An Anglican blog staffed by better scholars than I recently posted a very excellent and helpful explanation of some of the more Catholic views of the Eucharist which is often considered extraneous to most evangelicals: http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2012/03/biblical-basis-of-eucharistic-sacrifice.html I thought I’d give a brief outline of the article here, partly to offer a summary to those of you who don’t want to read the article, and partly to give myself a reference to go back to at need.
- “Is there any evidence for a specific priestly aspect to the ministry of Christian Pastors?” See Romans 15:16 in the original Greek, and the image in Rev. 5:8 drawing from Luke 1:8-9.
- “Why is the Leadership of the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper the job of the Pastor?” Pastors, as shepherds, are to “feed” God’s flock (Psalm 23:1,2,5; John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:1,2), referring to both Word and Sacrament.
- “Does the Lord’s Supper itself have any aspect of Sacrifice? After all, the verses above from Romans and Revelation do not clearly connect the pastoral priesthood to the Eucharist. Showing the Pastor is a priest and presides at the Lord’s Supper is not enough!” True, but what’s missing here is a full understanding of anamnesis, the word translated as “remembrance” in the Last Supper passages. Its meaning is beyond simple mental recall, but encompassing a memorial sacrifice (Lev. 24:7-9, Num. 10:9-10).
- “But does the Memorial Offering at Holy Communion have anything to do with Christ’s Priesthood and his Sacrifice of the Cross?” Remember Christ’s priesthood is “in the order of Melchizedek,” and in Gen. 14:18 we find a not-so-subtle hint in the fact that Melchizedek brought an offering of bread and wine. Also, in Christ’s words of institution, he speaks of his body & blood in the present tense, hinting at the time-transcending reality of his sacrifice on the cross. See also Hebrews 9:14 and 10:12. Also, compare Hebrew 8:6 and 1 Cor. 10:16-17 against Lev. 7:13, 3:7, Exodus 29:40, and 30:10.
- “Hang on a minute! What about what it says in Hebrews about Christ’s Sacrifice being “once-for-all” and never to be repeated (e.g., 9:25-28, 10:10,18)?” Correct, Christ’s sacrifice is not repeated, but re-connected-to. Keep Hebrews 9:21, 25, 13:10, and 10:19-22 together in tandem. Also note the present tense in 1 John 2:2. Another way to put it is that Christ’s act of self-offering is over, but his state of self-offering is eternally present to us through the Eucharist. Furthermore, we’re all called to participate in that sacrifice ourselves (see also Romans 12:1, and 6:10-11, 13).
I found the Q&A format quite helpful. How you frame this sort of discussion can make a big difference… very often people want to explain something ‘their way’ and end up squashing other people’s questions. But this article was written in a way specifically to address those sorts of questions. Certainly more questions could arise from this, but I think this is a handy starting place for many conversations I’ve tried to engage in and done poorly in myself.