The blessings of the Lord’s Supper

Over the past 10 years or so I have come upon a few people who say that in Communion we are not receiving the forgiveness of sins, but the reassurance that our sins are forgiven because of what Jesus has done for us. He paid the price to forgive our sins, and we have that immediately when we repent and ask for forgiveness. They say that this would be "confusion" as to which one really forgives the sin, the death of Christ, or the receiving of the sacrament, and our God "is not a God of confusion." In the words of institution He says, "This is my blood of the new testament which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Matt.26:28. His blood was poured out for the forgiveness of sins when He died. Is that reference also to the blood received in the sacrament - that it is forgiving our sins as we drink it? Is the sacrament a remembrance that strengthens our faith and reassures us of our forgiveness, or is it forgiveness at the moment, even though we already are forgiven? Mark 14:22-26, Luke 22:18-20, and I Cor. 11:23-25 do not mention forgiveness of sins, but in remembrance of Jesus. The thought that I might not have this doctrine right scares me.

Keep in mind what you learned in your Catechism instructions. “What blessings do we receive through this eating and drinking? That is shown us by these words: ‘Given’ and ‘poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ Through these words we receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in this sacrament. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” [Luther’s Catechism. Holy Communion. Second.] “How can eating and drinking do such things? It is certainly not the eating and drinking that does such things, but the words ‘Given’ and ‘poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ These words are the main thing in this sacrament, along with the eating and drinking. And whoever believes these words has what they plainly say, the forgiveness of sins.” [Luther’s Catechism. Holy Communion. Third.]

The quotations from the Catechism rightly put the emphasis on the gospel: the good news of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. The gospel in the Word alone or the gospel in the sacraments offers and gives the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Through his perfect life and sacrificial death, Jesus won forgiveness of sins for a world of sinners (1 John 2:2). His glorious resurrection verified that (Romans 4:25). Through the gospel, the Holy Spirit changes hearts, strengthens faith and gives people the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won (Romans 1:16).

Finally, when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper “in remembrance” of Jesus, we call to mind the forgiveness of sins Jesus won with his body and blood—the same body and blood we receive in the sacrament—in, with and under the bread and wine. The words of Jesus that we focus on and remember – “Given” and “poured out for you” – are gospel.

I hope this helps clarify your understanding of this precious meal.