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Home The Light Articles from 1999 The Doctrine of Transubstantiation

The Doctrine of Transubstantiation

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The Doctrine of Transubstantiation

by Darrell Cline

The Scriptures do not teach that the bread of the Communion becomes the LITERAL body of Christ, nor the fruit of the vine his LITERAL blood in the Communion service. The doctrine that it does is called transubstantiation. It is false.

In 1 Cor. 11:26, the apostle Paul used the phrase "as often as ye EAT this BREAD," when referring to the bread in the communion service. When referring to the same bread on another occasion he said, "the bread which we break" (I Cor. 10:16). In both references, Paul maintains the idea that the food on the table is literal bread. In no way may we properly construe these passages to convey the idea of LITERAL flesh replacing the bread. As we view the items on the communion table, we have to keep in mind that we are dealing with physical food and drink, both having spiritual significance.

When Christ instituted the Supper on the night of his betrayal, he took a cup of fruit of the vine and said, "This is my blood" (Matt. 26:28). Now notice, Jesus had already blessed the cup as per verse 27; he refers to the contents as "my blood" while his blood still coursed his veins, but he refers to the same contents as the "fruit of the vine" in verse 29. Jesus did not acknowledge a physical change having taken place in the drink element of the communion service because he still referred to it as "fruit of the vine." We see Christ's blood and body through the eye of faith ONLY—transubstantiation does not take place.

Actually, the doctrine that subscribes to the literal presence of the body and blood of Christ in the communion service, is Catholic in origin and practice and is not widely accepted outside of that religion, so far as I can determine.

According to the Handbook on Church Doctrines, by Stafford North, the doctrine of transubstantiation (real presence of Christ's body in the bread, and blood in the wine) was first promoted about 700 A.D., and was not generally accepted until well after 800 A.D. It was not until the 19th Ecumenical Council held in Trent, Austria, 1545-1563 A.D. that the definition of real presence was made (Catholic Encyclopedia Dictionary, 3rd Edition, p. 500). According to this definition, "both matter and form of the bread and wine cease to be...There is a substantial conversion when bread, on being eaten, becomes flesh...The Eucharist conversion lies in the change of the whole substance, matter and form" (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 5. p. 499).

The Catholic church does not use the traditional scriptures found in either the institution of the Lord's Supper or Paul's command to Corinth. Rather, they sight John 6 and church "tradition" as sufficient evidence of their doctrine. Whatever meaning we may give to the very figurative discourse Jesus gave in John 6, we cannot conclude that verses 53-55 are to be construed to apply to his LITERAL presence in the communion service. That is contrary to the plain teachings on this subject.

How could Jesus possibly hold in his hand his LITERAL flesh and blood as he stood before the apostles when instituting this Supper? He was alive, with flesh on his bones and blood in his veins. He was a LIVING person. He was only using material available to him at this passover supper; no miracle took place here.

Martin Luther broke with the idea of transubstantiation when he made his break with the Catholic church. Luther introduces a new concept known as consubstantiation. His doctrine taught that the "substance of the bread and the wine remain together with the newly present substance of Christ's body and blood. Christ is present under and in the bread and wine (and only till the end of the service) so that in the consecration service the words used are `here is my body' as opposed to `this is my body'" (Catholic Encyclopedia V.5 p.119).

The New Testament teaches SPIRITUAL significance given to these physical ele-ments, i.e. bread and fruit of the vine. The bread does not become the LITERAL body of Christ nor does the fruit of the vine become LITERAL BLOOD. Paul says we eat BREAD: Jesus says of the contents of the communion cup, this is FRUIT OF THE VINE. Plainer language could not have been found to teach about the communion setting. NO physical changes take place in these two substances either before, during, or after the thanks has been offered.

The question facing us now is, if there is not a LITERAL change, nor "real pres-ence" as the Catholics teach, are these items EMBLEMS? They are in fact emblems of the blood and body of Christ, just as the cup is the emblem of the New Covenant, ratified by that blood. Some object to the term "emblem" but on what basis? Listen to Webster's definition of this word. An emblem is "an object or a picture suggesting and representing an idea or object DIFFERENT from itself" (emphasis, dc). Either they are emblems or we believe in transubstantiation or consubstantiation, and we know that these latter two doctrines are foreign to God's Word. We wholly agree that in a figurative or spiritual sense the bread and fruit of the vine are the body and blood of Jesus Christ. But our proposition is that they do not become his literal flesh and blood. They are only emblematical.

The Bible teaches that no literal change takes place. If one does not feel comfort-able in using the term emblems, why not refer to them as the "communion of the blood of Christ," or the "communion of the body of Christ" that Paul spoke of in 1 Cor. 10:16. But make no mistake, this does not convey the idea of "real presence" in the Lord's Supper.

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