I have recently been privileged to participate in a discussion with the Men’s Ministry Bible Study of my local church which is ongoing as it walks through our Statement of Faith. During the course of that discussion we have had opportunity to consider one of the means by which we might celebrate our fellowship with our Messiah – Jesus. The means to which I refer is known as Communion, The Lord’s Table, or The Lord’s Supper and regardless of the naming convention used is something I hope your own local church participates in regularly. But the regularity or frequency of taking Communion or observing The Lord’s Supper is not the subject of this post, rather what I desire to accomplish is to lay out the three prevailing views of The Lord’s Supper as well as the view I believe best represents what is found in Scripture.
The Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke provide for us a narrative description of the institution of this ordinance of the Church by our Lord at the last Passover celebration (Matt 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23). Additionally, Paul gives an account in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 11:23-26). In these accounts we see Jesus instituting The Lord’s Supper as a memorial of His death. Thereafter, we are able to see that this immediately became the practice of the early Church (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7). Out of this practice grew the differing views over time as to the meaning or participation of the Lord in The Lord’s Supper. These three views are the Physical Presence View, the Spiritual Presence View, and the Memorial View.
The first view, the Physical Presence View, was solidified within Roman Catholic doctrine from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries. This view holds that the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, born of Mary and crucified. However, this view has as its foundation the Aristotelian distinction between something’s form and substance and not on Scripture. This doctrine is also known as transubstantiation. This view prevailed throughout Christendom until the Reformation, though it is still the view of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC).
The Reformers reevaluated this understanding of The Lord’s Supper and out of this action came the second and third views. Luther held to a modified Physical Presence View believing that Christ was really present “in, with, and under” the elements in a view known as consubstantiation. However, Zwingli and the Anabaptists held to a Memorial View believing that The Lord’s Supper was a commemoration and remembrance of the Lord’s sacrifice upon the cross. Calvin on the other hand held to the mediating view of the Spiritual Presence View, which holds that though Christ is not physically present (nor do the elements change in form or substance) He is present in order provide His covenantal blessing to the celebration of this ordinance.
Of these three views of The Lord’s Supper, I believe that the view which best represents, on its own merits, the ordinance as found in Scripture is the Memorial View with a splash of the Spiritual View included. I will now take opportunity to support this claim by first conducting a short word study and then looking to other passages of Scripture which establish why I hold this view.
The word I desire to examine is found in Luke 22:19, 1 Cor 11:24 and again in verse 25. The word I am referring to is ‘remembrance’ in each case and is translated from the Greek word ἀνάμνησινin each instance as well. This word is from the noun form of the word for ‘to remind, call to one’s remembrance.” It would therefore seem that from this evidence that at a minimum The Lord’s Supper should be viewed as something that Christian’s do in order to remember Christ. I believe this understanding comports with Paul’s claim that the Believer proclaims Christ’s death each time that he or she participates in The Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:26). Furthermore, I believe that this view can be supported by answering the following two part question from Scripture; What is the Lord’s Supper and what does it accomplish?
The Lord’s Supper is clearly a memorial of both Jesus giving Himself up for us (Luke 22:19) as well as the establishment of the New Covenant and the forgiveness that comes with it (Matt 26:28; Luke 22:20). In addition to a remembrance of these things, it is also a proclamation of Christ’s death upon the Cross to remind us of both His death and His promise to return (1 Cor 11:26). Furthermore, it provides an opportunity for the individual participants to look forward to a fellowship with Jesus and all other believers at His return (Luke 22:16, 18). Not only does The Lord’s Supper provide a memorial and reminder it also provides opportunity for the Christian to share in the blood and body of Christ in fellowship with Him as well as demonstrate the unity of all Christians (1 Cor 10:16-17). However, I must also point out that though I do not necessarily believe that Christ is particularly more present in the observance of this ordinance, He is indeed present as the Holy Spirit is indwelling each Believer partaking of the communion elements. And thus the splash of the Spiritual Presence View.
Furthermore, I do not see from Scripture the claims of the RCC that the elements become the actual, physical body and blood of Christ. Neither do I find support from Scripture that The Lord’s Supper is a continuous ongoing sacrifice of Christ being offered up to God by the Believer. Nor do I believe that Jesus descends from Heaven in order to indwell the elements at the time of consecration. Therefore, I am convinced from Scripture that the Memorial View is the minimum understanding of not only what Lord’s Supper is, but also what it accomplishes in the life of the believer.