In this 44th newsletter we will continue our study of Assembly Truth in 1 Corinthians, looking particularly at chapter 11 which takes up headship and the Lordís supper. We will begin with chapter 10:18 where we left off in issue #42.
ASSEMBLY TRUTH IN 1 CORINTHIANS 10:18 to 12:10
vv.18-22: The question of association is an important feature of Chapter 10 because some of the Corinthians were visiting idols temples, and the Lord was provoked to jealousy (v.22). Jealousy in the Bible means wanting to maintain what is rightfully oneís own; the opposite of envy. See Newsletter 21 on associations defiling and 1 Corinthians 8:4-6. Paul shows that there is a deep association with those with whom we break bread (v.16). The Word of God says, "Are not they who eat the sacrifice in communion (partner, partaker, fellowship) with the altar" (1 Cor.10:18). "I do not wish you to be in communion with demons. You cannot drink the Lordís cup and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the Lordís table and the table of demons" (1 Cor.10:20-21).
In this dramatic illustration coming between the meaning of the Lordís Supper in chapter 10:16 and its practice in chapter 11:23-32, we see that we are one with those with whom we break bread. We thus are in fellowship with, deeply associated with, the position (altar) taken by those who break bread with us. God used a worst-case example to illustrate the point. An idol is just a formed piece of inanimate material, nothing in itself (v.19). But demons are behind those idols. So if one associates with things sacrificed to idols by simply eating of those sacrifices, he is seen as in fellowship with the idolís altar or position, and is associating himself with demons who are behind the idols, even if he strongly repudiates what the idol stands for and would not want to have anything to do with demons (v.20)! We are responsible for the position and beliefs of those with whom we break bread! Note that Paul is not calling wrong ecclesiastical positions of Christians, the tables of demons. That is only a dramatic example to illustrate the principle! But the Lord doesnít want us to be careless as to proper assembly fellowship. Through Paul He has given His will in these matters. And what Paul wrote are "the commandments of the Lord" (1 Cor.14:37).
Verse 21 refers to the Lordís table, as we touched on in the last issue. We believe every believer is at the Lordís table positionally, but no Christian can be at the table of demons. The breaking of bread, the Lordís supper, is an expression of the Lordís table.
vv.23-33. These verses give us guidelines as to daily eating and drinking, being one bread and one body, and being constantly at the Lordís table. These following points maintain Godís rights and testimony among other people:
Now letís look at the verses themselves. "On the same night in which He was betrayed [delivered up, He] took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, Take, eat, This is My body which is broken [given] for you; do this in remembrance of Me. In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood: this do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim [announce] the Lordís death till He comes."
Whereas in Chapter 10 we had the behind-the-scenes meaning of breaking bread, here we have the up-front meaning. The breaking of bread is a remembrance of the Lord ó a "recalling of Me to mind" states a note in the JND Bible. It specially takes in the time and events of "the night in which He was delivered up," and specially His crucifixion when He "bore our sins in His own body on the tree" (1 Pet.2:24), and died. The loaf speaks of, is a picture of, His body which was willingly and in great love "given" for us (Eph.5:25-27). We canít understand how much He suffered in His body to satisfy a holy God as to our sins, but we certainly appreciate it! He satisfied a holy, sin-hating God. He was the propitiation (a God-satisfying sacrifice and Substitute) for our sins (1 Jn.2:2). Every believer can truly say He bore my sins (1 Pet.2:24). No unsaved person can say that, although the sacrifice of Christ was sufficient for all (1 Jn.2:2).
Furthermore, His blood was shed (poured out), His life given up. All depends on the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, on His blood shed, and the cup of wine pictures that fact. All those animal sacrifices in Israelís history only looked forward to the cross. And our sins are fully forgiven based on that same shed blood. We are blessed by the same blessing that Israel will in the future enjoy when their "new covenant" is in force ó the fact that the blood of the Lord Jesus was poured out at Calvary. How much there is to remember of Him and His work!
The breaking of bread as such doesnít go beyond the remembrance of the Lord in relation to His death. We now know Him as a risen and glorified Man in heaven, but we remember Him primarily at the cross, in relation to His death ó a fact we need to remember in the prayers we pray and the hymns we give out at the breaking of bread. In this remembrance we announce or preach or proclaim the Lordís death until He comes. It is a testimony to all who see it. The time is coming when this remembrance will cease because we then will be with Him.
Note also that the breaking of bread is a remembrance of Him ó of the Lord Jesus. Itís not a remembrance of the Father or of the Holy Spirit. Certainly not of us! Neither is it a remembrance of His remarkable life or any other event. Itís not a gospel or prayer meeting (we donít ask for our needs; we tell Him of our thoughts concerning Himself); nor is it for teaching. Priesthood, not gift, is evident. The hymns sung, our words of praise and worship, the Scriptures read, all should have a narrow focus of having Him before us, as led by the Holy Spirit, in relation to the night in which He was betrayed ó those unique few hours from the Garden to the Tomb. We do not wish to limit in any way the Holy Spirit, but the above appears to be the general force of Scripture. Check it for yourself!
vv.27-30: Here we have a serious warning. "Therefore, whosoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of [in respect to, JND] the body and blood of the Lord .... For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lordís body." The previously-discussed abuses at Corinth in their "love feast" before the Lordís Supper led to Godís judgment on many, including weakness, sickness and even premature death (v.30). The Lord has not laid out all the ways we can eat and drink in an unworthy manner, but it is a serious matter and we need to have right conduct and thoughts concerning these things. If I come before the Lord to remember Him with any unconfessed sin, any hatred of my brethren in Christ for whom Christ suffered and died because He loves them, any known disobedience to His Word, any wrong attitude, any plans that leave God out of the equation, Iím asking for trouble! This is very serious! We probably donít realize how much grief we may have caused ourselves by not carefully heeding this warning! See Luke 12:48. The next paragraph details the inspired solution to this serious problem.
v.28: "Let a man prove [Gk: dokimazo, meaning approval after testing, as with the testing of metals, Vine] himself and thus eat of the bread and drink of the cup." If there is sin in the believerís life, he or she is not to neglect to break bread, but rather, do what is necessary get approved before God and then eat as had been the previous practice. The word prove or approve carries us two steps beyond the word examine used in the KJV, NKJV and NASB. First, I am to examine myself before God by the light of Scripture. Secondly, if I find sin, I am to judge it and correct the situation, and thus be approved. Then I am to eat. Iím not to stay away because of hurt feelings or dislike of another person, etc., but continue to remember the Lord as had been my previous practice! This and surrounding verses leave no room for long-term grudges or sinful practices.
In the last Newsletter we saw something of this approval process in chapter 5:7-8. During the whole week, each of us should be in the value of the Passover (5:7) and figuratively should "keep the feast" of unleavened bread (5:8) since any "leaven" (sin) will hinder our fellowship with the Lord. In Israel, all leaven, a picture of sin, was put out of their houses for seven days (a week) after they ate the Passover (Ex.12:15-20). "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Cor.5:7). When we come to remember Him, we should come "approved" in light of having eaten the Passover and of a week lived with leaven (sin) judged and put out of our lives. This should be a week-by-week process. How it would purify us! It seemed appropriate to repeat the above here, since it is so important and so neglected.
Verse 28 is wrongly used by many. An argument for any-Christian reception is wrongly read into it! But there is not one word about reception. What we have here is the responsibility of each believer who is already breaking bread to personally and weekly approve himself or herself before partaking of the bread and wine. The chapter was written, not to individuals, but to the Corinthian assembly. The assembly was told what was the personal responsibility of each one in fellowship there, and what might be the consequences if that responsibility was treated in a careless manner. Although this verse has absolutely nothing to do with reception, it has everything to do with a happy and healthy Christian life.
vv.31-33: Self-judgment is what is called for; the alternate is Godís chastening as in Hebrews 12:5-13. God will not have a bad testimony and thus will child-train us as needed! But what we were careless about last week doesnít have to happen next week! Finally there were less-serious matters in the Corinthian assembly that still had to be set right, and Paul, with apostolic authority, planned to do that personally, as he also said in 2 Corinthians 13:1-3, 10.
vv.1-6: This chapterís theme is "spiritual gifts" (v.1) or "spiritual manifestations" (JND) ó that which is produced as a result of the gift. Christ has received gifts from God for men (Ps.68:18) and He gives the gifts by the Holy Spirit who distributes them severally as He wills. Gift is a spiritual ability beyond what is natural to man. There are "diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit" (v.4). These charisma (gifts involving grace or favor) are used as directed by the Holy Spirit. "There are differences of ministries (services) but the same Lord" (v.5). The Lord gives direction and controls the service of each believerís spiritual manifestation to fulfill His ultimate purpose. "And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all" (v.6). To meet the many needs, many "activities" are needed as directed by God. God is in charge of what we do: He spiritually exercises us to do certain things. So the entire Trinity is involved in the spiritual operations of the members of the Church of God. Many of these gifts are used in connection with the assembly, but when the local assembly is "in assembly," gifts are hidden, but the Holy Spirit (as we shall see) uses whomsoever He wills to perform the functions He wants performed.
vv.7-10: The "manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one (not to a few select clergymen) for the profit of all" (v.7). The Holy Spirit sovereignly operates in the life of every Christian so the power He gives can be used to the profit of those who are touched by the personís service. The Holy Spirit doesnít look on the outward appearance or the eloquence of the natural man, but on the gift or manifestation He gives ó an ability that makes each of us a potential powerhouse in serving our Lord. I say potential because we may fail to use what He has given us; in fact, the almost-universal clergy-laity system discourages the use by the laity ó what most of us would be if we were in the denominational systems ó of at least the full manifestation of many gifts. The system replaces the Holy Spirit as director of gifts, and the system tends to limit the widespread use of gift, making human ordination, seminary training, and often human vote the deciding factor in who will pray, preach and worship.
Some have a divinely-given "word of wisdom." They have a unique ability to use knowledge aright. They, if walking close to the Lord, are uniquely balanced in what they say and do. Others have "a word of knowledge through the same Spirit." Such have a divinely-given knowledge of what Scripture says and are able to express it in a most helpful way as needed. Others have faith to step out and act for God when perhaps most are too timid, too afraid of the unknown.
Then in verses 9-10 we have a number of gifts or manifestations of the Spirit which were for the early Church to authenticate the Word of God and those who carried the message. We believe those so-called "sign gifts" have run their course (13:8). "Tongues shall cease" (Greek pauo = come to an end). God does divinely heal when it is His will, but there are no longer people with the spiritual gift (charisma) of healing. But there are satanic imitations of that gift by self-serving people. Note that even the Apostle Paul could no longer heal near the end of his life: he left a dear friend sick at Miletus (2 Tim.4:20). Neither are there people with the gift of miracles, although again, God can and does work miracles today. Prophecy is telling-forth Godís Word which meets a particular need at a particular time. God gave some the gift of discerning the spirits ó if they were of God or of Satan. Others had the gift of tongues; others could translate tongues. In Scripture tongues are always a foreign language. We will see this in more detail in chapter 14.
We will begin the next Newsletter with verse 11 of chapter 12, the Lord willing.