The wine is Christ’s blood. The bread is His body. This doctrine is taught in some of the most popular versions of Christianity, but is it literal or symbolic?
[Darris McNeely] Is transubstantiation a biblical teaching? It’s a big word. It’s a big doctrine and teaching that the Roman Catholic Church has regarding the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, and in the mass of the Catholic Church, according to their teaching, when the priest intones the prayers at a particular moment in the mass, the bread and the wine actually literally become the body of Jesus Christ. This is what is known as the doctrine of transubstantiation.
But sometimes people ask us, is it a biblical teaching? And the answer is no, it is not. The body – or the bread and the wine that are taken, and that the Bible talks about as symbols of the suffering and the crucified body of Jesus Christ and His shed blood that was poured out at His death, is a very biblical teaching. And as Jesus Christ was about to undergo His death, He made some substantial instructions and changes in regard to that.
In the book of Matthew chapter 26, for instance – a key chapter on this – beginning in verse 26, we read that Jesus explained on the night before His crucifixion. It says, “As they were eating,” it reads, “Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’” And then He took the cup, a cup of wine – “He gave thanks,” it says, “and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’” (Matthew 26:26-28 Matthew 26:26-28 26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it;
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
American King James Version×) Jesus did that as a – He took part in the Passover service. He changed the actual symbols of the rituals that went all the way back to the book of Exodus chapter 12 – the original Exodus, the original Passover service – and He changed them that night into the bread and wine to represent His body and His blood.
And the apostle Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. And he also said that in the same night, “The Lord took the bread. When He had given thanks, He broke it and He said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner, He took the cup which He supped, saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in my blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’” He went on to give further instruction in regard to that, and especially talking about letting a person examine themselves prior to taking those symbols of the body and the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11: 23-32)
When a Christian takes those symbols of that sacrifice of Jesus Christ on an annual basis, once a year at the Passover service, we are taking the symbols of Christ’s body and of His blood. We are not partaking of the actual blood and body of Jesus Christ, transformed by any blessing or prayer over those substances. The Bible does not teach that. In fact, when you really do dig deep into the biblical teaching regarding blood and human flesh, that would be directly contrary to biblical teaching in regard to that. And yet, the doctrine of transubstantiation, believed by millions of people in the world today in the Roman Catholic faith, teaches something that is not biblical and completely different, and helps really to foster a misunderstanding about these very symbols of Christ’s death and sacrifice that are so important to a Christian as an annual memorial and a reminder as we look back on that night when Christ died – the day when He died – and that event, that once and for all, provided a sacrifice for mankind for the sins of all mankind. Christ died once for all. That’s what the book of Hebrews tells us.
And so, it is not something that we have to take part in or actually believe that is actually transformed into those literal parts of the sacrifice during that time. It is a figurative explanation. It is a figurative matter that we take as symbols, and it’s very important to our spiritual life and our relationship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Transubstantiation, no. It is not a biblical teaching.