
                 +Jesus is called the Lamb of God or the Lamb thirty times in the New Testament. If repetition proves literalness, then Jesus must be an actual lamb. but this is obviously figurative language. Repetition, whether it be closely spaced or spaced far apart, does not prove "literalness". To make an attempt to create an exception to this principle is simply "splitting hairs".

           -"Forceful/vivid" argument:
                 +As for the vivid language found in John 6:51-58, the Book of Revelation, the Book of Daniel, and the entire book of Psalms also occupies some incredibly vivid language or undeniably symbolic material. Furthermore, the Book of Revelation was also written by the Apostle John. "Vivid" simply does not translate into "literalness". The context ultimately determines the literalness of any text. 

           -The "He didn't say..." argument:
                  +If proponents of the Eucharist want to be specific about which words were not used at the Last Supper, then we can also point out that Jesus Christ never used words such as miracle, Eucharist, changed, soul and divinity, real presence, or re-presented.
                +Jesus does not call the bread and wine a propitiation or a sacrament. He fails to even mention anything about a priesthood in the texts pertaining to the Lord's Supper. 
  • The Mass is a re-sacrifice of Christ:
             -Advocates of the Eucharist deny that it is a re-sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They believe that it is only a "re-presentation" of that one sacrifice.
                +The Eucharist is called a divine sacrifice (CCC, 1068), and is done repeatedly.
                +We are told that the sacrifice of the Mass and the sacrifice of Jesus are "one in the same sacrifice" (CCC, 1367). The Eucharist is believed to be propitiatory (CCC, 1367) . It supposedly makes atonement for sin (CCC 1414). It is also called a true and proper sacrifice.
                +It is very clear that the Mass is a re-sacrifice of Christ and that the "one and the same" talk is merely a classic case of word games, that is, a deceptive contradiction in terms which only provides a psychological barrier to Truth. Why would His work even need to be "re-presented" when we can turn to the Scriptures to get all necessary details about His suffering (2 Timothy 3:15-17)? Why would it not disrespectful to God to constantly depict His Son as being crucified or dead on a cross? How does this not imply that Jesus' work was done in vain or deny His resurrection?             
  • Eucharistic "Miracles":
          -Upholders of the Eucharist point to various occurrences of "bleeding hosts" which have been reported at different times and places.
             +The miracles that took place in Scripture were always verifiable and observable (i.e. John 11:38-44; Matthew 12:9-14; Luke 6:17-19; Luke 13;10-17; Mark 14:43-50; Mathew 28:1-10; etc.). If the Eucharistic is indeed an authentic miracle, that means, truly of divine origin, then it will be testable every time that the bread and wine are consecrated. But the Eucharist never really is! 
              +According to Scripture, even evil men and spirits are capable of performing "miracles" to deceive the gullible and vulnerable (i.e. Exodus 7:8-13; 8:1-7; Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Revelation 13:11-18). We therefore have a moral obligation to "test the spirits", which involves the continuous study of the Scriptures and the use of various rational principles of morality (1 John 4:1-4). Any message that does not line up with the clear message of the divine Scriptures cannot be from God. This appears to be the case with these "Eucharistic miracles" because they are contrary to the will of God, as plainly revealed through the testimony of Scripture and reason.
  • Malachi 1:11 Proves That The Mass Is A Literal Sacrifice?:
          -The "incense" is a reference to prayers (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 8:3-4).
          -The "pure offering" is a spiritual or metaphorical reference to believers offering their praise and good deeds as offerings or sacrifices which satisfy God (Hebrews 13:15-16; Philippians 4:18).
          -The theme of spiritual sacrifice or offering is found throughout Scripture (i.e. Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 66:20; 1 Peter 2:5; etc.).