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The Lord's Supper

adopted 1997

On the basis of the Words of Institution (Matthew 26:26, 27; Mark 14:22, 24; Luke 22: 19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11: 23-25) and other Scripture passages concerning the Lord’s Supper (I Corinthians 10: 16, 17 and 11: 26-29)
1. We hold with Luther that “[the Sacrament of the Altar instituted by Christ himself] is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and to drink.” (SC VI, pp. 351)
2. We hold that “in the Holy Supper the two essences, the natural bread and the true body of Christ, are present together here on earth in the ordered action of the sacrament, though the union of the body and blood of Christ with the bread and wine is not a personal union, like that of the two natures in Christ, but a sacramental union … ” (FC SD VII 37, 38, p. 575f)
3. We hold that this sacramental union is in effect during the usus or actio: “Nothing has the character of a sacrament apart from the divinely instituted action (that is, if one does not observe Christ’s institution as he ordained it, it is no sacrament). This rule dare not in any way be rejected, but it can and should be profitably urged and retained in the church of God. In this context ‘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.” (FC SD VII 85, 86, pp. 584f)
4. We hold that “it is the institution of this sacrament, performed by Christ, that makes it valid in Christendom, and that it does not depend on the worthiness or unworthiness of the minister who distributes the sacrament or of him who receives it, since, as St. Paul says, the unworthy receive the sacrament too. Therefore (we) hold that, where Christ’s institution and command are observed, the body and blood of Christ are truly distributed to the unworthy too, and that they truly receive it.” (FC SD VII 16, p.572)
5. We hold that it is the almighty Word of Christ “which distinguishes it from mere bread and wine and constitutes it a sacrament which is rightly called Christ’s body and blood… ‘When [if] the Word is joined to the external element, it becomes a sacrament’… The Word must make the element a sacrament; otherwise it remains a mere element.” (LC V 10, p. 448)
6. We hold that “no man’s word or work, be it the merit or the speaking of the minister, be it the eating and drinking or the faith of the communicants, can effect the true presence of the body and blood of the 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.” (FC SD VII 74, p. 583)
7. We hold that the words of consecration repeated by the minister in a proper celebration of the Sacrament are the effective means by which the real presence of Christ’s body and blood is brought into being. “For wherever we observe his institution and speak his words over the bread and cup and distribute the blessed bread and cup, Christ himself is still active through the spoken words by the virtue of the first institution, which he wants to be repeated … ‘No human being, but only Christ himself who was crucified for us, can make of the bread and wine set before us the body and blood of Christ. The words are spoken by the mouth of the priest, but by God’s power and grace through the words that he speaks, “this is my body,” the elements set before us in the supper are blessed.’ … ‘This his command and institution can and does bring it about that we do not distribute and receive ordinary bread and wine but his body and blood, as his words read, “this is my body,” etc., “this is my blood,” etc. Thus it is not our work or speaking but the command and ordinance of Christ that, from the beginning of the first Communion until the end of the world, make the bread the body and the wine the blood that are daily distributed through our ministry and office.’ Again, ‘Here, too, if I were to say over all the bread there is, “This is the body of Christ,” nothing would happen, but when we follow his institution and command in the Lord’s Supper and say, “This is my body,” then it is his body, not because of our speaking or of our efficacious word, but because of his command in which he has told us so to speak and to do and has attached his own command and deed to our speaking.”’ (FC SD V11 75-8, pp. 583-5)
8. We hold that “the words of institution are to be spoken or sung distinctly and clearly before the congregation and are under no circumstances to be omitted. Thereby we render obedience to the command of Christ, ‘This do …’ And thereby the elements of bread and wine are hallowed or blessed in (for) this holy use, so that therewith the body and blood of Christ are distributed to us to eat and to drink, as Paul says, ‘The cup of blessing which we bless,’ which happens precisely through the repetition and recitation of the words of institution.” (FC SD VII 79-82, p. 584)
9. We hold that we cannot fix from Scripture the point within the sacramental usus when the real presence of Christ’s body and blood begins, yet we know from Scripture and we acknowledge in the confessions that what is distributed and received is the body and blood of Christ.
We understand Thesis Nine in the light of the following statements:

a) The words of consecration effect the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in a valid administration of the Lord’s Supper (consecration, distribution and reception).

b) Because of this consecration by virtue of our Lord’s original institution “the true body and blood of Christ are really present in the Supper of our Lord under the form of bread and wine and are there distributed and received.” (AC X, p. 34; see AC XXII 6, p. 50; Ap X I, p. 179; Ap XXIV 80, p. 264; FC SD VII 10-11, p. 571) The Scripture and the Confessions, therefore, teach that in the Supper the body and blood of Christ are received by the communicant and also that the “minister who consecrates shows forth [tenders] the body and blood of the Lord to the people” (Ap XXIV 80, p. 264; see also SC VI 1-2, p.351; SA Part III VI 1, p. 311; AC XXII 6, p. 50; Ap X 4, pp. 179-80), that they are “truly offered with the visible elements” (FC SD VII 10-11, p. 571; see also Ap X 1, p. 179), and that they are “really present in the Supper … under the form of bread and wine.” (AC X, p. 34)

c) We reject any attempt to fix the mathematical point or exact moment when the real presence begins.

d) We reject the teaching that the presence of Christ’s body and blood is in any way effected by the eating and drinking of the elements by the communicants.

e) We reject the doctrine of transubstantiation, i.e., that the earthly elements cease to exist when the real presence of Christ’s body and blood begins.

f) We reject any celebration of the Lord’s Supper without communicants.

g) While one may hold a private opinion as to when the real presence begins, yet we reject the dogmatic assertion that in a valid celebration of the Lord’s Supper it must be maintained that the body and blood are immediately present after the Words of Institution have been spoken by the pastor or the dogmatic assertion that it must be maintained that the body and blood are present only in the reception.

h) We reject the dogmatic assertion that the remaining elements in a valid celebration of the Lord’s Supper must be consumed; rather, we continue to uphold the practice of the church down through the years that the remaining elements may be consumed, or be disposed of in a reverent manner, or be saved for future sacramental use.

 NOTE: References to and citations from the Book of Concord are according to the Tappert Edition.

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