A Meal for the Body of Christ

At its very heart Biblical Christianity is mysterious. Something of the mystery of our salvation in Christ Jesus carries over into what the Word, as we focus today on 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, teaches about the Lord’s Supper. Guard against reducing God’s revelation to something that we can comprehend.

Flee idolatry. Early in 1 Corinthians 10 Paul warned against idolatry as it came to expression in the life of Israel in the wilderness. The idols are not gods, but behind them are demons, evil spirits. Paul’s warning takes on urgency in the context of the Lord’s Supper, which involves table fellowship with your redeemer. The warning is appropriate today. Avoid any involvement with the occult. Avoid looking to anyone else than God as the source of power, knowledge, and revelation. Spiritism, witchcraft, astrology, channeling, are all prohibited. An idol is anything in your life which is more important than God. It is easy to condemn the idolatry of ancient Israel, of Corinth, or of pagans today, but Paul’s point is that idolatry must be avoided by you! See 1 John 5:21. Examine yourself to determine what your priorities are. Remember that Paul calls greed “idolatry,” Colossians 3:5. Live as one “on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come,” verse 11. (The New Testament considers this the whole period bracketed by Christ’s comings.) At first glance urbane, sophisticated, immoral Corinth might seem to be worlds away from the “primitive” world of Israel wandering in the wilderness. But Paul connects them. Israel had been united with their deliverer in the cloud and in the sea. They had been baptized into Moses. The Passover was a meal eaten in the presence of God. God assured them that they were his people, redeemed by the blood of the lamb. This looked beyond Moses to the reality which you have. You have been baptized into Christ. You have union and fellowship with him. What had been shadow and promise is now an accomplished reality. Baptism marks your union with Christ at the beginning of the Christian life. Recognize the awesomeness of God’s presence in salvation and judgment. Rejoice in the privilege of living in the time of the revelation of God’s salvation. The Lord’s Supper does have a note of celebration, blessing, and thanksgiving in it! No wonder that the glory of the new heavens and earth is described as a rich feast!

You participate in the blood of Christ. The cup of thanksgiving seals Christ to you. You are involved with Christ in his death. The connection between him and you is so close that you share in his death. The Lord’s Supper seals to you that real union. “The cup of thanksgiving” (the word Paul uses is the one from which we get the term Eucharist) involves participation in the blood of Christ. Thus the meal is more than just a memorial. It is a means of grace that God uses to strengthen your trust in him.

You partake of your Savior. Salvation involves God giving you, not just the benefits of Christ’s work, but Christ himself! You participate, or share in, in the blood of Christ. There is no salvation without the shedding of his blood in your place. In the Lord Supper he comes to you and draws you to himself, so that you partake of him. This second sacrament seals your continued union with the Savior. Your union with Christ involves a break with sin, Romans 6:1-7. You no longer live for yourself. Your purpose is “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” “As we come to the Lord’s Table by faith we really and truly commune in his body and blood, but not because we physically ingest the substance of Christ’s flesh there, nor because his physi­cal presence somehow comes down from whence it has ascended. Rather, we do so because we are unit­ed to him by the Spirit and in that union we own Him as our head who acts on our behalf in redemptive histo­ry. . . .The Spirit sent to the Church is the Spirit of Christ as the representative Head of his elect Body. And thus the Spirit ensures that as we approach the table which Christ has set, there we find that our Host has laid out places for us which are adorned with our own namecards. We come there as those written on a guest list which he has drafted by his body and blood. We come there and hear Jesus say, ‘This is my body which is given for you‘ and ‘This is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you‘ (Lk. 22:19–20) and know that he does not speak those pronouns to an undifferentiated mass of potential believers, but to the definite number of his elect.” (Daniel Schrock, “Com­munion as Redemption Ac­complished and Applied,” https://reformedforum.org/communion-as-redemption-accomplished-and-applied/)

Share in the one body of Christ. You are connected to Christ, your head. Paul is using the Lord’s Supper for illustration, but it is an illustration that works because of the connection between the sacrament and the reality it seals. The purpose of the text is not to be an essay on the sacrament, although we do learn about it from what Paul says. You are part of Christ’s body, that is the church. The connection between Christ and the church is so close that the church is part of him. It is his body. “We cannot think of Christ properly apart from the church. All the offices he exercises as head over all things, he exercises on behalf of the church. If we think of the church apart from Christ, or transfer to the church prerogatives that belong only to Christ, we are guilty of idolatry. But if we think of Christ apart from the church, then we are guilty of a dismemberment that severs what God has joined together. We are divorcing Christ from his only bride. The central doctrine of the Christian faith should remind us of the evil of such divorce, for this doctrine is that ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it.’ (Eph/.5:25).” (Collected Writings of John Murray. Vol. 1, p. 238).

Live as his body, the church. You belong to one body because you belong to Christ. You are united with him as you trust in him. Don’t rationalize away the truth of which Paul speaks. As you break the bread in the Lord’s Supper, you do participate in Christ–not in a purely physical way, not mechanically or automatically, but by faith and through the powerful working of his Spirit. But you do share in Christ. How then, could you be a partaker with demons?! The best way to deal with Satan’s servants is not to become preoccupied with them but rather to focus on the power of your risen Lord! Share in the body of Christ! Remember that you belong to your risen Lord. Your life is not your own. Rather, it is “now hidden with Christ in God,” Colossians 3:3. Put off from your life the things which need to be removed, Colossians 3:5–9, and put on the new man, which is being renewed in the image of its Creator, Colossians 3:10.

Christ himself invites you, if you are part of his body, to table fellowship with him. Recognize the privilege. Live as one who has table fellowship at this heavenly meal.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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