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White Horse Inn: Conversational Theology

According to J. Todd Billings, the Lord’s Supper is “a sign-action that displays the gospel and, together with the preached Word, draws us into the drama of God’s work. Through the Word preached and received in the Lord’s Supper, we encounter and receive Jesus Christ by the Spirit. In him, we find forgiveness and new life, justification and sanctification. In him, we receive nourishment and enter into loving fellowship.” On this program, Michael Horton talks with J. Todd Billings about these issues and more as they discuss Todd’s new book, Remembrance, Communion, and Hope: Rediscovering the Gospel at the Lord’s Table.


“The Lord’s Supper is an icon of the gospel. There is this really good news that is proclaimed to us and if it is an icon of the gospel, it’s something that discloses the heart of the Christian life. It’s about our whole identity. It’s about what Christ has done and what the Spirit has done and is doing in uniting us to Christ. And so, it’s a way of taking your place in this drama of God’s mighty acts that culminates in Jesus Christ.”

J. Todd Billings


“The Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper”

Roman Catholicism: The Roman church has a doctrine of transubstantiation: in the supper the substance in the elements of bread and wine are changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ while the accidents—i.e. appearance, taste, touch and smell—remain the same. The Council of Trent added the veneration of the consecrated elements is adoration, the same worship that is given to God.

Lutheran: Luther rejected transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the Mass; he still believed that Christ is bodily present in the Lord’s Supper and that his body is received by all who partake of the elements. While he acknowledged the mystery, he was certain of the fact of Christ’s real corporeal presence inasmuch as he has said when he instituted the Supper, “This is my body.” This has been called the doctrine of consubstantiation, that Christ is in, with, and under the elements.

Zwinglianism: Zwingli thought the doctrine of physical eating is absurd and repugnant to common sense. Moreover God does not ask us to believe that which is contrary to sense experience. The word “is” in the institution means “signifies,” or “represents,” and must be interpreted figuratively.

Reformed: Calvin’s view of the Lord’s Supper appears to be a mediate position between the views of Luther and Zwingli, but is in fact an independent position. Calvin held that there is a real reception of the body and blood of Christ in the Supper, only in a Spiritual manner. Calvin held, with Zwingli, that after the ascension Christ retained a real body, which is located in heaven. With Luther Calvin believed that the elements in the Supper are signs that exhibit the fact that Christ is truly present.

(Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, s.v. “Lord’s Supper, View of.”)

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