The Lord's Supper

In today's post in our series on the Articles of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene, we will examine the Lord's Supper, also known as the Eucharist. Every branch of Christian theology understands the Lord's Supper to be a sacrament. However, the various branches of Christian theology have different understandings of this sacrament. We will briefly examine these different understandings, and then examine where the Church of the Nazarene falls in regards to this sacrament.

Different Understandings

There are typically four different views in regards to the Lord's Supper: transubstantiation, consubstantiation, the Reformed view, and the Memorial view. It is important to note that not every view of the Eucharist falls neatly into one of these four categories. These views can be understood as cardinal directions in which the doctrine of the Eucharist may be understood. They do not preclude a denomination from adopting some aspects of each view in their statement of faith.

Transubstantiation is the view that the Roman Catholic Church adheres to. In this view, the bread and wine become the literal body and blood of Christ when the priest speaks an invocation over them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides a description of the view of transubstantiation: "At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood."[1] Passages often used to support this view include especially John 6:25-59. However, this passage is speaking of Jesus in a metaphorical way as the Bread of Life, not of the Eucharist.

A second view, held to by Lutheran Churches and some Episcopal and Eastern Orthodox Churches, is called Consubstantiation. In this view, Christ is spiritually present in the elements of the bread and wine, but they do not become his literal body and blood, as in transubstantiation. In this understanding, the bread and wine remain bread and wine. They are not transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ. Instead, Jesus is understood to be "with, in and under" the bread and wine.

A third view, usually held to by churches that were influenced by the Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli, is called the "Memorial" or "Baptist" view. This view essentially holds that the Lord's Supper was instituted primarily as a memorial of what Christ has accomplished through his death. That is, it takes Christ's statement to do this in remembrance of him as the primary purpose of the sacrament.

The fourth view is often called the "Reformed View." This is the view usually held to by churches that were influenced in some way by John Calvin. Unlike Zwingli's view, the Reformed view typically understands the Lord's Supper as "a visible sign of a sacred thing." Christ is understood as present, although not in the sense of transubstantiation or consubstantiation. This cardinal view is probably the closest to the Church of the Nazarene's view on the matter.
The Church of the Nazarene

The Manual for the Church of the Nazarene states about our 13th Article of Faith,

"We believe that the Communion Supper instituted by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a sacrament, proclaiming His life, sufferings, sacrificial death, resurrection, and the hope of His coming again. The Lord’s Supper is a means of grace in which Christ is present by the Spirit. All are invited to participate by faith in Christ and be renewed in life, salvation, and in unity as the Church. All are to come in reverent appreciation of its significance, and by it show forth the Lord’s death until He comes. Those who have faith in Christ and love for the saints are invited by Christ to participate as often as possible."[2]

The Church of the Nazarene believes that the Lord's Supper is a proclamation. That is, it tells the story of Christ's life, suffering, death, resurrection, and our expectant hope of his return. In this way, it is not a silent sacrament. The Church of the Nazarene also believes that the Lord's Supper is a means of grace where Christ is spiritually present. This is in line with the description of the Reformed View noted above.

The Church of the Nazarene also practices open communion. That is, one does not need to be a member of a particular local church, or even the denomination, in order to partake of the Lord's Supper. However, we recognize the danger in partaking of the Lord's Supper presumptuously. While it is not required that a person be a member of the particular church serving communion, it is typically stated that only those who profess faith in Jesus Christ should partake of communion. We also encourage churches to serve the sacrament of communion on a regular basis.

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church. USCCB. Section 1333.
[2] Manual. Church of the Nazarene. Section 13.


Popular posts from this blog

7 FREE Christian Magazines

Nazarene Caffeine's Top 10 Posts of 2023