Consubstantiation – What is it?
Consubstantiation is the theological belief that the bread and wine used in Communion (Lord's Supper or Eucharist) spiritually become the body and blood of Christ. This view is generally contrasted with the Roman Catholic view of transubstantiation that believes the bread and wine used in the Eucharist literally become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
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During the time of the Protestant Reformation, several views regarding Communion or the Eucharist developed, often becoming the dividing line between denominational groups. These include transubstantiation, the "holy mystery" view (Orthodox Church), consubstantiation, sacramental union, memorialism (symbolic view held by most Baptist and "free" churches), and suspension (the view that Communion was only for a certain time and is no longer to be practiced).
Consubstantiation is often associated with Martin Luther's view of Communion popularized during the German Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. However, his view is actually known as sacramental union, a slightly differing view that holds that the bread and wine are united with Jesus' body and blood for those who partake of it. The actual view of consubstantiation was held earlier by the Lollards of England in the 14th century and has been noted by some theologians as being present in the writings of others during medieval times.
Regardless, in a time when the Protestant Reformation sought to differentiate itself from Roman Catholic teachings and traditions, the view of consubstantiation was an important doctrinal point of discussion. As a result, many of the church movements and denominations formed during this time embraced this view, though even within particular denominations, such as Lutherans or Presbyterians, there is much dispute.
While there is some room for differing views regarding this issue, there are some important essentials worth noting. First, it is clear that taking Communion is not part of salvation; salvation is by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). In addition, the bread and wine still taste like bread and wine when taken during Communion, indicating that Jesus did not intend readers to interpret Communion as literally turning into His flesh and blood. While this spiritual tradition is an essential part of Christian faith and practice, it is important to note that Jesus taught to take Communion when gathering together in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19). It is a practice for believers in Jesus Christ to reflect upon His sacrifice for our sins.
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