Communion or Mass?
The great 19th-century preacher Charles H. Spurgeon once said, "Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right." This is something important for us to remember as Christians. It can be easy for us to only look at surface things and think they are good. One such area that pertains to the subject we have been talking about is the Lord's Supper. I mentioned previously that there are differences between the majority protestant understanding and the Roman Catholic understanding. These differences are not trivial differences but go to the heart of what we believe about Christ and his work of salvation. Sadly far too few in our age understand these differences or are even concerned that there is a difference. We live in a pluralistic age where whatever someone believes is okay as long as they do not force it on other people. But does that make sense? Can things that are contradictory both be true? Can abortion be okay for you but murder for me? No. There is only one standard for what is true and it is not you or me, it is the Lord God Almighty who has spoken to us through his Word that we might know the truth and be set free. So what is the difference between the Roman Catholic Mass and the Lord's Supper or Communion?
Our question for today deals directly with this subject. It asks;
"What difference is there between the Lord's supper and the papal mass?"
As mentioned above, at first glance it can be easy to think that there is no real difference other than how we do it. The Roman Catholics do it with more ceremony and the protestants with less. One is more formal and the other more informal. But there really is a much deeper and more important difference. The Catechism answers the question first by looking at what the Scripture teaches us about the Supper.
The Lord's supper testifies to us, first, that we have complete forgiveness of all our sins through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which He Himself accomplished on the cross once for all; and, second, that through the Holy Spirit we are grafted into Christ, who with His true body is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father, and this is where He wants to be worshipped.
This is important because it sets the stage for the differences. It references scriptural passages such as Hebrews 7:27, which tells us that Christ offered himself as a once for all sacrifice for those who believe. We have no need for the sacrificial system as Christians because Christ has truly paid the price for our sins in his death. Or I Corinthians 6:17 where Paul tells us that those who have been saved by Christ are grafted into Christ himself. The Lord's Supper reminded us and gives testimony that we are in Christ. That his sacrifice was enough and that we are truly forgiven and justified in Christ alone. Christ has ascended to the right hand of the Father and we worship him there, eagerly awaiting his return.
The Answer: Part 2
In the first part of the answer, the Catechism gives the scriptural foundation for the supper. In its second part, the Catechism puts forth the Roman Catholic teaching and why it is an issue.
"But the mass teaches, first, that the living and the dead do not have forgiveness of sins through the suffering of Christ unless He is still offered for them daily by the priests; and, second, that Christ is bodily present in the form of bread and wine, and there is to be worshipped. Therefore the mass is basically nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry."
Here we see the major issues with the Mass. It in its very essence says that the death and sacrifice of Christ on the cross was not enough to save sinners, but Christ must be sacrificed over and over again for our sins. Even worse, it teaches people to worship created things, such as bread and wine. This is in clear violation of the first commandment. "You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:1). To give anyone or anything the worship that is due to God alone is to make that thing equal with God. No created thing can equal God. Our worship of God is not arbitrary or subjective. It is proscribed in scripture according to what God has commanded. To worship the bread and wine that is commanded as a sign of remembrance is as the catechism says "an accursed idolatry."
The Lord's Supper is a wonderful gift that Christ has given to his people. In it, He reminds us of his goodness and his grace. We are comforted by the reminder that our sins have been paid once for all. If we have come to Christ in faith and repentance, our sins are all forgiven, the ones in our past, the ones we will commit today, and the ones we will commit 10 years from now if we are still here. That does not mean that we continue sinning or that we take that for granted, but we recognize the magnitude of the payment and seek to honor and glorify the one who paid what we could not. If you have been with us as a church as we have been walking through Matthew you should remember that the things that we do come from the heart. A heart changed by God's grace seeks to obey all that Christ has commanded. Let us not forget that this includes practicing discernment.
Soli Deo Gloria