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Catholics are literally eating Jesus Christ every Sunday because they believe in the Transubstantiation theology. Protestant churches mostly do not share this belief and their is no obligation to partake in the Holy Communion every Sunday.

John 6:53 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.

Here is how I understand this verse.

Given,       
   Jesus Christ = The Word of God (John 1:14)
   The Word of God = Bible (2 Timothy 3:16)
   Jesus Christ = Bread of Heaven (John 6:51)

Assuming read=intake=eat, we have
   Reading Bible = Reading the Word of God
   Reading the Word of God = Eating Bread of Heaven
   Eating Bread of Heaven = Eating Jesus Christ

Therefore,
   Reading Bible = Eating Jesus Christ  

Matthew 4:4 (NKJV) But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

This verse may imply that we need the Word of God every day. Therefore,

Reading Bible every day = Eating Jesus Christ every day

Is this a common understanding of "eating Jesus" by the Protestants?

What is the common view among the Protestants regarding the command of Jesus that we must "eat his flesh and drink his blood"?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It depends on the Protestant tradition you follow.

Generally speaking, if you don't believe in consubstantiation, and believe in something similar to real-presence, than we don't necessarily consume the body/blood of Jesus in a physical way, but feed on Jesus in a real spiritual way. And, we are again nourished from the presence of God by daily bible reading.

However, how is this necessarily different than transubstantiation? I have no idea. Even at the words of institution where the Holy Spirit is invoked, only the substance (spiritual) of the bread and wine changes to body and blood. The accidents (physical) remain the same. So, in a sense they (real-presence, con/transubstantiation) are very similar things. And, if you study reformation history, none of the reformers knew what to do with communion, but many were so consumed with removing any semblance of Catholicism, they changed some words around creating consubstantiation and real-presence. And, even during the articulation of the Eucharist, the Catholics didn't necessarily know how to articulate this rite other than to use Aristotelian logic to prove that communion is special/meaningful. Because, it is obvious that when the bread and wine are consecrated, they still physically remain bread and wine. But if you separate spiritual/physical, it is easy to extrapolate a literal feeding of the body and blood.

But with semantics aside, for Protestants there is not necessarily a eating of physical flesh or blood because as John 6:63 points out, it is the Spirit that gives life, and the flesh profits nothing. Something Zwingli is right about since, as a reformer, he was simply a remembrance kind of guy, who argued from 1 Cor 11. So he would argue that eating flesh and drinking blood was a metaphor and points to the benefits of faith during communion.

Hopefully, this is helpful.

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I am aware of one protestant view that has not been brought up, so here it is for your consideration:

To interpret John 6:53 we examine the context, close to the beginning of the conversation, at John 6:35.

"He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." In this verse Jesus sets up the interpretation for the "eating" and "drinking" analogy.

We "eat" to satisfy our "hunger"; we "drink" to satisfy our thirst. We partake of the benefit of His flesh and blood by "coming to Him" and "believing on Him".

By this interpretation, John 6:53 is not talking at all about communion. Communion reminds us of the sacrifice of Christ which is the price paid for our salvation (in remembrance of me, Luke 22:19). We partake of His sacrifice ("eat His flesh" and "drink His blood"), not by communion, but by coming to Him and believing on Him (John 6:35).

I have encountered this interpretation in every protestant church I attended for any length of time including congregational, Baptist, Foursquare, and Assembly of God.

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Good points. +1 –  Mawia Jul 27 '13 at 16:21
    
Reading a passage in its own context? Astounding! Thanks for this great answer. –  curiousdannii May 29 at 8:12
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There were differing streams of Protestantism which occurred during the 15th and 16th centuries (The Reformation in Europe). The two major ones were Lutheranism and Calvinism. Lutheranism (Germany) rejected transubstantiation and went with consubstantiation as mentioned already.

Calvinism rejected the viewpoints of both the Roman Catholic church and the Lutheran church on this point. Many Calvinists went to the stake because they would not agree that the Roman Catholic Mass was what the Bible taught about the body and blood of Jesus. They argued that Jesus Christ died once for the sins of His people and that to offer Him up as a fresh sacrifice each mass was against what the Bible taught. Rather they saw that the words of Jesus at the Last Supper indicate clearly that the eating of the bread and drinking the wine were instituted by Jesus so that believers would have a simple way to remember the sacrifice of their Lord. This was the way the inspired Apostle Paul said it: "and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” I Corinthians 11:24

Today, most protestants, (like Presbyterians, Baptists and Dutch Reformed), would follow the latter view above. They take the bread and wine as a remembrance of the death of Jesus.

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