When believers gather at the Lord’s Table, the body of Christ is represented in two loafs, the loaf of bread and the loaf of people (see 1 Corinthians 10:16). To ask which representation is more important would be to frame the question unhelpfully, as if we could do away with whichever one we deemed less important. Yet many Christians in our circles would, practically, do away with the people as long as they could have a personal ordinance experience.
Christ instituted communion. He told His disciples to keep on eating and drinking in remembrance of Him until He comes. To turn over the obvious a little bit, though, Christ did not die in order to redeem bread and wine. Bread has never sinned, neither has wine. They will be in heaven on their own merits. Christ died in order to redeem men. They too will be in heaven but only because of the merit of Christ.
Grain and grapes are gifts. We are commanded to receive them as reminders. But the reminders should make us look around at the spiritual fruit, the family of brothers and sisters with whom we share the meal.
We don’t acknowledge a common ancestry from impersonal and random elements that eventually grew legs and started to talk. We receive the truth of the Triune God who made us to share fellowship like He does and who forgave us through Christ’s sacrifice so that we could. The bread and the cup on the Table remind us what God is doing around the Table.
Many people are alive today who, had they been living even 100 years ago, would be dead by now. What I mean is that many hurt, weak, sick, or diseased persons are able to be healed, strengthened, cured, or at least treated or relieved today for things that would have likely caused their death a century and more ago. We have done a lot things, including modifying food and developing medicines, that have made it so that we see a lot of people with a lot of problems, but at least they are still alive. Allergies aren’t good, but they are better than death. Does this matter? Should we care?
Research doctors, practicing physicians, and other medical personnel have a worldview. Every man has a worldview though that doesn’t mean that every man lives out his worldview consistently. Nevertheless, in general, keeping people alive belongs with those who believe that living is worth the cost. More than that, finding ways to treat the underdeveloped, the elderly, the chronically sick, and the terminally ill belongs with those who believe that God does not despise persons in those conditions. He cares. So should we.
Paul uses this argument figuratively related to how we treat one another in the Body of Christ. All the parts need one another. “[T]he parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Corinthians 12:22). We are connected so that “if one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
This analogy depends on the reality that a personal God created persons and cares about persons. If we are artifacts of ebullient goop that couldn’t contain itself, and if our best hope is abstract progress, and if the strong should be selected to survive, then we should, in order to be consistent, kill babies in utero who appear to be damaged, we should pull the plug on the geriatrics who’ve used up their usefulness, and we should leave the weak and sick to fend for themselves. The weak are like weeds sucking away nutrients for the healthy blades.
We ought to be thankful for the cultural effect of the doctrine of creation by a personal, Triune God and the doctrine of His gospel. Though it is slipping, we have the remnants of our fathers’ beliefs that living is better and treating the weak and sick is worth it. We ought to proclaim the glory of the Creator and the Christ. We also ought to match our attitudes accordingly toward those fellow image-bearers who need help.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus told His disciples that the cup poured out for them was the new covenant in His blood (Luke 22:20). It is the sign of the promise revealed in Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31. The Lord committed to Israel that He would cleanse their sins, take away their hearts of stone, give them hearts of flesh, and cause each of them to know Him. This covenant stands out because it depends wholly on the Lord. As it’s been observed, no man can give himself a heart transplant.
Not only is this promise unconditional, it is also as reliable as the sunrise. Jeremiah explains what would need to happen before this promise could fail.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Thus says the LORD,
who gives the sun for light by day
and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the LORD of hosts is his name:
“If this fixed order departs
from before me, declares the LORD,
then shall the offspring of Israel cease
from being a nation before me forever.” (Jeremiah 31:31–36)
God established the light and seasons of the sun to teach us about His strength and faithfulness. Through these God also shows His joy. As Chesterton speculated in his book Orthodoxy, “It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun.” He does not get tired of calling the sun into place, and He does not tire of keeping His promises.
We Gentiles partake as the overflow of the new covenant life. There is a season when God is grafting in those who had no promise to receive the salvation, and even this is part of God’s plan to finally save Israel (Romans 11:25-27).
As we eat and drink communion week by week, as we cross off days on the calendar until the Son comes, as we take it for granted when our weather apps say the sun will come up tomorrow, then we have reason to trust God in all His good words to us.