Saturday, September 22, 2007

Just Do What You're Told....

Okay, a couple of months ago, I said that I was going to start reading Chemnitz's The Lord's Supper. I did...but then I stopped. I got stumped around chapter 4 for a while until I actually had time to sit down and think it through, and that time didn't come until yesterday in the bathtub. (I always think better in the bathtub.)

I'm not going to get into chapter 4 just yet, even though I found it completely fascinating. Chapter 2 was really great, too...and I haven't written about that yet. I've only written about how in Chapter 1, Chemnitz asserts that the Words of Institution were left to us by Christ as His last will and testament, and in any situation, it would be completely unethical and dishonorable to try to look at a person's last will and testament and try to make it say anything other than what it really says.

Chapter 2 delves into how we form dogma. Many of the dogmas that we have in Christianity are written of many times in the Bible, and so if we are confused on them, we can go to other verses to become more clear. Almost always, that is a solid way of looking at Scripture, after all -- Scripture interprets Scripture is what we Lutherans always long as we are using verses that pertain to the same issue.

But the fact of the matter is, the Lord's Supper did not exist before Jesus instituted it on Maundy Thursday. The only place we have to establish our doctrine is in those verses -- in Christ's own words on the subject. So when other denominations seek their theology on the matter from other verses in other parts of the Bible....they are bringing in something irrelevant really to back up their preconceived notions. Jesus told the disciples specifically what they needed to know about Holy Communion...that the bread IS His body and that the wine IS His blood, and that they are given to us to eat for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus later repeated these words to Paul, and when Paul tries to resolve the arguments resolving Communion in the Corinthian church, he doesn't take his doctrine from elsewhere - not even from the Passover meal. He ONLY goes back to Jesus's words. (I Corinthians 11:23-34).

Chemnitz then quotes Theodore Beza, the reformer who succeeded Calvin argued along with Calvin that while they say that the body and blood are present, they are really only spiritually present because they are communicated through faith, because in reality, Christ is very far away. Beza even asserts that this presence and communication are "truer, more efficacious, and more significant than if the body and blood are received orally."

Chemnitz writes:

But Christ in the institution of His Supper does not teach the dogma of the presence and communication of His body and blood in such a way that he has permitted us to speculate or to draw our own definition from other Scripture passages and thus beleive or hold whatever kind of presence or communication in the Supper we wish. For He Himself defined it this way in the words of institution when He speaks of our oral reception of the Sacrament: "Take eat; this is My body." Thus we are not permitted to argue about which presence and communication are more significant and fitting, but that we reverently believe and hold that presence which the Son of God has given us in the words of His last will and testament, even though it may seem absurd to our human reason. For we must not take only certain points from the words of institution and then bring in from elsewhere the rest of the points as they seem good to us, but rather we must judge and teach the whole dogma of the Lord's Supper on the basis of the passage in which we find the true and proper setting of the doctrine.


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