Hebrews Study #11: “The Lord’s Table – Supper or Sacrifice?” – Part 3
How the Lord’s Supper Morphed into Another Sacrifice of Blood
By Richard Allen – May 15, 2023
In two previous “Supper or Sacrifice” blogs, I laid a Biblical foundation for what the Lord’s Table really is, and WHAT IT IS NOT! And we’ve looked at those problem passages that have historically led the church to wrong conclusions and bad theology. So, after looking at those problem passages, let me start out this week’s Blog by asking and answering: “How did the simple meal we refer to as “The Lord’s Supper,” morph into an elaborate ritualistic sacrifice, practiced by many mainline denominations in the Church? Let me provide the answer in a four-point recap of what we’ve learned from the Book of Hebrews. While it’s clear that the sacrifice ended because of what Christ accomplished with His sacrificial death on our behalf, the hearts of fallen men still desire a “sacrificial system” with human mediators for the following reasons:
As men in the flesh, we’re prone to wanting “physical props and concrete images” rather than worshipping a God who is Spirit, who was veiled in darkness and mystery prior to sending His Son, Jesus. And now, even after Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection and ascension, this Jesus does not appear to us physically. We are left with the Spirit’s ministering of Christ to us. The natural inclination of the flesh is to create images (props) of Jesus that we can worship.
This “God who is Spirit” is holy and scary. So, our “fear of intimacy keeps us from seeking Him solely by His Word and His Spirit.” Rather, we want majestic images (idols?) that can focus our attention away from our sinfulness and inadequacy, and in the process provide us a show of colorful images, beautiful music and stylish ceremonies.
Guilt over sin creates a need within men to sacrifice, “and do something to placate an offended deity.” All to give us a reason for which we are accepted. Even though God desires “mercy” from changed hearts more than sacrifice, our sinful natures want to contribute something to our salvation. The way a sacrificial system works, it appeals to our desire to do some work to please God and give us a boast to make before God. Fallen men always ask: “What work might we do,” but God’s answer is always: “This is the work of God, to believe on the Son whom He sent” (John 6:28).
"Fallen men, greedy for wealth are ready, willing and able to be ‘mediators’ (for a $ fee) to absolve man’s guilt.”
So, in the face of all that we’ve seen from the Book of Hebrews, it’s not ironic that several of our Mainline Churches “turned the Communion Table into an Altar.” In this group, the Church of Rome, Greek Orthodox and even the Church of England (Anglican), represent the big denominations who returned to the “obsolete sacrificial system” that Jesus’ “once for all sacrifice” did away. I think it’s safe to use the Church of Rome as representative of this unbiblical thinking. So, let me start with Rome’s “Council of Trent,” which clearly teaches that the Sacrifice of the Mass is a real sacrifice, while unbloody, is still propitiatory. As they explain, it is the sacrifice of Jesus done over and over again by thousands of priests, world over each day:
“This divine sacrifice which is performed in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in a bloodless manner, who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross; the holy synod teaches, that this sacrifice is truly propitiatory, and that by means thereof this is effected, that we obtain mercy, and find grace in convenient aid, if we draw nigh unto God, contrite and penitent, with a true heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence. For the Lord, appeased by the oblation thereof, and granting the grace and gift of penitence, forgiveseven heinous crimes and sins. For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different“ (Council of Trent – Session 22, Chapter II).
Here, the New Catholic Catechism states that the Mass is a real and propitiatory sacrifice:
“The mass is an unbloody sacrifice which atones for the sins of the living and the dead [1367, 1371, 1414].” “Each sacrifice of the Mass appeases God’s wrath against sin [1371, 1414].” “The faithful receive the benefits of the cross in fullest measure through the Sacrifice of the Mass [1366, 1407].” https://baptist.org/unbloody-sacrifice-which-atones-for-the-sins-of-the-living-and-the-dead/#:~:text=The%20Catholic%20Church%20teaches%20that%20Christ%20instituted%20the,sacrifice%20for%20both%20the%20living%20and%20the%20dead.
These are but a few of the hundreds of false proclamations of what the mass is and accomplishes. If you remember, several weeks ago we looked at the quote from Jeremiah 31 as quoted in the Book of Hebrews. Jeremiah said, and then the writer of Hebrews confirmed: “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). So our Lord Jesus said as He died: “IT IS FINISHED, PAID IN FULL!” It begs the question to even ask: How in the world can any human priest again pretend to offer another sacrifice to God that atones for sin? It completely ignores the work of Christ on the Cross as ineffective, and Jesus’ pronouncement of “It is Finished,” as a lie. In the numerous articles and websites I’ve reviewed in previous blogs, it appears that some within the Catholic Church are still saying that the Mass is just the Catholic version of the Lord’s Table, or as it has been historically called, the Eucharist (Greek “gratitude”). But, as Catholic Priest, John O’Brien explains in “The Faith of Millions:”
“When the priest pronounces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man. It is a power greater than that of monarchs and emperors: it is greater than that of saints and angels, greater than that of Seraphim and Cherubim. Indeed it is greater even than the power of the Virgin Mary. While the Blessed Virgin was the human agency by which Christ became incarnate a single time, the priest brings Christ down from heaven, and renders Him present on our altar as the eternal Victim for the sins of man – not once, but a thousand times! The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows His head in humble obedience to the priest’s command.” [as quoted from “Grace to You” https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B130228/exposing-the-heresies-of-the-catholic-church-the-mass]
This sure doesn’t sound like a Eucharist of Remembrance of Christ, it states plainly that the priest brings Jesus down from heaven to sacrifice Him again. This is “pompous braggadocio by mere men, and blasphemy against a Holy God!”
It’s here that the Book of Hebrews tells us the exact opposite of what many of these Mainline Churches teach. Listen to the writer of Hebrews as he begins to argue against everything that “sacrificing Jesus again in the Mass stands for:
“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:11-14).
The writer of Hebrews had spent the first part of chapter nine explaining how the Tabernacle (i.e. Tent) under the Old Testament was consecrated by blood. Now, so much more, the New Covenant has also been consecrated and “enacted” by the death of the “testator” (i.e. the deceased), that is Jesus, by His blood. What is so amazing is the language that the writer of Hebrews uses to describe and contrast the “priestly system of the Old Covenant,” with the “High Priesthood of Christ” in the New Covenant:
“For 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 9:24-29).
It would be absurd to offer Jesus to “suffer repeatedly.” In future Blogs we will go into the “finality” of Jesus’ atoning death in more depth, but for now let me close by saying that without Christ’s finished sacrifice, accepted by God the Father, we can never have fellowship with God. We’ll always be on the outside of the “Holy Place,” being curtained off from God’s presence. The Lord’s supper is Communion and Fellowship with God and one another, it is not an actual sacrifice for sin – that has already been fully completed. Here’s what Paul said to the Church in Rome about Christ’s sacrificial death:
“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. (Romans 6:8-10).
As the old hymn said so well:
“Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”
If Jesus did not complete our redemption at Calvary, we’re now dependent upon human priests to make atonement. How sad it would be to believe our eternal salvation is left to the whims and efforts of feeble men, approaching God with imperfect and repetitious sacrifices. This alone proves that the offerings they make have never atoned for us, and we are still in our sin! How much greater for the believer who trusts in the finished work of our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, now seated on His Throne! It is finished!
Soli Deo Gloria!