Table of The Lord Meditation N. 16

  1. What or Where Is The Miracle In The Lord's Supper? 11.18.13

Vatican, Reformers Zwingli, Luther, Calvin, and Zion Pentecost Mission Compared

1Corinthians10,16: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion with the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ."

Hebrews 10,5: Therefore, when he came into the world, He said "sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body you have prepared for me."

John 19,34: "But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediatly blood and water came out."

Isaiah 52,15: "So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider."

Isaiah 53,12: "Therefore, I will divide him a portion with the great, And he will divide the spoil with the strong: because he hath poured out his soul unto death..."

Time To Take A Fresh Biblical Look At The Supper

The Lord's Supper, like water baptism, is a clear directive of Jesus, a biblical "sacrament" or "ordinance."

As such, despite a range of disagreements, it is a normative part of any obedient faith. Even those who now largely ignore it (the it's-only-a-symbol so why bother folks), are perhaps still open to some bit of further understanding.

Bless our hearts and minds as we all wrestle with the biblical challenge of the Lord's Supper. In Jesus NAME. 

I've been wrestling for a long while now.

The supper is sort of like nutrition guidelines- hard to agree on- but then there's no sense starving!

The Reformers in the Sixteenth Century were all keen on it and strongly emphasized it was something God does for us, whereas the counter reformers cited it's sacrificial quality, something we humans do.

There is some truth in both these positions.

For example, the supper certainly is something God does for us. His Spirit ultimately consecrates, ie blesses, the bread and wine making them his risen body and blood, 1Corinthians10,16b.

God, in Spirit, is either part of the celebration of the supper or not.

Like any other act of man, He either accepts it or not.

It's his choice based on our faith.

We humans have never forced God's Spirit to do anything, so why would his presence at His  Supper be any different? He could not be forced to stay in  the Jerusalem Temple (Ezekiel 9-11), likewise there's no guarantee that he comes or stays at the supper over the almost two thousand years of its celebration.

Cain's rejected sacrifice, right from the begining of the bible, proved this.

But then again the counter reformers have a point in emphasizing that the Supper is something we humans do, that in fact Jesus commands us to do: "do this... ." That is, we do set aside bread and wine (and oursleves) to and through Him (1Peter 2,5,9), and offer these on behalf of the community, and so ratify his new redemption deal.

These acts carry within them the implicit promise that if we do them with faith, he will draw near to us, that is, come down to us in some way.

This is textbook Hebrew "Quorban", sacrifice, but it's not a physical sacrifice because Jesus spilt all his physical blood on Calvary and his body is a resurrected and ascended body now, not the stuff of any, or another, blood sacrifice. 

Neither any verbal decree by a church or Luther's blunt faith in "This is my body" can bring Jesus' physical body again to us on the table.

This is also so because the word tells us  there are no more physical sacrifices and Christ's resurrection ended that order and age (Hebrews 10,9-10).

 And secondly, as Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin strongly argued, His "physical" body ascended. 

Jesus will be back "bodily" yes, but only in judgment.

But, truth be further told, something important is going on in that the Apostle Paul in 1Corinthians10-11 speaks of "altars" and "consecration" (kj!) and actual "communion" with God (who is Spirit John 4,24) through Christ's "body" (1Corinthians 10,16b).

This Spiritual communion comes, if at all, after we humans do something in faith, what the New Testamant calls a spiritual sacrifice: "You .... are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptible to God through Jesus Christ." (1Peter2,5)

So, the Lord's Supper is both something God does for us- his sovereign risen presence showing up- and also something we do in faithful obedience through the risen and ascended Jesus, the only Jesus that exists now.

In an effort to revive the supper, perhaps it now serves after about five hundred years from the initial polemics to take a fresh post Reformational and post Counter Reformational view of it.

We'll do this here by examining the major historical positions of the sixteenth century as to what (see endnote n. 1 below) and where the miracle happens in the Supper, if at all.

Then we'll offer a new position that does justice to Hebrews 10,5 and John 19,34 and over one hundred years of the Holy Ghost moving apostolically in the church.

In short, a fresh look at the supper is long over due. 

Here's the historical survey of what and where the miracle of the supper is, if at all.

Vatican: The miracle is that by the power vested in priestly ordination, and by repeating the literal words of Jesus at the last supper, the bread and wine (after being offered to God) are completely changed into his physical pre Calvary body and blood.

This is known as "transubstantiation", a dogma partially promulgated in 1215 and buttressed in 1561 amidst the Reformation's re-empahsis on the word.

This later counter reformational transubstantiation doctrine of Christ's pre-Calvary body and blood being present at the supper led to the eventual veneration and worship of this believed physical presence (body, blood, soul and divinity) in the bread, even outside of celebration of the supper.

Ulrich Zwingli: This Swiss Reformer taught that the bread and wine were mere symbols and that the "communion" with any "body" per 1Corinthians 16b is merely figurative.

"This is my body" really means "This signifies my body."

There is no miracle. We need only to remember the "body" and "blood" and any communion comes from faith not from anything regarding the supper.

So you might have communion on any random "Communion Sunday", but it's got nothing necessarily to do with the supper.

Zwingli has clearly won the day among present day reformers and his teaching is the most followed by all present day non Vatican led Christians.

Martin Luther: This German Reformer and biblical plowhorse (an Augustinian monk no less) loved and staunchly defended the physical presence of Jesus in the supper. But he also staunchly rejected transubstantiation as the means of that presence.

The miracle to him occurred by everyone's faithful application and mystical adherence to "This is my body." God presents the physcal body of Christ "in, with and under" the bread and wine not by way of any sacrificial offering, but by way of a mystical literalism, because the bible says so.

Luther answers Zwingli's argument that the physical human Jesus ascended with the counterclaim that when Jesus rose his two natures (human and divine) began to share attributes.

This is a fine argument, but this still doesn't explain how Jesus physically comes down and gets into the bread and wine.   

John Calvin: This French reformer seems to have the most difficulty of all the reformers in describing the Lord's supper.

Like Zwingli, he refuses to acknowledge any definitive presence coming down into the bread and wine. This would be too physical, too sacrificial, despite the clear word that we have actual Spiritual communion after the blessings (and after a likely offering), in the consumption of the bread and wine according per1Corinthians10,16.

This leads to a tortured logic whereby no physical or Spiritual presence of Christ is in the bread and wine "but, dwelling in us by his Spirit he [miraclously] raises us to heaven to himself, transfusing into us the vivifying vigour of his flesh." (2) 

This is vivid prose, but there doesn't seem to be any value add miracle to the supper. It's a "visible sign of sacred things" a visible word as Augustine taught.

From a pastoral standpoint, this doesn't move the people of God soul meter to celebrate the supper any more than Zwingli's sign and symbol explanation, and perhaps renders the differences between the two indistinguishable in pastoral practice. 

Zion Pentecost Mission: God always wanted all his people to be holy and priestly. By faith, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost, we are enpowered to offer various acceptable Spiritual sacrifices of which the Lord's Supper is the first, and a biblical ordinance.

The full Lord's Supper context of 1Corinthians 10-11 clearly speaks of the priestly blessing of the cup, and thus what's in it.

It also speaks of the unmistakeable sacrificial act of breaking the bread (just as all the animals in Abraham's and God's sacrifice were broken in two per Genesis 15,9. The blood between the two covenanting parties, witnessed to their shared responsibilities, and then called down the sealing fire of the Holy Ghost, which sealed the two party deal!).

Likewise, in the supper, the two Spiritually sacrificial acts of blessing and breaking bread call down the fiery miraculous presence of God.

What Kind of Presence?

Not a physical presence at all.

Yes, the actual "communion" with Jesus' body in 1Corinthians10,16b initially refers to his body on the cross. But, we are co-heirs with the Jews. We don't drink physical blood!

And no where in scripture do the faithful eat human flesh.

But, we do hunger and thirst for rightousness, and eat the word, just as we eat his word regarding the supper.

Last Supper Prophecy Fulfilled-You Will Eat Of My Resurrection

As priests offering a Spiritual sacrifice through the risen Christ, Jesus' "do this" was a prophecy of his death and resurrection.

It was a prophecy not just of his body at death propitiating God, but of his risen body, also prepared by God, to save us by its rising. Without Jesus' dead body rising, the body prepared for him of Hebrews 10,5 makes no sense and is just a defeated body.

His body was not just prepared to die, but to rise, and be filled with God's fiery resurrectional Spirit that sealed our redemption and now informs the Lord's Supper too.

We know that this second sense of his resurrectional body being prepared is also part remembering his body on the cross because scripture tells us that after he was pierced by the Roman soldier, immediatly after he died, blood and water still flowed out (John 19,34).

There's no way to physically explain this though many faithful feel the need to try. Rather, this is John's visionary way of equating the blood that propitiated God for our sins with the prophesied everflowing power of the Spirit sent down after the last sacrificial acceptance of physical blood.

John 19,34 fulfills the prophecy that the messiah would "sprinkle many nations" (Isaiah 52,15, see also Ezekiel 36,35 "I will sprinkle clean water on you...") after "he hath poured out his soul unto death." (Isaiah53,12)

Jesus did not just pour out his physical blood from his body, he poured out his everlasting Spiritual "blood", his very "life" or "soul", that cleanses all nations and is poured down upon the bread and wine of the supper.

The blood-Spirit of his death-resurrection always lives and flows and makes the prophecy of his risen body and blood at the last supper ring true.

Joint Faith Miracle Brings Risen Body and Blood

So, the miracle of the supper is Jesus honoring our faithful gathering of the sacrificial gifts (like Melquisedek honored Abraham by feeding him), and after our faithful blessing of them, God who is Spirit, meets our faith by sending down, sprinkling down, His risen Spirit into the bread and wine, fufilling His prophecy  "this is my body" and "this is my blood."

In faith Jesus hung himself in faith on the cross to inaugurate the new covenant so at this table of the Lord we hang ourselves in faith upon his prophetic words that we would consume his risen body and blood. 

This is simply the fullness of our joint and faithful human-divine consecration according to 1Corinthians10,16.

Memory Becomes Memorial-Spiritual-Faith-Sacrifice

So, when we look through the eyes of faith at him on the cross our memory becomes a memorial-Spiritual sacrifice, and by faith we realize that the same resurrectional Spirit that raised Jesus is the same power that makes the prophecy of his body and blood at the "last supper" come true, when, by his sovereign choice, and though the completed work of Jesus, Jesus sends his risen presence down and into them.

The only presence Jesus has now is His risen and ascended presence.

This joyful presence in the bread and wine is what we lift up and then consume at the table.

This lifted up, joyful and triumphant presence, from the risen yet still visibly pierced Jesus in heaven (Zechariah 12,10; cf Revelation 1,7), is what draws us to him, here at the table, and everywhere he is lifted up.

The Lord's Supper is a joint faith miracle, a Spiritual sacrifice that when done in faith allows us to share his now risen body and blood, which also ratifies and seals our redemption and our new covenant with our living God, the God of Israel who told us:

"When I am lifted up [upon the cross, a memory] from the earth I will draw all peoples to myself [but the gory without the glory attracts no one]. 33 This he said, signifying by what death he would die. 34 The people answered Him 'We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever [will not die]; and how can you say, "The Son of Man must be lifted up?"(in resurrection, John 12,32-34)

Jesus can say he will remain forever and yet die because he also knew by faith that he would be raised and live forever after his death.

This live-forever-always-present to us-resurrectional Spirit can, by our faithful blessing and his acceptance of this Spiritual sacrifice, come down and into the bread and wine and make them his risen body and blood.

This is a miraculous way Jesus remains with us here on pilgrimage, until we see him face to face in judgment, or coming on the clouds instituting his Zion reign.

It is also fitting food and drink for our Temples of the Holy Ghost,  taking in real Spiritual sustenance.

Video of supper: http://vimeo.com/63572579


1. The writer is indebted to James Swan's for citing Calvin's reluctance to cite anything miraclous in the supper in his very handy and effective "Understanding Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin On The Lord's Supper." christianforums.com/t1874979, July 27, 2003

2. Matthew W. Mason: "A Spiritual Banquet: John Calvin On The Lord's Supper." theologian.org.uk , citing Calvin's 'Mutual Consent In Regard to The Sacraments; Between the Ministers of the Church Of Zurich and John Calvin, Minister of the Church of Geneva' John Calvin Tracts: Containing Treatises On the Sacraments, Catechism of the Church Of Geneva. Forms of Prayer, and Confessions of Faith, Volume Second, Henry Beveridge trans (Edinborough: Calvin Translation Society, 1849 [1554] p. 240.

(this scholarly article first appeared in Churchman 117/4, 2003)

Additional Source:

Mattison, Keith "Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper" Ligonier.org Nov. 2006



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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.