God gave manna to His people every morning as with the dew on the ground and Paul called it “spiritual food” (1 Corinthians 10:3) because it came from God directly rather than through natural channels. God gave water to His people from a rock and Paul called it “spiritual drink” (verse 4) also because it bypassed the expected means. You don’t typically stomp on rocks in a big bucket to get the rock juice out.
God also gives spiritual food to His people today at the Lord’s Table. In our case, it is bread baked in someone’s kitchen from known and grown ingredients. But it is spiritual because the food does something for our souls as well as our stomachs. When we eat by faith as well as by teeth, God feeds us on another level. The same is true of the spiritual drink here at the Table. It also is produced by human means. The grapes have been sown and harvested and crushed and fermented and bottled and transported and poured. But it is spiritual because an eternal craving is being quenched, not just a physical thirst.
And all of it can be taken for granted if we’re not careful. None of it, of itself, keeps us from taking what is a gift and turning it into an entitlement for more; His grace brought us to a beautiful peak, but we could focus on the peak further away that we couldn’t even see until now. We become calloused to the graciousness of God to us, and we either look for different blessings or additional blessings that He hasn’t promised to us. Let us not crave other than communion. May Christ and His people be our greatest gratification.
Most meal plans that emphasize self-control do not include necessary feasting. You may be allowed a cheat day, or you may take one anyway, but the emphasis is usually on limited rather than unlimited portions.
When Christ gives Himself to us, He gives all of Himself. We have a portion in Christ, but we do not get only a portion of Him. We do not have to “cheat” to get more of Him.
Both during training and during the actual run, it is important to get the proper fuel for your body. You need energy stores for immediate effort and for down the road. I’ve seen odd things offered to runners along a marathon route, from bananas to bagels to beer, from marijuana to Monster drinks. Some of these will keep a runner going for a moments, some of them will keep a runner going for miles.
In the stadium of the Christian life, the same is true. If every week was like a lap, there is a full table at the first corner set for sake of soul gratitude and gas.
The communion table is not separate from our self-control, it is part of it. This meal feeds our faith in the imperishable reward, and reminds us that we all run in body as a Body. We run to win, but we run together, to win together, which is not the typical way to think of a race.
We all have Christ, and we have all of Christ. He is the one who qualifies us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:12), and He Himself is our refreshment and our provision for the race.
There are only two places in the Bible that refer to the “law of Christ.” The first is in 1 Corinthians 9:21 (ἔννομος Χριστοῦ) as Paul clarifies that he does not abandon righteous living to reach the unrighteous with a message of righteousness. He doesn’t abandon obedience to Christ when calling others to obey Christ.
The second time the phrase is used in Galatians 6:2 (τὸν νόμον τοῦ Χριστοῦ), though Galatians was probably written five to six years before 1 Corinthians. To the Galatians Paul explains at least one way to live out the law of Christ.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
This is called the law of Christ because this is Christ’s custom, His rule, His norm. The Son of God picks up another man’s load and carries it for him. The word for “burdens” applies to something “particularly oppressive” or something that “proves exhausting” (BDAG). The plural form indicates at least a diversity of possible burdens if not a multiplicity of burdens. It might be a big one, it might be more than one.
In the context of Galatians 6 the burden could be a brother caught in a transgression. It could also be a brother caught in an affliction. There are all sorts of ways that we struggle and suffer. Remember, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). It is certainly easier not to bear another burden.
This is a communion encouragement, not an exhortation. As a church you do well in bearing the burdens of one another and so fulfilling the law of Christ. Yes, excel still more, as you feed on Christ’s flesh and follow His example of death that brings life (2 Corinthians 4:12).
Rhetoric is deeper than what is said, more than well spoken words, more than clear or persuasive speech. Rhetoric most often involves language, but it also includes lifestyle and liturgy.
Paul’s life was a tool of persuasion. He commanded the Corinthians to use their personal rights for sake of others rather than themselves (1 Corinthians 8), and he modeled this very behavior (1 Corinthians 9). Not only was what he said not undone by what he did, what he said was more effective because of what he did.
The liturgy of the Lord’s Table also speaks, but without words. Paul told the Corinthians that “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). But how?
Just as Paul provided an example of the gospel of the cross by giving up his personal rights for the sake of others, so we announce the gospel of the cross by giving up our personal grievances against others. We stop judging others wrongly, and judge “ourselves truly” (verse 31). We eat and drink in fellowship because our envy and bitterness and anger is dead at the cross.
The gospel is news. It can (and must at some point) be spoken and heard, written and read. The message cannot be altered because it is historical reality. But our lives can adorn the doctrine, and they should show the truth of the gospel, that sacrifice driven by love for others changes the world.
When Paul affirmed the truth of the knowledge about God to the Corinthians he summarized: “for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6).
Of course this affirms God’s sovereignty. God is the source and the end of all things, and Jesus mediates God’s wisdom and strength in the creating and sustaining of all things. But is the point of the truth God’s power and authority?
It is not less than that, but it is also an affirmation of God’s generosity. Of all the things that belong with God as Father, it is His love that gives. All things originate in Him, but the point even to the Corinthians is not that we look through thick glass walls that separate us from all that He has. There is no wall. We look at all that He has given.
Included in that generosity is His own Son. God loved the world and gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but receive eternal life. And if the Father gave us Christ, how will He with Him not give us all things?
On Father’s Day we are learning what fathers are like, even as we eat and drink around the table of His generosity. We learn His nature and we are strengthened to imitate Him.
In a fallen world it is possible to mess just about anything up, including the good things. That said, there are some things that can help us mess up less.
The weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper could get messed up. It could become stale ritual, a heartless motion-going. Worse, it could become a source of self-righteousness and superiority over others who don’t do it as often or who use grape juice or tiny, dry cracker bits.
But you really have to work to not think about what we’re doing here to get to that point. It doesn’t take much remembrance to promote humility and relationship.
The reason for the bread and the wine is because of our sin. Jesus gave His body and His blood because we rebelled against God and God requires atonement. We remember what we deserved, and we remember that salvation came from outside of us and by grace to us. That is humbling.
The goal of salvation, though, is not that we be humbled, but that we be exalted by Him rather than exalted by self-attempt and self-promotion. The Lord’s Supper is a time for our communion with the Father through the Son by the Spirit. That is relationship with the Trinity, and relationship with others in the Body in reflection of the Trinity.
More than facts, more than truth, we know God’s love, and that feeds our love for Him and each other.
We’ve been reading Brave New World in Omnibus the last couple weeks, and eww, and ouch, and it’s provoked some thoughts for our communion mediation. The goal of the gospel is more than stability, it is unity. While it’s true that those who fear the Lord will be like well-rooted trees, ready for both storms and dry seasons, salvation establishes more than individual calm.
The State wants control in order to (attempt to) enforce stability. But this is built on the false image of the State as savior. And even if such salvation was possible, the savior is only one kind. This is a form of unitarian monotheism (one god in one person, though it doesn’t require a king or president, just the belief in The Government), and that god always reigns by power and coercion.
What God the Father Almighty wants, and His Son Jesus Christ purchased, and the Holy Spirit applies, is our unity. As we worship the Three-in-One, we learn to enjoy communion with them and like them. This is supernatural. It cannot be manipulated. And it is driven by not by fear or by distraction but by eyes-wide-open love. We were weak, ungodly, rebellious, and unlovely. God didn’t deny our condition. His work of reconciliation is more glorious because He didn’t.
Let us not be satisfied with less than communion purchased by the God-man through His bloody death on the cross. At this table we are reminded yet again of the goal, as well as the grace. We are being built into one body, not because we are the same, or because we lose our identity, but because our identity includes being united with a bigger body in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We know that God’s ways are not our ways and that His thoughts are above and beyond our thoughts. We know, mostly because He told us, that we don’t know everything about how He works.
We have problems right from the start. I mean that not from the start of our creaturely condition with finite limitations, though those comparisons do explain part of our problem. What I mean is that we don’t even get where He starts.
For example, when God starts to judge, He starts with His people. Peter wrote, “For it is time for judgement to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). We think we want judgment on sinners, but then we’re like, “Hey, don’t they need judgement more than us?” Maybe they do in terms of need, but not apparently in terms of time.
Because Christ died and rose again on the first day of the week, I think it would also be right to say that God starts our weeks with food, the milk and meat of His Word and also the bread and wine of fellowship. We don’t work and then eat, we eat and then we work. It’s gospel. God starts us with His blessing. He starts with provision and then we go out from there. Communion isn’t a reward, it’s a catalyst. The Lord’s Supper is to our week like breakfast is to our day: an important beginning.
Because we are learning to be content in whatever condition we’re in, we are also making great progress out of the condition we’re in. The two conditions are not the same, otherwise the statement would contradict itself. One condition is our station, the other condition is our fellowship.
If we allow false standards to rule our thinking about “higher” callings (think 1 Corinthians 7:17-24) then we will not have true communion. False standards create guilt which inhibits connection between people because guilt is an isolating energy. False standards also create envy of those who we presume to be better than us, or they produce pride over those we presume to be better than. If we are discontent with our earthly calling, be it our family or gender or occupation or gifts, we will be disconnected from our people.
On the other hand, if we receive our earthly calling from the Lord with humility and gratitude, we will be able to give Him thanks for those around us who have also received their assignment from the Lord. Our contentment with what we have will help us be glad for what others have and we won’t compete with them but instead enjoy communion with them.
So as we stop longing for something else we get something else. As we stop seeking some other, better condition, we will know better communion. As we’re changed to be satisfied right where we are, we find ourselves to be in a better position after all.
Paul did not have questions about his gender, but he did speak of his affections in maternal tones a couple times. He told the Thessalonians, “we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). To the Galatians he was even more active:
my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! (Galatians 4:19)
He regularly talked about his labors for the elect, but this is the only place he likened himself to being in labor. (We can only imagine the complaints of gender appropriation he must have received).
The Galatians were being bewitched by those preaching salvation by law keeping, or at least true sanctification by law keeping. Paul’s entire letter to them corrects ideas and practices contrary to the gospel of free grace.
Like a mother with her children, Paul is in “anguish,” a word which could be translated “suffer birth pains.” While I haven’t given birth, I’ve been around. It looks like it hurts. Paul used the illustration to communicate that he cared, that he was closely connected, and that he longed for a healthy baby. He wanted Christ in them, for them to take on Christ’s shape.
That happens by faith. When Paul says that he suffers birth pains so that Christ is formed in them, it includes his desire that they would, like him, “live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). So come to the Lord’s Table of grace and remember His loving sacrifice. May your faith be fed by the bread and wine. And may Christ be formed in you.