Nestorianism at Lutheran Altars, by Pr. Klemet Preus

(This is number six in a seven part series on Christology)

Recently I wrote a series of Blogs which showed that the LCMS is hopelessly divided on the question of who should commune at the altar of our congregations. Some pastors commune only those who are members of congregations which are in fellowship with us. Others commune those who believe in the real presence.

Unfortunately there is a second aspect of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper which seems to divide us. Precisely how do we express and confess our belief in the “real presence of Christ” in the Sacrament?

Well how do you? Lutherans are content to repeat the words of Jesus. We figure that when he said, “Take eat this is my body given for you,” what he really meant was, “Take eat this is my body given for you.” So we believe that you eat the body of Jesus and drink his blood when you go to the supper. Further we believe that the words of Christ’s Testament make his body and blood present for us to eat in the sacrament. So these words must be spoken or chanted for all to hear. If they are, then even those who commune without faith are eating with their mouths the body and blood of Jesus. Further since there is only one Jesus with one body and one blood, we confess that it is this one and only body and blood that is given and received at the countless altars of churches which celebrate the Supper properly. The Confessions of the church do not use the word “real presence.” They talk of bodily presence or “present with His body and blood.”

Many Evangelicals hear the words “real presence” and believe that Jesus is really present spiritually or really present with his divine nature but not really present with the body and blood derived from his mother and given and shed on the cross. So they believe in “the real presence” and yet deny the sacrament.

Unfortunately in their desire not to offend their American Evangelical friends, many Lutheran church bulletins have a tendency to define the presence of Christ in the Sacrament in vague, ambiguous or Zwinglian terms. I’ve heard or seen the following inadequate expressions:

“In the Lord’s Supper we receive the presence of Christ for the forgiveness of sins.”

“The resurrected Lord is present for us in Holy Communion.”

“Jesus with all of His graces is given to those who commune with faith.”

“We believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ our savior in the Lord’s Supper.”

These statements are biblically inadequate for none contain the words “body and blood.” Worse, they are a capitulation to the impoverished Christology of Zwinglian, American Evangelicalism. Jesus did not say, “I am present in the bread.” He did not say that his “presence” was given. He did not say anything about being spiritually present or present only for those with faith. He said “Take eat this is my body given for you.” Unfortunately, these and many other “Lutheran” Communion statements can easily be understood in a Zwinglian manner to mean that the Divine Christ is present but not the human body of Christ.

When these members of Reformed churches read announcements that allow them to commune as long as they accept the “real presence” (and 35% of the pastors in our church have this wrong practice) then these people are taking the supper to their judgment.

In light of Zwingli’s dominant position in America we need to say more than that Christ is present in the Sacrament as Lord. What needs to be said is that we eat with our mouths the true body and blood of the historical crucified Jesus in the Sacrament. Anything less is Nestorian.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

Nestorianism at Lutheran Altars, by Pr. Klemet Preus — 15 Comments

  1. “What needs to be said is that we eat with our mouths the true body and blood of the historical crucified Jesus in the Sacrament.”

    This statement appears to deny that the true body and blood of Christ appears in the Lord’s Supper at the words of consecration. Also, an emphasis on the historical “crucified” Jesus in the Sacrament appears to deny that his resurrection is also part of the sacramental presence. Is that what Klemet is arguing? Is he arguing for a receptionist position that believes that the dead Christ at the cross comes with his body and blood only at the time of the physical reception of the elements? In other words, is Klemet suggesting that we do not encounter the risen Lord with his true body and blood in the sacrament?

  2. Having heard Rev. Preus’ teaching on this, I think I can answer for him:

    No, he’s not arguing either of the two options you mention. He is not a bit of a receptionist. He affirms that the Christ whose body and blood are received is the same risen Lord.

    After all, this is not an article about when the elements are united with the body and blood. So to say, “We eat his body and blood with our mouths,” is only to say what those things are that go into our mouths, not to say that that is the moment of union.

    It is also natural to emphasize the crucified Lord at the Supper, since He tells us that we proclaim His death in the Sacrament. He does not say that we proclaim His resurrection, although certainly He is the risen as well as crucified Lord.

  3. “It is also natural to emphasize the crucified Lord at the Supper, since He tells us that we proclaim His death in the Sacrament. He does not say that we proclaim His resurrection, although certainly He is the risen as well as crucified Lord.”

    Does Christ come in his risen nature with his body and blood at the Sacramental consecration, or does he only come with his dead crucified body and blood? What does Klement put in his bulletin for a confession of faith in the Christology of the sacrament?

  4. Anonymous,

    Is it your intent to attack the man or deal with the problem of open communion? If you have a problem with closed communion, just say so. And since reception of the Lord’s body and blood at an altar is a public confession of faith, maybe you might want to make a public confession and not hide behind “Anonymous.”

    Rev. Anthony T. Bertram

  5. Anonymous,

    I’m not sure what a “risen nature” is. Christ is risen. Christ is also crucified (that is, He is the One who was crucified). To say Christ is crucified is not necessarily to deny that He is risen. He is both. As St. Paul said, “We preach Christ crucified.” St. Paul was not denying the Resurrection, only affirming the Crucifixion. Rev. Klemet Preus wrote that “we eat with our mouths the true body and blood of the historical crucified Jesus in the Sacrament” This is much the same use of language as St. Paul saying, “We preach Christ crucified.”

  6. Klemet does not provide a complete and full definition of the Lutheran view of the sacrament. Before he throws stones at other Lutherans for providing a truncated definition of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper he should first come up with a full and precise Lutheran understanding of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.

  7. If one actually studies the word “skubala”, the use of it to describe someone’s comments is offensive.

  8. Anonymous,

    I have tried to explain to you patiently what REv. Preus meant, assuming that you were genuinely confused and wanting to learn. Perhaps that was a naive assumption on my part. It is clear at this point that you are strenuously trying to find fault. No amount of explanation will satisfy you.

    So I’m just going to go have a happy Thanksgiving.

  9. Martin Luther is as valid a name as David Cochrane, just ask my parents who named me. Judge not…

  10. Martin I was not speaking of you. I was referencing Anonymouse. And not necessarily his opinions but rather to post them without identification.

    I happen to think Martin Luther is a Cracker Jack prize of a name!

  11. I doubt that a receptionist would write “Further we believe that the words of Christ’s Testament make his body and blood present for us to eat in the sacrament. So these words must be spoken or chanted for all to hear.” as Pr. Preus has done. (Looks pretty consecrationalist to me.) It’s also pretty unlikely that the same man who wrote “Further since there is only one Jesus with one body and one blood,…” would say that the body with which our Lord greeted His disciples on Easter morning, and which rose up visibly into heaven was not the same body born of the virgin Mary, and crucified for our sins.

    I have to say that your post reads a touch weasel-ish, what am I missing here?

    Pax Christî +,
    -Matt Mills

  12. I don’t think Preus is as clear as he could be on the matter concerning consecrationism. Consider St. Paul’s words, “The bread which we break is a participation in the body of Christ.” The word participation is naturally understood as the joining or unifying of the bread and body before the reception and not as referring to the eating by the communicants.

  13. He wrote it is the words of Christ’s Testament that make His body and blood present. The man is not a receptionist.

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