A Communion Service
April 4th, 1971 @ 7:30 AM
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
A COMMUNION SERVICE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
4-4-71 7:30 p.m.
In the tenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, the apostle is speaking to the members of the church at Corinth about eating meat and drinking drink that has been offered to idols. And the thought of his argument as he discusses the cultural community life in which those people lived – it is hard for us to enter into the deep pathos of their problem, because we have been so delivered from the wrong and the injustice to God of idol worship that it belongs to a memory in history. But to them it was a fabric of their daily life. For example, every man who worked would belong to a guild. The guild would have a patron god or goddess, and in order for the man to succeed in his guild, let us say he was a mason, in order for him to succeed in his guild he had to worship at the shrine of the god, or refusing to bow at least he had to eat with his brothers in the craft. But the meat had been offered to idols. And the drink had been offered to idols. That was so in social life. It was so in cultural life. It was so in educational life. It was so in political life. It was so in every facet of life. Idolatry was a culture and these Christian people lived in it.
Paul here is interdicting their eating meat and their drinking libations that were offered to idols. And the thought of his argument is that when you eat this meat, and when you drink this drink, you are sharing in the life, and religion, and faith of that god. You are identifying yourself with that pagan deity. So as he talks to the Corinthians about that abysmal gulf that lies between them who believe in Jesus and these who worship before idols, he says, “You cannot do that. You cannot identify yourself with a pagan deity, with a god or a goddess because you are identified with Christ.” And as he speaks of that identification, he illustrates it with the Lord’s Supper, and he does so in these words:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the koinonia of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the koinonia of the body of Christ?
For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread – the body of Christ.
[1 Corinthians 10:16-17]
What is that word koinonia? The cup we bless, the koinonia of the blood of Christ. The bread we break, the koinonia of the body of Christ. There are several translations of the word here in the English Bible. One is participation. We participate in the very life of Christ, the koinonia. Another is communion. We commune with our Lord in breaking bread and drinking the cup. Another is fellowship, koinonia, fellowship; we fellowship with our Lord. Another could be identification. We identify ourselves with our Lord.
Let me use one of those words, participation. Is it not the koinonia, the participation in the blood of Christ? And the bread, is it not the koinonia, the participation in the body of Christ? It goes back to the Old Testament covenant. How could a man that is a sinner have fellowship, participate with God, the great Lord and Creator? And how could a man made of the dust of the ground have fellowship with and participate in the life of God? In the Old Testament, in the Old Covenant, it was done in the blood and never apart from the blood.
East of Eden, God built an altar and there He showed the man how to come before the great High God and worship in His name, and fellowship with Him, and participate in His life. When Abel came, he brought the firstling of a flock, a lamb, and on the basis of blood poured out, he communed, he participated in the thought, and love, and life of God [Genesis 4:4].
And in the sacrificial system always that scene: an innocent victim tied to the horns of the altar, and the worshiper who came before God taking his hands and placing [them] over the head of the innocent animal, and confessing there all of his sins [Leviticus 4:27-30] – then the life blood of the animal poured out, and the animal offered unto God on the basis of expiation, of atonement, of the shedding of blood. In the old covenant the sinner man could participate in the life of God.
In the New Testament it is no less the same, except in the old covenant it was by type and by picture. But in the new covenant, the diatheke, the new covenant, it is in Christ, the antitype, the substance, not the shadow. And this is our fellowship, our participation in the life of our Lord, this is our koinonia. We are identified with Christ in this holy service. We are identified in His death; that is our death. We died to sin and to judgment in the death of the cross. We died with our Lord. We are identified with Him [Romans 6:4-5].
We are identified with Him in the koinonia in His resurrection from the grave. We rose with Jesus when He was raised from among the dead. It is our victory, it is our triumph, for we are identified with Him. And we are identified with Him, and we participate in Him when He comes again in glory for His own. “As you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death, achri hou elthē, till He come, till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26], the koinonia, the identification, the participation, the fellowship, the communion, the identity that we have with our Lord.
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread:
And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me.
After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new covenant, the diatheke – that’s the title of our New Testament – this cup is the new testament, the new covenant, in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come, till He come.
[1 Corinthians 11:23-26]
As the wheat is gathered, and crushed, and ground, and then made into bread to eat, so the life of our Lord; God’s wheat, God’s harvest, crushed and ground, but made into bread for us who trust in Him and who feed upon Him.
And our Lord, in remembrance of that holy sacrifice, the giving of Thy body, prepared for the offering, the atoning, gracious acceptance of the judgment of our sins, dying in our place, Lord for that gift we bless Thy name. We praise Thee Lord and do love Thee now and forever. Amen.
“This is My body, which is broken for you; take, eat in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:24].
“And He took the cup, and gave thanks, eucharisteo – bless God – and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye, all of you, of it; For this is My blood of the new covenant, shed for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” [Matthew 26:27-29].
The next time we see our Lord will be when He comes in glory [Mark 13:6, Matthew 16:28]. And He promises here in the sacred ordinance that we will sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and there we shall drink this cup anew with our Lord in the heavenly kingdom [Matthew 26:29].
“And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them” [Matthew 26:27].
Our Lord, if ever we felt unworthy we feel so deeply thus when we bring back to memory the sacrifice of the Son of God for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. Why did He die for us? Who killed Him? We did. Our sins drove the nails through His hands [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Our sins pierced His side. Our sins pressed upon His brow the crown of thorns. Our sins laid Him low in the grave. He died for us. And our Master, in this moment of thanksgiving and praise for so great a love, search our souls and our hearts and know, Lord, that the whole issue, and dream and hope of our lives flows toward Thee. And our Lord, make a place for us in Thy kingdom. May there be room for one more sinner, Lord, even me. And we do thank Thee, and praise Thee, and love Thee for the gift of our salvation brought to vivid memory in this so red fruit of the vine, in Thy name, amen.
“This cup is the new promise, the new contract, the new covenant in My blood. This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:25].
Now we have that sweetest benedictory closing hymn in this sacred service. We join hands and sing, “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.”