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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

14 June 2006

Communion: Symbolism, Real Presence, and Sacrifice

Q: Do Lutherans believe Communion is a symbolic recreation of the Last Supper or is Christ considered to be truly present? If so, is it considered a re-sacrifice of Christ?

Body and BloodA: Our church confesses belief in Jesus’ words: “This is My body ... this is My blood.” Therefore, we consider Christ to be truly present — not in some vague, spiritual fashion, but in His own body and blood. How He accomplishes this miracle, we leave to Him; we accept that He does. While we don’t treat the service as a “symbolic recreation,” we still eat and drink “in remembrance” of Him. Yet because we believe that we actually receive Christ’s body and blood, our remembering is no mere intellectual exercise, but actual participation in His suffering, death, and resurrection.

We teach that the Lord’s Supper is not a re-sacrifice. Sacrifices are offered in order to receive forgiveness. Scripture tells us that, “He has no need ... to offer sacrifices daily ... since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. (Hebrews 7:27)” Sinners could never offer God a pure and perfect sacrifice — this was accomplished by the sinless Son of God. In Holy Communion, we feast upon that one perfect sacrificial Lamb slain on the altar of Golgotha’s cross.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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