Your answer to the question of communion really intrigues me. I was neither a Catholic nor a Protestant prior to making my decision for Christ; I am (and was) a Levite Jew. The answers intrigue me because I see no scriptural evidence to support the popular conclusion that the communion isn't really the flesh and blood of Christ. Here I quote your insights:
1. In John 6 Jesus is speaking about the bread and wine, yet he is physically present with the disciples.
2. How could the communion elements be his body if his body was at the table with the twelve disciples?
3. Drinking blood was strictly against Jewish law. The early Christians understood the bread and wine to be symbolic elements, not the literal body and blood of Christ.
4. If transubstantiation is true, then at every "mass" Christ is "sacrificed" again -- whereas the book of Hebrews is emphatic that the sacrifice of Christ was "once for all," never to be repeated.
1. In response to the first point: Is GOD not Jesus (on earth) and GOD the Father (in heaven) at the same time? I thought GOD could do whatever he wants. Can't GOD make the bread flesh and the wine blood while Jesus is at the table? I am confused about this.
2. In response to the second point: Believe me, I know this (Lev 17:14). For most of my life I was trained in the old law. I was taught this in the first grade at Yeshiva (Hebrew speaking school in America). Isn't this why the disciples were grumbling about it being a hard teaching (Jn 6:60-61)? They couldn't comprehend the thought that they were going to drink blood, especially human blood. This was and is equally difficult for me to grasp, but I cannot change the true meaning for my own comfort. Does this seem like a good answer?
3. In response to the third point: Where is the reference that proves the early Christians thought it was symbolic? Some elements of Jewish faith are symbolic, some are real. Jesus clearly states (in any translation) that the bread IS his flesh, and the wine IS his blood (Mt 26:26-28). Ex 12:25-27 shows us that the Passover sacrifice every year is a real sacrifice every year (Not symbolic).
4. In response to the forth point: Christ was already sacrificed. The perfect sacrifice. I agree with this whole heartedly. We aren't sacrificing him again. Since we put him to death (You and I), we must eat the sacrifice (like the Jews did). This is a very real concept from the ancient days when GOD's temple was standing in Israel. Since you and I sacrifice him continuously through our sin, we must eat of that sacrifice. Isn't the flesh and blood from the original time? I thought GOD could bend time to allow this.
In closing, I have no ties to Catholics or Protestants. I am a disciple of Jesus, raised in the same culture (Jewish) as the early disciples. I also know Paul said in 1 Cor 10:16, "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?" (NASB) -- Bryan J Levin (Honolulu)[Note: Normally I reply only to brief questions (around 100 words), otherwise I abbreviate and rewrite them. Yet in this case I thought it would be more helpful to include your full email query.]
Certainly true Christians will exhibit a certain latitude in how they understand the Lord's Supper. Though not many will agree with transubstantiation, many are drawn to the "real presence" position. Most of course adhere to a strictly Protestant understanding (as I do). Regardless of your position, I accept you as a brother, respect your position, and believe I understand why you hold to the position you do. My aim in the following paragraphs is to explain myself, not necessarily convince you.
1. The question is not whether the Lord could be in two places at once, or cause bread to become his body. Of course he could (Psalm 115:3)! The question is, What did he do.
2. Your point about blood--and the Jewish aversion to drinking it--is good, but whichever interpretation we follow, the very language of drinking blood was sufficient to prompt a strong reaction. (Admittedly, a stronger reaction if Jesus meant literal blood, but nevertheless a repulsion either way.)
3. It is difficult to support the Catholic position from early extrabiblical quotations, but easy to support it from later Christian ones. And yet I am sure we would both agree that the church fathers have not doctrinal authority as far as we are concerned--only illustrative persuasiveness.
4. I am not sure I agree that we continually sacrifice Jesus through our sin. His sacrifice, as the Hebrew writer insists, stood in contradistinction to the animal offerings of the old covenant. They were repeated; his was "once-for-all."
Finally, I might draw a parallel between the Lord's Supper and baptism. (Am I skating on thin ice here?) In baptism we truly share in Jesus' death. We die with Jesus. This is an undeniable reality. Yet the question remains: Were we literally on the cross with him? Or symbolically? This view perhaps inclines towards the "real presence" option, yet my Eucharistic theology is not very developed, and I may need a few more years before I feel comfortable speaking definitively on this subject.
(In asking the rhetorical question about baptism's symbolism, I do not mean to suggest that baptism is somehow optional, or "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace," or merely a "public testimony" of our faith. It is essential to salvation. Nevertheless, baptism does have a symbolic dimension. Thought I'd better clarify that one.)
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