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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33 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?

      Regards,
      Keith

      • 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 actually predates any existence of Lutheranism. Consubstantiation is a doctrine of the Godhead adopted under the Arian heresy, and the consubstantiation debate was put to rest at the Council at Nicea AD 325.

            The Roman-Catholic Church deliberately, purposefully, and with slander has chosen to misapply and attribute the term consubstantiation to Luther’s teachings; to make him look less Catholic. Which is why no Catholic theologian has ever been able produce a single piece of Lutheran theology that has ever once recognized consubstantiation. Lutheran theology, in keeping with the tradition of the Church, profoundly declares consubstantiation a heretical teaching, and upholds and affirms such ruling under the Council at Nicea AD 325.

            It took the Roman-Catholic Council of Trent from 1545 thru 1563 (18-years) to replace the Catholic Catechism with their new Roman Catechism, which finally clarified among other things, the doctrine of transubstantiation.

            [21]Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. (Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0192802903), article “Transubstantiation.” and [24]Council of Trent, Session XIII, chapter IV; cf. canon IIHanover College. Retrieved June 25, 2008.

            In 1551, the Council of Trent officially defined[21] that “by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”[24]

            Transubstantiation. (2008, November 16). New World Encyclopedia, . Retrieved 14:25, August 29, 2014
            Lutherans believe that within the Eucharistic celebration the body and blood of Jesus Christ are objectively present “in, with, and under the forms” of bread and wine (cf. Book of Concord). They place great stress on Jesus’ instructions to “take and eat,” and “take and drink,” holding that this is the proper, divinely ordained use of the sacrament, and, while giving it due reverence, scrupulously avoid any actions that might indicate or lead to superstition or unworthy fear of the sacrament. However, Luther explicitly rejected transubstantiation, believing that the bread and wine remained fully bread and fully wine while also being fully the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Luther instead emphasized the sacramental union (not exactly the consubstantiation, as it is often claimed).(a view often called consubstantiation by non-Lutherans)

        • The Lutheran doctrine is called Sacramental Union. At the consecration the bread and wine become united with the body and blood of Christ so that they, in essence, become one with them, though the natural substances (bread and wine) are not obliterated in the process. Luther used the analogy of a blacksmith’s poker to explain this. When the poker is withdrawn from the fire, both fire and iron are united in the red-hot iron yet each continues unchanged.

          Consider also that our Lord’s divine nature did not obliterate his human nature. So in the Eucharist the earthly elements are not obliterated by their union with the divine.

          The other writer is correct when he says that Consubstantiation is not the correct term for the Lutheran doctrine, and it is not used by Lutheran theologians. That word implies a dual, separate presence of the bread and wine in the Eucharist. Sacramental Union affirms the perfect UNION of the sacramental elements with the body and blood of Christ.

          I am no theologian, but I think the doctrine of Sacramental Union can be explained by simply replacing two words in Chalcedon’s definition of the two natures of Christ: i.e., “Jesus Christ” with “Sacrament”; and “person” with “substance”:

          Chalcedon’s definition of our Lord’s two natures:
          Jesus Christ is to be “recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” The “distinction of natures” is “in no way annulled by the union.” “The characteristics of each nature” are to be considered as “preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence.” They are not to be “separated into two persons.”

          Sacramental Union in the Eucharist:
          The Sacrament is to be “recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” The “distinction of natures” is “in no way annulled by the union.” “The characteristics of each nature” are to be considered as “preserved and coming together to form one substance and subsistence.” They are not to be “separated into two substances.”

          • Interesting David. However, we, Catholics, preserve the host with great reverence b/c it is Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity, in the Tabernacle, consume the Precious Blood, and purify the cups and purificatory also with great care and reverence. How do Lutherans deal with drops of Jesus’ blood left in cups and extra pieces of ‘Hosts”?

            • Charter members of the Altar Guild, care for the Altar and Chancel (liturgical east end) area of the Church. The pastor and associate pastor consecrate and distribute the sacrament. At times, a member of the Board of Elders, may assist clergy in the distribution. Clergy, with the help of Elders, preserve and follow a procedure, prior to the Altar Guild storing away the Sacrament in the Chancel room behind the Altar. The Altar Guild goes to work immediately following the weekly distribution and worship service. The Altar Guild is also responsible for candles: Paschal, Altar, Unity, Advent, Baptismal, and etc… Maintaining the baptismal font is also a function of the Altar Guild.

              http://www.cph.org/p-671-the-altar-guild-manual-lutheran-service-book-edition.aspx

              Various government departments of health now have imposed standards for storage and testing for stale wafers or soured grape juice. Though grape juice isn’t very popular among Lutherans, some congregations will make it available if a congregational member requests it due to a substance abuse issue.

              Nothing is to go to waste, in keeping with the tradition of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in the Gospel of John. Lutherans view the Lord’s Super as though it’s the Tree of Life, as depicted in Genesis 2:9, 3:22 and Revelation 2:7; where God’s Spirit is given in the form of Baptismal regeneration.

    • 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

    • Your first sencence is not Lutheran doctrine. Here’s what the Lutheran catechism says:

      292. Do all communicants receive the body and blood in the Sacrament, whether or not they believe?
      Answer: Yes, because the Sacrament depends on Christ’s word, not on our faith.

      Regarding the Real Presence:
      287. What does Christ give us in this sacrament?
      Answer: In this sacrament Christ gives us His own true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.

    • Sorry, Catholicview, you are wrong believing there is no change Roman doctrine concerning sacraments. The Roman Church changed a lot about the sacraments and itnroduce new ones. Around the year 1000 they started to withhold the wine from believers AGAINST Christ’s explicit words: «Drink from it, all of you;” (Mt 26:27) or according to Luke: Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, «Take this and divide it among yourselves;
      They also introduced celibacy for priests around that time, because the priests’ wives became a strong influence “undermining” the mind-control of the hierarchy. To increase their power they just forced many good people (priests and their partners) into “out of Wedlock” relationships and they still reap the consequences because the priesthood became a magnet for pedophiles and homosexuals. Even the first pope (Peter) was married (Jesus healed his mother in law). Then the Roman church made the priesthood a elective sacrament.
      The Roman Church changed this about the sacrament for one reason: Save MONEY on the wine. But hey, you cannot serve two masters at the same time, God and the mammon. So the Roman Church made its choice and became rich and powerful in THIS world (That was what Satan promised to Christ in the third temptation, only, he was able to resist). This could have been the end of the Christian church if it was a human institution, but Christ promised to protect it and in his good time he called reformers to bring the church back on track. We should praise God for his wisdom daily and thank him for Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, Huss, Bucer, Calvin, Bonhoeffer, Drevermann (former Roman Catholic Priest and Professor in Paderborn, excommunicated) and the many true believers who listen to God’s Word more than to human tradition and selfelected “authorities”.
      Indeed, the Roman church changed doctrine again and again, that is what councils where held for. There is a hole that the new pope will actually pick up on that tradition and reform some of the worst heresies within the Roman Church.

    • catholicsview: “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.”

      Actually, Luther and Karlstadt, were patiently waiting; Pope Leo X is the one who got anxious to crush any and all debate, rather than working with Catholic theologians and professors running the monasteries and seminaries; Leo excommunicated them in 1521.

      Martin Luther held a Doctorate in Catholicism: The Sentences; while Karlstadt held three Doctorates in Catholicism: The Sentences, Hebrew, and Canon Law. Philipp Schwarzerd Melanchthon holds a Masters in classical Greek, otherwise known as Koine, the native tongue of the Septuagint. All three we held in high esteem and were very well regarded as preeminent authorities within the Order of Saint Augustine of Hippo.

      Pope Leo X simply used the Catholic Reformation to his advantage as a political distraction, by calling it a Protestant Reformation, which technically began seven months before Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses.

      Pope Leo X’s bull issued, 16 March 1517, Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges issued a violation of the Catholic Church by suppressing canon law: the Haec Sancta: Decree of the Council of Constance, 1415; the Papal Privilege Document by Pope Honorius III on September 1.1221; and Pope Innocent III’s papal bull “Sacrosancta Romana ecclesia” issued on February 19, 1199. The Sacrosancta Conciliarism is a long held tradition of the Catholic Church fathers who honorably served under their Council of Bishops. Pope Leo X’s abolition of conciliarism reversed the role of the papacy to serve its Council; but rather to now have the Council serve the Papacy. Pope Leo X’s act of “protest” against well established Catholic tradition is what sparked unrest among the ranks of Catholic clergy, and Martin Luther’s 95 Theses are reactive, not proactive. The painful truth is that the Roman-Catholic Church is the instigator, initiator, and source of Protestantism who spawned an endless cycle of denominational remnants of loose catholicism. If Luther hadn’t been excommunicated, he likely would have been able to stop much of the bleeding of the Catholic Church from being such a loss to the heresies of individual interpretation that we see today.

  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

    • So Paul was a heretic, since he said after consecration: “As often as you eat of this bread and drink form this wine you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” In actual fact, the RC is theheretic, since theychanged important doctrines in the first 13 hundred years of the church, mainly after the Constantin. It was when Christiaity became state religion and many unbelievers joined the church, sought power and changed the doctrines. Thank God for Luther and the Reformation

      • Dear Pastor Karsten,
        Unlike Protestantism, the Catholic Faith is not one of dichotomies, either this OR that but it is a faith of Both/And. So Paul was speaking of two facets of the Eucharist. It is not either the Real Presence of Jesus Christ OR a proclamation of His death…It is Both!.

        You have asserted heresy and changing of doctrines but offer no example. What doctrine did the Catholic Church change…ever?
        May I remind you that slander is a sin.

        Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.

  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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