What is the doctrine of Consubstantiation?


By BibleAsk Team


Consubstantiation is a philosophical theory that attempts to describe the nature of the Christian Eucharist in concrete metaphysical terms. According to Consubstantiation, the substance of Christ’s Body exists together with the substance of bread, and in like manner the substance of His Blood together with the substance of wine. Hence the word Consubstantiation. This belief is held by some Eastern Orthodox churches and liturgical Christian denominations.

In England in the late 14th century, there was a political and religious movement known as Lollardy. The Lollards asserted a form of Consubstantiation and their belief survived up until the time of the English Reformation. Consubstantiation was considered a heresy by the Roman Catholic Church. It was later championed by Edward Pusey of the Oxford Movement, and is therefore held by many high church Anglicans.


The doctrine of Consubstantiation is often held in contrast to the doctrine of Transubstantiation which suggests that, through consecration by the priest, one set of substances (bread and wine) is exchanged for another (the actual Body and Blood of Christ) or that, according to some, the reality of the bread and wine become the reality of the body and blood of Christ. The substance of the bread and wine do not remain, but their accidents (superficial properties like appearance and taste) remain. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that, in the Eucharistic offering, bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ.

Martin Luther

The doctrine of Consubstantiation, promoted by the medieval scholastic theologian Duns Scotus, is incorrectly identified as the Eucharistic doctrine of Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon. Lutheran teachings oppose any attempt to explain philosophically the means by which Christ is present in the Eucharist.

Luther did teach that the body and blood of Christ are present “in, with, and under the forms” of bread and wine, and present-day Lutherans believe in this statement while disputing about its precise meaning. Luther illustrated his belief about the Eucharist “by the analogy of the iron put into the fire whereby both fire and iron are united in the red-hot iron and yet each continues unchanged” a belief which he called sacramental union.

What Does the Bible Teach?

In the Bible, Jesus asked the believers to partake of the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Him (1 Corinthians 11:23-25; Luke 22:18-20 and Matthew 26:26-28). However, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the priest turns the bread to the actual body of Christ and the grape juice into His actual blood. The Catechism in paragraph 1366 states, “The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit.”

The catechism continues in paragraph 1367: “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner . . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”

The Scriptures teach that when Jesus gave the bread to His disciples, He said, “this is my flesh” and the grape juice to drink and said, “this is my blood,” He meant the eating of the flesh and the drinking of the blood in a figurative way. The Catholic Church has interpreted literally this figurative statement of Jesus, forgetful, apparently that He often spoke figuratively regarding Himself. For example: Jesus said, “I am the door” (John 10:7), and the “way” (John 14:6). Everyone agrees that He was not transforming Himself into a door or a highway. Thus, we see that the practice of the Eucharist is not Biblical

Further, it is impossible for man (the priest) to create His Creator. For the Bible affirms that “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28 also 10:10,12; 7:27), that is, not every time during mass. There was no need to have the sacrifice repeated. It did the needed cleansing for sin (Hebrews 9:14). It was not, like the sacrifices of the Mosaic law, a mere shadow to the true one.

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was perfect; therefore it could be offered only once. But in order to make it effectual for all who should ask for forgiveness of sin through the Son of God, Jesus became man’s great high Priest in heavenly sanctuary after His ascension, there to offer his blood on behalf of repentant sinners “till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:26; Hebrews 4:14–16; 7:24, 25; 8:1, 6; 9:11, 12, 14, 24).

It is important to add that those who participate in the last supper must keep in mind that Jesus was observing the Passover, during which the Jews were to have no leaven (fermentation) for 7 days in their houses (Exodus 12:15). So, the idea of drinking fermented wine in remembrance of Christ’s blood is totally foreign to the Bible because Jesus and His disciples did not drink fermented wine at the Passover supper (Leviticus 23:5-6) as carried out in the Catholic mass.

As Christ serves on our behalf in heaven, interceding before the Father the blood of His sacrifice, He asks His children on earth to participate in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper that keeps before them the greatest gift of the atonement. Jesus said, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19 also 1 Corinthians 11:24).

The Lord’s Supper, which succeeded the Passover memorial of deliverance from Egypt, was instituted, not as a sacrifice, but simply to remind the Christian of all that has been done for him by the one great sacrifice made by the Son of God for the whole human family (Hebrews 9:25–28; 10:3–12, 14).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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