Main Point: At the center of a healthy church is the blood of Christ shed for sinners and the body of Jesus Christ broken for sinners.
It was the summer of 2001, July 14, 2001 to be exact. On that day I married a fine young Christian woman named Angela Hannabas. I put a much saved for ring on her finger that declared to the world that she belonged to me. I was ecstatic. On that day my relationship with every woman on the globe changed. I became exclusively Angela’s and she became exclusively mine. Every year on our anniversary Angela and I celebrate. We celebrate by being together. We don’t celebrate simply by remembering that we once got married. We celebrate by being married. She and I share life together, we fellowship. She and I are united, we have become one flesh. And she and I enjoy an exclusive relationship. We will tolerate no others encroaching on our relationship.
I tell you all this because there is a unity in marriage that mirrors our unity with Christ. There is something greater going on around us than pews and creeds. Let’s look together at the big powerful things of life. Let’s look at our union with Christ.
Read 1 Corinthians 10:14-22
Of the many ways God has told us to live out our unity with Christ we should give serious attention to baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Our passage today focuses on the Lord’s Supper.
I. Understand the Lord’s Supper as an appropriation of Christ (vs16-17)
To appropriate something means to take hold of something or take possession of something. To appropriate something is to take ownership of that thing and enjoy its benefits. Imagine that I have a crisp 1,000 dollar bill sitting on my desk for you. It is for you and for no one else. You alone have rights to it. I will hold it exclusively for you. At that moment when you go to my office and pick up that 1,000 dollar bill you appropriate it. You take hold of it, you take possession of it, you are the owner, and you can enjoy the benefits of it. If you appropriate something you make it your own and you enjoy the benefits of ownership.
Before we look at what it means to appropriate Christ in the Lord’s Supper let’s talk about
- Avoiding errors in the Lord’s Supper
Many people through church history have celebrated the supper in inappropriate ways. Paul warns in chapter 11 that some people are weak, some are ill, and some have even died because of a misuse of the supper (11:27-32). 1 Corinthians 11:29 says, “anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” In essence we must avoid too much Jesus in the Lord’s Supper and not enough Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. Some believe more than what is taught while others do not believe what is taught.
The error of too much Jesus is the error of thinking that by eating the bread and drinking the wine the person is actually ingesting grace. It’s thinking your sins are forgiven because you eat the Lord’s Supper. Here a person thinks he is eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking the blood of Jesus. Ask this person why his sins are forgiven and he is likely to tell you, “because I took communion.” While this is a Roman Catholic error it is generally not a Southern Baptist error.
The Southern Baptist Lord’s Supper error is not seeing enough of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. For many of us, the Lord’s Supper is something that we do a few times a year because it is right; the Supper is nothing more than a reminder the cross happened. This would be the diploma view of the Lord’s Supper. A diploma doesn’t actively do anything for you it just hangs there on the wall or stays buried in a drawer. If you ate your diploma it wouldn’t make you any smarter. It’s just stands as a reminder that you completed the requirements to graduate. Some see the Lord’s Supper as an empty tradition; a hoop to jump through.
We must avoid the errors of too much Jesus and too little Jesus in the supper. Here’s the biblical way to view the Lord’s Supper
- Those who truly take the Lord’s Supper appropriate Christ
Look at verse 16 with me, “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?”
Let’s think like Jews for a moment. In the traditional Passover celebration there were four cups or in a sense four “toasts” during the meal. The third cup would generally involve a blessing that went like this, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.” This cup was also called the cup of redemption. The cup of redemption was the cup Jesus pointed to when he said, “this cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Jesus provides full atonement, complete redemption.
Jesus took up the Old Covenant Passover meal and gave it a deeper fuller meaning. Instead of merely celebrating redemption from slavery in Egypt we now celebrate redemption from slavery to sin. It is truly a cup of blessing. We thank God. But we do not thank God merely for grape juice. We thank God for redemption through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Instead of saying, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine” we could say something like this, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sent your Son to save us from our sins.”
We don’t bless the cup for providing our forgiveness anymore than an Old Covenant Jew blessed the cup for providing the wine. We bless God. We thank God for redemption through the blood of his Son. God makes us righteous. Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper cannot make us clean.
This cup of blessing that we bless is a participation in the blood of Christ. Notice the cup is not the blood of Christ. It is a participation in the blood of Christ. The cup is fellowship in the blood. The cup is sharing in the blood. It is koinoneia.
Verse 16 goes on to say the same thing about the bread, “The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”
Clearly we are not actually eating the body and drinking the blood. Clearly we are doing more than remembering. There is a fellowship, a sharing, or an actual participation that happens in the Supper.
Let me try to explain what’s going on in the Lord’s Supper using the marriage relationship. When a man and a woman are joined together by God they become one flesh. This does not mean they become Siamese twins. This means there is a fellowship, a unity, a participation with one another that is deeper than physical contact and this fellowship continues even when the husband and wife are apart. The man and woman are united.
Also in a marriage there are special times when a husband and wife come together to celebrate and enjoy their relationship. This often occurs on a couple’s anniversary. On an anniversary the couple doesn’t get married again and the couple does more than remember that a marriage ceremony was performed in the past. On an anniversary a couple celebrates their participation in one another by participating in one another. A couple celebrates their fellowship by fellowshipping with one another. On an anniversary a couple shares in the joys of the marriage covenant which was begun in the past and continues to this day. Celebrating an anniversary is like celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Supper is meant to be a time of renewed or particular fellowship with God through the shed blood and broken body of Christ. You are meant to appropriate what occurred 2,000 years ago on the cross. You are to own Christ’s blood poured out for your sins. You are to enjoy the blessings of Christ’s body broken for your sins. You do not crucify Christ afresh and you do more than remember that the crucifixion happened.
By faith you enjoy the blessings secured by Jesus 2,000 years ago. You participate in the blood. Your sins, though red as scarlet, are washed as white as snow. You are forgiven because of Christ crucified not because you drink the cup. The cup points you to Christ. It reminds you afresh of all that you have in Christ. You drink that cup and say, “I am forgiven because I participate in the blood of Christ.” You’re not drinking Jesus’ blood and you are doing more than remembering Jesus’ blood. In the Lord’s Supper you are celebrating in a pointed way what is true everyday: you have fellowship with God through Christ alone. You participate in the body. You believe that he was crushed for your iniquities. You were crucified with Christ. You were buried with Christ. All of the benefits enjoyed by Christ are enjoyed by you. Jesus’ fellowship with God becomes our fellowship with God.
The Lord’s Supper is a time for renewed and particular fellowship with God through atoning work of Christ. Our next point will help us along
II. Understand the altar as a doorway (vs18-21)
Look at verse 18, “Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?” Remember those peace offerings of Leviticus 3 and 7? The worshipper who had been cleansed of all his sin could also offer a peace offering. Part of that peace offering would be kept by the worshipper and eaten in the temple in the presence of God. This was the type of meal Moses and the elders of Israel enjoyed on the mountain in Exodus 24 when they beheld God, and ate and drank in his presence. The altar was the place of sacrifice for sins which also became the doorway for fellowship with God. The cleansed could eat the sacrifices in God’s presence.
This is true in a good sense and also in a bad sense. 1 Corinthians 10:7 recalls the time when the people did the same thing but with a false god; an idol made of gold. In a sinful act of idolatry the people offered sacrifices to the golden calf, sat down to eat and drink in the presence of the god, and rose up to play.
According to faith, the altar in the temple became a doorway to the presence of God. The worshipper could participate with God through a meal. But according to unbelief, the altar to the golden calf became a doorway to death. The altar is a doorway.
- Many false religions mimic the altar
Look at verses 19-20 with me.
The bread and the wine are not the main issue in the Lord’s Supper. The food is not ultimately the issue in idol worship. The food is nothing. The food is not the problem. In fact the idol itself is not the problem. The problem is the attempt to fellowship with that which is not God. Idolatry is the attempt to be with a god who is not there in order to gain a satisfaction possible in God alone.
In Corinth there would have been multiple temples where idols were given sacrifices. It was believed that the god then became the host and the worshippers joined that god in a meal. This is false religion mimicking the worship of the true God.
- The cross and not the table is our altar
Where was the sacrifice for our sins offered up? Was it at a table? Is it around this table? Christ our sacrifice was offered up for our sins on the cross. Understand this and it will keep you from many errors. The cross and not the table is our altar. Instead,
- The table is a God ordained way to appropriate Christ’s cross
The table is not the only way to enjoy the benefits of Christ. The table is a way to appropriate Christ’s cross.
Jesus said to the church in Laodicea, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me” (Rev 3:20). I do not want to limit your fellowship with Christ to the Lord’s Supper. We, who have become one spirit with Christ, fellowship continually with Christ. What I want to do is encourage you with the truth that the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is for us to fellowship with God through the shed blood and broken body of Christ. Through the sacrifice of Christ we enjoy a meal with God.
Eat that bread and drink that cup knowing that through Christ the goal of the Supper is fellowship with God. Appropriate Christ but not by ingesting him in the elements. Appropriate Christ by faith. Allow the bread to point you to Christ crucified so you can be with God. Allow the cup to point you to Christ’s blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins so you can enjoy a meal with God. Remember Christ’s death so that you can draw near to God. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. You get to the Father only through Him.
And our unity with Christ enjoyed in the Lord’s Supper has ramifications for how we live all of life.
III. We must live as the New Covenant people of God
Three things mark the New Covenant people of God: fellowship, unity, and exclusivity.
The Lord’s Supper is meant to be a time of fellowship with God through the shed blood and broken body of Christ. The Lord’s Supper is a God-ordained time for us to get away and work on our relationship with Him.
And your fellowship with God through Christ’s cross necessarily produces fellowship with one another. You don’t bless the cup alone. We bless it together as God’s people redeemed in Christ. You don’t break the bread alone. We break it together as God’s people redeemed in Christ. Our fellowship is in Christ Jesus. Our fellowship is with one another. And we are united.
Fellowship with God is secured through Christ’s cross. Fellowship with one another is secured through unity around Christ’s cross. Only Christ’s cross can produce unity making many wildly different people one unified people. Our focus must always be on Christ crucified for our sins; only Christ crucified will bring us together.
The one bread of the Lord’s Supper stands as an illustration of our unity around the cross. Verse 17 says, “we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Our center, our focus, our unity is Christ crucified. That we are united is illustrated in the one loaf.
Please listen. Christ crucified for sinners is the only sufficiently strong source of unity. Nothing but the gospel can bring together a multigenerational multicultural divergent group of people. No pastor or program or style of music or dress code or decorating scheme can truly unite us. If made THE focus, all of these things will drive away people who are not like you. Only Christ crucified for sinners can unite you to people different from you. At the center of a healthy church is the shed blood and broken body of Jesus Christ.
Those people who fellowship with God through Christ fellowship with one another. And those people who fellowship with one another do so because of the cross. The cross brings unity. But the cross also demands exclusivity.
- Exclusivity and solidarity
Look at verse 21, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.”
Your relationship with the Father through the Son is an exclusive relationship. The Lord’s Supper is like a wedding ring. It signals to everyone out there that you are unavailable. You are devoted to One and you are exclusive. Your allegiances are with Christ and with no one else.
You see, the food offered to idols wasn’t the issue. The wood or stone or metal object itself wasn’t the issue. The issue was that behind the idol stood a demonic force in direct opposition to God. To go to that idol’s temple was in essence sleeping with the enemy.
A Christian taking part in a meal offered to an idol was like a husband telling his wife that it’s okay for him to commit adultery with another woman because his heart isn’t with that other woman. He really loved his wife he just enjoyed the amusement of that other woman. You cannot enjoy the amusement of another woman and still remain faithful to your wife. There is exclusivity in the marriage relationship. There is exclusivity in your relationship with Christ.
So, your relationship with Christ must dictate all other relationships. You should do church, work, marriage, and family a certain way because of your exclusive relationship with Christ. Our danger is making an idol out of church, work, marriage, and family. We will be tempted to think we are good people because we are faithful to our families (Lk 14:26). This is idolatry. There is a demonic reality to this sinfulness. According to Ephesians 6:12 we must wrestle against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil. But know this
IV. It’s not the demons that you have to worry about
Look at verse 22, “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?”
- Are you stronger than God?
Can a man wrestle with God and win? Do you honestly think that God is okay with your idol worship? Do you honestly think your God is okay with you committing spiritual sexual immorality? God is jealous for his own glory. God will not allow his name to go on being mocked and abused like a small trinket. God is also jealous for his own people. He will not allow his people to whore after other gods.
God, illustrated through the life of Hosea, will go after his wife of adultery and redeem her. What are you whoring after? What are you panting after? Have you defiled yourself with idols? God wants you. God stands ready today to redeem you through the shed blood of Christ.
Here is the take home
- Flee idolatry
Look back at verse 14, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”
I wish all of us would sit down with a mature brother or sister and honestly work through the idols each one of us is tempted to worship. Since we’re not worshipping little wooden figures or golden statues we think we’re not worshipping idols but that is a lie.
What has your heart? Where does your mind drift to? What do you dream of? What do you get the most anxious about?
Flee from that idol and fly to Jesus. That thing will kill you but Christ will give you life. Pursuing a fruitful ministry, a biblical marriage, and faithful parenting can send you to hell. Look to Christ. Look to his blood poured out and his body broken so you can be with God.
As we sing our final hymn may God grant us clarity concerning our idols, forgiveness for worshipping them, and strength to destroy them. May we learn everyday to appropriate Christ.