therefore, as the sign of the activity of saving faith, whereby we appropriate the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, belongs very essentially to the symbolism of the Lord’s Supper. As certainly as the activity of saving faith is necessary for the appropriation of Christ and all His benefits, so surely do the eating and drinking of the broken bread and the wine poured out belong essentially to the symbolism of the supper of the Lord.
But there is more. To that symbolism also belong the words of the institution of the Lord’s Supper that must be spoken by the minister that serves communion. These words are: “Take, eat; this is my body;” and, “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.” And once more: “This do in remembrance of me.” These words are not only to be considered in the sense of a command which must be obeyed although this certainly is also true. For not to partake of the table of the Lord, and not to eat and drink the signs of the broken body and shed blood of Christ, and therefore not to heed the command of Christ to do this in remembrance of Him, is disobedience. But more important is the truth that the Word of Christ is powerful and efficacious, and that his efficacious Word Christ will surely speak through the Holy Spirit to the hearts of the believers when they celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Through the officiating minister it is Christ that speaks His own Word to the believers. Without the presence of Christ at the communion table, therefore, there is no sacrament, and therefore the Lord’s Supper cannot be a means of grace for the strengthening of our faith without His Word. The word of the minister, therefore, repeating,—preferably as literally as possible,—the words which Christ spoke at the institution of the Lord’s Supper, certainly belongs as an essential part to the celebration of communion.
Lastly, we must still call attention to the table of communion and to the fact that it is a supper. The supper is a sign of the fellowship of friendship. The table of communion is the table of God’s everlasting covenant. As the Lord addresses His church in Laodicea: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in, and sup with him, and he with me.” At the table of communion believers eat and drink with Christ, and through Christ with their covenant God, Who dwells with them and walks among them and calls them His sons and His daughters. And thus the table of communion is a sign of the tabernacle of God with men, and will be realized finally in the new heavens and the new earth. Although, therefore, the signs of the bread and wine, broken and poured out, remain the heart of the entire symbolism of the Lord’s Supper, these elements may never be discarded or ignored.
Now the question is: what is the relation between the signs and the things signified? In what way is the believer nourished with the body and blood of Christ through the Lord’s Supper?
One theory is that of the Romish Church, the theory of transubstantiation. According to the Romanists, Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper not simply in the spiritual sense, as taught by the Reformed, not even by the real presence of His body and blood in and with and under the bread and wine, as is taught by the Lutherans, but by the bread and wine being changed into the very body and blood of Christ. That the Roman Catholic Church teaches this error and pronounces the curse upon all that deny it is very evident from the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent. In its Thirteenth Session, held October 11, 1551, that Council set forth its doctrine concerning the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist. In Chapter I the Council declares: “In the first place, the holy synod teaches, and openly and simply professes, that, in the august sacrament of the holy eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially contained under the species of those sensible things.” Again, in Chapter III the same Council declared: “And this faith has ever been in the Church of God, that, immediately after the consecration, the veritable body of our Lord, and his veritable blood, together with his soul and divinity, are under the species of bread and wine; but the body indeed under the species of bread, and the blood under the species of wine, by the force of the words; but the body itself under the species of wine, and the blood under the species of bread, and the soul under both, by the force of that natural connection and concomitancy whereby the parts of Christ our Lord,who hath now risen from the dead, to die no more, are united together; and the divinity, furthermore, on account of the admirable hypostatical union thereof with his body and soul. Wherefore it is most true, that as much is contained under either species as under both; for Christ whole and entire is under the species of bread, and under any part whatsoever of that species; likewise the whole Christ is under the species of wine, and under the parts thereof.” The Romish Church, therefore, teaches that the whole Christ is in the bread and the whole Christ is in the wine; and what is more, the whole Christ is in each and every particle of both species. Moreover, it teaches that the effect accomplished by transubstantiation is permanent. And from this fact, namely, that the change of the substance of the elements into the substance of the body and blood of Christ remains permanently, the Romish Church concludes that the host, or wafer, may be preserved, that therefore it may be brought to the sick, that it may be carried about in processions, and that it is but proper that it should be worshipped. The Romanists make distinction between douleia andlatreia. The former may be rendered to the saints and to the angels, but the latter is due to God alone. Now Christ is God manifested in the flesh. And therefore worship may be paid to Him. And seeing that after the consecration of the bread and wine, Christ is present in the wafer both as to His divine and as to His human nature, the Romanists pay homage and worship to that wafer. The propriety of worshipping the wafer as it represents the Christ is also taught in the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Thirteenth Session, Chapter V, where we read: “Wherefore there is no room left for doubt, that all the faithful of Christ may, according to the custom ever received in the Catholic Church, render in veneration the worship of latria, which is due to the true God, to this most holy sacrament. For not therefore is it the less to be adored on this account, that it was instituted by Christ the Lord, in order to be received; for we believe that same God to be present therein, of whom the eternal Father, when introducing him into the world, says: And let all the angels of God adore him; whom the Magi, falling down, adored; who, in fine, as the Scripture testifies, was adored by the apostles in Galilee. The holy Synod declares, moreover, that very piously and religiously was this custom introduced into the Church, that this sublime and venerable sacrament be, with special veneration and solemnity, celebrated, every year, on a certain day, and that a festival; and that it be borne reverently and with honor in processions through the streets and public places.” And the Romish Church declared in Chapter IV of the same Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Thirteenth Session, the doctrine of transubstantiation as follows: “And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which he offered under the species of bread to be truly his own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation.”
In the same Thirteenth Session of the Council of Trent everyone that denies this doctrine of transubstantiation is anathematized. In Canon I we read: “If any one denieth, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but saith that he is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue: let him be anathema.” And in the second Canon: “If any one saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the blood,—the species only of the bread and wine remaining,—which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation: let him be anathema.” And in Canon III we read: “If any one denieth, that, in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist, the whole Christ is contained under each species, and under every part of each species, when separated: let him be anathema.”