The following quotes regarding the importance of Catholic communion (Eucharist) are taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Libreria Editrice Vaticana -- In the USA, Liguori Publications, 1994), Imprimi Potest Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Bold emphasis not in original.
"There is no surer pledge or clearer sign of this great hope in the new heavens and new earth 'in which righteousness dwells,' than the Eucharist. Every time this mystery is celebrated, 'the work of our redemption is carried on' and we 'break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ'" (p.354).
"Taken literally (epi-ousios: 'super-essential'), it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the 'medicine of immortality,' without which we have no life within us" (p.681).
"The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: 'Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you' " (p.349).
"In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum. Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of 'passing over' to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: 'He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day' " (p.381).
The importance of communion for a Catholic is clearly shown from these quotes. In short, Catholicism equates Jn. 6:53, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" to communion, and thereby logically deduces that one must have it for spiritual life (or salvation). Catholicism isn't the only group that does this. Briefly, this article objectively considers this interpretation in the light of the New Testament as a whole to see if it is consistent and therefore the true meaning of Jn. 6:53 or not. The following four observations are critical in this endeavor:
When Jn. 6:53 was spoken, the Lord's Supper had not yet occurred! In John's gospel, it isn't recorded until chapter 13 and without any emphasis at all on communion. If Jn. 6:53 really refers to communion, then no one could have life in himself without it from the time these words were spoken until it was instituted! But this is not what the Biblical record shows! Zacchaeus is a case in point. In Lk. 19:9, he got saved, yet the Lord's Supper never occurred until Lk. 22:15-20, that is, until after Zacchaeus received his personal salvation! Apparently then, Zacchaeus ate the flesh of the Son of Man and drank His blood without having communion, since salvation [or spiritual life] came to him! See also Lk. 7:48-50.
Points To Ponder
If communion is necessary for salvation, then how did the repentant, dying thief get saved without it after it was instituted? Again, please bear in mind that the first Lord's Supper was already passed at this point. He never celebrated communion, yet got spiritual life! See Lk. 23:42,43. Obviously, he met the condition of Jn. 6:53 to get spiritual life, but again, as with Zacchaeus, it came without communion!
The Apostle John clearly cites the purpose of his gospel in chapter 20:30,31: "These [the miraculous signs Jesus performed] are written that you may [or may continue to] believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in his name."
In this two-verse synopsis of his entire gospel, the Apostle John writes on the subject of spiritual life as included within it, and with absolute clarity it is shown that there is no connection whatsoever with communion! This could hardly be the case if Jn. 6:53, also written about spiritual life and just 14 chapters earlier, referred to communion! Clearly then, John associated spiritual life with believing (trusting) on Jesus without any connection whatsoever to communion.
Also, if Jn. 6:53 is to be literally understood, as in Catholicism, then one is actually eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus during a Catholic mass. This is their doctrine of transubstantiation. If this has truly occurred, as claimed, then the communion elements should taste like human flesh and human blood. In contrast to this teaching and what a Catholic really tastes during communion, we have an actual God-given transubstantiation (change in substance) in Jn. 2:7-11 to learn from. (This is where Jesus changed the water into wine.) After that real transubstantiation occurred, the water no longer tasted like water! Instead, it now tasted like the thing it was changed into (the wine)! If the Catholic church had a true transubstantiation, then their product would, likewise, taste like the finished product, but it does not! (This is an irreconcilable problem for a literal interpretation of Jn. 6:53.) Please note the following quote from Vatican Council II regarding this:
"We believe that the Mass which is celebrated by the priest in the person of Christ in virtue of the power he receives in the Sacrament of Order, and which is offered by him in the name of Christ and of the members of his Mystical Body, is indeed the Sacrifice of Calvary sacramentally realized on our altars. We believe that, as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into his Body and Blood which were to be offered for us on the Cross, so likewise are the bread and wine consecrated by the priest changed into the Body and Blood of Christ now enthroned in glory in heaven" (Vol. 2, p.393).
Furthermore, their literal interpretation of Jn. 6:53 has, unfortunately, led to the Catholic practice of worshiping the consecrated communion elements, which is still carried on today, as the following quote proves:
They Worship The Eucharist
"Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. 'The Catholic church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated host with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p.347).
By misapplying Jn 6:53-56, not only are hundreds of millions misled about spiritual life, but faulty worship in the form of idolatry has been instituted because of such. See Jn. 4:23, 24 to see how important our worship is to God.
In reality, Jn. 6:53-56 can only refer to something that one can accomplish entirely without any connection whatsoever with communion based on the aforementioned observations. As other times when the Lord spoke referring to Himself as "the true vine" (Jn. 15:1) and "the gate" (Jn. 10:9), we must not take these descriptions or Jn. 6:53 in any way but in a figurative sense! This is the only possible consistent interpretation that can be correctly rendered from Holy Writ.
What then is the actual meaning of Jn. 6:53-56? According to Scripture, when that passage in question was first given, just a few verses prior to it, in verse 47, Jesus taught "I tell you the truth, he who believes [continuous tense] has everlasting life." Therefore, from the immediate context and all other data related to one receiving salvation contained in the entire New Testament, the only possible consistent meaning of Jn. 6:53 is a continuous eating and drinking of the Lord's body and blood in a figurative sense by continuously believing on Him, that is, trusting Him to the point of submitting to Him. Regarding submitting to Christ, Gal. 5:24 says:Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.See also Eph. 5:24a.
Helping to endorse Catholic doctrine surrounding the Eucharist are alleged miracles and anathemas. At least one such miracle supposedly occurred when a Catholic priest started to doubt his own faith that the bread and wine are actually changed. No doubt, many sincere Catholics want to believe such really happened and God was behind it. Unfortunately, too few in our day know miracles don't only come from God. The devil can also produce miracles, just like he can visions! All miracles, visions, etc. must be tested with Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16,17) to see the message behind such is Biblical. If not, then it didn't come from the God who gave us the Bible and must be rejected.
Miracles And Anathemas
The Council of Trent took place during the time of the Reformation. Hundreds of anathemas were pronounced on non-Catholics because of doctrinal differences, including the following two related to the Eucharist:If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood, the appearances only of bread and wine remaining, which change the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation, let him be anathema. (H. J. Schroeder, O. P., The Canons And Decrees Of The Council Of Trent, Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1978,, p. 79 -- Thirteenth Session, Chapter VIII, Canon 2)If anyone says that in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is not to be adored with the worship of latria, also outwardly manifested, and is consequently neither to be venerated with a special festive solemnity, nor to be solemnly borne about in procession according to the laudable and universal rite and custom of holy Church, or is not to be set publicly before the people to be adored and that the adorers thereof are idolaters, let him be anathema. (ibid., p. 80 -- Thirteenth Session, Chapter VIII, Canon 6)
In conclusion, please know that we do not receive Christ when we receive communion. According to Jn. 1:12, we receive Christ when we believe on Jesus' name, that is, trust on Him for our soul's salvation. Also, "the work of our redemption" is no longer still being carried on, as present-day Catholicism teaches. Jesus said, "It is finished" from the cross (Jn. 19: 30) meaning the sin debt for all of mankind (Rom. 5:6; 1 Jn. 2:2) has been paid in that one act, never to be repeated (Heb. 7:27; 9:26-28; 10:10-12). It is through Jesus' blood shed on the cross that we have peace with God and redemption (Col. 1:20; Eph. 1:7). Now that salvation has been provided by the Lord, we must individually appropriate our own personal salvation by trusting on Jesus for our soul's salvation (Acts 16: 31). This means we must repent (turn from our sins), according to Paul's message:
How Do We Receive ChristI have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus" (Acts 20: 21).The Lord Himself defined the saved in Lk. 8:21:My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice.(Please note: The Lord did not say, My mother and brothers are those who at one time in their lives believed on Me but now might be living ungodly lives, as Charles Stanley, Robert Thieme, Adrian Rogers, Tony Evans, June Hunt and many other eternal security teachers understand salvation!) A continuous submission to Jesus -- an unashamed following after Him is implied in believing on Him (Lk. 9:23-26). In Rev. 17:14 those who actually enter the kingdom are described as "... his called, chosen and faithful followers." Finally, as the Lord clearly stated to those already saved (His "disciples," not Israel):All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved (Mt. 10:22).
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