Answers to "Ask Mike" Questions
Follow-Up to Question #8

8a. I have read your response about the Lord's Supper. However, I struggle with only a symbolic meaning when I read John 6:25-58. In this passage the Lord indicates that we must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. The idea of transubstantiation or consubstantiation seems to be a better explanation than only a symbolic representation.

It is erroneous, I think, to consider John 6:25-58 a commentary on the Lord's Supper. It is easy to link the memorial feast with Jesus' discourse on the bread of life. I did so in earlier years. After reflection, however, I no longer believe the passage should be used as instruction on the nature of the Lord's Supper. Even if it were, Jesus' words take his teaching from the realm of the physical and place it in that of the spiritual. He said, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you [his teaching on the bread of life] are spirit* and they are life" (John 6:63, NIV). In other words, Jesus said that he was giving spiritual light not physical.

A hasty commentary search confirms my conclusion. I consulted the comments of three good scholars: Leon Morris (Anglican), Merrill Tenney (Evangelical, writing in Zondervan's The Expository Bible Commentary), and Frank Pack (Church of Christ, Acapella). I expected Morris, at least, to take the sacramental view but he did not. I also expected Pack to argue that John 6 referenced the Lord's Supper given that, like First Christian Church, the acapella churches observe a weekly communion.

Frank Pack says there are some subtle differences between Jesus' words here and biblical references to the Lord's Supper. In John 6 Jesus says spiritual life depends on "eating the flesh ... and drinking the blood of the Son of man" (John 6:53). The word flesh (Greek sarx) does not appear in any of the Lord's Supper accounts while it does here. Instead Jesus says, "This is my body" (Greek soma). In addition, the word "eats," while present tense in the English, is actually a Greek tense which points to a once for all act of appropriating Christ not a continuously repeating act such as the Lord's Supper. Pack says, "What Jesus is saying is that the bread which he will give to bring life to the world is the giving of his flesh, of himself as genuinely human in his sacrifice on the cross" (Living Word Commentary, The Gospel of John, Part I published by R.B. Sweet, p. 112).  Merrill Tenney writes, "Jesus explains what he means by his flesh and blood in these two verses (John 6:55-57). ... What he is talking about is as real to him as are the physical counterparts that his opponents had in mind (manna from heaven). It is real food and a real drink that produces a real life. To partake of the elements that Christ offers brings one into an abiding relationship with him. The reality of the Christ-imparted life has been attested to by the myriads of Christians...." (see above, p. 78).  In other words, Jesus provides real bread rather than manna just as he earlier told the woman at the well that he provided "living water" rather than well-water.

Morris rightly points out that a sacrament must be repeated. Accordingly, to see the Lord's Supper as a sacrament and to apply John 6 to it, one takes the position that one's initial salvation only takes care of present and previous sins. Baptism, then, washes away only the sin committed to the point of baptism. If one can "have no life" without communion -- and that is what John 6 would teach if one linked in with the Lord's Supper -- then the Lord's Supper is a repetition of the sacrifice of Christ. The loaf and the cup become the body and blood of Jesus which expunges the sins committed between observances. Such a view contradicts Paul's writings and even that of James when rightly understood.

To see the Lord's Supper as a memorial is to celebrate the fullness of salvation which Jesus earned for us on the cross. His death once and for all time settles the sin question for the believer. That is not to say one cannot repudiate salvation (see my answers to questions on eternal security). The one who comes to Christ is forgiven -- past, present, and future. There is no need for a literal partaking of the body and blood (transubstantiation or consubstantiation) to renew one's salvation. The memorial feast is a time of reflection, of thanksgiving, and confession.  Continue to gather at the Lord's Table because the purpose of a memorial is to keep the events it memorializes fresh in the mind. It helps the believer avoid trivializing what Christ accomplished and it serves as a time of recommitment to continuing growth toward Christlikeness (sanctification).

* NIV note on "spirit" in John 6:63: "Or Spirit"

Question #6
Can a non-baptized person go to heaven?

< | >

Question #9
Would a person wrestling with homosexual temptations and tendencies be accepted at First Christian Church?

Question #27: Is Jesus saying in John chapter 6 that there might be a real or literal body of Christ in the bread?

Question #8: Do you believe in Consubstantiation -- Transubstantiation or anything similar?

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.