Transubstantiation — What Does Scripture Say?

Question from a Site Viewer
I come from a background of being raised within the Church of God (not pentecostal) holiness movement. They consider themselves not another denomination but just a representative of the “Church of God” as mentioned throughout the New Testament.

My supervisor at work is Roman Catholic and she is as zealous for her version of Christianity as I am of mine. It’s not often that I have found people in my lifetime who love to search and debate the things of God like I do. So needless to say, me being in some sense of the “Protestant” background and her holding onto the traditional “Catholic” view, we butt heads.

My question to you (and I may be getting myself into trouble–not knowing your background) is regarding communion. As you most likely are well aware, the Catholic church believes in the concept of transubstantiation–the physical presence of Christ’s body and blood in the elements of the Eucharist. I cannot wrap my mind around this concept and have began to search for theological understanding on this from a Protestant perspective and haven’t found much of anything worthy to read. I do not understand why Catholics believe transubstantiation to be so important or how they can justify the reason for it (not that I want to question God).

The only justification they have for this is Jesus’ statements in the gospel accounts of His life. I look at those statements simply as Jesus giving us a physical EXAMPLE of his coming crucifixion and death and commanding us to continually remember what he’s done for us in this simple act.

As an aside, I am deeply interested in reading about the history of the church. It is my understanding, through some of the things that I’ve been reading, that the Roman Catholic church and/or the existence of the papacy, was not (as taught by the Catholic church) from the time of Christ’s death present. The idea of the current “Protestant” church only relates (in today’s terms) of the time immediately before Luther going forward. I don’t believe that there are only these two points of view within the realm of Christianity and would hope that there is someone who agrees with me (and has explored this concept) that the Reformation was a return to what the church was and should be returned to.

The Catholic church has so many seemingly well-thought-out points regarding their theology that it’s often difficult to debate with. On more than one occasion I have considered that they may have good points that I couldn’t explain. This is difficult for me though because I do believe at least with some certainty that the Roman Catholic church is the organization that will mislead multitudes of people away from the true Christ.

Anyway, I’m rambling, but as you can see, I’m really wanting to know if you have any insight into what the Protestant viewpoint (in depth) is on the issues that separate the two viewpoints. The Catholic has much structure, and the Protestant, because of its numerous units, seem not to address them with any depth.

Tim’s Answer
Thanks for your question.

Before I address your question of communion and transubstantiation, I want to first state what should be obvious, but often is not. The Christian life is not so much about having perfect doctrine but much more about living holy lives toward God through faith in Jesus Christ and submission to His Holy Spirit as well as doing good for fellow man as Jesus taught us to do. I always encourage believers to broaden their minds with the challenges of the Word but be sure that such leads to more holiness, unity with other believers, and love. The wisdom that comes from above is first pure, then peaceable, and gentle, as James tells us in James 3:17.

As to your question, I believe that transubstantiation is wrong. The doctrine teaches that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus. This means that every time one takes communion, we are again breaking His body and drinking His blood. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus offered Himself once, for all, having entered heaven with His blood, and finished the work. The writer to Hebrews seems to state that the re-sacrifice of Christ is not a good thing (Hebrews 6:6).

However, even more compelling to me is the statement of Jesus, Himself. At the end of the Last Supper, Jesus said that He would not drink of the fruit of the vine with His disciples again until He drank it with them in His Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29). In so stating, Jesus made it plain that He viewed what they had just drunk to be wine, not His blood. I will follow His view. I continue to believe that the bread and the wine are symbolic of what Jesus has done, they did not at the first Last Supper and do not today become the literal body and blood of Jesus.

My encouragement to you is to study diligently to know what you believe and why you believe it, but use your wisdom to avoid foolish and ignorant disputes (2 Timothy 2:23) and words that do not profit (2 Timothy 2:14). There is much wisdom in the early church fathers, but they are infallible. The later church fathers contain some wisdom and more error, at least so it seems to me. All things must be compared to Scripture for truth. The Roman Catholic Church has many errors, as do many churches, at least as I view the situation. There is no evidence that the succession of apostolic authority is Scriptural. I know, from the Roman Catholic view, Scripture is not the supreme authority that it is among most Protestants. The Roman Catholics believe that the Church and Scripture are equal authority. I do not and cannot accept that position. A self-authenticating authority is no authority at all, in the words of Jesus. There must be two or three witnesses to establish such a thing. The church cannot establish its own authority. Since Scripture does not attest to such authority, I do not accept the claim. Scripture provides many evidences of its own authority. The church does not and actually provides much evidence of its lack of authority.

I cannot accept the infallibility of the Pope. This was a doctrine that became accepted as church teaching only in later years of the church. I wonder where it was for the many centuries before that. The church has a difficult time with this doctrine since various popes have made various pronouncements, not all of which are in agreement with each other. I know Catholics who do not accept this doctrine either.

I reject the concept of purgatory. There is no Scriptural evidence for the same and the idea seems to be contrary to Scripture’s teaching of our standing in Christ. We stand in His righteousness, not our own.

There are many reasons why I am not a Roman Catholic. But I can have fellowship with those who call themselves Roman Catholics and who are genuine followers of Jesus.

May the Lord Jesus guide you into His truth and may you always walk worthy of the calling with which He has called you.

His servant,

tim

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