A Laymen’s Commentary on the Epitome of the Formula of Concord: The Holy Supper of Christ

VII. The Lord’s Supper

1 Although the Zwinglian teachers are not to be reckoned among the theologians who affiliate with [acknowledge and profess] the Augsburg Confession, as they separated from them at the very time when this Confession was presented, nevertheless, since they are intruding themselves (into their assembly], and are attempting, under the name of this Christian Confession, to spread their error, we intend also to make a needful statement [we have judged that the Church of Christ should be instructed also] concerning this controversy.


Chief Controversy between Our Doctrine and That of the Sacramentarians regarding This Article.

2 Whether in the Holy Supper the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are truly and essentially present, are distributed with the bread and wine, and received with the mouth by all those who use this Sacrament, whether they be worthy or unworthy, godly or ungodly, believing or unbelieving; by the believing for consolation and life, by the unbelieving for judgment? The Sacramentarians say, No; we say, Yes.

3 For the explanation of this controversy it is to be noted in the beginning that there are two kinds of Sacramentarians. Some are gross Sacramentarians, who declare in plain (deutschen), clear words as they believe in their hearts, that in the Holy Supper nothing but bread and wine is present, and distributed and received with the mouth.

4 Others, however, are subtle Sacramentarians, and the most injurious of all, who partly speak very speciously in our own words, and pretend that they also believe a true presence of the true, essential, living body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, however, that5 this occurs spiritually through faith. Nevertheless they retain under these specious words precisely the former gross opinion, namely, that in the Holy Supper nothing is present and received with the mouth except bread and wine. For with them the word spiritually means nothing else than the Spirit of Christ or the power of the absent body of Christ and His merit, which is present; but the body of Christ is in no mode or way present, except only above in the highest heaven, to which we should elevate ourselves into heaven by the thoughts of our faith, and there, not at all, however, in the bread and wine of the Holy Supper, should seek this body and blood [of Christ].

Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) was a reformer from Switzerland and theological predecessor to John Calvin.  He met with Luther at the famous Marburg Colloquy in 1529. During which Luther and Zwingli contended over the subject of the Sacrament of the Altar.  At Augsburg in 1530 Zwingli and his followers presented a separate confession of faith from the Augsburg Confession because they could not agree with the Lutheran position on the Sacrament.  Zwingli’s Sacramentarian (i.e. denial of the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament) leanings were known prior to the Colloquy but the Colloquy caused him to lose all pretenses of orthodoxy and show his true colors.

Zwingli is chief among the Sacramentarians and still influences their theological descendants. This includes most Protestants except for the Lutherans and some Anglicans.  All the rest reject, explicitly, that Christ is present in the Sacrament of the Altar.

At the time of the Formula of Concord there were two types of Sacramentarians.  The open Sacramentarians, and then the crypto-Calvinists.  The crypto-Calvinists tried to pass off their Sacramentarian heresy in the words of Luther and the language of the Lutheran reformers.  This article is especially written against them.

This plague of Sacramentarianism has been with Lutherans since the Reformation and has led to much strife especially in Germany with the Prussian Union.  This is not an indifferent matter, but goes to the heart of the Reformation.  Namely can we trust what Scripture says and that Scripture speaks plainly when it speaks.

Affirmative Theses.

Confession of the Pure Doctrine concerning the Holy Supper against the Sacramentarians.

6 1. We believe, teach, and confess that in the Holy Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and essentially present, and are truly distributed and received with the bread and wine.

7 2. We believe, teach, and confess that the words of the testament of Christ are not to be understood otherwise than as they read, according to the letter, so that the bread does not signify the absent body and the wine the absent blood of Christ, but that, on account of the sacramental union, they [the bread and wine] are truly the body and blood of Christ.

The argument of the Lutheran reformers is founded on the Words of Institution.  So let us read them from St. Matthew 26:

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

This entire debate hinges on one word. “Is”.  We confess that Christ’s words should be understood in the plainest, most obvious, and simple way.  That being that Christ is truly present in His full person in the Sacrament of the Altar.

Luther was challenged on this repeatedly, even to the abuse of his own writings.  As such he vociferously defends this fact.  The Solid Declaration has many quotes of his to illustrate that:

20 Dr. Luther has also more amply expounded and confirmed this opinion from God’s Word in the Large Catechism, where it is written: What, then, is the Sacrament of the Altar? Answer: It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in and under the bread and wine, which we Christians are commanded by the Word of Christ to eat and to drink.

21 And shortly after: It is the ‘Word,’ I say, which makes and distinguishes this Sacrament, so that it is not mere bread and wine, but is, and is called. the body and blood of Christ.

22 Again: With this Word you can strengthen your conscience and say: If a hundred thousand devils, together with all fanatics, should rush forward, crying, How can bread and wine be the body and blood of Christ? I know that all spirits and scholars together are not as wise as is the Divine Majesty in His little finger. Now, here stands the Word of Christ: “Take, eat; this is My body. Drink ye all of this; this is the new testament in My blood,” etc. Here we abide, and would like to see those who will constitute themselves His masters, and make it different from what He has spoken.

23 It is true, indeed, that if you take away the Word, or regard it without the Word, you have nothing but mere bread and wine. But if the words remain with them, as they shall and must, then, in virtue of the same, it is truly the body and blood of Christ. For as the lips of Christ say and speak, so it is, as He can never lie or deceive.

24 Hence it is easy to reply to all manner of questions about which at the present time men are disturbed, as, for instance, whether a wicked priest can administer and distribute the Sacrament, and such like other points. For here conclude and reply: Even though a knave take or distribute the Sacrament, he receives the true Sacrament, that is, the true body and blood of Christ, just as truly as he who receives or administers it in the most worthy manner. For it is not founded upon the holiness of men, but upon the Word of God. And as no saint upon earth, yea, no angel in heaven, can change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, so also can no one change or alter it, even though it be abused.

25 For the Word, by which it became a sacrament and was instituted, does not become false because of the person or his unbelief. For He does not say: If you believe or are worthy, you will receive My body and blood, but: “Take, eat and drink; this is My body and blood”;

26 likewise: “Do this” (namely, what I now do, institute, give, and bid you take). That is as much as to say, No matter whether you be worthy or unworthy, you have here His body and blood, by virtue of these words which are added to the bread and wine. This mark and observe well; for upon these words rest all our foundation, protection, and defense against all error and temptation that have ever come or may yet come.

27 Thus far the Large Catechism, in which the true presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper is established from God’s Word; and this [presence] is understood not only of the believing and worthy, but also of the unbelieving and unworthy.

28 But inasmuch as this highly illumined man [Dr. Luther, the hero illumined with unparalleled and most excellent gifts of the Holy Ghost] foresaw in the Spirit that after his death some would endeavor to make him suspected of having receded from the above-mentioned doctrine and other Christian articles, he has appended the following protestation to his large Confession:

29 Since I see that as time wears on, sects and errors increase, and that there is no end to the rage and fury of Satan, in order that henceforth during my life or after my death some of them may not, in future, support themselves by me, and falsely quote my writings to strengthen their error as the Sacramentarians and Anabaptists begin to do, I mean by this writing to confess my faith, point by point [concerning all the articles of our religion], before God and all the world, in which I intend to abide until my death, and therein (so help me God!) to depart from this world and to appear before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ.

30 And if after my death any one should say: If Dr. Luther were living now, he would teach and hold this or that article differently, for he did not sufficiently consider it, against this I say now as then, and then as now, that, by God’s grace, I have most diligently, compared all these articles with the Scriptures time and again [have examined them, not once, but very often, according to the standard of Holy Scripture], and often have gone over them, and would defend them as confidently as I have now defended the Sacrament of the Altar.

31 I am not drunk nor thoughtless; I know what I say; I also am sensible of what it means for me at the coming of the Lord Christ at the final judgment. Therefore I want no one to regard this as a jest or mere idle talk; it is a serious matter to me; for by God’s grace I know Satan a good deal; if he can pervert or confuse God’s Word, what will he not do with my words or those of another? Tom. 2, Wittenb., German, fol. 243.

32 After this protestation, Doctor Luther, of blessed memory, presents, among other articles, this also: In the same manner I also speak and confess (he says) concerning the Sacrament of the Altar, that there the body and blood of Christ are in truth orally eaten and drunk in the bread and wine, even though the priests [ministers] who administer it [the Lord’s Supper], or those who receive it, should not believe or otherwise misuse it. For it does not depend upon the faith or unbelief of men, but upon God’s Word and ordinance, unless they first change God’s Word and ordinance and interpret it otherwise, as the enemies of the Sacrament do at the present day, who, of course, have nothing but bread and wine; for they also do not have the words and appointed ordinance of God, but have perverted and changed them according to their own [false] notion. Fol. 245.

33 Dr. Luther, who, above others, certainly understood the true and proper meaning of the Augsburg Confession, and who constantly remained steadfast thereto till his end, and defended it, shortly before his death repeated his faith concerning this article with great zeal in his last Confession, where he writes thus: I rate as one concoction, namely, as Sacramentarians and fanatics, which they also are, all who will not believe that the Lord’s bread in the Supper is His true natural body, which the godless or Judas received with the mouth, as well as did St. Peter and all [other] saints; he who will not believe this (I say) should let me alone, and hope for no fellowship with me; this is not going to be altered [thus my opinion stands, which I am not going to change]. Tom. 2, Wittenb., German, fol. 252.

34 From these explanations, and especially from that of Dr. Luther as the leading teacher of the Augsburg Confession, every intelligent man who loves truth and peace, can undoubtedly perceive what has always been the proper meaning and understanding of the Augsburg Confession in regard to this article.

Formula of Concord Solid Declaration Article VII 20-34

The Epitome continues:

8 3. Now, as to the consecration, we believe, teach, and confess that no work of man or recitation of the minister [of the church] produces this presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, but that this is to be ascribed only and alone to the almighty power of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9 4. But at the same time we also believe, teach, and confess unanimously that in the use of the Holy Supper the words of the institution of Christ should in no way be omitted, but should be publicly recited, as it is written 1 Cor. 10:16: The cup of blessing which we bless, etc. This blessing occurs through the recitation of the words of Christ.

It is not the power or holiness of the priest that makes the Lord’s Body and Blood present but rather the clear words of Christ.  This is not magic or sorcery but rather God fulfilling His promises by His Word.  As such the essential part of the Lord’s Supper, what makes it the Lord’s Supper, is not anything but the Word of God.  All other ceremony can be left aside, so long as the Word remains it is the Sacrament.  This is the way it was with the apostles who used the Words of Institution themselves (1 Corinthians 10:1-22).

That said the Words of Institution are not sorcery or magic.  However it is rather the case that it is properly the Lord’s Supper if the entire Sacrament is kept.  That meaning that the elements are consecrated and then consumed after our Lord’s instruction.  The Solid Declaration puts it this way:

83 However, this blessing, or the recitation of the words of institution of Christ alone does not make a sacrament if the entire action of the Supper, as it was instituted by Christ, is not observed (as when the consecrated bread is not distributed, received, and partaken of, but is enclosed, sacrificed, or carried about), but the command of Christ, This do (which embraces the entire action or administration in this Sacrament,

84 that in an assembly of Christians bread and wine are taken, consecrated, distributed, received, eaten, drunk, and the Lord’s death is shown forth at the same time) must be observed unseparated and inviolate, as also St. Paul places before our eyes the entire action of the breaking of bread or of distribution and reception, 1 Cor. 10:16.

85 [Let us now come also to the second point, of which mention was made a little before.] To preserve this true Christian doctrine concerning the Holy Supper, and to avoid and abolish manifold idolatrous abuses and perversions of this testament, the following useful rule and standard has been derived from the words of institution: Nihil habet rationem sacramenti extra usum a Christo institutum (“Nothing has the nature of a sacrament apart from the use instituted by Christ”) or extra actionem divinitus institutam (“apart from the action divinely instituted”). That is: If the institution of Christ be not observed as He appointed it, there is no sacrament. This is by no means to be rejected, but can and should be urged and maintained with profit in the Church of God.

86 And the use or action here does not mean chiefly faith, neither the oral participation only, but the entire external, visible action of the Lord’s Supper instituted by Christ, [to this indeed is required] the consecration, or words of institution, the distribution and reception, or oral partaking [manducation] of the consecrated bread and wine, [likewise the partaking] of the body and blood of Christ.

87 And apart from this use, when in the papistic mass the bread is not distributed, but offered up or enclosed, borne about, and exhibited for adoration, it is to be regarded as no sacrament; just as the water of baptism, when used to consecrate bells or to cure leprosy, or otherwise exhibited for worship, is no sacrament or baptism. For against such papistic abuses this rule has been set up at the beginning [of the reviving Gospel], and has been explained by Dr. Luther himself, Tom. IV, Jena.

Formula of Concord Solid Declaration Article VII 83-87

So while other ceremonies may be added around the Sacrament, the core of the Sacrament must remain else it ceases to be the Sacrament and thus it is not efficacious.  This is why Corpus Christi if it is used must include the actual eating and drinking of the Sacrament, else it is an abuse and does violence to Christ.  This is also why we can say that satanists or others who would misuse the Sacrament do not actually have it.  The Calvinists and Sacramentarians by perverting the Words of Institution and denying it do not actually have the Sacrament of the Altar when they celebrate it, as they twist the Words themselves. The Epitome continues:

10 5. The grounds, however, on which we stand against the Sacramentarians in this matter are those which Dr. Luther has laid down in his Large Confession concerning the Lord’s Supper.
The first is this article

11 of our Christian faith: Jesus Christ is true, essential, natural, perfect God and man in one person, undivided and inseparable.

12 The second: That God’s right hand is everywhere; at which Christ is placed in deed and in truth according to His human nature, [and therefore] being present, rules, and has in His hands and beneath His feet everything that is in heaven and on earth [as Scripture says, Eph. 1:22 ], where no man else, nor angel, but only the Son of Mary is placed; hence He can do this [those things which we have said].

13 The third: That God’s Word is not false, and does not deceive.

14 The fourth: That God has and knows of various modes of being in any place, and not only the one [is not bound to the one] which philosophers call localis (local) for circumscribed].

The ground that we stand on for this faith is very sure.  Luther lays it out well:

  • First the very person of Christ demands that if Christ is to be present, then the whole Christ must be present.  So He is either fully there, or not at all.
  • Second, the power of God’s right hand is not a physical location but rather is everywhere, as God is omnipresent.  Christ is not chained to the throne of heaven but rather He occupies the office of the right hand of God.  As such He has been given all power and dominion (Ephesians 1:15-23).
  • Third, God does not lie. He promises to be present and so He is.  To say otherwise is to call God a liar (Titus 1:1-4).
  • Fourth, God is omniscient and omnipotent.  Just because we as feeble humans cannot comprehend how God can be omnipresent or sacramentally present in the bread and wine, yet He is.  God’s foolishness is wiser than our best wisdom.  We should not limit God, nor think that just because reason says it cannot be done that God cannot do it.

15 6. We believe, teach, and confess that the body and blood of Christ are received with the bread and wine, not only spiritually by faith, but also orally; yet not in a Capernaitic, but in a supernatural, heavenly mode, because of the sacramental union; as the words of Christ clearly show, when Christ gives direction to take, eat, and drink, as was also done by the apostles; for it is written Mark 14:23: And they all drank of it. St. Paul likewise says, 1 Cor. 10:16: The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? that is: He who eats this bread eats the body of Christ, which also the chief ancient teachers of the Church, Chrysostom, Cyprian, Leo I, Gregory, Ambrose, Augustine, unanimously testify.

This eating is physical and spiritual.  However it is not Capernaitic.  This reference is a reference to Jesus’s John 6 discourse.  The eating of Christ’s flesh in John 6 refers to faith and reading the Word of God as it refers to the all Christians having to eat of His flesh.  Since all Christians are not able to take the Lord’s Supper we know that John 6 is not referring specifically to the Lord’s Supper.  John 6 certainly includes the Lord’s Supper (one cannot help but read it that way in its plain reading), however it is not exclusively about the Lord’s Supper but rather is about the whole life of faith and the Word.

Moreover, the Sacramentarians were using John 6 as a bludgeon on the Lutherans accusing them of cannibalism.  This is more what is being driven against here.  This is not a base or disgusting process to eat Christ’s flesh and drink His blood as it would be for eating another person.  Rather Christ has joined His flesh and blood to the elements of the Lord’s Supper.  We do not know how He does this, but this supernatural joining is not base but divine.  It is also not as if we are slowly consuming all that is Christ (i.e. we are eating His arms such that He will have no arms).  Rather He multiplies Himself, as is shown in Mark 14:

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

We can see here they drink all of Christ’s Blood, but Christ still obviously has blood as He is still sitting there in front of them.  Rather the Lord in this Supper, as He does in the feeding of the 5000 and elsewhere, multiples this heavenly food for us to eat and drink in a divine way.  To attach a base meaning to this does violence to what is going on, which in all honesty is what the Sacramentarians wanted.

16 7. We believe, teach, and confess that not only the true believers [in Christ] and the worthy, but also the unworthy and unbelievers, receive the true body and blood of Christ; however, not for life and consolation, but for judgment and condemnation, if they are not converted and do not repent, 1 Cor. 11:27-29.

17 For although they thrust Christ from themselves as a Savior, yet they must admit Him even against their will as a strict Judge, who is just as present also to exercise and render judgment upon impenitent guests as He is present to work life and consolation in the hearts of the true believers and worthy guests.

18 8. We believe, teach, and confess also that there is only one kind of unworthy guests, namely, those who do not believe, concerning whom it is written John 3:18: He that believeth not is condemned already. And this judgment becomes greater and more grievous, being aggravated, by the unworthy use of the Holy Supper, 1 Cor. 11:29.

19 9. We believe, teach, and confess that no true believer, as long as he retains living faith, however weak he may be, receives the Holy Supper to his judgment, which was instituted especially for Christians weak in faith, yet penitent, for the consolation and strengthening of their weak faith [Matt. 9:12; 11:5. 28].

20 10. We believe, teach, and confess that all the worthiness of the guests of this heavenly feast is and consists in the most holy obedience and perfect merit of Christ alone, which we appropriate to ourselves by true faith, and whereof [of the application of this merit] we are assured by the Sacrament, and not at all in [but in nowise does this worthiness depend upon] our virtues or inward and outward preparations.

The worthiness or unworthiness of a guest is based on faith as is clear from St. Paul’s discussion of the Sacrament in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. The only type of unworthy guest that exists is one who does not have faith. After all Christ came to save sinners not those who are perfect. The practice of closed communion is reflective of this Scriptural truth.

In this case we are talking specifically about faith in what the Sacrament is.  This is not permission to give the Sacrament to children.  Rather one must be able to discern as St. Paul says.  That discernment requires the ability to self reflect and confess the faith.  Thus we only give the Sacrament to those who have been examined.  The Sacrament is for the mature Christian.

That said, it matters not how strong that faith is.  This Sacrament is especially for the weak as our Lord says in Matthew 9 and 11. Thus even we sinners are made worthy by Christ.  Luther puts it beautifully in the Large Catechism Part V 55-84.

Negative Theses.

Contrary, Condemned Doctrines of the Sacramentarians.

21 On the other hand, we unanimously reject and condemn all the following erroneous articles, which are opposed and contrary to the doctrine presented above, the simple faith, and the [pure] confession concerning the Lord’s Supper;

22 1. The papistic transubstantiation, when it is taught in the Papacy that in the Holy Supper the bread and wine lose their substance and natural essence, and are thus annihilated; that they are changed into the body of Christ, and the outward form alone remains.

23 2. The papistic sacrifice of the Mass for the sins of the living and the dead.

24 3. That [the sacrilege whereby] to laymen one form only of the Sacrament is given, and, contrary to the plain words of the testament of Christ, the cup is withheld from them, and they are [thus] deprived of His blood.

We first reject all the practices and philosophy of the papacy.  Transubstantiation is wrong because it both destroys the essence of the bread and wine, but it also tries to explain how Christ is present in the Sacrament.  We are given to simply trust the Word, not explain it.

We also reject the sacrifice of the Mass as if Christ’s sacrifice needed to be represented for our current sins.  We also reject communion in one kind.  The Lord has given both the Body and the Blood for you to eat and to drink.

25 4. When it is taught that the words of the testament of Christ must not be understood or believed simply as they read, but that they are obscure expressions, whose meaning must be sought first in other passages of Scripture.

26 5. That in the Holy Supper the body of Christ is not received orally with the bread; but that with the mouth only bread and wine are received, the body of Christ, however, only spiritually by faith.

27 6. That the bread and wine in the Holy Supper are nothing more than [symbols or] tokens by which Christians recognize one another.

28 7. That the bread and wine are only figures, similitudes, and representations of the far absent body and blood of Christ.

29 8. That the bread and wine are no more than a memorial, seal, and pledge, through which we are assured that when faith elevates itself to heaven, it there becomes partaker of the body and blood of Christ as truly as we eat bread and drink wine in the Supper.

30 9. That the assurance and confirmation of our faith [concerning salvation] in the Holy Supper occur through the external signs of bread and wine alone, and not through the true, [verily] present body and blood of Christ.

31 10. That in the Holy Supper only the power, efficacy, and merit of the absent body and blood of Christ are distributed.

32 11. That the body of Christ is so enclosed in heaven that it can in no way be at once and at one time in many or all places upon earth where His Holy Supper is celebrated.

33 12. That Christ has not promised, neither could have effected, the essential presence of His body and blood in the Holy Supper, because the nature and property of His assumed human nature cannot suffer nor permit it.

34 13. That God, according to [even by] all His omnipotence (which is dreadful to hear), is not able to cause His body to be essentially present in more than one place at one time.

35 14. That not the omnipotent words of Christ’s testament, but faith, produces and makes [is the cause of] the presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper.

36 15. That believers must not seek the body [and blood] of Christ in the bread and wine of the Holy Supper, but raise their eyes from the bread to heaven and there seek the body of Christ.

Likewise we reject all the sophistries of the Sacramentarians.  There is no doubt, Christ is present in the Sacrament of the Altar.  No matter what language you concoct He is there.

37 16. That unbelieving, impenitent Christians do not receive the true body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, but only bread and wine.

38 17. That the worthiness of the guests at this heavenly meal consists not alone in true faith in Christ, but also in the external preparation of men.

39 18. That even the true believers, who have and retain a true, living, pure faith in Christ, can receive this Sacrament to their judgment, because they are still imperfect in their outward life.

Here we reject that unworthy people do not receive Christ’s Body and Blood.  Christ’s Body and Blood are present even when unworthy people receive it.  This is why St. Paul warns against abuse and gives such dire consequences.  Misusing or abusing the Sacrament has real consequence including sickness and death.

That said you need not fear if you are a penitent sinner.  You need not be perfect to receive the Sacrament.  In fact the Sacrament is only for sinners.

Here we can point out that Judas also received the Sacrament.  However he received it to his judgement not his benefit.  Still Christ did not reject him from the table as his outward confession was still one of faith.  Rather Christ shows us here that we are not to judge the heart but only the outward confession of faith.  If hypocrites take the Sacrament, it is on their head, not yours.

40 19. That the external visible elements of the bread and wine should be adored in the Holy Sacrament.

The bread and wine should not in and of themselves be adored.  They are not special.  Rather they become special once Christ is there.  However we should not them take the elements and hold them as idols but rather eat and drink.

41 20. Likewise, we consign also to the just judgment of God all presumptuous, frivolous, blasphemous questions (which decency forbids to mention) and [other] expressions, which most blasphemously and with great offense [to the Church] are proposed by the Sacramentarians in a gross, carnal, Capernaitic way concerning the supernatural, heavenly mysteries of this Sacrament.

42 21. Hence we hereby utterly [reject and] condemn the Capernaitic eating of the body of Christ, as though [we taught that] His flesh were rent with the teeth, and digested like other food, which the Sacramentarians, against the testimony of their conscience, after all our frequent protests, wilfully force upon us, and in this way make our doctrine odious to their hearers; and on the other hand, we maintain and believe, according to the simple words of the testament of Christ, the true, yet supernatural eating of the body of Christ, as also the drinking of His blood, which human senses and reason do not comprehend, but as in all other articles of faith our reason is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and this mystery is not apprehended otherwise than by faith alone, and revealed in the Word alone.

We fully reject the Capernaitic way of eating charged by the Sacramentarians.  This was only concocted to make the Sacrament seem vile and hated by those who do not believe it.  Rather our minds are held captive to Christ who promises that this heavenly supper is good and true.

1 Lord Jesus Christ, You have prepared
This feast for our salvation;
It is Your body and Your blood,
And at Your invitation
As weary souls, with sin oppressed,
We come to You for needed rest,
For comfort, and for pardon.

2 Although You did to Heav’n ascend,
Where angel hosts are dwelling,
And in Your presence they behold
Your glory, all excelling,
And though Your people shall not see
Your glory and Your majesty
Till dawns the judgment morning.

3 Yet, Savior, You are not confined
To any habitation;
But You are present even now
Here with Your congregation.
Firm as a rock this truth shall stand,
Unmoved by any daring hand
Or subtle craft and cunning.

4 We eat this bread and drink this cup,
Your precious Word believing
That Your true body and Your blood
Our lips are here receiving.
This word remains forever true,
All things are possible with You,
For You are Lord Almighty.

5 Though reason cannot understand,
Yet faith this truth embraces;
Your body, Lord, is even now
At once in many places.
I leave to You how this can be;
Your Word alone suffices me;
I trust its truth unfailing.

6 Lord, I believe what You have said;
Help me when doubts assail me.
Remember that I am but dust,
And let my faith not fail me.
Your Supper in this vale of tears
Refreshes me and stills my fears
And is my priceless treasure.

7 Grant that we worthily receive
Your Supper, Lord, our Savior,
And, truly grieving o’er our sins,
May prove by our behavior
That we are thankful for Your grace
And day by day may run our race,
In holiness increasing.

8 For Your consoling supper, Lord,
Be praised throughout all ages!
Preserve it, for in ev’ry place
The world against it rages.
Grant that this sacrament may be
A blessèd comfort unto me
When living and when dying.

(LSB 622)

2 thoughts on “A Laymen’s Commentary on the Epitome of the Formula of Concord: The Holy Supper of Christ

  1. This is an excellent summary of current confessional Lutheran emphases regarding the Lord’s Supper in the LCMS today. I wondered for awhile why it was that such untraditional Lutheran theological viewpoints such as consecrationism and John 6 as “not exclusively about the Lord’s Supper, but still includes the Lord’s Supper” have such strong, if not overwhelming, currency in our church. One is no doubt a lack of familiarity with German and the writings of the Early Lutheran Fathers. Jacob Andreae was quite clear that if there is no completion of the sacramental action, there is no real presence. Another, more important rationale is the desire to avoid the illusion of Missouri sectarianism and “rediscover” our catholicity. Is Lutheranism on the wane, ignored as irrelevant by the world? Pivot and emphasize Aquinas, Anselm or Chrysostom and sound like a more true catholic theologian than a sectarian spouting the narrow views of, say, David Hollaz.

    “No recitation of the words of the minister” makes the body and blood of Christ. What does then? The institution, promise, and word of Christ! But isn’t the word the same as the words of institution? Yes and no. Yes, they are Christ’s commanded words, but they are only part of the institution which must be carried out in its entirety to be Christ’s Supper.

    I thought this statement odd:
    “This is why Corpus Christi if it is used must include the actual eating and drinking of the Sacrament, else it is an abuse and does violence to Christ.“

    There is no Lutheran tradition of Corpus Christi processions, because introducing a parade violates the command and institution of the Sacrament. Why do we Lutherans kneel at the communion rail then? Ah, because here the pastor distributes, places in the hand, and the communicants eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus Christ. That is confessional Lutheran theology.

  2. Perhaps a different way to approach SD VII is as an amalgam of Melanchthon (whose students numbered all the Concordists) and Luther’s insights over their respective careers.

    From Melanchthon, we get:

    1. Nothing is a sacrament apart from the entire action of consecration, distribution, and reception of the Sacrament.
    2. The bread and wine are not to be adored.
    3. No human ceremonies or eucharistic prayers should be mingled amongst the consecration, distribution, and reception of the Sacrament.
    4. The twofold spiritual eating in the Sacrament.
    5. The consecration is not magic and the minister’s words do not effect the sacramental union. Rather, the sacramental union is due to the promise and power of God.
    6. The Sacrament is especially for weak Christians to seal and strengthen faith.
    7. Patristic witness is emphasized where in agreement with the Lutherans.

    From Luther, more familiar territory:

    1. The Sacrament forgives sins through the Word, the announcement of the new covenant sealed by Christ’s death and resurrection and offered in the Sacrament.
    2. Christ knows many modes of being truly present, including in the Sacrament.
    3. John 6 is about faith, by which we are saved alone, not eating and drinking our way to salvation.
    4. Luther knows he is alone in opposing transubstantiation and memorialism, yet stands steadfast on the Word of God.

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