A Laymen’s Commentary on the Augsburg Confession: The Lord’s Supper

This is part 11 of 30 in the series A Layman's Commentary on the Augsburg Confession

Article X: Of the Lord’s Supper.

1] Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed 2] to those who eat the Supper of the Lord; and they reject those that teach otherwise.

We believe that Christ is truly present in the Lord’s Supper.  This true presence has a tangible impact as it both effects the blessings we receive as well as who we are to commune with.  Those in open sin, including the sin of false doctrine, are to be excluded from the Lord’s Table.  This is one of the many reasons for Closed Communion, for in many cases those excluded from the table are excluded for the sin of belonging to a church that teaches false doctrine.  After all, the pinnacle of fellowship in the Church is the Sacrament of the Altar. Thus, we must believe the same as those at the rail with us.  Even beyond this we know that physical and spiritual harm can come from unworthily receiving the Sacrament.  Thus, as a preaching of the Law and as a protection to that person, we exclude those who are not in fellowship with us or are open sinners (1 Corinthians 10:1-22, 11:17-34).

However, for the truly penitent, the medicine of immortality is given to comfort and heal.  The very Blood of Christ is given to forgive all of your sins.  The very Body of Christ unites us to Himself and binds us together in unity as the catholic Church.  A foretaste of the marriage feast of the Lamb is given to us to tide us over until the day when the Bridegroom comes for His Bride.

We condemn all who think that Christ is not present or any who think that it is merely a memorial meal.  This Supper is given for the forgiveness of sins. Christ’s Body and Blood are truly present and are received by both the faithful and the unfaithful.  The faithful, to their blessing; the unfaithful, to their condemnation.

The Confutation agrees with this Article.  That said, Rome believes in Transubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass.  They try to explain how the bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood. We instead simply confess that it is what Christ declares it to be.

1 Jesus Christ, our blessed Savior,
Turned away God’s wrath forever;
By His bitter grief and woe
He saved us from the evil foe.

2 He, to pledge His love undying,
Spreads this table, grace supplying,
Gives His body with the bread,
And with the wine the blood He shed.

3 Banquet gifts God here is sharing;
Take them—after well preparing;
For if one does not believe,
Then death for life he shall receive.

4 Praise the Father, who from heaven
To His own this food has given,
Who, to mend what we have done,
Gave into death His only Son.

5 Firmly hold with faith unshaken
That this food is to be taken
By the sick who are distressed,
By hearts that long for peace and rest.

6 Agony and bitter labor
Were the cost of God’s high favor;
Do not come if you suppose
You need not Him who died and rose.

7 Christ says: “Come, all you that labor,
And received My grace and favor:
They that feel no want nor ill
Need no physician’s help nor skill.”

8 “For what purpose was My dying,
if not for your justifying?
And what use this precious food
if you yourself were pure and good?”

9 If your heart this truth professes
And your mouth your sin confesses,
You will be your Savior’s guest,
Be at His banquet truly blest.

10 Let this food your faith so nourish
That by love its fruit may flourish
And your neighbor learn from you
How much God’s wondrous love can do.

(LSB 627)

About Dr. Paul Edmon

Dr. Paul Edmon is from Seattle, Washington and now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He has his B.S. in Physics from the University of Washington in 2004 and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Minnesota in 2010. He is professional staff at Harvard University and acts as liaison between Center for Astrophysics and Research Computing. A life long Lutheran, he is formerly a member of Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle and University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis. He now attends First Lutheran Church (FLC) of Boston where he teaches Lutheran Essentials. He sings bass in the FLC choir and Canto Armonico. He was elected to the Concordia Seminary St. Louis Board of Regents in 2016. He is single and among his manifold interests are scotch, football, anime, board games, mythology, history, philosophy, and general nerdiness. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent Harvard University or Concordia Seminary. Twitter: @pauledmon


A Laymen’s Commentary on the Augsburg Confession: The Lord’s Supper — 21 Comments

  1. Dear Dr. Edmon: Please provide support from Scripture for the statement, “This Supper is given for the forgiveness of sins.”

    Thank you.

    George A. Marquart

  2. “For this reason, too, all three evangelists, Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19, and St. Paul, who received the same [the institution of the Lord’s Supper] after the ascension of Christ [from Christ Himself], 1 Cor. 11:24, unanimously and with the same words and syllables repeat concerning the consecrated and distributed bread these distinct, clear, firm, and true words of Christ: This is My body, altogether in one way, without any interpretation [trope, figure] and change. Therefore there is no doubt that also concerning the other part of the Sacrament these words of Luke and Paul: This cup is the new testament in My blood, can have no other meaning than that which St. Matthew and St. Mark give: This (namely, that which you orally drink out of the cup) is My blood of the new testament, whereby I establish, seal, and confirm with you men this My testament and new covenant, namely, the forgiveness of sins.”

    FC SD VII, 52-3

  3. Dear Steve: An unbiased reading of these words clearly shows that the only thing that can be affirmed from Scripture is everything that ends with the words, “…my blood of the New Testament.” What follows, beginning with the word “whereby” cannot be found in Scripture and is the deduction of pious minds. This actually follows the tradition of the Roman Catholic church, which was valid at the time of Luther and is valid to this day.
    This is essentially the same argument Luther makes in the Large and Small Catechisms. Luther uses such expressions as, “Das ist kürzlich so viel gesagt,“ that is „that briefly says this much,“ and “nämlich” that is “namely”, all of which are devices to connect the words of Scripture with the conclusions that are the creation of the writer.
    At stake here is the matter of how we receive the forgiveness of sins. Clearly Scripture teaches (do I really have to quote all of the passages?) that the forgiveness of sins is received in Baptism, when we become children of God and members of His Kingdom. To keep us perfect and unstained in the Kingdom is impossible, unless our sins are forgiven as they are committed. Hence simul iustus et peccator.
    In the good old Doctrinal Statement, you will find the following words, “…Likewise the object of the Lord’s Supper, that is, of the ministration of the body and blood of Christ, is none other than the communication and sealing of the forgiveness of sins,…” This would appear to be something other than the simple receiving of forgiveness.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  4. Dear Brother in Christ, dear Dr. Edmon, Your commentary on CA 10 is most admirable and, indeed, shows a great blessing of clear faith and courage. May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ move those reading your witness to a joyous and comforted confession to His Holy Eucharist and, with that, to an active discipleship. If only the pastors, who claim to be Lutheran, would teach and believe in accordance with Holy Scripture and the Book of Concord, would the church surely grow in the context of the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church. May our Lord bless you and your teaching, brother! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you. Sincerely, Pastor em. John W. Siegmund

  5. @George A. Marquart #3

    Not sure what your exact point is. Are you saying pious deductions a la Catholicism are OK to establish doctrine, or not OK?

    Faith is the hand that receives God’s promise of forgiveness for Christ’s sake. God reassures us that he forgives us (strengthens our faith in him) by (a) our initial Baptism (where he 1st created faith in the heart), (b) bringing our Baptism to mind in future years, (c) absolution, (d) giving us Christ’s Supper, (e) the preaching of the Gospel (or when we read it or otherwise encounter it in various media–doesn’t have to be an actual sermon), and (f) “the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren.”

    Eating the Supper neither gives nor strengthens faith if faith is not already there–only faith can receive him in the Supper. We have to know what is going on, unlike in infant Baptism. So, to split hairs about “Does the Supper forgive us, or does it ‘communicate and seal’?” seems to me to be beside the point.

    Does this help at all?

  6. “And about the cup He says thus: “This cup is a new covenant in my blood” [1 Cor. 11:25]. Survey and repeat the whole Scripture, and you will find nowhere that the new testament is called something other than forgiveness of sins through Christ or through the blood of Christ. The prophet Jeremiah writes about the new covenant where God says, “A time will come when I will make another testament than the one that has existed until now, for I will be gracious to their wickedness and their sins and their unrighteousness I will remember no more.” The Epistle to the Hebrews also understands these words in the Prophet Jeremiah in this way [Heb. 8:8-12], and St. Paul repeats them to the Romans when he says this, “This is my covenant with them, when I will take away their sin” [Rom. 11:27].

    “Now, since this cup or this drink is a new testament, truly, it is forgiveness of sins…”

    Johannes Bugenhagen, “An open letter against the new error concerning the sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1525.

  7. What happens when you forgive someone’s sins? You make a decision to forgive. If you attach conditions to the forgiveness, it is no longer forgiveness, but a deal. It is the same with God. He forgives us; it is an act of the internal will of God. He forgives us our sins when we are baptized, and that is the end of it. We do not ingest forgiveness; it is not a substance. Strictly speaking, we do not even receive forgiveness; it is proclaimed to us in the Gospel, and we believe in it by faith.
    Anything else is pious nonsense. The problem with pious nonsense is that it inevitably takes away from the Gospel. The Gospel proclaims that God does everything that is needed for us to inherit eternal life. If someone proclaims that you have to eat or drink something to have your sins forgiven, that takes away from the free grace of God. Are all sins forgiven when we drink the blood of our Lord? Others are forgiven when the Pastor proclaims the Absolution; others are forgiven when we pray, “and forgive us our sins.” With that much variety, can we be sure all of our sins are forgiven?
    To the best of my knowledge, there were no Lutheran pastors in the Soviet Union after 1936. Did any Lutherans receive forgiveness, even though they were unable to receive the Eucharist for over 50 years, or Absolution? Give me a break.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  8. @George A. Marquart #7

    Reminds me of the old joke about the centenarian couple in divorce court. “Your honor, my husband never tells me he loves me!” “Judge, I told her I loved her the day of our wedding. If I change my mind, I’ll let her know!” 😉

    Sorry, but I’ll stick to my “pious nonsense.”

  9. @James Gibbs #9

    Baptism regenerates and brings us into the Kingdom of God. The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world.
    You will have to learn the difference between the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant, as in Luke 16:16, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.”

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  10. @George A. Marquart #7

    “He forgives us our sins when we are baptized, and that is the end of it…. If someone proclaims that you have to eat or drink something to have your sins forgiven, that takes away from the free grace of God.“

    There’s a disconnect here. Someone could easily take your argument and turn it on it’s head, and many do!!!! “if someone proclaims that you have to be baptized to have your sins forgiven, that takes away from the free grace of God.”

  11. @T-rav #12

    Though George, reading it again I think I see your point. That’s where I agree with James Gibbs. A husband telling his wife, “I love you,” a second, third, fourth, or a million times doesn’t negate the first pronouncement of love.

  12. @T-rav #13

    T-rav, I do not understand what that story is supposed to convey. If in the Sacrament of the Altar our Lord declares His love for us, I agree. If by participating in the Sacrament, we declare our love for our Lord, I also agree. However, Baptism is where it all starts, and the Church has held from the very beginning that there shall be only one Baptism.

    And by the way, Baptism does not forgive sins. God forgives sins. I am not saying you wrote that; others have.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  13. @George A. Marquart #15

    Dude–see an LCMS pastor, and ask him to explain what the Means of Grace are.

    Either you don’t know this concept (in which case he can straighten you out), or you do know it and don’t accept it. In which case, good luck to you!

    Does God feed me, or does my wife? Both. He ultimately provides my daily bread, but my wife does the cooking.

    Likewise–God forgives sin, since he is the one offended. But he does so BY MEANS OF the Word and Sacraments.

    I still am unsure what ultimate point you are trying to make, but good luck to you. You seem like a nice guy!

  14. @George A. Marquart #15

    Nobody has argued that Baptism is not where it starts or that there is more than one Baptism. I’m really not sure where that came from.

    I didn’t say anything for a while, but I thought your first question was just a bit tricky.

    You know what the confessional Lutheran support from Scripture is for the forgiveness of sins being offered in the Lord’s Supper. You’ve argued against it here on several other articles. We’ve personally debated about it before. It’s just that you don’t agree with it.

    Many who read this site know that you have about 5 or so doctrinal points of disagreement with confessional Lutheranism. You rehash these same themes over and over when you see an opportunity.

  15. @T-rav #18

    My concern is that there are positions in the Confessions that clearly do not agree with Scripture.
    If a quia confessor were to take a position repeatedly, it is characterized as being faithful to the Confessions. If someone disagrees with the Confessions, it is “rehashing.”
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  16. The confessional Lutheran position simply restates Scripture:

    1 Corinthians 11: 25
    In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

    This cup (drink) is the new covenant (forgiveness of sins) in my blood (real presence).

    Do this in remembrance of me. (Faith)

  17. @Steve #20

    Steve: It always amazes me that someone can write two sentences that clearly say different things, and insist they are the same.
    So now we are not only insisting on the Real Presence of the Blood of Christ in the Sacrament (something I have never denied), but also the Real Presence of the New Covenant in the Sacrament.
    The New Covenant is not only about Forgiveness. It is also about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Sanctification, the Kingdom of God, Redemption, Justification and probably a number of other things. Do we drink all of them?
    You might want to consider that our Lord made reference to the blood of the New Covenant to distinguish it from the Old Covenant, in which blood of bulls was used. The accent in the sentence should be on “MY”. The account in Matthew gives a slightly different reading.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

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