I am in dialogue with a group of Catholic brothers and sister and we have been having a forum discussion on Unity and The Lord’s Supper. One of the key points in our discussion is the question of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Here is a synopsis of their position: “The biggest difference between us and one of the most freeing for me coming out of the evangelical Baptist tradition, is that we are not a Bible but a Church. There was no New Testament for the first 3 centuries of the Church. We are a Church based on the living Word, Jesus Christ himself. Eucharist for us is not merely a symbol. Jesus comes to us in the flesh every mass under the appearance of blood and wine. For us it is a sacrament where we receive grace and healing keeping us on the road to salvation. Jesus never intended the Eucharist to be symbolic, but the Church fathers attest to that. It is his body and blood literally. The other difference between us which we share, are orthodox, and some Anglicans, and the Eastern Churches is that we do not own salvation, but that salvation is a journey and a reward to those persevere in the faith. In other words, we are being purged constantly by God’s grace we receive directly through the sacraments and relationship with Christ and indirectly through devotions that prepare us for the sacraments. This we believe was instituted by Christ and passed down by his apostles to their successors.” My response has been emphasizing the finished work of Jesus, and the importance of believing in your heart and confessing with your mouth that Jesus was raised from the dead. I have also stated that whether or not The Lord is actually the Bread and Wine is up for debate, but that a man must be born again and that ritual would not save him. The responses I got were friendly but adamant that Eucharist was a Sacrament and the whole focus of the Catholic Church. I am not sure what to add to this but I am afraid that they are substituting a ceremony for a reality, however I cannot judge their hearts. My main question was what does scripture say about this and these beliefs?
Nothing is of any value as a ceremony apart from faith in our hearts. All ceremony, i.e. outward actions that we take was given so we could do them in faith. They should point us to the realities of Christ; they should never become substitutes for what He has done.
Paul identified people who lean toward legalism and ritualism as people who are weak in the faith (Romans 14). People, who lack a living relationship with Jesus, always seek something to give them a sense of reality and security. They develop rules or ceremonies in which they put their trust.
Any in depth study of the books of Romans, Galatians, or Hebrews totally reveals the vanity of such thinking. But if you reject the validity of the word of God, you can create any kind of belief system you want.
There are four common denominators of cults:
1. They reject salvation as an act of faith based on the finished work of Jesus.
2. They reject the authority of the written word of God
3. They reject the reality that Jesus came as a man, became sin and suffered in our place.
4. They reject righteousness as a free gift, received by faith.
If you want to develop your understanding of these subjects, I would recommend any of our verse-by-verse course studies from Galatians, Romans, or Hebrews from Impact International School of Ministry.
I recently did a new tape set on Healing where I go into great depth about communion; it is entitled, “Health for Body and Soul.” It will answer many of your questions. For more information about Impact International School of Ministry click here. Or e-mail us firstname.lastname@example.org