PART 1 COMMUNION

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 6:30pm

PART 1 COMMUNION

Introduction

What inspired me to write this book was a conversation which I had with a friend, who was a Spanish teacher at the same high school where I taught mathematics. He, being a devout Catholic, would occasionally ask me about my relationship with God, which differed from his significantly.

        I let him know that in my early years I would attend the Catholic church with my parents having participated in the various aspects of it such as being baptized (sprinkled) in water as a baby, which according to Catholic doctrine, causes an infant to become a child of God or a son of light. First comes repentance and then water baptism, which brings about the forgiveness of sins, at which time a prayer is made by the congregation for the Holy Spirit to show up. Water along with the reality of the Holy Spirit, allows a person to enter into the kingdom of God. This they would say is the baptism that now saves us. The sacrament of water baptism is the sacrament of regeneration. The result of this rite is that the child of God becomes freed from the power of darkness, liberated from sin, and has been brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God.

     At age 7, I began attending catechism, which taught the basic truths of the faith. Further instruction prepared me to receive certain of the 7 sacraments, which are ceremonies that point to what is sacred, significant, and important for Catholics. I eventually received first communion (the bread and wine is that which nourishes the disciple with Christ’s body and blood for his transformation into Him). Later, between the ages of 8-12, I was confirmed. In this sacrament, the Holy Spirit is given to those already baptized in order to make them strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.

     Going to church on a weekly basis, occasionally participating in the confession of sins, observing the 6 days of obligation throughout the year as well as the two church fasts of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday became my routine. At some point a neighborhood friend, who was an altar boy in the local Catholic Church I attended, asked me if I wanted to become one. I said yes, and proceeded to enroll in special classes at the church for this purpose.

     I told my fellow colleague that as I grew older, in my teen and early twenties, I stopped going to church altogether. Something was missing. Church became boring. I really didn’t feel like I was getting closer to God. In my mid-twenties, not being thrilled with how my life was turning out (e.g. job difficulties; relationship issues, family conflicts, etc.), I decided to go on a quest to find God, as silly as this might sound. I attended just about every different church assembly there was, which was located in my home city. There was nothing in any of the teachings which I heard that stood out. What I mean is, there were evidently differences in theology, but for the most part the way to heaven was to follow the teachings of the church and hopefully, when you die, you might make it to heaven.

     Then something happened which changed my life forever. I heard about a Baptist church bible study that was being conducted near where I was living. I attended the study and after the message was given, the pastor asked if anyone wanted to have a personal relationship with God. He said that God’s desire was to come into a person’s life and indwell, providing them with a new nature, a new life, and a divine purpose for living. I wondered what I was going to have to do in for this to take place in my life. He said that in order for God to come into your life, you must be born again. In order to be born again (anew) a person must repent (acknowledge their sins) to God the Father and believe in his Son Jesus Christ.

     I decided that I wanted God to come into my life and give me a new nature. The pastor first asked me to repent. I responded by stating that I was a sinner. After which, he told me about who Jesus is. He is the one who:

  • Pre-existed time as one of the members of the trinity (one God in three persons), the other two being God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
  • Came to the earth and took on the form of a man, being born of a virgin.
  • Lived a sinless life.
  • Listened to and obeyed the directives of his Father.
  • Went to the cross and paid for the penalty of and forgave (wiped away the debt) the sins of the whole world.
  • Rose from the dead after 3 days, never to die again.
  • Walked the earth for 40 days in his glorified body, and after which ascended into heaven.

        He mentioned to me that whosoever believes in Him, will receive another member of the trinity, this being the Holy Spirit, who will come inside their body and reside. I responded by saying that I believed in Jesus, and then, nothing happened. I thought to myself, shouldn’t I somehow be aware that God had come into my life. Then, after a few moments the pastor made a comment which surprised me. He said that I was currently involved in an illicit relationship with a woman and needed to confess this sin to God and not continue on in it anymore. I admit I was taken aback. How did he know about this? I confessed this as sin and stated that I wouldn’t continue on in this relationship. All of a sudden I was filled with a peace and joy that permeated my whole being. God had come into my life.

     When I told my fellow colleague about this, his response was that likewise God comes into his life; albeit in a different manner. He said that when he partakes of the elements of communion the bread becomes the literal body of Christ and the wine becomes the literal blood of Christ, the result of such is that the more frequently he partakes of it the more he will experience an increase in spiritual growth (i.e., a lessening of racial and national prejudices or neighborhood resentments, and an increase in neighborliness, compassion, patience, and forbearance towards others).

     He asked me, what was my view on this? I responded by saying that my view on this, otherwise known to Catholics as the doctrine of Transubstantiation, had since changed. I now believed that the bread symbolized Christ’s body and the wine symbolized His blood. The partaking of the elements as far as I was concerned was for a remembrance of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.

     I asked him, why does the Catholic Church believe in this literal perspective? He said their belief is based on a view that is held by most of the early church fathers (Christian writers who lived during the time of the apostles of Christ) whose writings reflected the history, doctrines, and traditions of the early church. I wondered if what he had just told me had any merit (basis in fact). I told him that I would write a paper on this subject and when I was done I would bring it to him so that he could read it over and provide comment. 

     Some of the questions which this study will attempt to answer are: Do the elements of the bread and wine become the literal body and blood of Christ at communion? Did most of the early church fathers believe this to be the case? Does the partaking of communion on a frequent basis cause the participant to increase in spiritual nourishment, growth, and pleasure? Lord, help me in this endeavor. Provide me with your insight. Amen.

 

CHAPTER 1

There Are Two Views

Concerning the Eating of Christ’s Flesh and the Drinking of His Blood

Literal view: the consumption of the bread and wine literally becomes the eating of Christ’s flesh and the drinking of His blood

Suggested Reading: John 6:1-69; Matthew 26:26-28

When Jesus said to the Jews in John 6:53, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you,” he was speaking prophetically of the Lord’s Supper; when the bread becomes the His literal body, and the wine becomes the His literal blood. In other words, participants in the Lord’s Supper are eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)

This view proposes that the sacramental union of our self with Jesus is a mystical and spiritual union of our soul with Him, produced by our physical contact with the sacred Body of Jesus. As we grow in love for God through our union with Jesus by frequently participating in Holy Communion fruit will be produced in our life that we will notice over time (i.e., spiritual growth, a lessening of racial and national prejudices or neighborhood resentments, and an increase in neighborliness, compassion, patience, and forbearance towards others1).

Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:54)

Proponents of this view will say that evidence for this view exists, that being in the belief system of most of the early church fathers. 

 

Figurative view: the eating of Christ’s flesh and the drinking of his blood is to be taken figuratively (symbolically) 

Suggested Reading: John 6:1-69; John 7:37-39; Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22-23; Luke 22:19-20                                                                                                                                                                                                           

These verses support the interpretation that the bread symbolizes Christ’s body, and the wine symbolizes Christ’s blood at communion; intimating that faith in Christ, believing in who He is, is synonymous with the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood, the reward for such will be eternal life.

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (John 6:51)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. (John 6:63)

Initially, many in his periphery thought He meant that they had to literally eat his flesh and drink his blood, which would be considered not only barbaric but contrary to their dietary laws in regards to the partaking of blood. Because of this proclamation, many of his disciples followed him no more. 

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. (John 6:66)

Just before they departed from him Jesus explained that it is the Spirit who gives life, and not the flesh. The indication being that the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood is analogous to a spiritual awakening or to spiritual regeneration.

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

In John 7, Jesus said that if any person thirst let them come to him and drink. For those who believed in who He is will drink, and out of their belly will flow rivers of living water, which was analogous to receiving the indwelling Holy Spirit.

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

According to this perspective, it is the Holy Spirit, and not the communion elements, who is the basis for a believer evidencing God’s love in their life.  

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:5)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

If we were to take a look at Luke 22:14-20, this will be the last time that Jesus will be celebrating the Passover with his disciples. He tells them to take of the bread and of the cup of wine and divide it amongst themselves. The bread, he related to them, is his body and the wine is his blood, which was to be partaken of in remembrance of him, as the Passover Lamb, who gave of himself for the sins of the whole world. 

And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:19-20)

Proponents of this view state that it is the Holy Spirit, and not the communion elements, which causes a believer to grow spiritually. Communion, they would say, is not participated in so Christ would nourish the participant’s soul by means of his literal body and blood, but is an opportunity to reflect upon the work that He accomplished on the cross by means of his suffering and death.

As we can see, there are clearly two distinct views as to purpose of the elements of communion.  Do they literally become Christ’s body and blood or are they to be taken as representations (symbolic) of his physical body and blood?

In the next chapter, we will discuss the mindset of some who might be thinking, I go to church, I believe in Christ, and yet I have no evidence that the Holy Spirit has come into my life. Therefore, at least in the partaking of the bread and wine at communion I am engaged in something tangible which provides for me some assurance that Jesus came into my life.

 

CHAPTER 2

I Already Believe in Jesus, So Where Is the Holy Spirit?

Some might be asking, “Where is the Holy Spirit?” I go to church on a regular basis, and believed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yet He is nowhere to be found. This is a great question. I was brought up Catholic and professed belief in God the Father, Jesus the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit; but I can honestly say that I never sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit operating in my life. I wonder why?

When Nicodemus, a Jew, as well as being a member of the religious hierarchy, met Jesus at night he correctly addressed him as being a teacher come from God. Additionally, the multitude referred to him as the prophet of Nazareth, and his disciples called him the Son of God

The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. (John 3:2)

And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. (Matthew 21:11)

Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. (Matthew 14:33)

Clearly, Jesus was known, and rightfully so, as a teacher, a prophet, and the Son of God. If we were to believe in him according to these pronouncements, shouldn’t we receive the Holy Spirit? In John 5:18, Jesus said that God was his Father, thus making himself equal with God. His listeners assumed he meant that there were two Gods, himself and God the Father, thereby indicating polytheism (many Gods). 

Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

I believe this is the crux of the matter. In some churches, we have been asked to accept the Trinity (God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit) without an emphasis on the person and work of Jesus for salvation. In other churches, there is belief in the trinity, however, Jesus is considered only as a prophet, teacher, the Son of God, but not God incarnate. Furthermore, there are churches that believe in the trinity as there being three separate Gods. 

In each of these cases, there is a lack of understanding about who Jesus is. So, who is Jesus? He is God, being one of the persons of the trinity, neither of whom is independent of the other. It is by means of repentance to God the Father and belief in his Son Jesus Christ as to who he is and the work which he accomplished that will result in the receiving of the Holy Spirit. 

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (Ephesians 2:13-18)

By Jesus’ death on the cross he took care of the enmity, or sin, that existed between mankind and God the Father, thus making heaven accessible to anyone who repents (acknowledges their sins) to God the Father and is converted (turns to God through belief in Christ).

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; (Acts 3:19)

Do you want the Holy Spirit to come into your life so that you can have fellowship with God the Father? If so, it’s as simple as confessing (praying) this simple prayer:

I repent (acknowledge my sins) of adultery, fornication, lying, stealing, gossiping, homosexuality, …etc.) to you God the Father.

I believe in this Jesus who, as God, left heaven and took upon himself the form of a man and was born of a virgin; having walked on the earth without committing sin; died on a cross, paid the penalty, or debt, for the sins of the whole world, providing forgiveness; rose again after 3 days, never to die again; satisfied the justice of God; and ascended into heaven.

Congratulations! The Holy Spirit has now come into your life. Over time, He will provide you with his presence, answer your prayers in his time and manner, and unveil the word of God to you in a personal way. He will also bestow upon you at least one spiritual gift (endowment) for the edification of the body of Christ. I hope that his helps to clear up any confusion in regard as to why the Holy Spirit is not received when a person professes belief in Christ.

In the following chapter, we will look at the figurative and literal interpretation of scripture in order to gain insight as to whether the elements of communion are to be taken literally or figuratively.

 

Endnotes

1Jeff Vehige. ”The Doctrine of Transubstantiation.”, 2008, 10 April 2009  ˂ http://catholic-teaching.org/ >.

 

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