Apologetics for the Masses #419: GotQuestions.org (one more time)

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The Protestant website - GotQuestions.org - and John 6:51 (Part 5)

General Comments

Hey folks,

I hope all of you had a happy and holy Easter day, and that your Easter season is off to a wonderful start.  Just an FYI: I'll be on Johnnette Benkovic Williams' show - Women of Grace - this coming Tuesday, April 26th, from 10:00 - 11:00 AM (Central).  You can listen to it on your local Catholic radio station (if there is one in your area) or at www.ewtn.com/radio or you can watch it on EWTN's Catholic Radio page on Facebook and, I believe, you can watch it on YouTube as well. Would love to have you guys call in with questions.


     I thought I was going to be done with GotQuestions.org, but the new person attempting to answer my one question, gave a response that I just have to share with you.  A response which is an absolute classic and which I will be analyzing in the next one or two issues of this newsletter.

     So, below is my question (again!) to GotQuestions.org, and then Sally's response (I don't want to call it an "answer" because she still didn't actually answer the question I was asking).  I am not going to start my analysis of her response this week so as to give you guys some time to read through what she has to say and to think about how you would respond to it.  And I want you to particularly focus on her "seven convincing reasons why this passage [John 6:51-58] must be taken figuratively".  How would you counter her "seven convincing reasons"? 


Question 1110083

Dear Sally,

     Thank you for your answer to my previous question. However, my Catholic friends are saying you didn't really answer their question. Possibly my wording wasn't clear, so permit me to rephrase their question: In John 6:51, Jesus says He is going to give living bread for people to eat. He then specifically identifies this bread as being His flesh, which He will give for the life of the world. In your previous answer, and in AB's answer, you agree that Jesus gave His flesh for the life of the world on the cross. So, the Catholics ask: "Was Jesus' flesh on the cross real, or was it symbolic?" If your answer is, "real," then John 6:51 essentially reads this way: "...if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My real flesh which will be nailed to the cross."

     If, however, He is talking about giving His symbolic flesh to eat, John 6:51 reads: "...if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my symbolic flesh." The Catholics say you guys are trying to have it both ways - saying Jesus is talking about giving His symbolic flesh to us to eat, but then turning around and saying He's giving His real flesh for the life of the world, when it's the same bread in both instances. They say it is either one or the other: If John 6:51 is referring to "symbolic" flesh as the bread given for the life of the world, then it was only His symbolic flesh hanging on the cross. If it was His real flesh on the cross, then it is His real flesh that is the living bread to be given for the life of the world that is to be eaten.

     So, which is it - real or symbolic in John 6:51 and on the cross? (Also, as a Christian, I know you would not want to misrepresent the faith of others. But, you seriously misrepresented Catholic teaching in your previous answer in a couple of places. If you're interested I could identify those for you.)


John Martignoni

Answered by: Sally

     First and foremost, I would love for you to identify the places where I ‘seriously misrepresented Catholic teaching’ in my previous answer, because I try to refer to their Catechism, as well as to the Bible, as guides for answering Catholic questions.

     John 6:51 reads: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Jesus’ flesh (His body) was real; His flesh (His body) was nailed to the cross, and in it (in His fleshly body), He suffered and died as full payment for sin.  His life was poured out, and he died a physical death, after which, His physical body was laid in a tomb, as recorded in Matthew 27:58-60: “58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. 59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.”

     God named the man, Adam, meaning: first man, mankind (Strong’s #H120). He gave the man free reign over His creation, with only one exception, that which is recorded in Genesis 2:16-17: “16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."  Death – both physical, as well as spiritual (eternal separation from God) – was not present in Adam, at least not until he sinned, as explained in Romans 5:12: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…” All sin incurs a penalty, and that penalty is death. Sin is a breach of God’s standards (His requirements) for living in His property (His creation), so that no matter how small, or inconsequential a person might believe his/her sin to be, all sin is rebellion; it is the breaking God’s law, so that all sin carries with it the same penalty; therefore, since the flesh itself is sinful (fallen – Romans 8:6-9), all human beings have sinned, and are worthy of the death penalty, as declared in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

     It was to Adam that God gave the original instructions for remaining sin-free, as explained in Genesis 2:16-17 (quoted above), so even though it was Eve who was first deceived, and succumbed to Satan’s temptation, Adam was held responsible. Adam was far from innocent, as is clear from the account written in Genesis 3:6: “And when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, and that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make [one] wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”  Obviously, he was ‘with’ Eve when she took the fruit, and he willingly ate it; therefore, since God had given him the warning, a change occurred in his genetics, and sin became inheritable through the male chromosome.  In other words, death had become part of the nature of man (humans), as one is born, one must also die a physical death, but God, who knows and sees all things, from beginning to end, had a plan.

     In order to undo what Adam had done, namely, bringing death and separation from God into the world, it would take one just like Adam (pure, uncorrupted, and sinless, as he was at the time of his sinful act), to accomplish such a thing. He would have to give His life, by overcoming the penalty (physical death), and Jesus as qualified, as declared in 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45: “22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. ... 45 And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [was made] a quickening spirit.”  Jesus physical death on the cross; the pouring out of his blood, was, is, and will always be sufficient payment for sin, as expressed in Hebrews 9:26-28: “26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

     It was Jesus’ real, physical body that hung on that cruel cross, and it was His body that died and was laid in a tomb, from which He was raised from the dead, as declared in Romans 10:9-11: “9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”

     Mike Gendron, a former Catholic, writes (1): “Are these words of Jesus from John 6:53 to be taken literally or figuratively? The Roman Catholic Church teaches the context of John chapter six and the above headlined verse 53 are literal. Thus, Jesus is giving absolute and unconditional requirements for eternal life. In fact, this literal interpretation forms the foundation for Rome's doctrine of transubstantiation -- the miraculous changing of bread and wine into the living Christ, His body and blood, soul and divinity. Each Catholic priest is said to have the power to call Jesus down from the right hand of the Father when he elevates the wafer and whispers the words "Hoc corpus meus est." Catholics believe as they consume the lifeless wafer they are actually eating and drinking the living body and blood of Jesus Christ. This is a vital and important step in their salvation and a doctrine they must believe and accept to become a Catholic.
     If priests indeed have the exclusive power to change finite bread and wine into the body and blood of the infinite Christ, and if indeed consuming His body and blood is necessary for salvation, then the whole world must become Catholic to escape the wrath of God. On the other hand, if Jesus was speaking in figurative language then this teaching becomes the most blasphemous and deceptive hoax any religion could impose on its people. There is no middle ground. Therefore, the question of utmost importance is -- Was the message Jesus conveyed to the Jewish multitude to be understood as literal or figurative? Rome has never presented a good argument for defending its literal interpretation. Yet there are at least seven convincing reasons why this passage must be taken figuratively.

1) Counterfeit Miracle

     There is no Biblical precedent where something supernatural occurred where the outward evidence indicated no miracle had taken place. (The wafer and wine look, taste and feel the same before and after the supposed miracle of transubstantion). When Jesus changed water into wine, all the elements of water changed into the actual elements of wine.

2) Drinking Blood Forbidden

     The Law of Moses strictly forbade Jews from drinking blood (Leviticus 17:10-14) A literal interpretation would have Jesus teaching the Jews to disobey the Mosaic Law. This would have been enough cause to persecute Jesus. (See John 5:16)

3) Biblical Disharmony

     When John 6:53 is interpreted literally it is in disharmony with the rest of the Bible. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you," gives no hope of eternal life to any Christian who has not consumed the literal body and blood of Christ. It opposes hundreds of Scriptures that declare justification and salvation are by faith alone in Christ.

4) Produces Dilemma

     It appears that the "eating and drinking" in verse 6:54 and the "believing" in verse 6:40 produce the same result - eternal life. If both are literal, we have a dilemma. What if a person "believes" but does not "eat or drink"? Or what if a person "eats and drinks" but does not "believe?" This could happen any time a non-believer walked into a Catholic Church and received the Eucharist. Does this person have eternal life because he met one of the requirements but not the other? The only possible way to harmonize these two verses is to accept one verse as figurative and one as literal.

5) Figurative In Old Testament

     The Jews were familiar with "eating and drinking" being used figuratively in the Old Testament to describe the appropriation of divine blessings to one's innermost being. It was God's way of providing spiritual nourishment for the soul. (See Jeremiah 15:16; Isaiah 55:1-3; and Ezekiel 2:8,3:1)

6) Jesus Confirmed

     Jesus informed His disciples there were times when He spoke figuratively (John 16:25) and often used that type of language to describe Himself. The Gospel of John records seven figurative declarations Jesus made of Himself -- "the bread of life" (6:48), "the light of the world" (8:12), "the door" (10:9), "the good shepherd" (10:11), "the resurrection and the life" (11:25), "the way, the truth and the life" (14:6), and "the true vine" (15:1). He also referred to His body as the temple (2:19).

7) Words Were Spiritual

     Jesus ended this teaching by revealing "the words I have spoken to you are spirit" (6:63). As with each of the seven miracles in John's Gospel, Jesus uses the miracle to convey a spiritual truth. Here Jesus has just multiplied the loaves and fish and uses a human analogy to teach the necessity of spiritual nourishment. This is consistent with His teaching on how we are to worship God. "God is Spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). As we worship Christ, He is present spiritually, not physically. In fact, Jesus can only be bodily present at one place at one time. His omnipresence refers only to His spirit. It is impossible for Christ to be bodily present in thousands of Catholic Churches around the world.  When Jesus is received spiritually, one time in the heart, there is no need to receive him physically, over and over again in the stomach.”

      Jesus was born to die. "The Son of Man came...to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). He was delivered up to be crucified according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). This was to demonstrate His righteousness so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). Since God's laws were broken and His justice was provoked, it had to be satisfied by Christ before divine forgiveness could be applied to sinners. Dying as a substitute for sinners, the Lord Jesus paid the eternal debt for sin and satisfied the demands of justice while appeasing God's wrath so that He could extend mercy and grace to those who trust Him. God's perfect Son satisfied divine justice when "God made Him (Christ), who knew no sin, to be sin" for those who would trust Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

     Logic will tell you that the physical body of Jesus Christ does not become a piece of bread, nor does His blood become wine to be drank. His lifeblood was poured out for the redemption of those who would believe that He paid the price for sin, in full, and trust in Him and His finished sacrifice for their eternal life in the presence of God., as expressed in 1 Peter 1:18-21: “18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”

1.    Website: https://www.proclaimingthegospel.org: Heading: Equip: Subheading: Articles: Unless You Eat My Flesh, by Mike Gendron.

Closing Comments

     And that is pretty much the sum of Protestantism's arguments against the Real Presence in the Eucharist.  If you can respond to these "seven convincing reasons" - with logic, common sense, and Scripture - then you will be able to plant some seeds of truth with pretty much any Protestant when it comes to the Eucharist.

     I hope all of you have a great week!


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Apologetics for the Masses