1 Corinthians 10:16-17. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
Here in the midst of telling the Corinthians how to avoid idolatry, Paul, once again, takes them back to their “participation” (koinonia), or union, with Christ. We often translate koinonia as fellowship. But it is much more than just hanging out after church or going bowling with the youth group. It is a partnership, sharing, or participation.
Paul has been dealing with the issue of idolatry. To participate in idol worship it to participate with demons. The meat and the idol itself are nothing or neutral. But to participate in the ritual at the altar is to participate with the Spiritual Forces of evil.
In the same way, to participate in the cup and bread of the Lord’s Supper is to participate with Christ. The cup and the bread are neutral- they do not magically become the actual body and blood of Jesus. But in the same way as at a pagan temple, to participate in the ritual of the Lord’s Supper is to have true spiritual communion with Christ.
When it come’s to the Lord’s Supper there are usually two contrasting views:
- Transubstantiation: the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ, and Christ is re-sacrificed for our sins each time we participate. This keeps forgiveness “up to date” if you will.
- Memorial: the bread and wine (or grape juice if your a good Baptist) are just symbols of Christ’s death for us in the past. Forgiveness has already been achieved and the Lord’s Supper is a reminder of what was accomplished for us.
Paul is offering us a third way of seeing the Lord’s Supper, one that connects us to our union with Christ. We might call it a Participation view. The Lord’s Supper is a participation (koinonia) with Christ and his death, and it is a participation with the Body of Christ. It is far more than just a symbol or a remembrance (although it is those things). But it is also not a re-sacrificing of Christ which imparts grace upon us anew.
1 Corinthians 1:9. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship [koinonia] of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
You see, we are already in koinonia with Christ because we are in Christ. We have fellowship, communion, partnership with him by our union with him. The Lords’ Supper does not bring us into koinonia with Christ, as if we have lost it and need to regain it over and over again. We can never lose it because we are in Christ.
But union with Christ also means that Christ is in us. He is living his life through us. And that is what is happening at the Lord’s Supper. We are expressing, or living out, our koinonia with Christ, the koinonia that we already have. How?
First, by sharing Christ’s experience over and over again. To share the bread and cup is to share in his death. How is that even possible? It happened 2000 years ago. Each time we take the bread and cup we are connecting our mind, soul, and heart to Christ and his sacrifice. Each time we take the bread and cup we are saying that we will live sacrificially for others. For Christ. We are sharing in a death to selfish desires and the idols of our hearts. Jesus is in us and we are his temple, but our minds and hearts wander. We need progressive sanctification and mind renewal. The Lord’s Supper is a spiritual grace that renews our desires, commitments, and affections, and our actions.
Second, through our koinonia with the Body of Christ. When Paul says is it not a participation in the body of Christ, he is using a double meaning – it is a participation with the bodily death of Christ but also the church body. Notice also his use of the word one three times in verse 17. Paul is calling for unity in the church. For love and grace. For the stronger and the weaker to serve one another. He is calling for them to live out horizontally what they have vertically. Union with Christ should result in union in the church. The Lord’s Supper will maintain that unity through our shared experience and common story.
“To live is Christ” is to share the experience of Christ and the Body of Christ. The Lord’s Supper is a shared spiritual experience with Christ and the Body that renews our minds by faith. It is much more than a symbol. It is a spiritual experience of our union with Christ. Reminding us that we are in Christ by his death, and that Christ is alive in us seeking to love the church and serve her with his (your) whole life.
How have you seen the Lord’s Supper? Do you participate? Do you see it as a sharing in the death of Christ? Do you see it as unifying you and the church? What attitudes do you have regarding the Lord’s Supper that might need to change?