Sunday, April 22, 2007

Objections to the Reformed Doctrine Regarding the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper

to the
Reformed Doctrine
regarding the
Sacrament of the Lord's Supper

One Internet poster, who goes by the handle Timothy, responded to the Justin Martyr post thus:

Greetings! Found this while replying to your other post regarding the Catholic Church and Islam.>"This is a repetition of the same metaphor used in Scripture"Nope. If by metaphor you are referring to the Last Supper, there is no metaphor in Scripture. Some Christians have mistakingly interpreted some passages as metaphors, but that doesn't make those passages metaphors.The error usually occurs from not reading the passages in light of the Old Testament, specifically Genesis and Isaiah. Short version:Throughout the 30 chapters of Genesis, we repeatedly see that when God speaks, things happen. "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." (Gen 1:1, KJV)We also find in Isaiah 55:11 that when God speaks that God's voice does not come back empty:"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11, KJV)So, when we read in the Gospels that Christ (God) sent forth His Word "This is my body" (Matthew 26:26), what happened? The Word of God, that created heaven and earth, came back void? The Word of God, that created all life on Earth, turned the bread that God was holding into nothing? God, who created the universe by voice alone, held a cup of wine and said "This is My blood" and nothing unique happened? Don't think so.And that's before tangling with the prophecy in Malachi 1:11 regarding gentiles offering a "pure offering":"For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts." (Malachi 1:11, KJV) Where among the Christian churches (Christians are gentiles, not Jews) does one find incense and a pure offering (Christ) being offered from the rising to the going down of the Sun (daily, worldwide)?No, when read in conjunction with all the other early Church fathers like Cyril, Justin Martyr's words are consistent with meaning that the Eucharist is bread and wine that has been transformed into the flesh and blood of Christ. Now whether the terms "transmutation", "transubstantiation" or "consubstantiation" best express that change is another arguement.By the way, I'd be curious as to how you interpet Justin's words on baptism as "the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration." Most folks who deny the Eucharist also deny that baptism does anything but get one wet.God bless...

There's a lot of objections there.

I. Objection: "If by metaphor you are referring to the Last Supper, there is no metaphor in Scripture. "

Answer: There are numerous metaphors in Scripture, and there are numerous metaphors in Jesus' teaching. The passover meal itself was a symbol of Christ's sacrifice. And Christ's own words include a figure of speech that even Roman Catholics acknowledge: by "cup" Christ meant the contents of the cup, not the cup itself.

Furthermore, Paul uses metaphorical language to describe the sacrament. Recall:

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

There is simply no way to take those phrases literally. They are to be understood figuratively, as indicating that the Lord's Supper is how we have fellowship with God and each other.

Paul continues the metaphor:

1 Corinthians 10:17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

The church is a whole because we all partake of the same bread, we are one body because we spiritually united with Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

Notice how Paul compares eating the sacrifices with partaking of the altar (not of the sacrifice). The point is that when we eat the symbol of Christ's sacrifice we are participating in His crucifixion (symbolically, like the Old Testament Israelites did by eating the sacrifices). Notice, as well, how Paul contrasts "after the flesh" Israel implicitly with "after the Spirit" Israel.

1 Corinthians 10:19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?

Paul then turns to the pagan sacrifices that the Corinthians would be familiar with and questions whether they symbolize a reality.

1 Corithinians 10:20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.

Paul answers the question affirmatively that it does represent something, but what it represents is not God, but devils.

1 Corinthians 10:21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.

Note how Paul continues the comparison between the symbolic Christan feast and the pagan sacrifices. Paul is not teaching that the pagan offerings are devils under the accidents of meat, but that they are symbols of devils.

Thus, a few verses later, Paul declares:

1 Corinthians 10:25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:

They will not be eating devils and communing with devils if they eat food that has been consecrated to devils. Nevertheless, Paul instructs:

1 Corithinians 10:28 But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof:

Why should they not do so? It's not because they would then be aware that they were feasting on transubstantiated devils, it is because they would be giving the outward appearance that they were participating in devil worship.

The Lord's Supper is a memorial and rembrance of the sacrifice of Christ. The bread and wine that we bless is the way that we participate and communicate our worship of Christ who gave his body and blood for us. It replaces the eating of the sacrifices in the Old Testament.

Exodus 12:8-11
8And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. 10And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. 11And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD'S passover.

And likewise:

Exodus 29:32-33
32And Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram, and the bread that is in the basket, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 33And they shall eat those things wherewith the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them: but a stranger shall not eat thereof, because they are holy.

So then, we do not feed on Christ physically, but spiritually in the supper. The bread is not God, but the bread represents God. It is an icon (and the only authorized New Testament icon) of God.

2. The second objection is that the Reformed Doctrine denies the reality of a miracle

This objection, however, is based on several invalid premises:

First, Christ did not say: "Let this bread be," but "this bread is." It is false to analogize to the creation, because Christ does not use creative words. He does not command the bread to become His body, He simply identifies the bread with His body.

Second, Christ's words did not return void, because they did not fail to establish this sacrament that memorializes Christ's sacrifice. After all, the promise is that God's word accomplishes the purpose God intended, not that it accomplishes whatever purpose a Roman Catholic finds convenient.

3. The third objection takes a carnal, Jewish view of the Malachi 1:11 prophecy. It asks where incense and a pure offering are offered today, and suggests that the place is in the Roman Catholic church, and not the Reformed churches.

Malachi 1:11 follows:

Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.

We, Reformed, understand that this prophecy uses physical language to point to a spiritual reality. In this case, incense and a pure offering point to prayer of the faithful to God. We can learn this both from the Psalms:

Psalm 141:2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

And also from the association of prayer with incense in the New Testament:

Luke 1:10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

And again:

Revelation 8:3-4

3And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.

And as for the fulfilment of the pure offering aspect, the same passage of Psalms speaks, as well as:

2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

and again:

Romans 15:16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

And similarly:

1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

Finally, of course, the prophecy has its fulfilment in Christ:

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

Christ crucified is the pure offering, and His prayers for His people are sweet smelling incense to God. It is by His blood that we are made clean, so that we and our prayers are made acceptable to God.

4) The final objections relate obliquely to the Justin Martyr post to which the comment originally replied. They simply assert that Justin Martyr believed in physical transformation - a claim that is not supported by the evidence, and then attempt to change the topic to Justin Martyr's views of baptism.

However, if we are going to permit a Roman Catholic to argue that Justin Martyr believed that Baptism produces regeneration or remission of sins (rather than symbolizing those things), then we must ask the Roman Catholic to explain Justin Martyr's apparently sola-credo-baptist position expressed in the same places.

And, of course, the answer on the topic of Baptism is that Justin Martyr, like most people, probably recognized that the washing of the body with physical water in Baptism was a symbol of the washing of the spirit by the Blood of Christ, thereby cleansing us from sins.

Like a newborn infant, we are born again covered in the Blood of Christ and made clean from our sins by the same blood.


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