THE SUM and SUBSTANCE.
MOST RECENT BIBLE TRANSLATIONS USE THE WORD “COVENANT “ INSTEAD OF “TESTAMENT” IN THE TEXTS WHERE JESUS INSTITUTED THE LORD’S SUPPER.
Both are possible translations, but as Robert Kolh, a professor at Concordia Seminary, St Louis, observes: “If the word is understood as ‘covenant’ it must be understood as the kind of covenant that is given by the king to his vassals. The king offers; the king imposes. The Covenant is his gift to vassals who have no claim on his protection and rule. Christ’s Supper is likewise pure gift.
Thus, it is better to think of the Lord’s Supper as a last will and testament. Here Jesus bestows all His blessings, the blessing of forgiveness and new life, the blessing of his presence, upon His people.’
Early in his battle against Rome , Luther used the translation “testament” in its legal sense as his chie f weapon. The Lord’s Supper was being treated as a sacrifice—a work of man to appease God—not as God’s free gift to his church. Luther stressed that the Lord’s Supper was Christ’s last will and testament by which He bequeathed to us all blessings.
Citing Christ’s words ‘This is the cup of the new testament,” Luther wrote: “Not every vow is called a testament, but only a last, irrevocable will of one who is about to die, whereby he bequeaths his goods, allotted and assigned to be distributed to whom he will. Just as St. Paul says to the Hebrews that a testainent must be made operative by death.”
This new testament, said Luther, depends totally on the Words of institution.
Everything depends on these words. Every Christian should and must know them and hold them fast. He must never let anyone take them away from him by any other kind of caching, even though it were an angel from heaven. They are words of life and of salvation, so that whoever believes in them has all his sins forgiven through that faith; he is a child of life and has overcome death and hell. Language cannot express how great and mighty these words are, tbr they are the sum and substance of the whole Gospel.
Because He is ascended to God’s right hand, Jesus has the authority to come and bestow this inheritance of forgiveness and life and salvation.
This was clearly expressed in the earliest years of our Synod by our first president, C .F .W. Waliher “The Son of God himself is repeating the once-spoken words of institution through the mouth of the minister an(l thereby hallows, consecrates, and blesses the bread an(l wine so that they are the means of distributing His body and blood.
Luther explained in a simple and straightforward way the clarity of Christ’s words “If these words are not clear, I do not know how to speak German . Would I not understand, if someone were to place a roll before me and say: ‘Take, eat, this is white bread’? Or again, lake and drink, this is a glass of wine’?
Therefore, when Christ says: take, eat, this is my body, even a child will understand perfectly well that he is speaking of that which he is offering......These words are quite clear .......and explicit. ...... For this reason we stick closely to the words and close our eyes and senses, because everyone knows what ‘this is my body’ means, especially when he adds ‘given for you.’ We know what Christ’s body is, namely that which was born of Mary, suffered, died, and rose again.”
HIS WORD; NOT OUR FAITH
In his promised gift, he is present for us . His presence is so certain that all communicants receive the body and blood in the Sacrament whether or not they believe. But not all receive the forgiveness, life, and salvation offered with Christ’s body and blood.
This is part of the basis for the loving practice of closed Communion. It is also a truth that is offensive to our natural human reason and religious feelings. The human heart does not care for mysteries that go lbeyond the mind’s ability to discern . How can it be that all who partake ---—whether they believe or not—--- receive the true body and true blood of ,Jesus Christ’? But this is the unshakable nature of the inheritance Jesus gives in the new testament of His body and blood.
When the living Christ comes into the midst of His gathered congregation today and says “This is My body” and ~This is My l)lood,” it is not a matter that human speculation can change. Luther says it clearly: This is His Word, when He says, This is my body,’ ,just as He says in Genesis [1:3], Let there be light,’ and there is light. My friend, it is God who names or calls, and what He names immediately comes into existence, as Psalm 33 says, ~He spoke, and it came to be.”
What His lips offer is, as Luther said, the sum and substance of the Gospel or, as Krauth says, the heart of the Gospel. Krauth writes: “Christ is the center of the system and the Supper is the center of Christ’s revelation of Himself. The glory and the mystery of the incarnation combine there as they combine nowhere else. Communion with Christ is that by which we live, and the Supper is ‘the communion.’
In giving this precious gift, Jesus did not make a new law commanding its daily or weekly observance. Yet, at first, there was a daily and then weekly use of Holy Communion. This is so because what Jesus gave In Ilis Church is the inviting and absolving Gospel, not the insistent and accusing Law. The Lords Supper is a gift of life and love to be received, not a requirement to be fulfilled.
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting is
pastor of Luthe r Memorial Chapel
and University Student Center,
The LUTHERAN WITNESS Magazine
March 2007. Vol. 126 No. 3 (Pgs. 12-13)
Church of the Science of God
La Jolla, California 92038-3131
© Church of the Science of GOD, 1993