When a Godly Man Insists Upon an Error 1: Marburg, 1529

Mark 14:22-24
       Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

A. P. GIBBS (1890-1967): What did our Lord intend to convey by the words, “This is My body…This is My blood”? Did He mean His words should be taken literally, or were they to understand that He spoke to them in figurative language? Do Christians, as they partake of the bread and the cup, actually eat the literal body of Christ and drink His blood; or do they only eat and drink that which symbolizes the body and blood of Christ?

WILLIAM PERKINS (1558-1602):This is my body which is broken for you,” I Corinthians 11:24. Various interpretations have been given to this statement including: that the bread in communion is actually the body of Christ, becoming so by conversion―the Roman Catholic view; or, that the body of Christ is in, under, or with the bread―the Lutheran view. But to expound these words in either sense would be to disagree with a fundamental article of the faith: Christ “ascended into heaven;” and also with the nature of the sacrament, as a memorial of the absent body of Christ.

ANDREW MILLER (1810-1883): The doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist had been established in the Romish Church since the fourth Lateran Council in the year 1215…Transubstantiation, or the actual conversion of the bread and wine into the real body and blood of Christ, by priestly consecration, was then, as it still is, the recognized doctrine of the church of Rome. “The hands of the priest,” said the Pontiff Urban in a great Roman Council, “are raised to an eminence granted to none of the angels, of creating God, the Creator of all things, and of offering Him up for the salvation of the world.” Surely this is the last test of human credulity, and the consummation of human blasphemy.

A. P. GIBBS: Romanists are fond of quoting the cryptic statement of our Lord, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you,” John 6:53. They seek to apply these words to bolster their argument for their false theory of transubstantiation. The answer to this is quite simple: this statement of our Lord has nothing whatever to do with the Lord’s Supper, for that was not instituted until many months later. It simply refers, in symbolic language, to the believer’s spiritual appropriation of Christ by believing on Him. In John 6:35, Christ declared, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” As by eating we satisfy our natural hunger, and by drinking, gratify our natural thirst; so by coming to Christ our spiritual hunger is satisfied, and by believing on Him our spiritual thirst is quenched.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): I protest that I differ from my adversaries regarding the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, and I shall always differ from them.

ANDREW MILLER: As a Reformer, Luther gave up the term transubstantiation, and adopted, if possible, the still more inexplicable term of consubstantiation…He renounced the papal idea that the bread and wine after consecration were changed into the material body and blood of Christ. His strange notion was, that the bread and the wine remained just what they were before―real bread and real wine―but that there was also together with the bread and wine, the material substance of Christ’s human body.

A. P. GIBBS: At a conference in Marburg in October, 1529, Luther met Huldrych Zwingli, the great Swiss Reformer, in public debate on this question. The first thing Luther did, on entering the room, was to write on the table in front of him, in Latin, the words: “Hoc est corpus meum,” or, “This is my body.”―From this position Luther refused to budge.

MARTIN LUTHER: Christ said, “This is my body.” Let them show me that a body is not a body.

HULDRYCH ZWINGLI (1484-1531): Answer me this, Doctor Luther. Christ ascended into heaven; and if He is in heaven as regards His body, how can He be in the bread? The Word of God teaches us that He was in all things made like unto His brethren, Hebrews 2:17. He therefore cannot be at the same instant on every one of a thousand alters at which the Eucharist is being celebrated.

MARTIN LUTHER: I believe that Christ’s body is in heaven, but I also believe that it is in the sacrament. It concerns me little whether that be against nature, provided that it is not against faith…What is true in regard to Christ is also true in regard to the sacrament. It is not necessary for human nature to be transubstantiated before it can be the corporeal habitation of the divine, and before the divine can be constrained under the accidents of human nature. Both natures are present in their entirety, and one can appropriately say: “This man is God” or, “This God is man.” Thus, in order that the true body and the true blood should be in the sacrament, the bread and wine have no need to be transubstantiated, and Christ is contained under the accidents; but, while both remain the same, it would be true to say: “This bread is my body, this wine is my blood,” and conversely. That is how I would construe the words of divine Scripture and, at the same time, maintain due reverence for them.

AUGUSTINE (354-430): Let us not think that Christ according to His human form is present in every place; let us beware, in our endeavour to establish His divinity, of taking away His truth from His body. Christ is now everywhere present, like God; and yet, in consequence of His real body, He is in a definite part of heaven.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Remember also, that because the Lord Jesus is absent corporeally, the Holy Spirit the Comforter is with us, for He especially said, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you: but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” Those who believe that Christ’s flesh and blood are, or can be present on earth, deny the presence of the Holy Spirit; for the Scripture is plain enough upon that point—that the bodily absence of our Lord is the cause and the condition of the presence of the Comforter. If Jesus dwells still corporeally upon the earth, then the Spirit of God is not upon the earth.

MARTIN LUTHER: Most dear sirs, since my Lord Jesus Christ says, Hoc est corpus meum, I believe that His body is really there.

HULDRYCH ZWINGLI: You maintain then, Doctor, that Christ’s body is locally in the Eucharist; for you say, Christ’s body is there—there—there!  “There” is an adverb of place. Christ’s body is then of such a nature as to exist in a place. If it is in a place, it is in heaven, whence it follows that it is not in the bread!

JOHN ŒCOLAMPADIUS (1482-1531): The body of Christ is not locally in the Eucharist, therefore no real body is there; for everyone knows that the essence of a body is its existence in a place…It cannot be denied that there are figures of speech in the Word of God; as “John is Elias, the Rock was Christ, I am the Vine.”

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): When the Lord Jesus said to the disciples, “This is my body,” and “this is my blood,” He evidently meant, “This bread in my hand is an emblem of my body, and this cup of wine in my hand contains an emblem of my Blood.” The disciples were accustomed to hear Him use such language. They remembered His saying, “The field is the world;” “The good seed are the children of the kingdom,” (Matthew 13:38). It never entered into their minds that He meant to say He was holding His own body and His own blood in His hands, and literally giving them His literal body and blood to eat and drink.

MARTIN LUTHER: This is my body! This is my body! and the devil himself shall not drive me from that. To seek to understand it is to fall away from the faith.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Luther’s view of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. This is surely one of the great tragedies in the history of the church, this division between the Lutheran and the Reformed Churches. The cause of the collapse at the Colloquy of Marburg in 1529 was really this one thing―Luther took up his bit of chalk, you remember, and wrote on the table, “This is my body”―not that it represents it, it is it―and so wrecked the conference on his notion of consubstantiation. Luther wrecked the whole prospect of comprehension and Protestant unity on this one particular. As somebody has put it so well, “The sacrament of communion became the apple of discord.” It is a terrible thing, but it is true.


This entry was posted in Church History and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.