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Hypostasis and the Real Presence

In the previous post, the reason was given for the burning of the English Reformers under Queen “Bloody” Mary: their denial of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Their conflict was with the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which claims that, in the Mass, the bread and wine are substantially changed into the actual body and blood of Christ.

I try not to make unfair connections between Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism, but the implications of this for Lutherans are unavoidable. Lutherans teach that the Lord’s Supper “is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and drink” (Small Catechism) and that “the true body and blood of Christ are really present in the Supper of our Lord under the form of bread and wine” (Augsburg Confession, Article X). They are careful to distinguish their doctrine from the Roman, using the language of “in, with, and under,” but that doesn’t avoid the problem of the two indivisible, inseparable (Definition of Chalcedon) natures of Christ, divine and human—fully God, and fully man.

Most Lutherans—most Christians of any stripe, for that matter—probably have not considered this, but while God the Father is omnipresent, the Son, being incarnate, is not. He took on human flesh at the incarnation, and ascended bodily into heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father (Romans 8:34). Consequently, he cannot be physically present with us, and therefore, neither can he be spiritually present, because of the hypostatic union of his divine and human natures. In short, Christ cannot be divided. He, fully God and fully man, is either here or there. He cannot be both.

This is by no means a new or controversial doctrine. It was settled by the Council of Chalcedon in 451, long before the Roman Catholic apostasy, more than one thousand years before Luther, Calvin, and the Reformation, and is accepted by all orthodox Christians today, including Lutherans. It is the reason that both the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation and the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation must be rejected.

The Council of Chalcedon: Serious Theologians in Funny Hats


“Whereas it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the Holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved; It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine thereby bodily received, or unto any corporal presence of Christ’s natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here: it being against the truth of Christ’s natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.”—Rubric at the end of the Communion Service in the Book of Common Prayer.

—in J. C. Ryle, Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 46–47.

Posted 2017·05·09 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Christology · Lord’s Table · Lutheranism

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