Roman Catholic Beliefs About Communion

It is quite popular and fashionable for people today to say that Christ is “with us” wherever we go. Because of our doctrine of the Holy Spirit, those who are believers in Christ and united with him can rightfully make this claim!

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever”

John 14:16

The Catholic Church explains the presence of Jesus primarily through his actual physical presence in the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper). For the Catholic, it is vitally important that a Christian regularly receives the Eucharist because it is the primary way that a person receives Christ. If a person does not take the Eucharist, then a Catholic cannot say that person has the actual presence of Jesus.

This is why debates over ex-communication (being denied the Eucharist) in the Catholic church have historically become issues of life and death importance. In Baptist circles, if a person is excommunicated from one church, he will typically just go find another church. But in the Catholic way of thinking, to be cut off from communion is to be cut off from Christ himself. When the reformers (including King Henry VIII and Martin Luther) and their followers were excommunicated by the pope, the Roman Catholic Church understood that this would mean they were damned. If eternal life and damnation are at stake, there is no wonder that wars were fought over the Eucharist!

Protestant Communion

The various Protestant views on communion are usually some form of the views held by the reformers Martin Luther, John Calvin, or Ulrich Zwingli in the 1500s. While all of these men rejected the Catholic view that the bread and wine of communion became the literal physical body and blood of Christ, they differed on the extent to which Christ was indeed present in the communion. A short article explaining these views can be found at Ligonier.org.

What Does Venture Teach?

The Lord’s Supper (also called Eucharist and Communion) was instituted by Jesus for his disciples on the night before his crucifixion. (Matthew 26:17-29, Mark 14:12-25, Luke 22:7-38). This was the last time Jesus celebrated the Passover feast on earth.

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice the next day, it would also be the last time anybody would need to celebrate the Passover feast. Jesus is the final Passover lamb. No further sacrifice would need to be made in order for men to be justified before God. The next time Jesus drinks the symbolic cup of wine with his disciples (us!) will be in the culmination of his kingdom when he sits as king at the head of the table! (Matthew 26:29)

The Lord’s Supper is a beautiful picture of what Christ accomplished once and for all!

The Lord’s Supper as practiced by Venture Church most closely lines up with the view espoused by Ulrich Zwingli. He believed (as do we) that Jesus was speaking metaphorically when he said “this is my body…. this is my blood” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

The disciples knew that night they were not eating the literal body and blood of Christ. Jesus was simply clarifying the meaning of a ceremonial feast in which they had participated every year from the time they were infants.

The disciples are neither commanded nor forbidden from continuing to celebrate the feast of Passover. But whatever they choose to do with it, they are to understand the feast with a different meaning than they understood before. The unleavened bread and the cup of wine were not merely symbolic of the Israelites’ quick journey out of Egypt (Exodus 12). They are actually symbolic of the once-for-all satisfaction of the wrath of God when Jesus gave up his life on the cross.

Christ is with us, but not because we take some bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper. Christ is with us because we have been saved by grace through faith alone and given the Holy Spirit, who is the presence of Christ continually.