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* The Eucharist

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THE EUCHARIST


THE MEANING OF THE WORD

The words, "the eucharist" simply mean "the giving of thanks." This term "eucharist" is derived from the Greek word "eucharistia," which appears in various related forms in the original language in which the New Testament was first written. "Eucharistia" is found in 1Corinthians 14:16 and has been translated as "giving of thanks." Sometimes it implies grace. It can be used as we do, when we give thanks, or say grace before a meal. "Eucharistia" is a combination of two original Greek words. "Eu" means good and "charis" means "thanks, grace, or even joy." The context generally decides its exact meaning. In the New Testament we read, "And when he (Jesus) had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me." (1Corinthians 11:24)

THE NEW COVENANT

Jesus continued, "This cup is the new testament (or covenant) in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me." (Verse 25) The bread and the wine are to be shared in memory of Jesus’ body and blood by all fellow believers in that covenant, who have become related to it through belief and baptism into Christ. This covenant also relates the believer to the very important Abrahamic promises. (Galatians 3:26-29)

TRANSUBSTANTIATION?

The Roman Catholic church teaches that the bread changes into the actual body of Jesus when the Priest gives thanks - or, in their terms, blesses it. Another name given to the bread so "transformed" is the host. When the wine is blessed in conjunction with the host, it is said to be the actual blood shed on the cross, and both are then offered as the Mass. Yet this cannot be a repeat offering of the actual body and blood of Jesus for the Bible says, "After he (Jesus) had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God." (Hebrews 10:12) Then in verse 14 the Bible clearly teaches that only one sacrifice was necessary to perfect the saints of God. "For by one offeringhe hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." For by one offering he hathperfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Hebrews 10:14) Despite these clear declarations, the host is alleged to be the actual body of Jesus being offered again and again. Yet in eating it, the logical charge of cannibalism is also strangely resisted.

BIBLICAL SYMBOLOGY NOT TRANSUBSTANTIATION

The Bible, like any other book, has figures of speech. Matthew records that "his face shone as the sun." (ch 17:2) That is a simile for it resembled the sun. However Malachi says he is "the sun of righteousness." (ch 4:2) That is a metaphor. In reality he is not the sun, but because his attributes intellectually remind us of the sun, the prophet used a metaphor. Other similar figures of speech applying to Jesus are:-

"I am the bread of life." (John 6:35)

"I am the vine, you (his disciples) are the branches." (John 15:5)

"I am the door of the sheep." (John 10:7)

"I am the light of the world." (John 8:12)

So when Jesus said of the bread in Luke 22:19, "This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me," his body was seated with his disciples, and was still there when they shared the bread he had blessed. So the bread did not miraculously became his body. Besides, he had not yet been slain. It becomes clear that bread is used representatively of his body when we consider Christ’s words in John 6:51 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever:" If he was literally bread, his body was not flesh. Yet we know he was flesh and blood, for he said in verse 53, "Except you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood there is no life in you." It cannot be both ways. He was bread in verse 51: yet flesh and blood in verse 53. Even transubstantiation does not admit both states simultaneously. Therefore bread is representative of his flesh, and wine of his blood.

THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE

The Bible says. "the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh. Thou shalt not eat it, thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water." (Deuteronomy 12:23-24) This principle is seen throughout the Old Testament and prefigures the pouring out of the life of Jesus. "The son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28) So in sharing the wine, his life is being shared together. That life was devoted to God in being poured out in His service, for the benefit of those who would assimilate those very principles.

THE GIVING OF HIS BODY AND HIS BLOOD

His crucifixion was the consummation of his life of continual giving. He had committed himself completely to the service of God, even though it meant persecution, hunger, deprivation and death. Such committal demanded that every thought or feeling arising from his body was to be kept in conformity with God’s will. In his total self denial, his bodily requirements were being sacrificed right up to the point of his death, when "he died unto sin once." (Romans 5:10)

All that meant the giving of his body. Likewise the blood symbolises his poured out life - poured out in total dedication to doing God’s will. So in eating the bread and drinking the wine in memory of Jesus we are spiritually assimilating his self denial and godly dedication into ourselves. It is upon the principle of our total commitment, that we receive grace.

DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME

is the command of Jesus to the disciples. We have seen that the grace we receive is not due to a "miraculous" change of substance in the eucharist, but to a change within ourselves, and a determination to keep that change alive. This is apparent in the following quote from the Apostle Peter, Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:"

That is the nexus of his sacrifice. Without that understanding we cannot benefit from it, for Peter continues, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, thatwe, being dead to sinsshould live unto righteousness:" So keeping the feast in memory of Jesus must conform to that pattern. The bread and wine have no power in themselves to give us the grace we sorely need, but a renewed determination to be like Jesus will ensure the mercy and grace of God.

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