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.

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