Martin Luther On the Real Presence

Q. What did Martin Luther believe about the Body and Blood of Christ in the bread and wine?

A. Martin Luther believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He became indignant when groups, who had followed him out of the Catholic Church, rejected the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He deplored the fact that every milkmaid and farmhand thought they could interpret scripture correctly. Here he is in his own words.

Who, but the devil, has granted such license of wresting the words of the holy Scripture? Who ever read in the Scriptures, that my body is the same as the sign of my body? or, that is is the same as it signifies? What language in the world ever spoke so? It is only then the devil, that imposes upon us by these fanatical men. Not one of the Fathers of the Church, though so numerous, ever spoke as the Sacramentarians: not one of them ever said, It is only bread and wine; or, the body and blood of Christ is not there present.

Surely, it is not credible, nor possible, since they often speak, and repeat their sentiments, that they should never (if they thought so) not so much as once, say, or let slip these words: It is bread only; or the body of Christ is not there, especially it being of great importance, that men should not be deceived. Certainly, in so many Fathers, and in so many writings, the negative might at least be found in one of them, had they thought the body and blood of Christ were not really present: but they are all of them unanimous.”

Luther’s Collected Works, Wittenburg Edition, no. 7 p, 391

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23 Responses

  1. One could say the same thing about “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away” (Acts22:16) or “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts2:37-41) or “baptism now saves you” (1Pet3:21). Regenerative baptism certainly had every bit as much support from the Fathers of the Church -and from Luther- and has even MORE biblical support that the Eucharist, which is hardly lacking in it.

    • Pam,

      In connection with these forceful and apt words of Luther and granting that many Early Fathers say that the elements of the Lord’s Supper *are* (in some important sense) the body and blood of Christ, I (as a Reformational Christian) wish to pose this question:

      What are the earliest words outside the Bible that, in the view of Roman Catholics, affirm that the bread ceases to be bread and the wine ceases to be wine in Holy Communion?


      • Dear Keith,
        The Bread and Wine continue to appear to all of our senses as mere bread and wine. But at the prayer of consecration by Priest of the Catholic or Orthodox Church the reality is that Jesus is hidden under the appearance of bread and wine.

        Early Church Beliefs in the Eucharist

      • St Ignatius 110 AD

        “They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again. It is fitting, therefore, that ye should keep aloof from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public…”

        The Apostle Paul (1 Cor 11:27)
        So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

        The Apostle Paul (1 Cor 11:28-30)
        Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without recognizing the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have died.

        Remember Paul never met Jesus in the flesh and he wasn’t present at the Last Supper. So you have to ask yourself, how did Paul come to know that the bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ?

  2. That’s deep :) I liked the message Martin Luther has left us..

  3. John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

    How can we avoid all of John 6 here and its conclusion?

    • I am sorry, but you are taking john 6 outta of context. This flesh he is referring to here is not speaking of The Lord’s Body, but rather human Flesh. Later in john, he is very dogmatic about “eating the son of man’s flesh and blood, so much so that he let some of his disciples walk away.

  4. Better translation of Jn 6:63: the Spirit is making alive; the flesh isn’t benefiting any one. The words, which I have spoken to you, are both spirit and life.

    In context this is a reply to “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” Thus Jesus explains that it is the Spirit in HIs flesh and not merely the flesh that is live giving. Then He tells them all He spoke to them about eating My flesh and drinking My blood is both life giving and a way of life.

  5. Martin Luther believe in the real presence. However, he believe in consubstantiation rather than transubstantiation. This means that rather than believing that the bread and wine undergo and change of substance to become Jesus, he believed that the host and the cup were both bread and Jesus, both wine and Jesus. Besides this, Zwingli believed in a symbolic presence. Of Zwingli’s Eucharistic theology, Luther said, “I’d rather drink blood with the pope than wine with Zwingli.”
    And we all know how Luther felt about the pope.

    • Consubstantiation, like transubstantiation, is an attempt to explain HOW Christ’s body and blood are present in the sacrament. Neither Luther nor the Lutheran Church have taught consubstantiation because neither Luther nor the Lutheran Church have fallen into the trap of attempting to explain HOW the Real Presence takes place. Luther and the Lutheran Church have simply taught the FACT of the Real Presence based on scripture without any attempt to explain HOW it happens. Consubstantiation is NOT a Lutheran teaching.

      • David, you are right about consubstantiation not being a lutheran teaching.

      • That’s a cop-out. The fact is Lutheran theology is clear that after the words of Our Lord are spoken at the altar at a Lutheran Service, both the bread and wine with The Presence of Jesus Christ remain. To believe or say otherwise is to refute Martin Luther’s words about this analogy himself:

        “the iron put into the fire whereby both fire and iron are united in the red-hot iron and yet each continues unchanged”. Note Luthers words.. “Yet Each Continues UNCHANGED”. This is exactly Martin Luther’s quotation of what occurs after the words from The Gospel are said.

        The latest? Your right about that. Protestantism always keeps evolving. They are all afraid of explaining wha exactly they believe because they know it tears at the fabric of that befief so they just resort to “the bible says”…which is goofy because what the bible says has nothing to do with Protestant Reformers and what they actually said on record. ;)

        He believed in CONSUBSTANTIATION. That is the analogy he himself taught concerning The Eucharist: “the iron put into the fire whereby both fire and iron are united in the red-hot iron and yet each continues unchanged”.

        If that doesn’t spell out CONSUBSTANTIATION, what does? lol..

        • Rob You need to read the book of concord and the entire Augsburg Confession before you insinuate that Luther taught consubstantiation …he DID Not, this was a doctrine circulating 100 years after Luther and it is in serious error, much like those teaching Rapture, Second coming is scriptural but rapture is NOT

          • Let’s get this straight. Read the Book of Concord in the Smalcald Articles (Written by Martin Luther in 1537, not hundred years later) under [6:] Concerning the Sacrament of the Altar:
            “…Concerning transubstantiation, we have absolutely no regards for the subtle sophistry of those who teach that bread and wine surrender or lose their natural substances and that only the form and color of the bread remain, but its no longer real bread. For it is in closest agreement with Scripture to say that bread is and remains there, as St. Paul himself indicates [1 Cor.10:16; 11:28]: “The bread that we break…” and “Eat of the bread.””
            Luther believed that Bread and wine are truly body and blood of Christ while they continue to be bread and wine as well. The is consubstantiation con=with : With or under the substance). The substance itself does not chance as taught in transubstantiation. In “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation” (1520) Luther already called transubstantiation an “illusion (German; Wahn) of St. Thomas and the pope.”
            Consubstantiation does not try to explain the “how”, but that due to the scripture we have to believe our Lord when he says : “This is my body/blood”. Luther believed in the omnipresence (to be present everywhere) of God (Christ) thus in His presence throughout all that is created. The presence is there not because a priest changed the substance (transubstantiation) but because the believer who receives the sacrament has Faith that God can be present even in a substance as ordinary as bread if God pleases to be present.
            Transubstantiation is only one of the big errors of Middle Ages’ catholic theology. We don’t “repeat” the sacrifice of Christ when we come together for the Lord’s Supper. That was done once and for all in Jesus Christ dying on the cross. There is also no reason in scripture why the RC Church withholds the blood from the people.

            • Dear Karsten,
              Thanks you for the Lutheran understanding of Constubstantiation. I never said that Luther believed in Transubstantiation. I was just pointing out that even Martin Luther, the founder of the Reformation, believed in the presence of Christ in the bread and wine. Unlike so many Protestants who don’t believe this at all but only think communion is symbolically Christ or something along those lines for many Evangelicals.

              By what authority do you pronounce Catholic theology in error? Are you infallible?

              How does Consubstantiation differ from pantheism?

    • Consubstantiation doesn’t exist in Lutheran theology.

      Crypto-Calvinist believed in consubstantiation apart from “Luther’s Followers”.

      Lutheran theology teaches “sacramental union”, which means the “true” flesh of Christ Jesus and the “true” blood of Christ Jesus are as real as the elements themselves. Most Lutheran theological works use the term “true presence” rather than “real presence”, basically to slightly distinguish it apart from transubstantiation.

  6. Actually, I believe the latest Lutheran teaching is “If you believe it’s Christ, then it is. If you believe it is just a symbol, then that’s what it is.” Interesting how everything gets changed over time except in the Catholic church when it comes to important things like sacraments. Kevin you are right that transubstantiation is an attempt to explain the mystery of Christ in the Eucharist. It simply means that although to our senses the bread is bread and the wine is wine, it really is the Body and Blood of Christ. It is just applying a name to a truth. The Catholic church does this in a lot of the teachings of the Church. As far as what Luther thought of the Eucharist, even if he did believe the same as Catholics, is only important in that maybe that is why everyone should be Catholic? Especially now, since a lot of the stuff that Luther wasn’t willing to wait for (changes in the Catholic church) being changed are not good arguments any longer.

    • The first sentence you posted is NOT Orthodox Lutheran doctrine but most likely some unknown atheist trying to smear the Christian Religion which unfortunately is happening more and more each day on line and in the real world

  7. All Catholics should recognize the error in this question at first glance.
    Q. What did Martin Luther believe about the Body and Blood of Christ in the bread and wine?
    Catholics know Christ’s body and blood are not in the bread and wine. After valid consecration there is no wine or bread present, to say otherwise is a false doctrine and heresy. This question should be reworded so not to harm some less schooled or weak in faith Catholic. For clarity it should read;
    Q. What did Martin Luther believe about the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist?

    • In response to Joseph Bellington, wow my friend, You need to go back and search scripture, epsecially 1 Cor 11: 27-29 where Paul speaks of the real Presence of the Eucharist, and those who eat it in sin make a judgment upon themselves…if its not his body they why would we be symbolically eating a judgment upon ourselves. Also John Ch. 6….Classic…Jesus says at least 3 times…this is my “BODY”..he does not say…Um this is a symbol of my body …..also his Disciples leave him after this happens….he dosnt stop them. He also says to his Twelve “will you leave me too”? Never does he retort and say..ok now that they are gone I was only being symbolic. read up my friend and learn the scriptures, dont try to re-invent the wheel. The early Church Fathers already figured this out for us, we are no where near as smart as them and no where near as holy. So lets try to learn from them instead of twist thier words to suit our modern day egos and agendas. By leading others astray you will be liable. God Bless

  8. LOve your enemy , you might even have to die for them for you to get into hevean

  9. Philipp Melanchthon was a co-author of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession of 1530, with Luther, and the Electors of the Holy Roman Empire over Saxony. This document created the Evangelical Church of Germany and the charter was legally recognized by Emperor Charles V.

    Philipp Melanchthon schism from Luther’s teachings in 1540, and negotiated with Calvin to bring Calvini’s Reformed Church and Luther’s Evangelical Church congregations together. They compromised between one another, and Philipp Melanchthon co-authored with John Calvin the Altered Augsburg Confession of 1540. It’s here that we see consubstantiation attributed to Philipp Melanchthon’s followers in the Evangelical Church, which became known as Crypto-Calvinist or Phillippist. (UCC) United Church of Christ (formerly, Prussian Union – German Evangelical Synod) and the Dutch Reformed are semi-confessional to this version of the text, in that they have additional Reformed Confessions in acceptance as well.

    Philipp Melanchthon again co-authored the Re-Altered Augsburg Confession of 1542, which was co-signed by the Roman Catholic Church to begin incorporating Crypto-Calvinist (Phillippist) back into the Roman-Catholic Church. A partial truce was understood between the two theologies, as the Phillippist gave-up some ground on works righteousness to Roman-Catholics, while Roman-Catholics entertained a greater role in imputed faith. The (ELCA) Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is confessional to this document.

    Doctor Martin Luther died in 1546 as the Synodical leader of the Evangelical Church of Germany. “Luther’s Followers” in 1580 established a new charter within the Saxon government, creating the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany. This congregation was built on the doctrines established under the Formula of Concord and the original text of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession of 1530. The (SELK), (SELC), (ELS), (WELS), and (LCMS) are currently confessional to the 1530 text. These Lutherans define the Sacraments of water in Baptism and bread & wine in Holy Communion to be in “sacramental union” with the “true” presence of God in with and under the elements.

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