This sermon was preached on August 30, 2020.
Tonight, I want to explain two glorious and essential things that happen when we take the Lord’s Supper. Two things. We begin with 1 Corinthians 10:16, “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?” Pray with me: Father in Heaven, You are holy and Almighty. Have mercy on this service and give us ears to hear Your Word. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.
Paul says that the Lord’s Supper is participation in the blood and body of Christ. “Participation” is from the Greek word koinonia, which is often rendered, “fellowship.” In this verse, the HCSB and NASB read “sharing.” This is a fine translation: we share in the blood and body of Christ. The KJV and NKJV read, “communion with.” I favor the ESV and NIV, which both read, “participation.” In the Lord’s Supper, we participate in the blood and body of Christ.
What does this mean? In verse 18, Paul parallels the Supper with Old Testament peace offerings: “Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?” The word “partakers” is koinonos, very similar to koinonia above. These come from the same root (koinos) and Paul uses them identically in the parallel he draws. So the same idea persists between both words. Paul is referring to Old Covenant peace offerings where part of the sacrifice was eaten by a priest. The practical significance of this was that it provided food for the priest and his family. However, the act also identified the animal with the one giving the offering. Paul says that the priest was considered a participant in the sacrifice itself – in the alter – by consuming part of the sacrifice. A bond was created between the priest and the sacrifice, which provided grounds for substitution. The animal is slain in his place.
Now, with that in mind, consider John 6: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (vv.53-54). Do you understand this? Christ is referring to the Old Covenant practice of eating part of the sacrifice. Christ is on the altar, and the only way to benefit from His death is to be identified with Him. If you want Christ to be your substitute, then you have to be united to Him. “For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (vv.55-56).
This is what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 10:16. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not participation in the body of Christ?” The Lord’s Supper is participation in the death of Christ. Not literally – the elements do not turn into the body and blood of Christ, as Roman Catholics believe. It is not literal, it is covenantal. This ceremony is a symbol of Christ’s death, and we come to covenantally participate in Christ’s death. We declare, “He is my substitute! I have been crucified with Christ!” That is the first point, which we find in verse 16. When you take the Lord’s Supper, you identify yourself with Christ. This is where we renew our covenant with God.
The second point is at the beginning of chapter 10. 1 Corinthians chapter 10 verses 1-4.
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
Paul draws another parallel between the church and Old Testament Israel. He argues that what we have in baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the Israelites had in the wilderness. Verses 1-2 concern baptism, so we will move on to verse 3. The physical elements are different: Israel ate manna and quail, and drank water; we eat bread and drink the fruit of the vine. The physical is different, but the spiritual is the same.
What is this spiritual food and drink? “They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” It was Christ! And notice that Paul links the physical and the spiritual acts: the physical acts of eating and drinking in the wilderness were also spiritual acts. While they were eating manna, they were receiving spiritual nourishment from Christ.
Our experience in the Lord’s Supper is the same. The Lord’s Supper is a physical and spiritual meal. As you partake of the physical elements, Christ ministers to your spirit. This is not just a tradition or a ritual: Christ actually ministers to us in this meal. A similar thing happens when you read the Bible. You don’t just read Scripture for knowledge; you read Scripture to feed your soul. God meets you spiritually in that event, to comfort and strengthen you. In the Lord’s Supper, the Spirit of Christ strengthens us in the faith and pulls us up by our spiritual boot-straps.
Now, Rome teaches that this spiritual ministry happens by the operation of the ceremony. We deny that. The spiritual nourishment is provided supernaturally, miraculously, and by the freedom of the Holy Spirit. In other words, this meal does not save you any more than Bible reading saves you. But, through this meal, God really does spiritually nourish those who have faith in Christ.
So, let me restate what we have learned from 1 Corinthians 10. There are two things happening here: one that we do, and one that God does. The Lord’s Supper is where we commit ourselves to Christ, where we renew our covenant with God. The Lord’s Supper is also where Christ nourishes us spiritually, where He revives our spirits. We come to commune with Christ crucified, and Christ resurrected comes to commune with our spirits. We feast upon the bread and fruit, and He feeds our soul grace upon grace. We ascend to the altar to be with the Lamb of God, and the Lion of Judah descends to be with us. We come to renew our covenant; Christ comes to renew our spirits.
May God bless this meal that we are about to share in unity.