Bible Question:

A Lutheran told me that if I do not believe as they believe (that the communion bread IS really the body of Jesus), I cannot participate in their communion. Do you think they have the right to not let me participate because I believe the Lord's Supper is only for the purpose of remembering and thanking Jesus that He died for us? I thought the only reason someone should not eat was when YOU had not confessed your sins. Isn't that is an individual thing between you and God.

Bible Answer:

There are three major views about what happens to the bread and wine (or grape juice) during the Lord’s Supper or Communion.

The Real Body

The Roman Catholics believe the bread and wine actually become the Lord’s body and blood (Transubstantiation). They believe this happens at the moment the Catholic priest says, “This is my body.” They believe a person receives a special spiritual blessing when he or she takes the Lord’s Supper. They believe that Jesus was talking about His actual body and blood when He said, ” . . . this is my body.”

And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” (NASB) Matthew 26:26

The Roman Catholics believe that at each mass Jesus’ sacrifice is in someway repeated.

“In, With, and Under”

The Lutherans believe that Jesus words, “. . . this is my body” should not be understood literally as the Roman Catholics believe. But Martin Luther believed that Jesus’ body and blood were still present in the communion – in some sense (Consubstantiation). Here is a statement from Luther’s Small Catechism.

What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and drink, instituted by Christ Himself.” F. Pieper. Christian Dogmatics. 4 vols. Concordia, 1950-57

The Roman Catholics say the bread and wine are the body of Jesus but the Lutherans say the bread and wine contain the body of Jesus. Jesus’ flesh and blood are “in, with and under” the bread and wine. Here is a question that both Roman Catholics and Lutherans must ask, “Is Jesus’ earthly body or His heavenly body present now that He is in heaven?” This is a question with which Luther struggled.

Symbolic Meaning

The last view says that Jesus was speaking symbolically of His body and blood. This is the view the vast majority of evangelicals believe. Yet we must ask, “Is Jesus spiritually present during the Lord’s Supper?” The answer is yes, but not in the bread and cup.

Common Meaning

Both Roman Catholics and Protestants agree that the Lord’s Supper or Communion is a time to remember Jesus’ death. It is a time of celebration of His death. They believe that Jesus died to forgive us of our sins. But we disagree about how one receives forgiveness. Protestants believe that our sins are forgiven when we simply believe that Jesus is God, He died for our sins, we are sinners, and then we trust Him to forgive our sins. Roman Catholics believe that we must do other things to become saved. But the Bible does not agree.

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, (NASB) Romans 4:5

We are saved by believing or trusting in Jesus – NOT by working. Trying to earn God’s favor will send us to hell!

Call For Respect

If we attend someone’s church and if they believe differently than we do, we should respect their beliefs. We should abide by their wishes. If we find that we cannot abide by their wishes, then we should quietly leave the church service.

Conclusion:

God has given us a principle that applies in this situation with your Lutheran friend. The Lutheran’s view of the Lord’s Supper is not false doctrine. It is a minor area of disagreement. At times like this we need to remember God’s statement,

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (NASB) Romans 12:18

It is time to give respect to their belief. If you feel in your heart that in good conscience you cannot, then you should not attend their church since they usually have communion every Sunday. May the Lord Jesus give you grace and wisdom through the Holy Spirit.