What do Lutherans Believe about The Lord’s Supper?
I’ve been looking through some of my older files, running across documents I wrote a number of years ago, and came across this anthology of quotes from the Book of Concord about The Lord’s Supper, that I thought you might find interesting.
The Lord’s Supper in the Book of Concord
A Collection of Quotations from the Lutheran Confessions Arranged Systematically
The purpose of this document is to provide the reader with an anthology of quotations from the Lutheran Confessions on the subject of the Lord’s Supper. The Book of Concord provides great comfort for those who receive the Lord’s Supper. The teaching of God’s Word is masterfully summarized and presented and thus the precious gift of Holy Communion will be treasured all the more highly as communicants understand what the Lord’s Supper is and why they wish to receive it. Christians who wish to grow in their understanding of the Lord’s gift of His body and blood in His Supper will find few resources as helpful as the Lutheran Confessions. Hopefully, this document will encourage readers to spend more time reading the classic texts of Lutheranism as they are found in the Book of Concord.
Another helpful application of an anthology such as this is to help Lutherans clearly distinguish truth from error in regard to the various teachings and opinions about the Lord’s Supper. Tragically, there have been ecumenical agreements reached between Lutherans and Reformed Christians in which Lutherans willingly compromise and sacrifice the truth of God’s Word regarding the Supper, allowing the errors of the Reformed church to stand with the truth of God’s Word as it is confessed in the Lutheran Confessions.
Using the Bekenntnisschriften, the critical edition of the Book of Concord, the entries in the index for “Abendmahl”, “Sakrament”, and “Messe” are provided. Each entry in the BKS index is noted by standard Confessional notation with article and paragraph numbers. Following the reference the English translation is provided from the Tappert edition of the Book of Concord, noting the page number. The precise terms for the Lord’s Supper are provided in German or Latin, as they occur.
The major discussions of the Lord’s Supper in the Book of Concord are found in:
1) The Augsburg Confession, Article X
2) The Smalcald Articles, Part III
3) The Small Catechism, Fifth Chief Part
4) The Large Catechism
5) The Epitome of the Formula of Concord, Article VII
6) The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, Article VII
Following the anthology of quotations, the reader will find a collection of quotations on the Lord’s Supper from the key documents that preceded the Augsburg Confession, along with the text of the Roman Catholic response to the Augsburg Confessions, the Confessio Pontifica of 1530.
Concluding this document is a brief summary of Philip Melanchthon’s views on the Lord’s Supper. Sadly, Melanchthon’s willingness to compromise Luther’s doctrine led to much turmoil and strife after Luther’s death in 1546, conflict that was not resolved finally until 1580, when the Book of Concord was subscribed by over 8,000 theologians, pastors and political leaders throughout Germany.
To this day, Lutheran who desire to be and remain genuinely Lutheran, and thereby faithful to God’s Word, gladly accept and receive the Lutheran Confessions as a true and unadulterated exposition of God’s Word. These Lutheran Confessions provide the normative standard for what the Lutheran church believes, teaches and confesses because it rightly presents the teaching of God’s Word, the only rule and standard for doctrine in the church. Lutherans, both pastors and laity, should strive for the greatest possibly conformity to the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions, including even the phrases and ways of expression, concerning the Lord’s Supper. In so doing, we rejoice in the opportunity to receive God’s gift of the Lord’s Supper in faithfulness and thankfulness.
In these last days of sore distress,
Grant us, dear Lord, true steadfastness,
That pure we keep, ’till life is spent,
Thy Holy Word and Sacrament.
751.42ff – Vorrede (to the Book of Concord) – “…it is apparent to us and to everyone and is concealed from no one that some have attempted to hide their error concerning the Holy Supper [heiligen Abendmahl, coenae ] as well as other adulterated teaching under the words of this same second edition and in their open writings and in public print have tried to palm them off on simple folk in spite of the fact that this erroneous doctrine is expressly rejected in the confession submitted at Augsburg and that a very different doctrine by far can be proved therefrom.” Tappert, 9.
753.2ff – Vorrede (to the Book of Concord) – “Furthermore, even though a number of theologians like Luther himself, were drawn by adversaries (although against the will of the former) from a consideration of the Holy Supper [heiligen Abendmahl, coena domini ] into a discussion of the personal union of the two natures in Christ, our theologians clearly assert in the Formula of Concord itself in the norm comprehended therein that according to our and the Formula’s constant intention Christians are to be directed in the treatment of the Lord’s Supper [des Herren Abendmahl, coena domini ] to this and only this one basis and foundation, namely, the words of institution of Christ’s testament.” Tappert, 10.
755.18ff – Vorrede (to the Book of Concord) – “With reference to the condemnation, censures, and rejections of false and adulterated doctrine, especially in the article concerning the Lord’s Supper [des Herren Abendmahl, sacra coena ], these have to be set forth expressly and distinctly in this explanation and thorough settlement of the controverted articles in order that everybody may know that he must guard himself against them.” Tappert, 11.
986.45 – FC SD VII.45 – “We are therefore bound to interpret and explain these words of the eternal, truthful, and almighty Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord, Creator, and Redeemer, not as flowery, figurative, or metaphorical expressions, as they appear to our reason, but we must accept them in simple faith and due obedience in their strict and clear sense, just as they read.” Tappert, 577.45.
797.7 – FC Ep VII.7 – “We believe, teach, and confess that the words of the testament of Christ are to be understood in no other way than in their literal sense, and not as though the bread symbolized the absent body and the wine the absent blood of Christ, but that because of the sacramental union [sakramentlicher Einigkeit, sacramentalem unionem ] they are truly the body and blood of Christ.” Tappert, 482.
801.25 – FC Ep VII.25 – ” We unanimously reject and condemn all the following errors: … The teaching that the words of Christ’s testament are not to be understood or believed in their simple sense, as they read, but that they are dark sayings whose meanings must first be sought in other passages.” Tappert, 484.
984.38 – FC SD VII.38 – “Dr. Luther and our theologians … wished to indicate that, even though they also use these different formulas, “in the bread, under the bread, with the bread,” they still accept the words of Christ in their strict sense and as they read, and they do not consider that in the proposition (that is, the words of Christ’s testament), ‘This is my body,’ we have to do with a figurative predication, but with ab unusual one (that is, it is not to be understood as a figurative, flowery formula or quibble about words).” Tappert, 576.
975.7 – FC SD VII.7 – “Many people were deceived by the noble and plausible words of the Sacramentarians … They understood the words of the Supper [coenae dominicae, Abendmahls ], ‘This is my body,’ not strictly, the way the letters sound, but as figurative speech [Reden (figurate) verstehen, figuratum sermonem ]. They interpret ‘to eat Christ’s body’ as no more than ‘to believe.’ For them ‘body’ is the same as ‘symbol’ (that is a sign or figure of the body of Christ which is not in the Communion on earth but only in heaven). They interpret the word ‘IS’ sacramentally or in a figurative manner, so that nobody will imagine that the reality is joined to the symbols in such a way that Christ’s body is even now present on earth in some invisible and impalpable manner.” Tappert, 570.
1011.113 – FC SD VII.113 – “The assertion that the words of institution are not to be simply understood in their strict sense, as they read, concerning the true essential presence [wahren wesentlichen Gengenwätigkeit, vera substantiali ] of the body and blood of Christ in the Supper [Abendmahl, coena Domini ], but through tropes or a figurative interpretation are to be given a different, new, and strange sense. We reject all such Sacramentarian opinions, and mutually contradictory views, no matter how manifold and various they may be.” Tappert, 589.
796.2 – FC Ep VII.2 – “The question is, In the Holy Communion [heiligen Abendmahl, sacra coena ] are the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ truly and essentially present if they are distributed with the bread and wine and if they are received orally by all those who use the sacrament, be they worthy or unworthy, godly or godless, believers or unbelievers, the believers for life and salvation, the unbelievers for judgment? The Sacramentarians say No; we say Yes.” Tappert, 481-482.
801.25 – v. supra
973.2 – FC SD VII.2 – “Some Sacramentarians diligently endeavor to employ terminology which is as close as possible to the formulas and speech-patterns of the Augsburg Confession and of our churches and confess that in the Holy Supper [heiligen Abendmahl, coena Domini ] the body of Christ is truly received by believers. Yet when we press them to set forth their meaning clearly, honestly, and explicitly, they all declare unanimously that the true, essential [der wahre wesentliche, verum et substantiale ] body and blood of Christ are as far distant from the blessed bread and wine in the Supper as the highest heaven is distant from earth. For their own words assert, ‘We say that the body and blood of Christ are distant from the signs by as great an interval as the earth is distant from the highest heaven.’ Tappert, 569.
990.59 – FC SD VII.59 – “We shall unanimously by this simple and well-founded explanation of the noble testimony in I Cor. 10:16. We are justly astonished that some are so rash that they now cite this passage, which they formerly advanced against the Sacramentarians, as a basis for their error that in the Lord’s Supper the body of Christ is received only spiritually. They write as follows, ‘The bread is participation in the body of Christ (that is, it is that whereby we have participation in the body of Christ, which is the church), or it is the means whereby believers are united with Christ, just as the Word of the Gospel, when it is laid hold on by faith, is a means whereby we are spiritually united with Christ and are incorporated into the body of Christ, which is the church.” Tappert, 580.
1015.22 – FC SD VII.122 – “We reject and condemn … that according to the words of Christ’s institution believers are not directed to seek the body of Christ in the bread and wine of the Supper [des Abendmahl, coena ] , but to look away from the bread of the Supper and by their faith to look to that place in heaven where Christ is present with his body and there to partake of him.” Tappert, 590.
64 – AC X.1-2 – “It is taught among us that the true body and blood of Christ are really present in the Supper of our Lord [Abendmahl des herren ] under the form of bread and wine and are there distributed and received. The contrary doctrine is therefore rejected. [German] “Our churches teach that the body and blood of Christ are truly present and are distributed to those who eat in the Supper of the Lord [coena domini ]. They disapprove of those who teach otherwise.” [Latin] Tappert, 34.
1026.29 – FC SD VIII.29 – “Because of this communicated power he can be and is truly present with his body and blood in the Holy Supper according to the words of his covenant, to which he has directed us through His Word.” Tappert, 596-597.
1005.91 – FC SD VII.91 – “All the imaginary reasons and futile counter-arguments of the Sacramentarians concerning the essential and natural properties of the human body, concerning the ascension of Christ, concerning his withdrawal from this world, and the like have been thoroughly, extensively, and definitively refuted on the basis of God’s Word by Dr. Luther in his polemical writings, Against the Heavenly Prophets, That These Words, ‘This is My Body’ Still Stand Firm, his Great and Small Confessions concerning the Holy Supper, and other writings of his.” Tappert, 585.
1013.119 – FC SD VII.119 – “We reject and condemn … the teaching that because of his bodily ascension to heaven Christ is so confined and circumscribed by a certain space in heaven that he is neither able nor willing to be truly and essentially present with us in the Supper, which is celebrated according to Christ’s institution on earth.” Tappert, 590.
1048.92 – FC SD VIII.92 – “We unanimously reject and condemn [the teaching] that the humanity of Christ is locally extended into every place in heaven and earth, something which ought not to be attributed to the deity. Without transforming or destroying his true human nature, Christ’s omnipotence and wisdom can readily provide that through his divine omnipotence Christ can be present with his body, which he has placed at the right hand of the majesty and power of God, wherever he desires and especially where he has promised his presence in his Word, as in the Holy Communion.” Tappert, 609.
1012.115 – FC SD VII.115 – “We reject and condemn … the teaching that bread and wine in the Supper are no more than badges whereby Christians recognize one another.” Tappert, 589.
801.28 – FC Ep VII.28 – “We unanimously reject and condemn all the following errors … that the bread and wine are only figures, images, and types of the far-distant body and blood of Christ.” Tappert, 485.
1013.115 – FC SD VII.115 – “We reject … the teaching that bread and wine in the Supper are … only figures, parables, and types of the far-distant body of Christ (for example, just as bread and wine are external food for our body, so the absent body of Christ with its merit is spiritual food for our souls.” Tappert, 589.
987.49 – FC SD VII.49 – “He was not speaking of a symbol of his body, or of a representation or of his body in a figurative sense, or of the virtue of this body and the benefits which he had won for us by the sacrifice of his body. He was speaking of his true, essential body, which he gave into death for us, and of his true, essential blood, which was shed for us on the tree of the cross for the forgiveness of sins.” Tappert, 578.
991.60 – FC SD VII.60 – “St. Paul says, “Who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner” (1 Cor. 11:27) sins not only against the bread and wine, not only against signs and symbols and figures [zeichen oder symbolois und figur, figurnon tantum signorum et symbolorum aut figurae ] of the body and blood, but becomes guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a person dishonors, abuses, and desecrates him who is there present as certainly as did the Jews when they actually and in deed laid violent hands upon the body of Christ and murdered him.” Tappert, 580.
1012.116 – FC SD VII.116 – “We reject the teaching … that [the bread and wine] are no more than symbols and reminders of the absent body of Christ, and that through these signs, as through an external pledge, we are assured that our faith, when it turns away from the Supper and rises above all heavens, partakes up there of the body and blood of Christ as truly as in the Supper we receive the external sign with our mouth. Thus the assurance and confirmation of our faith in the Supper allegedly takes place not through the true, present body and blood of Christ, distributed to us, but through the external signs.” Tappert, 589.
825.24 – FC Ep XII.24 – The errors of the Schwenkfelders, “… That bread and wine in the Holy Supper are not means through and by which Christ distributes his body and blood.” Tappert, 500. cf. also 1097.32 – FC SD XII.32
450.1 – SA III.Vom Sakrament des Altars.1 – “We hold that the bread and the wine in the Supper are the true body and blood of Christ and that these are given and received not only by godly but also by wicked Christians.” Tappert, 311 [Halten wir, das Brot und Wein im Abendmahl sei der wahrhaftige Leib und Blut Christi ... ]
710.12 – LC.V.12 – “With this Word you can strengthen your conscience and declare: ‘Let a hundred thousand devils, with all the fanatics, rush forward and say, ‘How can bread and wine be Christ’s body and blood?’ Still I know that all the spirits and scholars put together have less wisdom than the divine Majesty has in his little finger. Here we shall take our stand and see who dares to instruct Christ and alter what he has spoken. It is true, indeed, that if you take the Word away from the elements or view them apart from the Word, you have nothing but ordinary bread and wine. But if the words remain, as is right and necessary, then in virtue of them they are truly the body and blood of Christ. For as we have it from the lips of Christ, so it is; he cannot lie or deceive.” Tappert, 448.
452.5 – SA III.Sacrament of the Altar.5 – “As for transubstantiation, we have no regard for the subtle sophistry of those who teach that bread and wine surrender or lose their natural substance and retain only the appearance and shape of bread without any longer being real bread, for that bread is and remains there agrees better with Scriptures, as St. Paul himself states, ‘The bread which we break’ (I Cor. 10:16), and again, ‘Let a man so eat of the bread’ (I Cor. 11:28). Tappert, 311.
801.22 – FC Ep VII.22 – “We unanimously reject and condemn … the papistic transubstantiation when it is taught in the papacy that the bread and wine in the Holy Supper lose their substance and natural essence and are thus annihilated, in such a way that they are transmuted into the body of Christ and that only the exterior appearance remains.” Tappert, 484.
977.14 – “They maintain [Bucer, from Wittenberg Concord, 1536] and teach that with the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ are truly and essentially present, distributed, and received. And although they deny a transubstantiation (that is, an essential change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ) and do not believe that the body and blood of Christ are locally enclosed in the bread, or are in some other way permanently united with it apart from the use of the sacrament …” Tappert, 571.
983.35 – FC SD VII.35 – “In addition to the words of Christ and of St. Paul (the bread in the Lord’s Super, ‘is true body of Christ’ or a ‘participation in the body of Christ’), we at times also use the formulas ‘under the bread, with the bread, in the bread.’ We do this to reject the papistic transubstantiation and to indicate the sacramental union between the untransformed substance of the bread and the body of Christ.” Tappert, 575.
1010.108 – FC SD VII.108 – “We reject and condemn … first, papistic transubstantiation, when they teach that the consecrated or blessed bread and wine in the Holy Supper completely lose their substance and essence and are converted into the substance of the body and blood of Christ, so that only the mere species of bread and wine, or their accidents without a subject, remain. Accordingly they assert that under the species of the bread, which they allege has lost its natural substance and is no longer bread, the body of Christ is present even apart from the action of the sacrament [der Handlung des Abendmahls, extra actionem coenae dominicae ] (when, for instance, the bread is locked up in the tabernacle or is carried about as a spectacle and for adoration). For nothing can be a sacrament apart from God’s command and the ordained use for which it is instituted [in the Word of God, as was shown above." Tappert, 588.
1001.86 - FC SD VII.86 - In this context "use" or "action" [usus oder actio ] does not primarily mean faith, or the oral eating alone, but the entire external and visible action of the Supper as ordained by Christ: the consecration or words of the institution, the distribution and reception, or the oral eating of the blessed bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ. Apart from this use it is not to be deemed a sacrament, as when in the papistic Mass the bread is not distributed but is offered up, or locked up, or carried about, or exposed for adoration, just as the baptismal water is no sacrament or Baptism if it should be used to consecrate bells, or to cure leprosy, or is otherwise exposed for adoration. It was against such papistic abuses that this rule was first formulated by Dr. Luther.” Tappert, 585.
803.40 – FC Ep VII.40 – “We reject and condemn … that the external visible elements of bread and wine in the holy sacrament should be adored.” Tappert, 486.
977.15 – FC SD VII.15 – “For they do not maintain that the body of Christ is present apart from the use, as when the bread is laid aside or reserved in the tabernacle or carried about and exposed in procession, as happens in the papacy.” Tappert, 572
1010.108 – cf. supra
1016.126 – FC SD VII.126 – “We reject and condemn … the teaching that the elements (the visible forms of the blessed bread and wine) are to be adored. Of course, no one except an Arian heretic can or will deny that Christ himself, true God and man, who is truly and essentially present in the Supper when it is rightly used, should be adored in spirit and in truth in all places but especially where his community is assembled.” Tappert, 591.
248.54 – “They approve the tenth article, where we confess our belief that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present and are truly offered with those things that are seen, the bread and the wine, to those who receive the sacrament.” Tappert, 179.
519.2 – SC VI.2 – “What is the Sacrament of the Altar? Instituted by Christ himself, it is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine [unter dem Brot und Wein ], given to us Christians to eat and to drink.” Tappert, 351.
975.9 – FC SD VII.9 – “The Augsburg Confession, on the other hand, teaches on the basis of God’s Word “that the true body and blood of Christ are truly present under the forms of Bread and Wine and that they are distributed and received,” and it condemns the contrary doctrine (that is, the doctrine of the Sacramentarians, who at the same time submitted their own confession at Augsburg to the effect that since the body of Christ has ascended into heaven it is not truly and essentially present here on earth in the sacrament.)” Tappert, 571.
983.35 – FC SD VII.35 – “In addition to the words of Christ and of St. Paul (the bread in the Lord’s Supper ‘is true body of Christ’ or a ‘participation in the body of Christ’), we at times also use the formulas ‘under the bread, with the bread, in the bread.’ We do this to reject the papistic transubstantiation and to indicate the sacramental union between the untransformed substance of the bread and the body of Christ.” Tappert, 575
797.7 – FC Ep VII.7 – “We believe, teach, and confess that the words of the testament of Christ are to be understood in no other way than in their literal sense, and not as though the bread symbolized the absent body and the wine the absent blood of Christ, but that because of the sacramental union [Sakramentlicher Einigkeit ] they are truly the body and blood of Christ.” Tappert, 482.
799.15 – FC Ep VII.15 – “We believe, teach, and confess that with the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ are received not only spiritually, by faith, but also orally-however, not in a Capernaitic manner, but because of the sacramental union in a supernatural and heavenly manner [übernatürlichen, himmliche Weise ].” Tappert, 483.
977.14 – FC SD VII.14 – “… they grant that through sacramental union the bread is the body of Christ, etc. For they do not maintain that the body of Christ is present apart from the use …” Tappert, 572.
978.18 – FC SD VII.18 “In this way [by means of the Smalcald Articles] we stopped up every subterfuge and loop-hole which the Sacramentarians had employed to interpret the aforementioned articles of agreement [the Wittenberg Concord], adopted in the previous year, to their own advantage, namely, that the body of Christ, together with all his benefits, is distributed with the bread in precisely the same way as with the Word of the Gospel, and that the sacramental union is intended to mean nothing more than the spiritual presence of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ through faith.” Tappert, 572.
983.35 – FC SD VII.35 – “We do this [use 'under', 'with', and 'in'] to reject the papistic transubstantiation and to indicate the sacramental union between the untransformed substance of the bread and the body of Christ.” Tappert, 575.
1013.117 – FC SD VII.117 – “We reject and condemn … that in the Supper there is distributed to faith only the virtue, operation, and merit of the far-distant body of Christ, and that in this way we partake of his absent body. Accordingly the term ‘sacramental union’ [the Latin phrase, unio sacramentalis is used in the German text] is to be understood in terms of the relation between the sign and that which is signified [videlicet de analogia signi et signati ]-in other words, only as bread and wine have a similarity with the body and blood of Christ.” Tappert, 590.
1012.114 – FC SD VII.114 – “We reject and condemn … the denial of an oral eating of the body and blood of Christ in the Supper, and the contrary teaching that in the Supper the body of Christ is partaken of only spiritually [alleine geistlich ] through faith and that in the Supper our mouth receives only bread and wine.” Tappert, 589.
1013.118 – FC SD VII.118 – “We reject and condemn … Sacramentarian opinions … [including] that they body and blood of Christ are only received and partaken of through faith, spiritually.” Tappert, 590
989.56 – FC SD VII.56 – “If Paul were speaking only of a spiritual participation in the body of Christ through faith, as the Sacramentarians pervert this passage, he would not say that the bread but that the spirit or faith is participation in the body of Christ. But he says that the bread is participation [Gemeinschaft ], and that means that all who receive the blessed bread also partake of the body of Christ. Therefore he certainly cannot be speaking of a spiritual eating [gestlicher ], but of a sacramental or oral [sondern von Sakramentlicher, oder mündliche ] eating of the body of Christ in which both the godly and the godless participate.” Tappert, 579
796.2 – FC Ep VII.1-5 – “Chief Controversy between Our Doctrine and That of the Sacramentarians regarding This Article. Whether in the Holy Supper the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are truly and essentially present, are distributed with the bread and wine, and received with the mouth by all those who use this Sacrament, whether they be worthy or unworthy, godly or ungodly, believing or unbelieving; by the believing for consolation and life, by the unbelieving for judgment? The Sacramentarians say, No; we say, Yes. For the explanation of this controversy it is to be noted in the beginning that there are two kinds of Sacramentarians. Some are gross Sacramentarians who declare in plain [mit deutchen ], clear words as they believe in their hearts, that in the Holy Supper nothing but bread and wine is present, and distributed and received with the mouth. Others, however, are subtle Sacramentarians, and the most injurious of all, who partly speak very speciously in our own words, and pretend that they also believe a true presence of the true, essential, living body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, however, that this occurs spiritually through faith. Nevertheless they retain under these specious words precisely the former gross opinion, namely, that in the Holy Supper nothing is present and received with the mouth except bread and wine. For with them the word spiritually means nothing else than the Spirit of Christ or the power of the absent body of Christ and His merit, which is present; but the body of Christ is in no mode or way present, except only above in the highest heaven, to which we should elevate ourselves into heaven by the thoughts of our faith, and there, not at all, however, in the bread and wine of the Holy Supper, should seek this body and blood.” Bente, 809. Tappert, 481.
974.3 – FC SD VII.3 – “…they understand the presence of the body of Christ not as taking place here on earth but only in respect to faith … so also the body of Christ is now in heaven and not on earth, and consequently nothing but bread and wine are orally received in the Supper.” Tappert, 569.
975.6 – FC SD VII.6 – “As a result many important people were deceived by the noble and plausible words of the Sacramentarians when they alleged and boasted that they hold no other opinion than the Lord Jesus Christ is present in his Supper truly, essentially and alive. However, they understand that this is so only according to his divine nature and is not true of his body and blood, which is now in heaven and nowhere else, and that with the bread and wine Christ gives us his true body and blood to eat spiritually by faith but not to receive bodily [leiblich mit dem Munde, corporaliter ore ] with the mouth.” Tappert, 570
982.33 – FC SD VII.32 – “Dr. Luther, who understood the true intention of the Augsburg Confession better than any one else, remained by it steadfastly and defended it constantly until he died. Shortly before his death, in his last confession, he repeated his faith in this article with great fervor and wrote as follows: ‘I reckon them all as belonging together (that is, as Sacramentarians and enthusiasts), for that is what they are who will not believe that the Lord’s bread in the Supper is his true, natural body, which the godless or Judas receive orally as well as St. Peter and all the saints. Whoever, I say, will not believe this, will please let me alone and expect no fellowship [Gemeinschaft ] from me. This is not going to be altered. Thus my opinion stands, which I am not going to change.” Tappert, 575.
990.56 – FC SD VII.56 – “He [Paul] certainly cannot be speaking of a spiritual eating but of a sacramental or oral eating of the body of Christ in which both the godly and the godless participate.” Tappert, 580.
993.63 – FC SD VII.63 – “The other eating [in addition to 'spiritual eating'] is oral or sacramental, when all who eat and drink the blessed bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper receive and partake of the true, essential body and blood of Christ orally.” Tappert, 581.
1001.86 – FC SD VII.86 – “‘Use’ or ‘action’ does not primarily mean faith, or the oral eating alone, but the entire external and visible action of the Supper as ordained by Christ: the consecration or words of institution, the distribution and reception, or the oral eating of the blessed bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ.” Tappert, 584-585.
993.61-2 – FC SD VII.61-62 – “There is a twofold eating of the flesh of Christ. The one is spiritual, of which Christ speaks chiefly in John 6:48-58. This occurs, in no other way than with the spirit and faith, in the preaching and contemplation of the Gospel as well as in the Lord’s Supper. It is intrinsically useful, salutary, and necessary to salvation for all Christians at all times. Without this spiritual participation, even the sacramental or oral eating in the Supper is not only not salutary but actually pernicious and damning. This spiritual eating, however, is precisely faith-namely, that we hear, accept with faith, and appropriate to ourselves the Word of God, in which Christ, true God and man, together with all the benefits that he has acquired for us by giving his body for us into death and by shedding his blood for us (that is to say, the grace of God, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and everlasting life), is presented-and that we rest indomitably, with certain trust and confidence, on this comforting assurance that we have a gracious God and eternal salvation for the sake of Jesus Christ, and hold to it in all difficulty and temptation.”
1009.104-105 – FC SD VII.104-105 – “To the Sacramentarians this word spiritual means precisely that spiritual communion which is established when in spirit through faith the true believers are incorporated into Christ and become true, spiritual members of his body. But when Dr. Luther or we use the term “spiritual” in this discussion, we have in mind the spiritual, supernatural, heavenly mode [geistliche, übernatürliche himmliche Weise, spiritualem, supernaturalem, coelestem modum ] to which Christ is present in the Holy Supper, not only to work comfort and life in believers but also to wreak judgment on unbelievers. Thus we reject the Capernaitic conception of a gross, carnal [fleischlichen, carnali ] presence which the Sacramentarians ascribe to and force upon our churches in spite of our public and oft-repeated testimony to the contrary. In this sense, too, we use the word ‘spiritual’ when we say that the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper are received, eaten, and drunk spiritually, for although such eating occurs with the mouth, the mode is spiritual [die Weise aber geistlich ist.].” Tappert, 588
799.15 – FC Ep VII.15 – “We believe, teach, and confess that with the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ are received not only spiritually, by faith, but also orally-however, not in a Capernaitic manner, but because of the sacramental union in a supernatural and heavenly manner.” Tappert, 483
803.41 – FC Ep VII.41 – “By the same token we commend to the righteous judgment of God all presumptuous, sarcastic, and blasphemous questions and statements, which decency forbids us to recite and which the Sacramentarians advance most blasphemously and offensively in a coarse, carnal,[grobe, fleischliche ] Capernaitic, and abhorrent way concerning the supernatural and celestial mysteries of the sacrament.” Tappert, 486
808.17 – FC Ep VIII.17 – “Therefore he is able and it is easy for him to impart to us his true body and blood which are present in the Holy Supper, not according to the mode or property of the human nature but according to the mode and property of God’s right hand, as Dr. Luther says on the basis of our Christian faith as we teach this to our children. This presence is not mundane [irdisch ] or Capernaitic although it is true and essential, as the words of Christ’s testament declare, ‘This is, is, is my body,” etc.” Tappert, 489.
994.64 – FC SD VII.64 – “This is what Christ’s words of institution say, “When at table and during supper he handed his disciples natural bread and natural wine [natürlich Brot und natülich Wein ] which he called his true body and blood, and said therewith, ‘Eat and drink.’ Under the circumstances this command can only be understood as referring precisely to oral eating and drinking-not, however, in a coarse, carnal Capernaitic manner [aber nicht auf grose, fleischliche, Kapernaitische ], but in a supernatural, incomprehensible manner [sondern auf übernatürliche, unbegreifliche ]. But Christ adds another command, and in addition to the oral eating he ordains the spiritual eating, when he said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ In these words he required faith.” Tappert, 581
1009.105 – FC SD VII.105 – “We reject the Capernaitic conception of a gross, carnal presence which the Sacramentarians ascribe to and force upon our churches in spite of our public and oft-repeated testimony to the contrary. In this sense, too, we use the word ‘spiritual’ when we say that the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper are received, eaten, and drunk spiritually, for although such eating occurs with the mouth, the mode is spiritual.” Tappert, 588
1016.127 – FC SD VII.127 – “We also reject and condemn all presumptuous, scoffing, and blasphemous questions and expressions which are advanced in a coarse, fleshly, Capernaitic way about the supernatural and heavenly mysteries of this Supper.” Tappert, 591
To conclude this section we ask Martin Chemnitz’s question, from his work, The Lord’s Supper:
What is the nature of this sacramental eating of the body of Christ in the Supper and how does it take place?” If the union or presence of the body of Christ with the bread is physical, consistent with some kind of natural or rational or secular mode of presence, then it is right to demand that we show the evident and manifest meaning of sacramental eating. But the union or presence is not physical in the sense of our secular reasoning. Therefore we can show more easily what the sacramental eating of the Supper or body of Christ is not rather than what it is. That is to say, it is not physical in the sense that it consists of the chewing, mastication, swallowing, and digesting of the substance of what is eaten, because the presence of Christ’s body in the Supper is not a natural presence in the sense consistent with the ordinary term. And yet it is not something merely figurative or imaginary but true and substantial, even though it occurs through a supernatural, heavenly, and unsearchable mystery. Thus we must not doubt as true and sure what the Son of God Himself affirms in the words of His last will and testament, that those who eat in the Supper receive and eat with their physical mouths not only the bread but at the same time also that body which was given for us, even though this does not take place in a physical way as when we eat ordinary bread. Although we are not able to demonstrate or understand how this takes place, it suffices for faith simply to believe what the words of Christ teach us in their proper and natural sense-that the physical mouths of those who eat in the Lords’ Supper are not eating common or plain bread when they receive the bread, but the bread which now has been given its name by God, that is, the body of Christ. That is to say, it is bread with which the body of Christ is truly and substantially (although in a supernatural way) present and distributed. … He accomplishes this in a manner which is known to Him alone who is the Author of this tremendous mystery, but it is incomprehensible and ineffable to us who can only believe it for our salvation according to the words of the last will and testament of the Son of God. We can never understand it with our thoughts and we ought in no way investigate it with our minds.”
This seems to me to be the final word on the subject, I still believe the Christological explanation is more satisfying, but this is clearly embraced as well by Chemnitz, in his Two Natures in Christ where we read:
For the Son of God in accord with His divine and efficacious will and power can easily and surely be present with His body (which the words of the testament assert) without thereby destroying the substance of His body or abolishing His essential attributes. And I shall review the main reasons for this, for these reasons are derived from the personal union.
711.20 – LC V.20 – “We have briefly considered the first part, namely, the essence of this sacrament. Now we come to its power and benefit, the purpose for which the sacrament was really instituted, for it is most necessary that we know what we should seek and obtain there. This is plainly evident from the words just quoted, “This is my body and blood, given and poured out FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins.” In other words, we go to the sacrament because we receive there a great treasure, through and in which we obtain the forgiveness of sins. Why? Because the words are there through which this is imparted! Christ bids me eat and drink in order that the sacrament may be mine and may be a source of blessing to me as a sure pledge and sign-indeed, as the very gift he has provided for me against my sins, death, and all evils.” Tappert, 449.
985.44 – FC SD VII.44 – “After the Last Supper, as he was about to begin his bitter passion and death for our sin, in this sad, last hour of his life, this truthful and almighty Lord, our Creator and Redeemer Jesus Christ, selected his words with great deliberation and care in ordaining and instituting this most venerable sacrament, which was to be observed with great reverence and obedience until the end of the world and which was to be an abiding memorial of his bitter passion and death and of all his blessings, a seal of the new covenant, a comfort for all sorrowing hearts, and a true bond and union of Christians with Christ their head and with one another.” Tappert, 577
369.69 – Ap XXIV.69 – The sacraments are not only signs among men, but signs of God’s will toward us; so it is correct to define the New Testament sacraments as signs of grace.” Tappert, 262.
329.2 – Ap XXII.2 – “If Christ instituted it for all of the church, why is one kind taken away from part of the church and its use prohibited? Why is Christ’s ordinance changed, especially since he himself calls it his testament?” Tappert, 236.
797.7 – FC Ep VII.7 – “We believe, teach, and confess that the words of the testament of Christ [Testament Christi ] are to be understood in no other way than in their literal sense, …” Tappert, 482
989.53 – FC SD VII.53 – “It is therefore no doubt that in the other part of the sacrament the words of Luke and Paul, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood’ (Luke 22:20; I Cor. 11:25),have no other meaning than what the words of St. Matthew and St. Mark give us, ‘This (namely, what you are drinking with your mouths from the cup) is my blood of the new covenant, whereby I establish, seal, and confirm with you people this my testament and new covenant [testament und neuen Bund, testamentum meum et novum foedus ], namely, the forgiveness of sins.” Tappert, 578-579.
1026.29 – FC SD VIII.29 – “Because of this communicated power he can be and is truly present with his body and blood in the Holy Supper according to the words of his covenant [Testaments, testamenti ], to which he has directed us through His Word.” Tappert, 597.
364.49 – Ap XXIV.49 – “They are instructed about the proper use of the sacrament as a seal and witness of the gracious forgiveness of sins [sigilum et testimonium gratuitae remissionis ]and as an admonition to timid consciences really to trust and believe that their sins are freely forgiven. Thus, since we keep both the proclamation of the Gospel and the proper use of the sacraments, we still have the daily sacrifice.” Tappert, 258.
714.32 – LC V.32 – “Now, the whole Gospel and the article of the Creed, “I believe in the holy Christian church, the forgiveness of sins,” are embodied in this sacrament and offered to us through the Word.” Tappert, 450.
331.10 – Ap XXII.10 – “The sacrament was instituted to console and strengthen terrified hearts when they believe that Christ’s flesh, given for the life of the world, is their food and that they come to life by being joined to Christ [coniunctos Christo vivificari ].” Tappert, 238
1044.79 – FC SD VIII.79 – “He instituted his Holy Supper that he might be present with us, dwell in us [in nobis habitare ], work and be mighty in us according to that nature, too, according to which he has flesh and blood.” Tappert, 607
200.89 – Ap IV.210 – “Thus in the Church the Lord’s Supper was instituted that by remembrance [recalling to the mind] of the promises of Christ [recordatione promissionum Christi ], of which we are admonished in this sign, faith might be strengthened in us, and we might publicly confess our faith, and proclaim the benefits of Christ…” Bente, 179, Tappert, 136.
364.49 – Ap XXIV.49 – “They are instructed about the proper use of the sacrament as a seal and witness of the gracious forgiveness of sins [sigilum et testimonium gratuitae remissionis ]and as an admonition to timid consciences really to trust and believe that their sins are freely forgiven. Thus, since we keep both the proclamation of the Gospel and the proper use of the sacraments, we still have the daily sacrifice.” Tappert, 258.
374.90 – Ap XXIV.90 – “Now we shall pass over the sort of proofs our opponents have for purgatory, the sort of penalties they suppose purgatory has, the reasons they adduce in support of the doctrine of satisfaction, which we have refuted earlier [XII.113-130]. In reply we shall say only this much. Surely the Lord’s Supper was instituted for the sake of forgiving guilt. [For what consolation would we have if forgiveness of sin were here offered us, and yet there would be no remission of guilt? German addition.] For it offers the forgiveness of sins, which necessarily implies real guilt. Nevertheless, it does not make satisfaction for guilt; otherwise, the Mass would be on a par with the death of Christ. The forgiveness of guilt can be accepted only by faith. Therefore the Mass is not a satisfaction but a promise and a sacrament requiring faith.” Tappert, 266.
711.22 – LC V.22 – “We go to the sacrament because we receive a great treasure, through and in which we obtain the forgiveness of sins. Why? Because the words are there through which this is imparted! Christ bids me to eat and drink in order that the sacrament may be mine and may be a source of blessing to me as a sure pledge and sign-indeed, as the very gift he has provided for me against my sins, death, and all evils.” Tappert, 449.
989.53 – FC SD VII.53 – “There is therefore no doubt that in the other part of the sacrament the words of Luke and Paul, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20; I Cor. 11:25), have no other meaning than what the words of St. Matthew and St. Mark give us, “This (namely, what you are drinking with your mouth from the cup) is my blood of the new covenant, whereby I establish, seal, and confirm with you people this my testament and new covenant, namely, the forgiveness of sins.” Tappert, 579
722.70 – LC VI.70 – “Those who feel their weakness, who are anxious to be rid of it and desire help, should regard and use the sacrament as a precious antidote against the poison in their systems. For here in the sacrament you receive from Christ’s lips the forgiveness of sins, which contains and conveys God’s grace and Spirit with all his gifts, protection, defense, and power against death and the devil and all evils.” Tappert, 454.
712.23 – LC VI.23 – “Therefore, it is appropriately called the food of the soul [Speise der Seelen, cibus animae ] since it nourishes and strengthens the new man. While it is true that through Baptism we are first born anew, our human flesh and blood have not lost their old skin. There are so many hindrances and temptations of the devil and the world that we often grow weary and faint, at times even stumble.” Tappert, 449
1035.59 – FC SD VIII.59 – “In the third place, Scripture not only speaks in general terms of the person of the Son of Man, but expressly points to his assumed human nature when it states, “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7) This does not refer only to the merit that was once achieved on the cross. John is saying in this passage that in the work or matter of our justification not only the divine nature in Christ but also his blood actually cleanses us from all sins. Likewise, John 6:48-58 says that Christ’s flesh is a life-giving food, and accordingly the Council of Ephesus decreed that the flesh of Christ has the power to give life. Many other noble testimonies of the ancient orthodox church concerning this article are recorded elsewhere.” Tappert, 602
1042.76 – FC SD VIII.76 – “Because of this personal union and the resultant communion that the divine and human natures have with each other in deed and truth in the person of Christ, things are attributed to Christ according to the flesh that the flesh, according to its nature and essence outside of this union, cannot intrinsically be or have-for example, that his flesh is truly a life-giving food and his blood truly a quickening beverage, as the two hundred fathers of the Council of Ephesus attested when they stated that Christ’s flesh is a life-giving flesh … to make certainty and assurance doubly sure on this point, he instituted his Holy Supper that he might be present with us, dwell in us, work and be mighty in us according to that nature, too, according to which he has flesh and blood.” Tappert, 606-607.
712.24 – LC VI.24 – “The Lord’s Supper is given as a daily food and sustenance so that our faith may refresh and strengthen itself and not weaken in the struggle but grow continually stronger. For the new life should be one that continually develops and progresses.” Tappert, 450.
721.68 – LC VI.68 – “We must never regard the sacrament as a harmful thing from which we should flee, but as a pure, wholesome, soothing medicine which aids and quickens us in both soul and body. For where the soul is healed the body has benefited also. Why, then, do we act as if the sacrament were a poison which would kill us if we ate of it?” Tappert, 454.
94.30 – AC XXIV.30 – German: “In the third place, the holy sacrament was not instituted to make provision for a sacrifice for sin-for the sacrifice has already taken place-but to awaken our faith and comfort our consciences when we perceive that through the sacrament grace and forgiveness of sin are promised us by Christ. Accordingly the sacrament requires faith, and without faith it is used in vain.” Latin: “Christ commands us to do this in remembrance of him. Therefore the Mass was instituted that faith on the part of those who use the sacrament should remember what benefits are received through Christ and should cheer and comfort anxious consciences. For to remember Christ is to remember his benefits and realize that they are truly offered to us…” Tappert, 59.
91.7 – AC XXIV.7 – German: “Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and the Mass.” Latin: “The people are also admonished concerning the value and use of the sacrament and the great consolation it offers to anxious consciences, that they may learn to believe in God and ask for and expect whatever is good from God.” Tappert, 56.
331.10 – Ap XXII.10 – “The sacrament was instituted to console and strengthen terrified hearts when they believe that Christ’s flesh, given for the life of the world, is their food and that they come to life by being joined to Christ [German adds: "through this food"].” Tappert, 237-238.
200.89 – Ap IV.210 – “Thus the Lord’s Supper was instituted in the church so that as this sign reminds us[hoc signo admonemur ] of the promises of Christ, the remembrance might strengthen our faith and we might publicly confess our faith and announce the blessings of Christ…” Tappert, 136
259.42 – Ap XII.42 – “Faith is nourished in many ways, amid temptations, through the proclamation of the Gospel and the use of the sacraments. These are [German: seals and] signs of the [German: covenant and grace in the] New Testament, that is, signs of the [German: propitiation and the] forgiveness of sins. Therefore they offer the forgiveness of sins, as the words in the Lord’s Supper clearly state, “This is my body which is given for you. This cup is the new testament” (Luke 22:19, 20).” Tappert, 187.
370.74 – Ap XXIV.74 – “Once faith has strengthened a conscience to see its liberation from terror, then it really gives thanks for the blessing of Christ’s suffering. It uses the ceremony itself as praise to God, as a demonstration of its gratitude, and a witness of its high esteem for God’s gifts. Thus the ceremony becomes a sacrifice of praise.” Tappert, 263
713.28-30 – LC V.28-30 – ‘Here again our clever spirits contort themselves with their great learning and wisdom, bellowing and blustering, “How can bread and wine forgive sins or strengthen faith?’ Yet they know that we do not claim this of bread and wine-since in itself bread is bread-but of that bread and wine which are Christ’s body and blood and with which the words are coupled. These and no other, we say, are the treasure through which forgiveness is obtained. This treasure is conveyed and communicated to us in no other way than through these words, ‘given and poured out for you.’ Here you have both truths, that it is Christ’s body and blood and that these are yours as your treasure and gift. Christ’s body can never be an unfruitful, vain thing, impotent and useless. Yet, however great the treasure may be in itself, it must be comprehended in the Word and offered to us through the Word, otherwise we could never know of it or seek it.” Tappert, 450
708.4 – LC V.4 – “We have no wish on this occasion to quarrel and dispute with those who blaspheme and desecrate this sacrament; but as in the case of Baptism, we shall first learn what is of greatest importance, namely, God’s Word and ordinance or command, which is the chief thing to be considered.” Tappert, 447
710.14 – LC V.14 – “It is true, indeed, that if you take the Word away from the elements or view them apart from the Word, you have nothing but ordinary bread and wine. But if the words remain, as is right and necessary, then in virtue of them they are truly the body and blood of Christ. For as we have it from the lips of Christ, so it is; he cannot lie or deceive.” Tappert, 448
798.8 – FC Ep VII.8 – “Now, as to the consecration, we believe, teach, and confess that no work of man or recitation of the minister produces this presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, but that this is to be ascribed only and alone to the almighty power of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Bente, 811; Tappert, 482.
997.73 – FC SD VII.73 – “There has also arisen a misunderstanding and dissension among some teachers of the Augsburg Confession concerning the consecration and the common rule that there is no sacrament apart from the instituted use. In this question we have reached the following fraternal and unanimous agreement among ourselves: No man’s word or work, be it the merit or the speaking of the minister, be it the eating and drinking of the faith of the communicants, can effect the true presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Supper. This is to be ascribed only to the almighty power of God and the Word, institution, and ordinance of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the truthful and almighty words of Jesus Christ which he spoke in the first institution were not only efficacious in the first Supper but they still retain their validity and efficacious power in all places where the Supper is observed according to Christ’s institution and where his words are used and the body and blood of Christ are truly present, distributed, and received by the virtue and potency of the same words which Christ spoke in the first Supper.” Tappert, 583
1014.121 – FC SD VII.121 – “We reject and condemn … the doctrine that it is not the words and the omnipotence of Christ but faith that achieves the presence of the body of Christ in the Holy Supper, whence some omit the words of institution in the administration of the Supper. For while we justly criticize and condemn the papistic consecration which ascribes to the word and work of the priest the power allegedly to effect a sacrament, the words of institution cannot and should not in any case be omitted in the administration of the Supper, as shown above in a previous exposition.” Tappert, 590
Confessions of the Lord’s Supper Prior to the Augsburg Confession
The inclusion of the article on the Lord’s Supper in the Augusburg Confession and subsequent confessional documents in the Book of Concord was predicated on earlier Lutheran explanations of the Lord’s Supper, as well as reactions to the Lutheran position on the Lord’s Supper. These include the following:
1) Instruction for the Visitors, 1528 – “Concerning the Body and Blood of the Lord. Concerning the Sacrament of the true Body and Blood of our dear Lord Jesus Christ the people shall be taught these three articles.
First. That they believe that in the bread the true Body of Christ is present and in the wine the true Blood of Christ. For it is so stated in the words of Christ recorded by the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke. “This is my body,” and Drink yea all of it; for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” As Paul also states in the 11th Chapter of the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians: The bread which we break is the distributed Body of Christ. If this were to be understood, in the way that some interpret it, as referring not to the true Body but only to the Word of God then there would not be a distribution of the Body of Christ but only of the Word and Spirit. Paul also states in the same Epistle that this food is not to be regarded as common food but as the Body of Christ and he censured those who receive it, without reverence, like common food. The pastors shall also read what has been written on this subject by those of olden times, so that they may be better able to instruct others. Hilary says in the eighth book concerning the Holy Trinity, that no one should doubt that the true Body and Blood of Christ are present, because Christ has said so. And it is to be remembered that such a great miracle takes place not through the efforts of the priest, but because Christ has decreed that His Body shall be present to those communing. Just as the sun rises daily not because of our efforts, but because God has so ordered it.
The second article is the instruction to be given the people that it is right to receive both kinds. For the Holy Gospel (Thanks be to God) has come to light, and in it is clearly testified that both kinds in the Sacrament are to be administered and received. This has been commanded by Christ as the three Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke testify. St. Paul also administered in this way as we have seen in First Corinthians, 11. It is not within the power of any man to alter such a divine institution, and, as St. Paul writes to the Galatians, if the last will of any person may not be altered, still less dare God’s own testament be altered. Accordingly we have instructed the pastors and preachers immediately and openly to teach this doctrine of the Gospel concerning both kinds to all, whether they be strong, weak, or obstinate, and in no wise to approve communion under one kind, but to condemn it as wrong and contrary to the institution and last testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So that the truth in itself may be taught purely and openly. But as no one is to be compelled to believe, nor may be moved from his unbelief by commands or by force, since God is not pleased with enforced service but always desires voluntary servants, and, furthermore, because the people have various opinions and different qualifications, it has been, and still is, impossible to determine the exact standards concerning the persons to whom, according to Christ’s teaching, both kinds are to be given or from whom they are able to be withheld. Therefore while we can easily direct the preaching of this doctrine purely and openly as Christ himself has given it, nevertheless, in the practice and application of this teaching we have not been able to regulate it according to fixed limits, methods or persons, because of the fact that people through common custom have become captivated with the idea of communion under one kind, and since through this former custom there may still be those who are troubled by doubts we must bide our time and commit the matter to God.
The third article, which is the most important of all, is that we teach why the Sacrament is to be used and how we should be prepared to receive it. First. The pastors shall teach the people how great a sin it is to dishonor the Sacrament and not use it rightly, for Paul says, in the eleventh chapter of First Corinthians, that they are guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord and that they receive it to their condemnation. Again, For this cause many are sick and many have died among the Christians. For God says in the Second Commandment, Exodus 20, that He would not hold him guiltless that took His name in vain. Without doubt then such dishonoring of the Body and Blood of the Lord will likewise not go unpunished. This fact shall be diligently impressed on the people so that they may avoid this sin and that they may be encouraged to fear, repentance and amendment. For the same reason none should be admitted to the Sacrament who live in open sins, adulter, gluttony and the like and who will not cease from them. Secondly. No one shall be admitted to the Sacrament unless he has previously come to the pastor, who shall examine him as to his knowledge of the Sacrament and learn whether he requires other counsel, etc. Afterwards they shall be taught that only those who have real contrition and sorrow for sin and whose conscience is troubled are prepared to receive the Sacrament, for insolent and presumptuous persons are not to be admitted, because it is written in First Corinthians, 11, “This do as oft as ye do it in remembrance of me.” Now to remember the death of Christ is not merely to hear the narrative preached but to be terrified that God shows such anger against sin that, on account of it, He causes His own Son to be slain and that no angel nor saint could make atonement for sin, but that Christ, Himself God had to be sacrificed, etc. Then O what severe penalty will descend on those who regard sin lightly, when they hear how great it is in God’s sight. The one who rightly remembers the death of Christ shall receive the Sacrament and seek consolation. Not that the external reception can comfort the heart, but it is a pledge of consolation and of the forgiveness of sins, which pledge encourages the heart so that it believes that God forgives the sin of the penitent. And so the heart shall be encouraged and aroused to believe not only by the reception of the Sacrament but also through the words that accompany the Sacrament, for in the words God promises the forgiveness of sins: This is my Body which is given for you, and again, This is the cup of the New Testament, that is, of the New Covenant, of the promised righteousness, of everlasting life, in my Blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sin. So they attain the forgiveness of sin not by the mere external reception but through the faith that is enkindled by the words and tokens. The people should also be instructed that this token has not been instituted only to enkindle faith but also to incite us to love, as St. Paul says, in the 10th Chapter of First Corinthians. It is one Bread and one Body, as we are all partakers of the one Bread. So we should not cherish envy and hatred but care for one another and help each other with alms and other forms of service as God has commanded. Such admonitions should often be repeated, for what else is it but a dishonoring of Christ’s Body if we bear envy and hatred and do not desire to show any love, and yet should be accounted members of Christ?
2) Luther’s Confession of 1528 – “I confess and teach concerning the Sacrament of the Altar, that in it the true Body and Blood are orally eaten and drunk in the bread and wine, even if the priests who administer it or those who receive it do not believe or otherwise misuse it, because it does not depend on man’s faith or unbelief, but on God’s word and institution. Unless, indeed, they first change God’s Word and institution and misinterpret it, like the present day enemies of the Sacrament, who in truth have only bread and wine because they do not have the Word and instituted order of God, but have perverted and altered it according to their own fancies.”
3) Schwabach Articles, Summer, 1529 – Article X – “The Eucharist or Sacrament of the Altar also consists of two parts, viz., that there is truly present in the bread and in the wine, the true Body and Blood of Christ, according to the sound of the words: ‘This is my body, this is my blood;’ and that it is not only bread and wine, as even now the other side asserts. These words require and also convey faith, and also exercise it in all those who desire this sacrament, and do not act against it; just as Baptism also brings and gives faith, if it be desired.”
4) Bucer’s Critique of the Schwabach Articles, 1529 – The Tenth Article. Tenth, it shall be held and believed that our Lord Jesus has instituted His Holy Super for His followers and therein feeds them with His true body and His blood unto eternal life if they attend with true faith. For if true remembrance and thanksgiving for the Lord’s surpassing kindness in giving His body and blood for our sake into death be present, then it is inevitable that we receive spiritual food and guidance toward right Christian living and eternal life. But when they insist on holding that the true body and the true blood are in the bread and the wine, they have no scriptural ground for it. For the words read, ‘This is my body,’ and not ‘In this is my body;’ from these words no more may be deduced than that the Lord gave His disciples and those who would receive the remission of sins and the new covenant, His body and His blood and called them bread and wine. Now if one has and eats these through faith, as taught in John 6, he has and eats them in truth (not as the absent wife may be present to her husband when he thinks of her, but) in such manner that the spirit is thereby fed and nourished unto eternal life. Nor is it possible for them to defend their opinion by referring to 1 Cor. 10, ‘The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body and blood of Christ?’ for there is also the communion of the body and blood of Christ when, in the breaking of the bread, we receive His spiritually. Again while he who misuses this sacrament or receives it unworthily, is truly guilty of the body and blood of Christ, it does not follow that the body and blood of Christ are physically in the wine and the bread. We prefer to cling to the simple words, ‘This is my body.’ And since D. Luther himself admits that the text does not mean that the bread is the body of Christ itself-for the bread and the body of Christ have each remained what they were by nature-therefore we give up the transubstantiation of the papists; and since it is not stated, ‘In this or with this is my body,’ we cannot accept the opinion of D. Luther either, but confess that the Lord has said these words in order to show us that He truly bestows on us His body and blood and that these words [sic] are bread and wine, that is food and drink unto eternal life. In the same manner He says, Receive the Holy Spirit, while He breathed on them; and the external Baptism is called a washing away of sins; and yet the Spirit of Christ must not necessarily have been substantially present in the breath of Christ nor the remission of sins in the water. There are many texts in the Scriptures where signs and types are given the names of the things whose signs and types they are, for instance, when circumcision is called a covenant, Gen. 17, and when the type of Jerusalem is called Jerusalem, Ezek. 4.
Therefore, since no one should be forced to believe something that cannot be proved from clear Scripture texts-for God has not failed to supply us in this respect-and since the spiritual eating brings with it eternal life and all that the believer may need, we do not wish to be urged any further in this matter. Nor is there ground for the fear that persecution might sooner arise on account of this matter than on account of this article and still threaten to do so, are desirous of reestablishing the whole papal system; hence they threaten all those who do not obey the pope, and they have never gone so far as to allow even the slightest departure from the papal system. Moreover, even if our opinion might be erroneous-as a matter of fact it will never be found to do so, and we have not taught otherwise on this point … than according to the Word of God, and have done this with such assurance that many of us have suffered for this cause, and we believe all the words of the Lord; and we regard Him as our only Savior and would gladly prove it by means of works so far as we may enabled by His grace; and doubtless there are many good works found among our churches, God be praised, as among those who are of a different opinion, and far more of our party have suffered martyrdom for Christ’s sake than of their party. These things being true we deserve the protection of true Christians even though we may be attacked because of this single point, for only enemies of Christ would so treat us. We do not doubt that the notion of the corporeal presence of Christ’s body in the wine and the bread is a perilous error that leads to the idea that faith in Christ is insufficient and to a denial of Christ’s true incarnation; yet, when we observe that someone studies this problem and things that the words may mean this and if he is in other respects of a truly Christian mind, we regard such a one as a dear brother and bear with his error until God will instruct him more fully. Thus Paul ahs taught us, Romans 14, where he teaches that one should not despise those who have not been taught that Christ has freed us from the law and who therefore misunderstand and misinterpreted many parts of Scripture, and where he states that there should not be much disputing and quarreling. Thus also Augustine teaches, contra Donat., book 12, and thereby exculpates Cyprian whose views on Baptism were false but whom he nevertheless did not condemn because he did not on account of his views separate from the church. Furthermore, the opponents have said in this article that this sacrament brings and gives faith as does Baptism. Now it is God alone who gives and strengthens faith, and he who would come without faith to this Table of the Lord would eat death to himself. But this sacrament, like Baptism in its own measure, as a sacrament and admonition strengthens faith when the Lord works in the heart of man, as everyone confesses who knows the Scriptures. But the Scripture has no place where it is said in the Supper of Christ one may strengthen or obtain faith.”
5) Brueck’s Reasons Against Union with the Zwinglian Estates, November-December, 1529 – “St. Paul says to Titus in the third chapter and God the Holy Spirit clearly commands through the apostle that we avoid a heretic or apostate when he has been admonished once and again, knowing that such a one is corrupt and sinful, having condemned himself. Now it is evident and the words of Christ prove that the Zwinglians’ doctrine concerning the Holy Sacrament is contrary to the clear and lucid Word of God as recorded by three evangelists and St. Paul (Take, eat, this is my body, etc.; take, drink, this is my blood, etc.). Our shepherds and ministers teach that it is a horrible error so to teach of the sacrament as the Zwinglians do, moreover so horrible an error that all those who are allied with them must be accounted as errorists and as men who are condemned by their own consciences because over against the plain word by which to fortify and guide their consciences. Luther and other preachers in agreement with him and us have publicly and repeatedly so expressed themselves in their writings and this is preached every day throughout the domains of our gracious and most gracious lords. Therefore, since we believe the plain words of Christ (as we are bound to do in view of the eternal condemnation of unbelief) and since we believe that our pastors and shepherds teach the truth, we cannot and dare not say or think that the adversaries’ opinion is a small and insignificant error.”
6) The Torgau Articles, March, 1530 – Of the Mass.“The words in the Holy Sacrament teach us the proper use: “This is the cup of the New Testament.” Now the New Testament is not our work, but God’s work, who offers and allots something, as is the custom in making a testament; and thus grace and the forgiveness of sins are offered and allotted. … The Zwinglian doctrine is also earnestly contended against, as the writings published concerning it in my lords’ lands show; and the people are carefully instructed, that in the Supper the Body and Blood of Christ are present, and that they are given; for thereby faith is strengthened that consolation is received, that Christ wishes to be ours, to help, etc. And my lord does not doubt that this mass is true and Christian divine service, especially since, even to the times of Jerome and Augustine, there were only such masses, and it is not known whence the mercenary masses came, or when private masses began.”
7) Dr. Eck’s 404 Articles, March 1530. - Against the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, the substance of bread and wine remains; because transubstantiation is a figment of the sophists and Romanists (Pirkheimer, Melanchthon, Luther, Wicleff). I firmly believe not only that the Body of Christ is in the bread, but also that the bread is the Body of Christ. (Luther, Wicliff). As the Body of Christ is in the bread, where there is neither blood nor soul, so the Blood of Christ in the wine is without body and soul (Luther). In the Eucharist, the true Body of Christ is not really, but figuratively only and as in a sign (Zwingli, Oecolampadius, Capito, Keller, Rottenacker, Bucer, Blarer). … There is much danger in the adoration of the Eucharist; for this reason, it would be better not to adore it, for such was the practice of the Apostles. Neither is Christ there in to be adored. (Luther).
8) Final Form of Melanchthon’s Preface to the Confession, May, 1530 “This cause [the Anabaptist] was made specially odious on account of the general rumor spread by our adversaries that we had done away with all ceremonies, and were destroying all spiritual order and rule. With how much reason such things are attributed to us the facts will show. For this doctrine is not directed to the end that ceremonies be done away with but rather that they should be preserved with true fear of God, and we can say with truth, that in all Germany the mass is not celebrated with greater fear of God and greater participation of the people than with us. It is also celebrated according to the common custom, except that along with the Latin singing we also use the German, so that the people may have something which they can understand and learn. The Sacrament is received by the people with greater reverence and more often than before; and every one is previously examined and instructed, a thing which formerly could not easily be done, as at such a time a whole crowd was accustomed to go together.”
9) Melanchthon’s Draft of the Conclusion to the Confession, May-June, 1530 – “There are many forward persons in the German nation who only to gain notoriety for themselves, begin many disputes and put forward all kinds of harmful and dangerous doctrines attacking the Christian sacrament that was instituted by God.”
10) Confutatio Pontificia, August 3, 1530 – To Article X. The tenth article gives no offence in its words because they confess that in the Eucharist, after the consecration lawfully made, the Body and Blood of Christ are substantially and truly present, if only they believe that the entire Christ is present under each form, so that the Blood of Christ is not less present under the form of bread, by concomitance than it is under the form of the wine, and the reverse. … They are praised, therefore, for condemning the Capernaites, who deny the truth of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.”
Melanchthon’s Position on the Lord’s Supper
One can hardly fail to notice in the Lutheran Confessions a certain tendency toward contradiction on the doctrine of the Real Presence and the precise benefits of the Sacraments. Such a tendency is rooted in what may be said to be a lack of ‘realism’ on the part of Melanchthon. By that is meant that in Melanchthon there seems to be an attempt to remove the immediate forgiveness of sins from the reception of the Sacrament. Surely, this was in response to the Roman belief in the efficacy of sacraments, ex opere operato. However, it must be recognized that Melanchthon tended to shift the efficacy of the Sacrament more toward a cognitive, remembrance and memorial of Christ’s death. See for example his Loci Communes of 1521 where he says:
Participation in the Lord’s Table, that is, eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ, is a certain sign of grace. … This means that when you celebrate Communion, you should be reminded of the gospel or the remission of sins. It is not, therefore, a sacrifice if it was given only as a sure reminder of the promise of the Gospel. Nor does participation in the Supper destroy sin, but faith destroys it, and faith is strengthened by this sign. … Participation in the Supper does not justify, but it strengthens faith, as I have said above. … The function of this sacrament, however, is to strengthen us whenever our consciences totter and whenever we have doubts concerning God’s will toward us.
To what extent had Melanchthon changed his tone by the time of the Augsburg Confessio? In light of Luther’s controversies with Karlstadt, Zwingli, et. al. had Melancthon come to a more realistic and immediate understanding of the forgiving power of the Sacrament, for want of a better description we use the terms, “realistic” and “immediate” to contrast Melanchthon’s position with that of Luther’s. We have a letter Melanchthon wrote in 1529 to Oecolampadius, the year before the Diet at Augusburg in which he says:
A terrible dissension over the Lord’s Supper has arisen, which has somewhat interrupted our long-standing custom of performing the obligations of friendship in which we used to engage mutually…I am very sorry that a dissension has arisen with respect to the very thing which was instituted by Christ to strengthen mutual love in Christians. Moreover, you know that I have up to this moment stood out as a mere spectator of this drama, rather than as an actor in it. I have many weighty reasons why I have not involved myself in such an odious struggle. Meanwhile, no other concern for any other issue has vexed my very soul more than my concern over this affair. Not only have I myself thought about what can be said on both sides, but I have also sought out the opinions of the ancients on this. For I would not want to stand forth either as the author or the defender of any new dogma in the church.
We note the concern of Melanchthon that the Lord’s Supper has been the subject for so much controversy in the church. What is more important is Melanchthon’s confessio that he has remained an observer of the conflict rather than an active participant. This reflects Melanchthon’s personality as well as his theological difficulties with the issue. However, Melanchthon has come to a decision on the matter:
I can discover no firm reason to satisfy a conscience which forsakes the proper significance of words. Moreover, I have written nothing about this affair up to this very day, because I saw that whatever I might write, the unjust critics would say that I had been commissioned by Luther to serve as some sort of household witness. There would be no authority in my judgment, since it would seem to have been written to please another.
What was Melanchthon’s opinion on the Real Presence, this is the crux of the issue. He explains his position this way:
You are contending that the body of the absent Christ is represented as though in a tragedy. But I see standing forth the promises of Christ: ‘I will be with you even to the consummation of the age,’ and similar ones, where there is no need to separate divinity from humanity. Therefore I feel that this Sacrament is a witness to the
Real Presence. Since this is so, I feel that in the Supper there is a communion of the present body. Since the proper significance of the word does not disagree with any article of faith, there is no sufficient reason why we should give it up. And this view of the presence of the body is in agreement with other writings which speak of the Real Presence of Christ within us. For it is an opinion unworthy of Christians that Christ has so occupied a certain place in heaven that he sits there as though incarcerated.
This is a fascinating quotation for a number of reasons. First, we note that Melanchthon wants to confess the Real Presence. But, what is the “Real Presence” for Melanchthon? Certainly it is not limited to the Lord’s Supper. Melanchthon develops a metaphysical explanation of the presence of Christ in the Supper. Did Melanchthon come to this conviction through Luther? This is as specific as Melanchthon wishes to become in his letter to Oecolampadius. This vague, general way of rejecting the other side without our specifically confessing one’s position, or doing so in a way which may lead to misinterpretation is a tendency which Melanchthon never overcame, consequently, rightly or wrongly, he became the source for many controversies, especially over the Lord’s Supper toward the end of his life. What was his final word on the subject? We have his Loci Communes of 1555 in which he writes:
After the Son of God appeared, and renewed his gospel, and commanded that it be preached in all the world, he ordained these two delightful [lieblichen ] ceremonies to serve as memorials. Baptism reminds us that we are baptized into the death of our Savior Jesus Christ, washed of our sins, and resurrected to pure eternal life. … The custom of keeping the Supper of the Lord in the gathered company, along with preaching and prayer, is much more delightful than the slaughter of oxen was in previous times. We should see that this remembered Supper is rightly kept, as commanded in God’s Word, and for the purpose appointed.
What was a tendency in the AC is made clear in the later Melanchthon. It seems that for Melanchthon, the Supper is effective in so far as it is a memorial of Christ’s death, that is the communicant “remembers” his way to the forgiveness of sins. Having said this, it is not fair to say that Melanchthon rejected the substantial presence of Christ in Bread and Wine, but he certainly did not verbalize his position with the same realism which marks Luther’s position in the Smalcald Articles, “The Bread and Wine in the Supper are the true body and blood of Christ and that these are given and received not only by godly but also by wicked Christians.” Melanchthon offers this explanation of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament:
There must be a public ceremony, through which faith is exercised and acknowledged, and with which the divine promises may be remembered, and God invoked and thanked. This work was instituted so that a Supper might be kept in which we preach about the Son of God, his sufferings and Resurrection, about his promise, grace, and rule, and in which we speak his word over the bread and wine, and distribute such among the congregation. With this bread and wine he gives his body and blood to us, and thereby attests that he accepts us, makes us his members, grants us forgiveness of sins, and that he has purified us with his blood, and will abide with us.
This is as specific as Melanchthon wishes to be in 1555. We certainly can understand how the Gnesio-Lutherans saw in Melanchthon a tendency toward a spiritualizing notion of the Lord’s Supper. We have from November 1559, a few months before Melanchthon’s death, a letter in which Melanchthon addresses himself to the later controversy over the Lord’s Supper. He recognizes the furor which has arisen and offers his opinion in a hope that it will contribute to a cessation of the controversy. Melanchthon argues for a minimizing of the explaining of the Real Presence:
After the contentious ones have been taken away it will be best to maintain the words of Paul: ‘The bread which we break is the communion of the Body.’ And there is a need to speak copiously about the benefit of the Supper in order that people may be stimulated in their love for this seal and its frequent use. Also the word, koinoonia, must be made clear. Paul does not say that the nature of the bread is changed, as the papists say. He does not say, like the men at Bremen, that the bread is the substantial body of Christ. He does not say, like Heshusius that bread is the true body of Christ. But he says it is the koinoonia, that is, the thing by which it becomes consociated with the body of Christ. This takes place in the use, and not without thought, as when mice chew the bread.
Now this certainly is a sad conclusion to the career of so influential a theologian as Melanchthon. Even putting the best possible interpretation on his comments, one is unable to conclude anything less than that Melanchthon has moved himself away from Luther. For in condemning Heshusius he is actually attacking Luther’s position. Lowell Green’s comment, “he became more and more ambiguous in his formulations.” Is a mild criticism, to say the least especially in light of what Melanchthon says further on in his letter:
Some men dub this true and simple doctrine about the benefit a ‘cothurnos,” and they press for an answer as to whether the body be in the bread or in the species of the bread. As though the Sacrament had really been instituted for the sake of the bread and that papistic adoration! Afterwards they imagine in what manner it is enclosed within the bread: some think by conversion, others by transubstantiation and still others by ubiquity. All these monstrosities were unknown to the learned of antiquity.
It is indeed a sad conclusion of Melanchthon’s career. His tendency toward conciliation finally proved his undoing. In spite of this one must not be quick to condemn Melanchthon as if he contributed nothing to the church. This tone marks the historical introduction of Bente to the Triglotta and has influenced many Missouri-Synod theologians to dismiss out of hand Melanchthon. A most unfortunate development but one which is understood as a reaction against the failings in the older Melanchthon.
Rev. Paul T. McCain
Revised April 2000