God’s Word for You
1 Corinthians 10:14-16
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, March 14, 2023
14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I say to you, as sensible people, judge for yourselves what I am saying. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless: is it not a joint partaking of the blood of Christ? The bread that we break: Is it not a joint partaking of the body of Christ?
The main point Paul is making here is that we must flee from idolatry, that it is best not to have anything at all to do with pagan idols. Don’t even come close to them! Do not test the waters there! Then he draws an example from the Lord’s Supper. In doing so, he teaches us some important things about Holy Communion, but we should not lose sight of the fact that his original point was a warning about idolatry. So he says: Just as our communion in the sacrament is a participation, a joint partaking, in the actual body and blood of Christ, so also if you mess around with idolatry, you are entering into a dangerous participation with demons and Satan himself (10:20).
When we apply these words to the Bible’s sacrament, we see that Paul is showing that the body and blood of Christ are actually present in the Lord’s Supper. This means that we partake of the body of Christ in a physical way, because we partake of his body and blood for its benefits, and also regarding its (his) substance. For Paul talks about partaking of both the body and the blood of Christ. “If that participation,” Gerhard says, “were to be understood as a merely spiritual participation, there would not have been a need to name the body and blood of Christ as distinct items, since faith embraces Christ by a single act, as is clear from John 6” (The Lord’s Supper §101).
This presents a three-part or triple partaking established by the Apostle:
1, A sacramental partaking in the body and blood of Christ, which takes place through the mediation of the consecrated bread and wine (1 Corinthians 10:16).
2, A spiritual laying hold of the entire Christ and all his benefits, which is done by faith (1 Corinthians 11:26).
3, A communion (fellowship) of the body of the church (1 Corinthians 10:17).
The first of these is the foundation of the other two. The consecration and use (reception) of the elements with the word of God makes the sacrament through the power of Christ’s words, that this is not simply a memorial, but is for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7). This is precisely what we receive, and this explains how we lay hold of the entire Christ and all his benefits. Luther says: “There is not the least doubt in my mind that the text of Paul, ‘This is my body which is broken for you’ (1 Corinthians 11:24), is simply to be understood of the breaking and distributing at the table, as Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 10:16 [“the bread we break”].” Since we do this publicly, we proclaim our fellowship with the whole body of the church. More about this later in this chapter.
For the moment, as we are now entering into the discussion of the Lord’s Supper which will continue for some while in this book, we do well to remember the essentials:
- In the Lord’s Supper, the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present and are truly offered with the things that are seen, the bread and the wine, to those who receive the sacrament.
- These are given not only to the godly, but to all who receive the sacrament (wicked Christians, unbelievers, heretics, etc.). About those who receive it in an unworthy way, Paul will give a sharp warning in the 11th chapter (11:29).
- It is not to be administered in one form only, but both the bread and the wine, so that both the body and blood of Christ are received, with all of Christ’s benefits, without any doubt or question or misunderstanding by those who receive it.
- The words of Christ are not to be omitted, but should be spoken publicly, as Paul says: “the cup of blessing which we bless.” This blessing occurs through the recitation of the words of Christ.
- The body and blood of Christ are not only received spiritually, but also orally through the eating and drinking, not as if we are cannibals but because of the sacramental union in a supernatural and heavenly manner.
- Sometimes we use the terms “in the bread,” “with the bread,” or “under the bread,” to reject the error that the bread and wine cease to exist, as if they have been transformed into the body and blood and no longer have their own substance (this teaching is called transubstantiation) and to indicate the sacramental union between the untransformed substance and the body of Christ.
And so we conclude here: What is the Sacrament of Holy Communion? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ for us Christians to eat and to drink for our eternal good.
By faith I call your holy table
The testament of your deep love,
For by your gift I now am able
To know the heart of God above.
Lord, may your body and your blood
Be for my soul the highest good.
(I Come O Savior, To Your Table)
Pastor Timothy Smith