What Are the Two Views Concerning the Eating of Christ’s Flesh and the Drinking of His Blood?

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  • Author James Rondinone
  • Published February 1, 2024
  • Word count 2,272

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There Are Two Views Concerning the Eating of Christ’s Flesh and the Drinking of His Blood

We’re going to take a look at each of these views and find out what verses are used to substantiate each one of them.

THE LITERAL VIEW

The consumption of bread and wine literally becomes the eating of Christ’s flesh and the drinking of His blood.

Suggested Reading: John 6:1-69; Matthew 26:26-28

When Jesus said to the Jews in John 6:53, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you,” He was speaking prophetically of the Lord’s Supper; when the bread becomes His literal body, and the wine becomes His literal blood. In other words, participants in the Lord’s Supper are eating Christ’s physical flesh and drinking His actual blood.

Matthew 26:26-28 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

This view proposes that the sacramental union of ourselves with Jesus is a mystical and spiritual union of our soul with Him, produced by our physical contact with the sacred Body of Jesus. As we grow in love for God through our union with Jesus by frequently participating in Holy Communion, divine fruit will be produced in our life that we’ll notice over time.

John 6:54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

Proponents of the literal view will say that evidence for this perspective exists in the belief system of most of the early church fathers.

THE FIGURATIVE VIEW

The eating of Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood is to be taken figuratively (symbolically).

Suggested Reading: John 6:1-69; John 7:37-39; Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22-23; Luke 22:19-20

John 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

These verses support the interpretation that the bread symbolizes Christ’s body, and the wine symbolizes His blood at communion, intimating that faith in Christ, believing in who He is and what He has accomplished, is synonymous with the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood, the reward for such will be the receiving of the indwelling Spirit and eternal life along with additional spiritual blessings.

John 6:53 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

John 3:36a He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:

John 6:66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

Initially, many of the Jews who followed Him thought He meant that they had to literally eat His flesh and drink His blood, which would be considered not only barbaric but contrary to the Mosaic dietary laws in regard to the partaking of blood. Because of this proclamation, many of them followed Him no more.

John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

Just before they departed from Him, Jesus explained that it was the Spirit who quickeneth (gives life) and not the flesh. The indication is that the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood is analogous to a spiritual awakening or to spiritual regeneration.

John 7:37-39 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.

Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

In the book of John, Jesus said that if any person thirst, let them come to Him and drink. Those who believe in who He is will drink, which is analogous to the receiving of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and subsequently, out of their belly will flow rivers of living water, i.e., by means of the Spirit, they’re enabled to bear spiritual fruit. However, the reality of receiving the indwelling Spirit wouldn’t take place until after Christ’s glorification (His ascension to heaven where He’d be seated at the Father’s right hand).

Romans 5:5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

According to this perspective, it’s the indwelling Holy Spirit and not the communion elements of bread and wine, that’s the basis for a believer evidencing God’s love toward others.

Luke 22:19-20 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

This will be the last time Jesus will celebrate Passover with His disciples. He told them to take the bread and the cup of wine and divide it amongst themselves. The bread, he related to them, is His body, and the wine in the cup is His blood, both of which were to be partaken of for a particular reason. For what reason?

They were to observe communion in remembrance of Him, who, as the Passover Lamb, gave of Himself for the sins of the whole world. In this sense, the bread and wine are to be taken symbolically. Proponents of this view state that it’s the Holy Spirit, and not the communion elements, which causes a believer to become born-anew, to grow spiritually, and to evidence divine fruit. Therefore, communion isn’t to be participated in so that Christ could nourish the participant’s soul by means of the bread and wine changing into His literal body and blood, but rather, it’s an opportunity to reflect upon the work that He accomplished on the cross by means of His suffering and death.

WHAT VIEW, LITERAL OR FIGURATIVE?

What I’d like to do next is leave you with some further examples of figures of speech that are contained in the different dispensations of the Age of the Gentiles, the Age of Israel, the Incarnation of Christ, and the Church Age and see if you can figure out whether they’re literal or figurative. Are you ready? Put on your spiritual glasses and see if you can discern what analogy is being presented.

But before you do, I’d like you to read an article that hopefully sets the tone for this study. As you might be aware, this topic can bring about varying degrees of emotional responses depending on what side of the discussion you’re on. For me, I’ve learned about this topic from a literal and symbolic perspective. And when this study is finished, you’ll have been educated in the same, which is what this article discusses. Enjoy.

THE VALUE OF KNOWING BOTH SIDES

In formal debate, participants prepare themselves to be able to articulate and defend a certain side of an argument. But they often are not told until right before the debate which [side they’ll] need to argue. For example, they may know that the debate is about the death penalty, but they may not know whether they will be arguing for or against it. Because of this, debaters are forced to learn both sides of an issue. In fact, they are forced to know both sides so well that they would be able to effectively argue for positions with which they disagree.

This skill—the skill of articulating both sides of an issue—is one that is in short supply in American culture. Most debates that we observe on television consist of two people trying to outshout and demonize each other. This is because [it’s] much easier to dismiss opposing arguments than it is to understand them. And most of us opt for the easy way more than we realize. We do this by listening to podcasts, reading books, and watching shows that reinforce—rather than challenge—our beliefs. [It’s] more comfortable to think that the other side (politically, theologically, or in relationships) is immoral or foolish than to think that they may have arguments that would challenge us.

Proverbs 18:17 says, [“The] first to speak seems right until someone comes forward and cross-examines.” [NLT – New Living Translation]

In this verse, Solomon says that wise people make sure that they know both sides of an issue before drawing a conclusion. Because this practice, though, is in short supply in our culture, I want to offer four ways that we can follow Solomon’s wise words and pursue understanding both sides.

Assume there is more to the story.

I have three sons. When one of them comes to me with a story about how his brother attacked him, I find myself being skeptical. [I’m] not skeptical that a conflict occurred. [I’m] simply skeptical that the conflict arose because of one completely innocent victim and one unprovoked [perpetrator. So, I ask questions,] and I listen to both of them give their explanations for what happened. This is a good practice not only in [parenting] but in life as a whole. If you find yourself saying something like, “Why would anyone vote for Donald Trump?” or something like, “Why would any thinking person be an [atheist?” I] suggest that you begin with the assumption that your perspective would change if you had more information. This would not necessarily mean that your opinion about politics or religion, but you may end up having more empathy and respect for those who hold differing viewpoints.

Listen to the other side’s best case.

We can all find [YouTube] videos of our favorite debaters ripping their opponents to shreds. However, many of these videos exist because the debate is a mismatch. My suggestion [isn’t] simply to listen to a liberal if you are a [conservative] or to a pro-life person if you are [pro-choice. My] suggestion is to listen to the most articulate liberal or the most intelligent pro-life person. Listen to the other side make their best case and see if your belief stands up to this. In saying this, [I’m] not suggesting that Christians should only read books by atheists (I think this would be a bad idea because we all need encouragement from other believers). [I’m] simply suggesting that [it’s] best not to draw a firm conclusion unless [we’ve] heard the other side give their best [argument. I] personally read a lot of books by people with whom I agree. But I also read books by people who disagree with me on foundational issues, whether relating to [God, politics, the] Bible, or to human nature. Listening to the other side gives me a great chance to (a) be more secure in my position or (b) change my mind when presented with a better option.

Ask questions.

Social media thrives on each person expressing strong opinions. While strong opinions may get clicks and likes, [they’re] often uninformed opinions. If wisdom is found in knowing both sides, cultivate the skill of asking questions. If someone says something that you find outlandish, ask them about it instead of simply concluding that [they’re a fool. We’d] all do well if we had less name-calling and more question-asking.

Offer conclusions humbly.

This post is not meant to say that we shouldn’t have strong beliefs and convictions. We absolutely should. G.K. Chesterton—one of my favorite authors—said, “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something [solid.” So,] draw conclusions. I personally have very strong beliefs about God as the one and only Creator, about Jesus Christ as God’s only Son, about our need for salvation through Christ alone because of our sins, about the resurrection of Jesus, and about a number of other issues. And when we come to strong conclusions, most of us want to share those conclusions with others. But we should do this with [humility. After] all, if you have arrived at the truth, the great thing that you have to offer is not [yourself] but the truth.3

Endnotes

3Pastor Dan. “The Value of Knowing Both Sides,” Life Bible Fellowship Church 12 January 2023

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My name is James Rondinone. I am a husband, father, and spiritual leader.

I grew up in Massachusetts and began my own spiritual journey early on in life.

I attended Bible college, having completed a two-year Christian Leadership Course of Study and graduated as valedictorian (Summa Cum Laude).

Studying and teaching the Word of God has been a passion of mine for over 20 years.

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