In 1 Corinthians 10:14–22, Paul argues that Christians cannot participate in the Lord’s Supper and eat idol-food at religious feasts in pagan temples. Why? Because the former is “a participation in the blood [and body] of Christ,” while the latter makes the eaters “participants with demons.” This devotional will focus on the former. The next devotional will focus on the latter.
Regarding the Lord’s Supper, Paul writes:
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:14–22)
What does the Lord’s Supper look like to you? If you have a Roman Catholic background, it looks like going forward to the altar and receiving a wafer and a sip of wine from a priest. If you have an evangelical Protestant or Pentecostal background, it looks like taking a cracker and a small plastic cup of grape juice from an aluminum tray that is being handed down the row. In both cases, the Lord’s Supper involves very little food and is a highly individualized act.
For Paul and the Corinthians, however, the Lord’s Supper is an entire meal shared by people around tables. The first Lord’s Supper was a Passover Jesus shared with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion (Matthew 26:17–30, Mark 14:12–26, Luke 22:7–23). In 1 Corinthians 11:17–34, Paul chides the wealthy Corinthians for consuming the food before the poor Corinthians arrive at the meal. Their actions constitute “sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” The Lord’s Supper was one part of the rich common life of the early church
In Greek, the word for this common life is koinonia, which is variously translated as “fellowship” (Acts 2:42), “participation” (1 Corinthians 10:16), and “sharing in” (2 Corinthians 8:4). What is the basis of the Christian common life? Not family ties, for a person is Christian by conversion not birth. Not gender, ethnicity, or social class, for Christians are men and women, Jews and Gentiles, free people and slaves (Galatians 3:28). Not nationality and citizenship, for Christians have fellowship with one another across language and political barriers. Rather, the basis of the Christian common life is Jesus Christ himself. We are united “in the blood of Christ” and “in the body of Christ.” What unites Christians, in other words, is a common experience of salvation through that death of Jesus Christ that manifests itself in a koinonia of faith, crossing all boundary lines that divide people from one another—one in which the wealthy share their resources with the poor so that there may be no need among them.
Today, our practice of communion—the Lord’s Supper—is a pale reflection of the vibrant reality the New Testament church practiced. We eat our little cracker and drink our little grape juice and don’t interact with the needier members of our community, let alone share our resources with them.
Our practice of the Lord’s Supper isn’t a meal. It’s not even an appetizer. It could be so much more.