In Part 1, we demonstrated that the bread and the wine in the Lord’s Supper / Communion service are symbols, or signs, of the work that Jesus Christ did on the cross, but the Catholic Church teaches that the bread and wine miraculously change into the actual, literal body, blood, soul and divinity, of Jesus. We dealt with several Catholic arguments for this and found them lacking. This is a very extraordinary claim, and if one is going to make such a claim, he should likewise have extraordinary proof for it. But the Catholic Church doesn’t. They will attempt to use Scripture to prove the Eucharist, but it’s just not there. So, let us now look at more Catholic claims and see whether these will line up with Scripture.
John 6 (Once More)
CATHOLIC CLAIM - THE LANGUAGE THAT JESUS USED IN THE SIXTH CHAPTER OF JOHN CONCERNING “EATING HIS FLESH” AND “DRINKING HIS BLOOD” IS FORCEFUL AND VIVID, AND THEREFORE, VERY LITERAL.
Perhaps, by “forceful,” the Catholic means it was repeated again and again. But the “repetition argument” was already covered in Part 1. As for as “vivid” language, if one takes a look at the book of Revelation (which is, interestingly enough, also written by John) he would see some very “vivid” language used there also, and very much of it is undeniably symbolic. So this Catholic argument that “vivid means literal” is another one that fails.
There are some in both Protestant and Catholic circles who will often go to great lengths in dissecting the meaning of certain words in John 6. Now, we are not against word studies to improve our understanding of the Scriptures, but rather than trying to nit-pick to death individual words, we should allow the CONTEXT to be the main focus in determining the meaning of this (or any) passage. And, as demonstrated in Part 1, the context of John 6 strongly suggests the symbolism of the bread and wine.
The Last Supper
Here is another reason that Jesus’ words, “This is My body…This is My blood” cannot be taken literally. The Bible gives us four accounts of the Lord’s Supper: Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, and I Corinthians 11:23-25. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus does indeed say, “This is My body” and “This is My blood.” However, in the other two accounts, we see Jesus saying of the bread, “This is My body…”, but of the wine, He says, “This cup [wine] is the new testament in My blood…”. Now, right away the Catholic has a problem. If Jesus meant, “This bread is LITERALLY My body,” then He also had to mean, “This wine is LITERALLY a testament (covenant).”
But the wine is obviously not a literal covenant. A covenant is an intangible thing. It is not something you can hold in your hand. It is an agreement, a contract, a promise or vow. The wine itself is NOT a covenant… it is a SYMBOL of the New Covenant. The only way that these passages would make sense when compared to Matthew and Mark is if both the bread and the wine are symbolic in all four accounts.
Remember, just as God called Abraham’s circumcision (which was a SYMBOL) a “covenant” (Genesis 17:10-11), so does Jesus call the SYMBOL of the bread and wine, a “covenant” (Luke 22:19-20; I Corinthians 11:23-25).
Indeed a Sign
It seems that some Catholics avoid any mention of symbolism toward the elements as they would avoid the plague. But there are some Catholics who will admit that the bread and wine have at least SOME “symbolic value.” Please note that the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly teaches that the Eucharist IS a sign (CCC # 1333-1336).
Furthermore, the Eucharist is one of the seven sacraments of the Church, and the very definition of “sacrament” tells us it is a symbol: “Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace…” (Online “New Advent Encyclopedia”). [See also CCC #1145-1152] So, no true Catholic can deny that the bread and the wine are signs, or symbols.
Now, what the Catholic will do at this point is to insist that the Eucharist is not JUST a symbol, but is much more. They’ll say that it can be both a symbol and its reality at the same time, because Jesus is present “sacramentally.” Of course, this is all a great “mystery” (CCC #1336), and it is at this point that the Catholic arguments must necessarily degenerate into the “mystical” realm. According to one encyclical (official papal statement) of Pope Paul VI, this mystery of the Eucharist "cannot be apprehended by the senses but only by faith, which rests upon divine authority” (Mysterium Fidei, paragraph 18). How interesting. But this type of argument could be used to support almost any “mysterious” concept (whether true or false) as long as they claim it rests upon “divine authority.” This is a cop-out and does nothing to help the credibility of the Catholic Church, but rather weakens it.
CATHOLIC CLAIM - THE CHANGE (TRANSUBSTANTIATION) THAT OCCURS IN THE BREAD AND WINE DURING THE MASS IS A SPECIAL MIRACLE. THE BREAD AND WINE MIRACULOUSLY CHANGE INTO THE FLESH AND BLOOD OF JESUS, BUT ARE UNDER THE APPEARANCE OF REMAINING BREAD AND WINE.
Although Catholics claim a “special” miracle in the Eucharist, the miracles we see in Scripture were very different from this. They were VERIFIABLE and OBSERVABLE. What if Jesus' miracles were like the "miracle" of the Eucharist? What if Jesus said, "I am raising Lazarus from the dead, but ‘under the appearance’ of him remaining in the grave"? Or, "I am walking on water, but ‘under the appearance’ of swimming"? Or, how about, "I am healing the sick, but ‘under the appearance’ of them remaining diseased"? That would be nothing less than a cruel hoax, wouldn't it? But how is the consecration of the Eucharist any different than these scenarios? If the Catholic Church wants credibility in its claims, then its “Eucharistic miracle” needs to parallel the miracles in the Bible.
Catholics will no doubt point to certain occurrences of “bleeding hosts” which have been reported at different times and places in Italy. They insist that this proves that it is a miracle. But if the Eucharist is a true miracle, then it will be verifiable EACH AND EVERY TIME the bread and wine are consecrated. But this is certainly not the case.
The Eucharist equals Calvary?
CATHOLIC CLAIM - THE EUCHARIST IN THE CATHOLIC MASS AND THE SACRIFICE OF CALVARY (i.e., THE EVENT OF JESUS SUFFERING ON THE CROSS) ARE “ONE AND THE SAME” (CCC #1367). WHEN THE PRIEST CONSECRATES THE HOST, CALVARY IS “RE-PRESENTED” OR “MADE PRESENT” (CCC #1366).
Calvary is a historical event, which is no more physically “made present” at the Mass than the death of every Egyptian first-born son was physically “made present” every time the Old Testament Jews celebrated the Passover. It is absurd to think that a past historical event would be physically “made present.” To claim that this event is made present in a “sacramental” sense (as some say) is simply begging the question. There is no such thing in Scripture. But you could rightly say that it is “made present” MENTALLY, i.e., in remembering His work on the cross. After all, the Communion service IS a memorial, and Jesus did say, “This do in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19)
Is it Really a Sacrifice?
CATHOLIC CLAIM – THE EUCHARIST IS A HOLY SACRIFICE (CCC #1330), RE-PRESENTED FOR THE REDEMPTION OF MANKIND (CCC #1846). THIS SACRIFICE IS TRULY PROPITIATORY [i.e., ATONES FOR SIN]. (CCC #1367)
They call it a sacrifice, but Who is it that is able to offer this sacrifice (which is supposedly the same as Calvary)? The work that Jesus did on the cross is the perfect sacrifice offered ONLY by the perfect Person, the Son of God. The Catholic Catechism claims that both the priest and the Church “offer” Jesus as a sacrifice (CCC #1350; #1354; #1369). But the truth is, no other person, no priest, no church is even ABLE to “offer Him to God” as a sacrifice. Christ alone has offered it. Nor does Jesus offer it “through priests” (as the Catechism also claims - CCC #1367). Jesus is not mankind’s offering to God, but rather, JESUS OFFERED HIMSELF to God as a sacrifice on behalf of mankind (Hebrews 7:27; 9:14). There’s a big difference.
And to whom must this sacrifice be “re-presented?” To God? No, because Jesus presented Himself as a sacrifice to God ONCE FOR ALL (Hebrews 10:10). Please read it again… “ONCE…FOR…ALL.” He does not NEED to be “re-presented” to God, nor CAN He be. Why the need to “re-present” the payment for a debt that has been paid? While souls are hanging in the balance, the Catholic Church is playing word games and inventing special terminology, in an attempt to justify its twisting of the gospel. This “RE-presenting” concept is a dangerous and unbiblical idea which only blurs and complicates the simple message of the gospel, and it attempts to give a power to the priest that few have ever dared to dream of.
According to at least two encyclicals by two different popes, Jesus Christ supposedly “daily offers Himself” to the Father (Pope Pius XII, “Mediator Dei”, Section 73, November 20, 1947 and Pope Leo XIII, “Caritatis Studium”, Section 9, July 25, 1898). But as we just mentioned, the Bible tells us that Jesus offered Himself only ONCE, not “daily” (Hebrews 9:28). There is an obvious contradiction here, so which is it? Are we going to believe the popes on this matter… or the Bible? And just for the record, the Bible never views the bread and wine of the Communion service as a “sacrifice” at all, but rather, as elements that POINT TO His one, perfect sacrifice at Calvary.
Furthermore, if the Eucharist is the sacrifice that the Catholic Church claims it is, then why don't we see it in the book of Hebrews, since that book speaks more of sacrifices than any other New Testament book? But what we DO see in that same book is that there is NO MORE offering (sacrifice) for sin (Hebrews 10:18). This is the gaping hole in Catholic theology. Jesus paid the full penalty for our sins, once for all. There is absolutely no biblical need to “re-present” that sacrifice. According to Scripture, we get the benefits of Calvary through BELIEVING in it, not by “RE-presenting” it. (John 3:16)
Consequently, there is no more need for a ministerial priesthood, either, as there was in the Old Testament. The veil separating us from God is torn (Matthew 27:51) and now ALL believers have access to the throne room without the aid of a priest or a daily sacrifice (Hebrews 10:18-19).
God is Able
CATHOLIC CLAIM – BUT DON’T YOU BELIEVE THAT GOD IS ABLE TO TURN COMMON BREAD AND WINE INTO HIS BODY AND BLOOD? ISN’T HE CAPABLE OF SUCH A THING, SINCE HE CREATED THIS WHOLE WORLD AND EVERYTHING IN IT?
Of course He is able. But that’s not the point. This whole thing is not about God’s ability (which we have never questioned). The issue is not, “CAN God do it,” but it is, “DID He do it?” And we find this out by looking to His own Word, the Bible. But a miracle with no proof is foreign to the Scriptures.
Where’s Your Faith?
CATHOLIC CLAIM – IT MAY BE HARD TO BELIEVE, BUT YOU JUST HAVE TO ACCEPT IT BY FAITH, AND NOT BE GUILTY OF UNBELIEF. YOU NEED TO TRUST THE CHURCH AND KNOW THAT THE EUCHARIST REQUIRES A SPECIAL FAITH.
No, an unbiblical faith is what we are being asked to embrace. We don’t reject the Eucharist because it is “hard to believe,” we reject it because there is no support for this doctrine in the Scriptures.
We have examined some extraordinary Catholic claims concerning the Eucharist, and all of these Catholic arguments have fallen short. My heart goes out to you, my Catholic friends, and I pray that you would realize that you have been deceived. Please don’t trust in a “personal experience” that you may have had with the Eucharist, like many Catholics do. Experiences are very subjective, even “supernatural” ones. Look to the testimony of Scripture and ask God, prayerfully and humbly, to show you the truth.
Please notice that there are absolutely no examples in the Old Testament of any man-made objects (like bread or wine) that “changed into God” or were worshipped by God’s people (with God’s approval). We don’t have a precedent for that, but we can sure find verses where God sternly warns His people (repeatedly) to avoid idolatry. That is abundantly clear. The New Testament also commands us to FLEE from this sin (I Corinthians 10:14), but so many Catholics take much too lightly the many biblical warnings. As we said before, if this Eucharist is not really Jesus, then Catholics are guilty of the sin of idolatry. In view of the evidence presented against it, are you still willing to risk your soul and bow down to the Eucharist?
Of course, the Lord’s Supper / Communion service is important, but it IS a ritual, just as the Passover was. The Passover pointed FORWARD to the cross and the Communion service points BACKWARD to that same event. But a religious ritual like Communion is not an end in itself, nor is it the fulfillment of what it points to. The fulfillment of the Lord’s Supper is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. Remember, the bread and wine don’t save us… they are simply symbols that commemorate and point to that Person and event that DOES save us.