Kolb, Robert. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000.
Epitome “VII Concerning the Holy Supper of Christ” pp. 503-508.
Solid Declaration “VII. Concerning the Holy Supper” pp. 591--615.
Zwinglians had dissented with the Augsburg Confession from the start. However, they were allegedly trying to assert that they held to the Augsburg Confession. The Zwinglians were also referred to as “Sacramentarians.” The question at hand was straightforward. In communion, are the true body and blood of Jesus truly present in their essence, along with bread and wine, and are they received by both believers and unbelievers? The sacramentarians denied this, while the Augsburg Confession confirms it to be so (Kolb 2000, 504). The Epitome here conflates a Zwinglian “mere symbol” view with a Calvinist “spiritual presence” view. It does reject both, affirming that Jesus is present bodily and essentially to nourish believers and to bring judgment on unbelievers.
The Formula of Concord therefore affirms that Christ’s body and blood “are truly and essentially present, truly distributed and received with the bread and wine” (Kolb 2000, 505). It is not a symbolic presence in any way. The minister who does the consecration finds it effective because of Jesus’ power, not the minister’s power. The words of institution should never be omitted, as they are the command of Christ. Jesus is able to be present with his body in the bread and his blood in the wine because he is at the right hand of the Father, who is omnipresent. The true body and blood of Christ are received orally by all who eat and drink (Kolb 2000, 506). Those who receive it worthily are built up in their faith. All who receive believing are worthy. That worthiness comes from the word of Christ, not through our own merit (Kolb 2000, 506).
The Formula of Concord rejects transubstantiation and the Mass as a sacrifice for sins. It rejects the idea of communion in one element only. Also rejected is the idea that Christ’s words should not be taken at face value, that the reception is only a spiritual reception, a mere symbol, or a reminder of a future promise. There is a specific rejection of views stating Christ is not truly present in his body and blood or that he is limited to a presence in heaven (Kolb 2000, 507). Also rejected are ideas that God cannot make his body present in different places at the same time, that he is only present when the recipient has faith, or that Jesus is rightly to be looked for in heaven rather than in the bread and wine. The outward preparation for communion is never effective. Receiving in faith always protects from God’s judgment. Yet the Formula rejects any idea of making particular adoration addressed to the consecrated elements. It also rejects every allegation that communion is any sort of cannibalistic meal.
The Solid Declaration further states that this article technically should not have been included, as the Sacramentarians have never been considered part of the Augsburg Confession group (Kolb 2000, 591). However, some of the Augsburg Confession group had begun giving open support to the sacramentarians and their views (Kolb 2000, 592). Therefore, this article seeks to identify the differences. It is made difficult because some sacramentarians have tried to say that Christ’s body is truly received in communion. However, upon questioning, they ultimately say that Christ’s body and blood are actually absent, present in heaven, and only accessible in the Sacrament by faith (Kolb 2000, 593). This is a Calvinist position, saying that we must spiritually rise to the heavenly realms to receive the true body and blood of Christ, which is there, not actually present in communion. If, in fact, Jesus is seen by them to be present, it is only in his divine nature, not his human nature as well. The divine and human natures of Christ are thus separated and he is no longer a bodily presence (Kolb 2000, 594). Counter to this, the Augsburg Confession is clear in article ten. “The true body and blood of Christ are truly present under the form of bread and wine in the Holy Supper and are distributed and received there” (Kolb 2000, 594). The Solid Declaration further cites Luther’s Small Catechism (Lord’s Supper 2) and the Apology to the Augsburg Confession (X, 1, 3). 1 Corinthians 10:16 makes it very clear that in communion Christ’s body is truly present (Kolb 2000, 595). At the heart of the issue is that the sacramentarians consider Christ to be present in only a local manner, in one place at a time, while the Lutherans consider Christ to be present wherever and however he has proclaimed in his Word that he will be present (Kolb 2000, 596). In communion, Jesus’ body and blood are received by all the communicants, whether to their benefit or to their harm. Those who receive it without trusting Jesus’ forgiveness will receive condemnation instead (Kolb 2000, 597). The Solid Declaration is also clear that in communion we receive bread and wine, body and blood, thus rejecting both transubstantiation and a symbolic view of communion (Kolb 2000, 599). This is the most adequate way to understand the nature of communion when we accept Jesus’ words at their face value. The Solid Declaration goes on to make an extended argument for the reality of all the Bible says about Jesus’ presence. He is bodily present, in his essential nature as God and man, and has given us this presence for forgiveness. Eaten in faith, the elements of communion deliver all the benefits of God in Christ (Kolb 2000, 604). Those who do not eat in faith receive Christ to their condemnation. Everyone who eats receives Christ.
The faith or worthiness of the person who consecrates the Supper is also a matter of no consequence to the recipient. When consecrated according to the direction of Jesus, God’s Word makes the elements a sacrament. It is thus ready for eating and drinking, not for adoring or storing (Kolb 2000, 607). At the root of the entire issue is the ability of God to be present in his very body and blood everywhere. This is not a problem for Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father. The Father’s right hand is everywhere the Father wishes it to be. Bodily presence is thus not a problem (Kolb 2000, 610). The affirmative and negative theses in the Solid Declaration are not significantly further elaborated than in the Epitome, and are tabulated more clearly in the Epitome.