April 6th, 1980 @ 7:30 PM
1 Corinthians 10:14-22
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 10:14-22
4-6-80 7:30 p.m.
It is a gladness for us here in the First Baptist Church of Dallas to welcome the thousands and thousands of you who are listening to this service on the radio station of our Bible Institute, on KCBI, and on the great radio station of the Southwest, KRLD. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Koinonia. It is a message in keeping with the celebration and the participation in our Lord’s Supper, which this year – one of the most unusual times that I can remember – falls upon Easter Sunday night. In our dear church, we observe the Lord’s Supper once a month. Usually we seek at least to try to observe the memorial on the first Sunday of the month. In one of those Sundays out of a quarter, we observe it in the morning for the sake of the people who cannot get out well at night. But that is just an adjustment in deference to them, because it is a supper and a supper is eaten at night. And the Lord’s Supper was memorialized, instituted at night, and I love to observe it at night; that is when it ought to be observed. But once a quarter we observe it at a morning hour for those who cannot well get out at night. But this year, the first Sunday fell upon Easter Sunday, today, and tonight we are breaking bread and sharing the cup together.
So the message tonight is a presentation of a little facet, by no means exhaustive, a little facet of the deep spiritual import, significance, meaning of this holy memorial. Now, in your Bible we turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 10; 1 Corinthians chapter 10. In our Criswell Study Bible, it’s page 1,354. One of these days we will not even announce where it is in the text; we will just announce the number, and everybody would automatically turn to the page, 1 Corinthians 11. We are going to read verses 14 to 22; 1 Corinthians 10. First Corinthians 10, verses 14 to 22; now having found the place, all of us reading out loud together. First Corinthians chapter 10, verses 14 to 22, now together out loud:
Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
What say I then? That the idol is anything, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?
But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.
Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?
[1 Corinthians 10:14-22]
Now, the context of that passage was provoked in the answer of the apostle to the problem that the Corinthian church faced over idolatry. It is hard for us to realize, all of us who live in the day of our Christian liberation from heathenism, it is hard for us to realize that the whole ancient world was given completely to idolatry. When Paul walked through the streets of Athens, there were so many idols that he found one, he said, that was dedicated to an unknown God [Acts 17:23], lest they should have overlooked one. It has been said that there were more idols in Athens than there were men. It has been estimated that there are more than three hundred million idols in India today. The whole culture and the whole framework of life in that time was built around idolatry. If you belonged to a craft, for example, you were a carpenter or you were a stonemason, why, the whole craft was centered around some patron god, and it was an idolatrous organization. Well, the whole framework of life, the course of life, in that day was built around idolatry.
Now one of the things that characterized idol worship was the sacrifice. That was universal. And a sacrifice is, for the most part, seems so to me, a shared meal. It was so in the Old Testament. It was so universally in the worship of idols; it was a shared meal. You offered a sacrifice, a victim, and some of it was given to the priest, some of it was burned for the lord god that they were worshipping, he calls them "demons," "devils," and then some of it, most of it, was eaten by the worshipper. It was a shared meal. When people object to eating at the church – and I have had them leave this church because we ate down here – I say to them, "You have no understanding at all of the religion of our fathers." In the Old Testament, the sacrifice was a meal that the people ate, mostly in the sacred precincts of the temple or the tabernacle. That’s what it was. And in the New Testament, the church gathered together in their agape, their love feasts, agape, love, their love feasts [Jude 1:12]. And when the church meets together and breaks bread together, it is being true to the standard and the custom of the Old Testament and the New Testament. And it’s a beautiful thing to do. God invented eating, and He must like it. When we get to heaven, we’re going to sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and we’re going to eat [Revelation 19:6-9]. And I’m in favor of that. The worst thing in the world is when these doctors come along and give you a diet and say, "Now, you can’t eat this, and you can’t eat that, and you can’t eat the other," and when you look at the doctor’s diet, anything that’s good, that’s proscribed, that’s off the list. Well, in heaven, it’s not going to be that way; we’re going to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God and at the banquet table of the Lord, and we’re going to have the most beautiful and precious time forever, world without end. Well anyway, that’s why this passage.
Now, we don’t have time even to begin to discuss all of the intimacies and intricacies that accrue out of Paul’s discussion of their idol worship and meat offered to idols. But one facet of it we have a moment to mention, and that is this beautiful and wonderful word that the apostle says about us who share in this sacrifice by which the Lord has redeemed us from our sins and made us beloved children of our heavenly Father. So he speaks of it in these beautiful, precious, meaningful words: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the koinōnia of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the koinōnia of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread" [1 Corinthians 10:16-17]. In this Criswell Study Bible, there is a note down here on that: "Communion is a translation of the word koinōnia, which is usually rendered ‘fellowship.’ ‘Fellowship’ refers to that which is held in common. The Christian’s fellowship is the fellowship of the cleansing blood and united body of Christ." Now I would add also to that another word: koinōnia not only is translated "communion" and not only translated "fellowship," but sometimes is translated "participation": the koinōnia, the communion of the body and blood of our Lord. And that is our sermon message tonight.
First of all, when we come to the Lord’s Table in participation, in fellowship, in communion, it is first of all a confession on our part. And the confession is that, "I am a lost and unworthy sinner." Sometimes people who are not discerning will misinterpret and misread the discussion of our Lord in the next chapter, concerning eating and drinking unworthily. "Whosoever," Paul writes in chapter 11, verse 27:
Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat . . . so let him drink . . . For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation . . .
The Greek word is "condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body" [1 Corinthians 11:27-29]. And because of the almost awesome way that the apostle writes about that, he says, "Because you have not properly and worthily discerned the Lord’s body in this holy memorial, some of you in Corinth are sick, and some of you have died" [1 Corinthians 11:29-30]. So some of our people once in a while, reading that passage, will say, "I tremble before the Lord, for I am not worthy." No one of us is. What the apostle is writing about is the manner and the way in which we approach this holy and heavenly manna and this crushed fruit of the vine; for it represents and has in it the presence of our dear Lord.
Now, that’s why, from the beginning of my pastoral work and assignment here in the church, I have prayed and asked God to help us to observe this memorial in a worthy way. For the Greek, as the English, is an adverb, "Whosoever eats and drinks unworthily, drinks condemnation, eats condemnation to himself, not discerning, not reverently bowing in holy awe before the sacrifice of the body and blood of our Lord" [1 Corinthians 11:29]. What we need to do in every way that is possible is to observe the Lord’s Supper in a beautiful and reverent and holy and spiritual way. And anything, and in any way that we could add to that reverence and to that holiness and to that worthiliness, we ought to do it.
Now, our coming to the Lord in our examining ourselves is in nowise concerned with that "worthiness"; it’s an adverb, it refers to the way in which we observe the Lord’s Supper [1 Corinthians 11:28]. But for us, for us, our coming is a confession of our need of a Savior. I am a lost and undone sinner, and I need a Savior, and I have found that Savior in the blessed Jesus. And that’s why we come. Compared to others, we may be very fine, most excellently acceptable, we may be good; but compared to the holiness and righteousness of God, we all fall short, not one of us is worthy [Romans 3:23]. That’s why we come: we are lost sinners.
I one time, holding a revival meeting in a large country church in Kentucky, I was eating dinner in one of those family homes that was spacious, and they had a what you would almost call a beautiful Kentucky plantation; and right across the table from me, where I sat with the family eating dinner, was a hired hand. So I talked to him across the table, and I asked him if he was a Christian. And the young fellow replied, in his unchaste English, he replied to me very frankly and openly and looking at me straight in the face, he said, "No sir, I ain’t no Christian. I am a lost sinner."
Well, I said to him, I said, "Son, I’m not a prophet, but I can tell you this: before these days are done, you’re going to be saved. God’s going to save you." The man who confesses that he is a lost sinner is nigh to the kingdom of God. It’s the man who says that he’s good, and righteous, and proud, and unbending, that’s the man that is hard to reach. But the man who confesses that he is a sinner, that he’s lost, that he needs a Savior, that man is easily won to the Lord. And that is the first characteristic of us who come to the table of our Savior: our participation, our presence, our approaching is a confession that we are lost sinners, and we find our Savior all sufficient in His provision for our redemption, and forgiveness, and salvation [2 Timothy 1:12].
All right, number two: not only in my coming to the Lord’s Table is it a confession that I am a sinner and I need a Savior [Ephesians 2:12], it is secondly, when I approach the table of the Lord, it is a trusting acceptance of the provision the blessed Savior has made for me, that I might be saved. Our Lord spoke, in the twenty-sixth chapter of Matthew, in the institution of the Supper, He said, "This is My blood of the new promise, of the new covenant, of the new testament, shed for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:28]. And when I come to the Lord, it is a trusting acceptance of the provision that the Lord has made that I might be washed, and clean, and cleansed, and saved.
A magnificent picture of that the Lord spoke of in John 3:14. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up": raised high on a cross, between heaven and earth, "That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" [John 3:14-15]. And the story on which the Lord based that imagery is one that we’re all familiar with in the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament. Because of the sins of the people, God sent fiery serpents among them, and the little tenuous, venomous beasts bit the people, and those who were bitten by the serpents died. And as the serpents were everywhere and the people were dying, Moses cried to the Lord; and the Lord said, "Make a serpent of brass, and raise it in the midst of the camp; and it shall be that whosoever looks shall live" [Numbers 21:6-9]. There are three things involved in that. That’s God’s way of redemption and forgiveness and salvation. There are three things in it. When the man looked, it was a confession of his need; he was dying. Second: when he looked, it was a confession of his faith in God. And third: it was an expectancy that God would heal him, just looking. These that were deeply hurt and dying could do no more, and certainly the Lord could not have asked less. And the Lord used that as a type and a figure of the salvation by which God hath reached down and healed us.
There is life for a look at the Crucified One,
There is life at this moment for thee;
Then look, sinner, look unto Him,
Who was nailed to the tree.
["There Is Life for a Look at the Crucified One," Amelia M. Hull]
That is the second thing that we do when we come to the Lord’s Table: it is a trusting acceptance of the provision Jesus has made, that we might be saved. It is looking in faith to the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus [Isaiah 45:22; Acts 16:30-31; Ephesians 2:8].
And third: it is a koinōnia; it is a communion. I don’t think there is a more beautiful symbolism in the Bible than the one that Paul writes here: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of our Lord? And the bread that we break, is it not the communion of the body of our Lord?" [1 Corinthians 10:16]. In order for us to enter into that, we have to go back to that day in which they lived, and concerning which I sought a description at the beginning of this message. The sacrifice was a shared participation, a communion between the worshipper and the god. That’s what it was. And when in the Old Testament the Israelite approached the great and high and Holy Jehovah, he did so on the basis of sacrifice. The victim was tied to the altar, to the horns of the altar, and the sinner put his hand over the head of the victim and confessed there his sins [Leviticus 1:4, 4:27-29]. Then the sacrificial animal was slain, and the blood was poured out at the base of the altar [Leviticus 1:5, 4:30]. Then it became a shared meal between God, and the priest, and the worshipper. On the basis of sacrifice, of shed blood, of a life forfeited, sin paid for, the sinner approaches God and they are in fellowship, in koinōnia, in communion, in participation together, the lost man and the great and high God [1 John 1:7].
It is the same and identical imagery in the New Testament. It is on the basis of sacrifice that we approach the great and Holy God. It is in the name, and in the mercy, and in the love, and in the grace, and in the sacrifice, and in the poured-out crimson of the life of our Lord that we have fellowship with God [1 John 1:7]. Thus in the communion, "This is His body, and this is His blood" [1 Corinthians 10:16], and we share it together with our Lord. "Drink ye all of it, and all of you partake of this broken bread" [Matthew 26:26-27]. Then he adds one other thing: he says that this koinōnia is in the fellowship and the communion of the church, the body of Christ. "For we, being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread" [1 Corinthians 10:16-17]. All of us in the church are fellow participants and fellow communionists in the love and grace of our dear Lord. The cement that binds us together, like the bricks that build this building, is the love and grace of the blessed Jesus. And in that body, we all participate, we have a part; we are somebody in God’s sight.
To the world, and to most of the world, we’re nothing; like grains of sand, like an autumnal leaf that falls to the ground. Whether we live or whether we die, doesn’t matter to the world at all. But to Jesus, we are somebody; somebody loved, somebody dear, somebody wanted, somebody prayed for, died for. If I could define the Christian faith as any one thing above anything else, I would call it "the religion of the one lost sheep [Luke 15:3-7], and the one lost coin [Luke 15:8-10], and the one lost boy" [Luke 15:11-32]. We are somebody in God’s sight. And in that communion, in that fellowship, we all belong to the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 10:16-17].
I don’t know of anything more beautiful in typifying that than a scene in the Anglican Church in England; and the great, world famous, British adored Duke of Wellington was kneeling at the chancel altar rail to receive the communion. And as the Duke of Wellington knelt at the altar rail to receive, according to Anglican custom, the communion from the hands of the officiating priest, there knelt by his side, there came and knelt by his side a poor, ragged man. And when he did so, the clergyman tapped him on the shoulder and said to him, "Sir, you can’t kneel there. You are next to the great Duke of Wellington. Now you move away." And the Duke overheard what the Anglican clergyman said, and the Duke replied, he said, "Sir, leave him alone. Leave him alone. We’re all the same here, for the ground is level at the cross."
In God’s sight, there are no big and little, no famous and infamous, no near and far; in God’s sight, we’re all one, we’re all loved, we’re all brothers and sisters in the koinonia, in the fellowship, in the communion, in the participation of the great, glorious goodnesses of God vouchsafed to us in Christ Jesus. That’s what he says, and that’s what he means: "For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one loaf" [1 Corinthians 10:16-17].
My brother, if that doesn’t make you glad, I don’t know what could – what God hath done for us, and what Jesus means to us, and how much in Him we come to love one another. Now for the moment, may we stand together?
Our Lord, when we think of the sacrifice of Jesus for us [1 Corinthians 15:3], we are so deeply humbled. Could it be that our Lord on the tree laid down His life for me? [1 Peter 2:24]. Oh, such amazing grace, such abounding love, such illimitable remembrance and sympathy and pity; Lord, Lord, if ever we loved Thee, we love Thee now. And our Master, tonight, may God touch the heart, woo to Himself, and bring into the fellowship of God’s kingdom and this dear church these whom the Holy Spirit woos and wins and invites tonight. And for the answered prayer and these who shall respond, we shall love Thee forever. In Christ our dear Lord, amen.
Now our ministers will be here, and while we pray and while we sing and while we wait, in this balcony round, somebody you, in the press of people on this lower floor, a family you, a couple, as God shall say the word, answer with your life: "Pastor, tonight I take the Lord Jesus as my personal Savior," or "Tonight, we’re putting our lives in the communion and the fellowship of this dear church." Out of the balcony, down one of those stairways, and there’s time and to spare, on this lower floor, into one of the aisles and down here to the front, "Pastor, we are answering God’s call, and here we stand." Make the decision now in your heart. And in a moment when we sing, into that aisle and down to the front, do it now, make it now, while we pray, while we wait, and while we sing.