Christian Jargon #1 – Sacramental, Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation

Christian Jargon #1 – Sacramental, Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation

Theme: Christian Jargon #1 – Sacramental, Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation
Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 15
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Hybrid Worship, both ONLINE and in-person at the church
– 6:30pm, Sunday 2 August, 2020


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Tonight we are starting a new sermon series entitled Christian Jargon.  I was really unsure of what to call this series.  Some ideas I had were “Christian-ese” or “Words that make you go Huh?” or “I like big words and I cannot lie”.  The title is less important that the concept – the idea that in the Church we sometimes use big words or jargon that many people just don’t understand.  Words such as sanctification, eschatology, Atonement, Righteousness. 

Let me do a quick survey here – Is jargon good?

No – it excludes people, elitist.  It makes us sound like idiots. 

What are some words or phrases that you know that Christians use that you think just sound silly to anybody else? 

  • Fellowship
  • Blood of the lamb

Is there anyone who thinks that Jargon is good?  I think there is a place for Jargon because often Jargon is an industry or culturally specific word which accurately describes something.

For example, when I used to teach computers I used to host a yearly dinner for my students.  My wife Marion came to the first one and then boycotted every year afterwards … she said that we just spoke Jargon all night.  But as a group of computer nerds, we had to use jargon such as block parameters, GUI, Object Oriented Classes, Encapsulation, Debugging, etc because that is what we were dealing with every lesson.   

These were words that were important and it would have been silly to not use them in the context of a computer course dinner.      

When it comes to Christian Jargon or “Jesus Jargon” – we feel like we should shy away from words such as justification or transubstantiation … they are actually important words which are helpful in understanding concepts of faith.

Between now and the end of the year, every now and again we want to look at some big religious words – not just so we can show off and use the word eschatological in a sentence – but so we can actually learn about some fundamental concepts of our faith.  So are you ready for this?

The three words for tonight are “Sacrament”, “Transubstantiation” and “Consubstantiation”

Sacrament is an old word – it really has been around for 2000 years.  The best definition that I have found for it is “a rite in which God is uniquely active.” Augustine of Hippo (who lived 3rd Century) defined a Christian sacrament as “a visible sign of an invisible reality.”   The Anglican Prayer book speaks of them as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible Grace.”

So in very simple terms – a sacrament is a Christian rite or symbolic action in which God is involved and in which we experience the Grace of God. 

Historically the church has said that there are two main sacraments – two rites of the church which were started because Jesus commanded us to do these things and in which God is uniquely involved.  These two sacraments are Baptism and Communion.

So are we keeping up with this?

  • A Sacrament is a Christian rite in which God is involved and in which we experience the Grace of God.
  • There are two sacraments – Baptism & Communion
  • Sacraments often use symbolism to communicate profound truths – baptism uses the symbolism of water and communion uses the symbolism of bread and the cup.
  • Because as a minister/priest I am involved in baptism & communion I am said to have a Sacramental Ministry

Excellent – well then let’s just look a little deeper into these two sacraments and see what we can discover about them and about ourselves.  But before we do, just to make sure you are awake – here is a little brain teaser … Have a look at this picture, Can you understand how it works?   The pieces are exactly the same size in both triangles, just moved around.  The grids are exactly the same.  The squares are all equal size.  Where does the hole come from?

Have a closer look … The sacraments of baptism and communion are a bit like these triangles. We look at these triangles and can see what is happening, but have no idea how that hole got there. 

In the same way, we can look at baptism and communion and know what is happening … but scratch our head at the mystery of it, of the importance of it, of the early churches understanding of it, of the way that God works through it. 

Do you need to know how the triangles work?  No.  You could just believe that it does what it does and accept it.  In the same way, Jesus did not say that baptism or communion is only for people who completely understand it.  We can just believe that Jesus is present and accept it in faith.

But do you want to know how the triangles work?  OK.  It all works on angles.  The top line on both triangles is not straight.  In the first one the line is slightly angled inwards, whereas the second one, it is slightly angled outwards.  If we put the triangles together you can see the extra bit at the top.  The amount needed to fill the bit at the top makes the hole at the bottom.  You can see it if you look closely!

Tonight I want to explore a little deeper how Baptism and Communion work.  I hope that you will be interested in stretching your mind and trying to work out the importance and understanding of these sacraments.  But if at the end of this you don’t understand … that ok.  It is more important that you can experience it and live it than to understanding it.    Later we are going to experience communion together.  Communion is open to all people … whether we understand its mystery or not.


Jesus commanded us to baptise people in Matthew 28:18-20.

when he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

If you have your bibles here or have the bible on the phone – look up Acts 19:3-6.  This reading highlights 3 different understanding of baptism.  In this reading Paul has just arrived at Ephesus and found some disciples.  When Paul discovers that they knew nothings about the Holy Spirit, he asks them what kind of baptism they had received?  I am going to read from Acts 19:v3. 

Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied.  Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. This is the first kind of baptism

  1. John Baptism which as Paul says for the forgiveness of sins, where water is poured or a person is immersed to symbolise the cleansing.

Paul continued, “John told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

  • Baptism into the Name, Faith and Family of Jesus Christ  which is where a person accepts Jesus and becomes part of the world wide Church.

Acts 19:6, When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

  • Baptism of the Holy Spirit which is where you not only receive the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is able to empower gifts within you for the work and glory of Jesus..

So when Jesus commands us in Matthew 28 to baptise, we as a church are called to baptise people with water for the forgiveness of sins, in the name of the trinity, into the faith and family of Jesus Christ and for them to receive the Holy Spirit. 

These 3 steps can happen all at the same time after a person accepts Jesus.  This is called a believer’s baptism.  In this church we also believe it can happen in 2 parts through child baptism.  The first part is where the parents make promises on the child’s behalf.  They are receiving the promise of forgiveness and received into the family of God.

But when the child comes to faith, this baptism needs to be re-affirmed (or confirmed) as the now teenager or adult confesses their faith and receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

In the ritual of baptism we use the symbolism of water.  The water symbolises the cleansing of our sins.   It doesn’t literally wash sin off the top of our heads but is a symbol that reflects the truth that if we confess our sins, God will forgive us.  When we baptise people in the pool I talk about the symbolism going under being like dying to our old life and rising to a new life in Christ.  The water might be symbolic but there is no doubt that Baptism is a powerful process in which God is present and we experience God’s grace – baptism is a sacrament!

If you are a person who feels that they would like to publicly make a stand for Jesus in this sacrament of baptism or if you would like to reaffirm your baptism then have a chat with me later.  I already know that there are a few people here at Night Church who are interested and maybe when the weather starts warming up we can have that opportunity. 

But lets quickly look at the other sacrament (and the other word for tonight)

Holy Communion & Transubstantiation.

As we heard in our bible reading, Jesus at the last supper after he broke the bread and share the cup, he commanded his disciples, “do this in remembrance of me”.  Since that night, because Jesus commanded us to do so, Christian across the world have been breaking bread and sharing the cup to symbolically remember Jesus and to give thanks for what he did on the cross when his body was broken and his blood was shed for us.

But is it just that – symbols or in some mysterious way is Christ present in communion in a more tangible way.  Well, it depends because throughout history there has been differing options – and basically these options are summed up in some very big theological words – Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation. 

Transubstantiation is the belief that when we pray over the bread and juice in communion actually becomes the literal body and blood of Jesus.  But it doesn’t look like flesh or smell like blood – so the idea of Transubstantiation is that the bread is changed in substance into the substance of Jesus Body while all that is accessible to the senses remains as before.  Or in simple terms, the bread is not changed in looks but in substance into the flesh of Jesus – substance is changed hence Transubstantiation.

Let’s be honest – this is a weird idea.  Why would anyone even think that this might be true?  Well, it does stem from our bible reading.  What did Jesus say when he passed the bread around? “This IS my body”.  What did Jesus say about the wine? “This IS my blood”.  

It also comes from John chapter 6:53 in which Jesus says those confusing words, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

So from about 300AD onwards, the church had this idea of Transubstantiation – that the substance of the bread and wine was changing into the body and blood of Jesus and therefore they were able to eat Jesus flesh etc.

In the 16th Century there were a few people like Scotus and Luther who started to say that this didn’t completely make sense.   Martin Luther said that something mysterious happens in communion in which when we eat the bread and drink of the cup we have a divine union with Christ – we somehow partake or connect with Jesus.

Scotus used the term Consubstantiation which refers to the idea that Christ is present in the bread and wine but not in substance but rather symbolically alongside the substance of the bread and wine.  In otherwords, Christ is in the bread and wine but it is not literally the body and body.

You might be thinking – is this really important to work out if you believe in the theory of Transubstantiation or Consubstantiation?  Not really – it was once.  Queen Elizabeth the first was beheaded because she believed in the wrong one.  But today, it is not really a big issue.

If you want my personal opinion, I more believe in Consubstantiation – but when it comes down to it – communion to me is a sacrament in which Jesus is divinely present in a mysterious way which I don’t totally understand.  It is a bit like my triangle example of early.  It doesn’t matter if we necessarily understand it – we just believe that we encounter Jesus in communion and experience God’s grace in communion.

Actually this brings me to my last point – the important thing about the sacraments of baptism or communion is not our understanding of it … and not even the event of participating in them … what is MOST important aspect is how we live out these sacraments in our daily lives.

For example, baptism is more than a one-off act in which we go under the water and are prayed for … we should live out our baptism in all that we do.  Actually, the promise that the church makes in every baptism is that we will live out our baptism as a loving community of Christ, nurturing one another in faith, upholding one another in prayer and encouraging one another for service. 

Communion is not just a moment in the week when we stop to give thanks to Jesus that his body was broken and his blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins – communion is the commitment to live a life of thankfulness to God.

So, that is my challenge.  If you haven’t been baptised or have re-affirmed the baptism you had as a child, then I ask you to consider it.  If you have been baptised …  then I encourage you to live out your baptism in all that you do.

And I really encourage you that when we take communion in a few minutes time, that you not only reflect and remember Jesus and what he did on the cross when you eat the bread and share from the cup … but that you will remember Jesus and live in thankfulness every moment of every day.

And as we participate in these sacraments

I pray that we will encounter Jesus in them

And through then experience the grace of God in our lives.