Our Hope Is in the Real Event

September 13, 2011 at 11:07 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, False teaching | 1 Comment

I recently attended a funeral of a friend’s mother.  It was a Roman Catholic mass.  I am making no judgment on the woman’s faith or on that of anyone else attending, but the service did raise some questions.  The priest who spoke gave a confusing message.  Often he spoke of the woman’s salvation because she had faith in Jesus.  But then, sometimes in the next breath, he spoke of her salvation because she had been baptized and had received the Eucharist.  I wanted to ask, “Well, which is it? her faith or her baptism and sacrament?”  If her faith saved her, then why did he refer to the sacraments so often?  But if the sacraments saved her, why did he quote scriptures about faith?  This confusion got worse near the end of the service when the mass was served.  I sat there listening to the priest bless the elements, knowing they teach that those elements actually become the body and blood of Jesus.  I couldn’t partake with that understanding, and choose to remain seated when people were invited to the altar to participate.  As I sat there I was saddened by the people going forward.  I wondered how many of them really believed that they were receiving Jesus in those elements, and that was their salvation.

To believe that a piece of bread, properly blessed by a priest, can save seems so hopeless.  I’m glad, as a pastor, I don’t have that responsibility and authority.  What if I blessed it wrong?  What if someone was lost because I used the wrong formula or had a bad day or a particularly sinful week?  That’s scary!  But mostly I’m glad that our hope is not in blessed bread or wine but in the thing pictured by that bread and wine.  I believe the elements of the Lord’s Supper are simply reminders or pictures of what Jesus did for us.  Our hope is in Jesus’ death on the cross.  Our hope is in his shed blood for our sins.  We have assurance not based on a man’s blessing or on a blessed element that supposedly becomes something special.  We have assurance because the bread and wine remind us of something truly special – a real historical event.  Jesus died for our sins.

A NOTE ADDED LATER:  By the way, the next day, I read the following in my devotions, and though it speaks of Jewish priests, the principles apply here  as well:

Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.  But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.   And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.  (Hebrews 9:24-28 ESV)

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  (Hebrews 10:12-14 ESV)

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  1. I received the following question in an e-mail yesterday: “Way back (over 58 years) the communion was not offered to any other than Catholics, and they could only receive it if they had been to confession and had nothing but venial sins on their souls. So did they offer communion to all there including non-Catholics?”
    They invited whoever would like to participate to come forward. Almost half the attenders did not participate. I didn’t; one of our church members who was sitting with me didn’t; nor did the family that I went to support. We all talked about it later, so I asked if I could share this story at our communion last Sunday and was given permission. A few former Catholics said that I was right on and they appreciated my words. One was bothered by it, but was willing to talk more. I’ll see where that leads.

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