Immediately preceding Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church about communion, he admonishes them about their selfishness.
When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. (1 Corinthians 11:20–22, ESV)
The congregation certainly called what they were doing the Lord’s table. So why does Paul say “it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat”? Because self-absorbed, self-serving does not belong at His table. Taking, hoarding, and mocking don’t belong at the Lord’s table, the Lord who gave and gives, the Lord who shares Himself and His resources extravagantly, the Lord who gives and shares with those who are not at His level, the kind of people that a selfish god would mock.
Eating with an attitude of superiority toward others, brought in from before the service or that arises during our time together, is one way of eating and drinking in an unworthy manner. That sort of selfish participation makes one guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.
The Word became flesh for us. He gave His body for us, represented by the bread. He bled for us, represented by the cup. Let us thank Him, and let us honor His sacrifice as we sacrifice for each other, as we wait for each other, and think more highly of our neighbor’s eating than our own.
Most of us shy away from using the word “magic” for much the same reason we prefer to offer providential blessings rather than wish to someone “good luck.” Magic doesn’t make us think of a Maker of magic; it removes the power from a Person behind the power. So we avoid terms such as magic and mystical. Instead of using bad words with a good reason, we use good words without thinking much of it, including words such as “spiritual.”
This communion meal is magical, I mean spiritual, I mean there is something about it that a rationalist observer cannot explain. Something real happens here, but it only happens by God’s Spirit whom we can’t see coming or moving or blowing among us. When we gather around this table in faith, the Spirit spiritually takes the bread and the cup and turns it into stronger faith. When individual parts eat and drink together, the Spirit spiritually melds the many into one. These effects are the Spirit’s gracious work. We can’t make it happen, but we can believe that He is feeding souls and building the whole body into a spiritual house.
As those who have been born of the Spirit, come and eat. Magical, I mean, spiritual things happen around this table.
One of the ways we know if we’ve been born again is our attitude those who sit around the Lord’s table with us.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (1 John 5:1)
This meal of communion is only for Christians, those who are born again, and Christians are those with a particular affirmation and with personal affection. We’re united by spiritual birth to the Head and His Body.
Those who are born of God believe “that Jesus is the Christ.” Any claim of new life apart from confessing that Jesus is Lord and Savior is a bogus claim. The lyrics sung by the born again are clear: Jesus is the Christ, the promised and anointed one, the substitutionary sacrifice who died on the cross for sins, was buried in a tomb for three days, and was declared to be the Son of God by His resurrection.
The harmony of the born again song is loving other born againers; this is not a solo. We who are born of God confess Christ and care for one another. Diluted affections for, resistance to forgive, and reluctance to fellowship with other believers calls into question one’s spiritual life just as failing to breathe calls into question one’s physical life.
If you’re harboring resentment or anger toward a brother, whether the size of a cruise ship or kayak, you should repent and make that right before you celebrate the symbol of our uniting love. He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and we who are born again must love all the others who share our living hope.
Come, eat, and celebrate your born again life in Jesus the Christ. Come, eat, and commune with your born again family.
We are witnesses of the Light. We see Him by faith, not by eye-sight, but that’s okay because we call men to spiritual sight in the Light.
As witnesses we proclaim the Logos, the Light, the Lord. The apostle Paul said, “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
How is it that we are proclaiming? We usually think about proclaiming in verbal terms, with words and stuff. Paul says we are proclaiming while at this table, so are we talking with our mouths full? Didn’t mom tell us not to do that?
Right, and that’s not what Paul is talking about. He’s saying that our participation is a proclamation. Eating and drinking is saying something even if we don’t say anything at that moment.
I’m emphasizing this because salvation isn’t something only in our heads, it has to be there, but it isn’t only there. God is spirit and Person, in Jesus a person with flesh and bones. The world is His, not just our words. Eternal life is lived, not merely thought about. So proclaim the gospel of grace by fellowshipping around His table.
God has prepared a banquet table and all who eat at the Lord’s table share not only His gifts, but also His very life. The bread at this banquet is unlike any other bread. The Father “gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32b-33).
The bread is heavenly but it’s not manna, it’s a Man. Jesus went on to teach, “I am the bread of life.” (v.35). “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (v.41), and “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (v.51).
In the Logos was life (John 1:4), and “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, You have no life in you” (v.53). Note: being in the right banquet hall or reading the menu accurately isn’t enough.
Communing with Him at this table and eating this bread doesn’t prepare us for life, it is life. Eating and drinking is abiding in Him (v.56). The fellowship here doesn’t lead somewhere else. “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me also will live because of me” (v.59). Believe, eat, and live.
When the Word created grain and grapes on day three, was He thinking about the glorious purpose that He would give bread and wine around a table some 4000 years later? When the Logos created man on day six, breathing life into his flesh and blood, did the He consider then how He would soon (in light of eternity) take on flesh Himself and spill His own blood for sinful men?
The apostle John not only wrote about the Logos and creation (John 1:1-4), he also wrote about the “book of life” that was “written before the foundation of the world” concerning “the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:8). That means that the cross, and our remembrance of it at communion, was not an after-creation thought for the Logos-Lamb. As good as God declared creation was before the Fall, as much as the Logos and the Spirit and Father enjoyed what they had made, the Trinity knew what was coming.
While we chew over the eternal place of the cross and even the communion elements, let us remember that the Logos was with God, and by His body and blood, we who believe can also be with God. Jesus prayed that we may be with Him, to see the Son’s glory given to Him by the Father because the Father loved Him before the foundation of the world (John 17:24). The glory that He had with His Father before creation is the glory He shares with those who share in the communion meal by faith.
Communion is a faith increasing ordinance, not a doubt increasing one.
When we come to the Lord’s table, if we are thinking correctly, we remember our sin. But staring at our sin nourishes doubt. When we look at the bread, we are encouraged that the debt our sin incurred is no longer outstanding. There would be no bread unless another’s body had taken our judgment. We eat because Christ paid the penalty in full and we are forgiven. When we look at the cup, faith is strengthened as we remember that a sacrifice has already occurred. The cup means God is not waiting to satisfy righteousness with our blood. We drink because Christ freed us from guilt.
Do you have faith? If no, repent and believe. If you do have faith, even the size of a mustard seed, you are forgiven and free. Participation in this meal is a feast for faith, not a fast to prove we have it.
The cross causes offense. It scandalizes the heart and, in particular, it scandalizes religious hearts. It displeases “good” people who thought they could please God by their good works. It also angers unrighteous people who don’t like that their Maker is holy and that He judges creatures according to His standard. It disturbs civilized people who don’t want to be troubled with blood and death.
The cross offends because our sin offends God. Unless we sense the outrageous, awkward, woe-inducing elements of the cross we probably won’t see the outrageous, humiliating, woe-inducing elements of our sin. And unless we see our sin and mourn it, we won’t be happy.
Ignoring sin, redefining it, denying it, hiding it, just adds to it even if we postpone the full misery of it. There is only one way to deal with sin: cut off it’s soul-sucking mastery. The only way to do that is to see our sin on Jesus on the cross. We believe that He bore the wrath of our offenses and rose again so that we could be delivered from the condemnation and control of sin. The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The bread and the cup represent His body and blood, which means we eat and drink Him at His table. That’s offensive, but, according to Jesus, unless we eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, we have no life. Whoever feeds on His flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life, and He will raise us up on the last day. His flesh is true food, and His blood is true drink (see John 6:53-56). In Christ, our offenses against God are forgiven. By faith, the offense of the cross becomes our freedom.
Our regular time around the Lord’s table supports and buttresses the gospel (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15). As a church, our celebration of this ordinance declares and defends the truth.
When we eat here we make a statement that sin is our problem and that the wages of sin is death. We recall a crucified body and shed blood, the cost of our rebellion. Examination of our hearts and confession of our sin brings us to the cross, confronted by the gospel.
When we eat here we also remember that by one man’s sacrifice all those who believe are saved. That’s the good news! By His death and resurrection we–and whosoever believes–have eternal life. We can be brought to God, restored to communion with Him. The cross brings us to God, saved by the gospel.
And, when we eat here we remember that this supper is a shared one, that we come as a family, as the household of God to share this meal. We are united with each other, and our diversity with unity says to the world that the gospel is right on track. The truth of the cross brings us together, united by the gospel.
The Lord’s table is a communal meal. At His table we commune with Christ: “The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16). At this table we commune with each other: “We who are many are one body, for we all partake of one bread” (v.17). At this meal we share Trinitarian fellowship, it’s a Trinitarian table.
We eat and drink with many who are different than us, significantly so. We are male and female, rich and less rich, those educated by books and those educated by life, employers, employees, and unemployed, old and young. But we are one one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). When we come together to eat, we wait for one another (1 Corinthians 11:33). At this table we look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). Around this table we celebrate Trinitarian differences without division.
The Lord’s table has also been called a love feast (Jude 12). We sit down at this table and tell the story of the Father who sent His Son, the Son who laid down His life, and the Spirit who causes men to be born again to a living hope. We tell a Trinitarian story, a story where eternal love spills onto us and is shed abroad in our hearts. As we eat and drink these symbols of the cost of His love, we are strengthened to love the others around the table.
We who are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, eat and drink with thanks.