Read 1 Cor 10:14-22
Paul talks at length about the Lord’s Supper in chapter 11, which is the primary text that is read whenever this ordinance is observed, but here in chapter 10, he introduces the topic of Communion. And the context is idolatry. The point being, can you partake in the Lord’s Supper while still bowing down before an idol? An idol doesn’t have to be a wooden statue or a piece of marble. If you are a non-believer, there are things in your life that you are still bowing down to, whether it be ambition or money or respect or self-glorification, there is something other than Jesus Christ that you are placing at the center of your heart. We’ll be partaking in the Lord’s Supper in a moment and if Christ is not the most important person in your life and His death on the cross means nothing to you, then why would you partake in the Lord’s Supper? Because it would be a meaningless act.
But even for Christians, because here Paul is speaking to Christians, even Christians can look and act like Christ is at the center, but if you are honest, he’s not. And if Christ is not your Lord and Savior whom you are regularly bowing down before, then you are devaluing the meaning of this ordinance by treating Christianity like one of many options. Where you spend your time, where your mind gravitates toward, that’s your idol. Because it’s what you worship. You bow down to the god of self, or the god of grades, or you indulge in your bitterness, or the god of parental approval, or kids can be your god, or work, and oh, by the way, you bow down to Jesus as well. Don’t do it. Don’t partake if you know you are bowing down to other idols.
Don’t partake if you are unrepentant about sin. If you do come forward and you know you are in blatant sin and you haven’t repented and you have absolutely no intention of changing your behavior, don’t trivialize this ordinance. Don’t trivialize what Christ did for you by partaking with that kind of heart that has one foot on Christ and the other foot in the world. Don’t do it.
It’s important to check our hearts. During the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and it says in the gospels, that he gave thanks and then broke it. He broke the bread having first given thanks. And Paul picks up on that language and refers to the cup in v16 as the “cup of thanksgiving.” Before you come forward, check your heart. Are you thankful for the blood that Christ shed for you on the cross? When is the last time you gave thanksgiving for what Christ did? I mean true thanksgiving. Not a token thanksgiving, not a nod of thanksgiving. True, sincere thanksgiving.
When was the last time? Maybe Good Friday? Or the last time we observed Lord’s Supper in the first week of March? Last year? Thanksgiving should be overflowing from every believer’s life. We’re all sinners. We should have been cast off, judged, separated from God for eternity. Yet, through Jesus, we have a way to be reconciled to God. And so of course, it should be called a cup of thanksgiving. We give thanksgiving. Every time we open our mouths, thanksgiving should come out. If you are not thankful and you still decide to partake in the Lord’s Supper, then you are treating this ordinance like a meaningless ritual. Like brushing your teeth in the morning. You do it and you don’t even think about it. You are just on auto-pilot. Don’t treat Communion like an empty ritual. Examine your heart. Are you thankful?
Lastly, let’s read v17.
17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
Back in Paul’s day, the Christians would gather often in each other’s homes and share a meal. It was an intimate dinner among believers. And every time they gathered, they observed the Lord’s Supper. And if it was a small enough group of 10-20 people in a house church, they could all share one loaf, a single loaf. And they tore it in pieces and it reminded them that we who are many, are one body. Why? Second half of v17 – “for we all partake of the one loaf.” They were reminded that they were one because they ate from a single loaf of bread.
One loaf, we, who are many, are one body. And of course, this wording is used elsewhere by Paul in 1 Cor 12 and Rom 12 to describe the local church. This means, we partake in the Lord’s Supper as one body, one team. Team Jesus. He’s the captain. We’re all players. Some are in the game, some are on the bench, but we are all on Team Jesus. We participate, we are participants, players on one team.
Today, you may be a Christian, but you are a free agent. You are loyal to Jesus, but you are not part of a team. You are on your own. You have your side endorsement deals, but you don’t have a team jersey to put on night in and night out. If this is you, you are welcome to come forward and partake to demonstrate your union with the universal body of Christ. But before you come forward, I ask you to consider joining a team. Join this church. Join another church, but it’s important for you to be committed somewhere. Our membership classes will begin today after service for anyone who is interested in joining this church.
Heed Paul’s warning in 1 Cor 11:29 —
29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
Treating the Lord’s Supper as purely an act of personal devotion and not recognizing and being committed to the body of the Lord is like eating and drinking judgment on oneself. That’s a scary proposition. Don’t do it.
Although nowadays we pick up a piece of cracker from a plate, remember the imagery of the loaf. You and I are supposed to take a single loaf and tear off a piece and then pass it to the brother or sister next to you to show in a concrete way that we’re one body. Those who tore off a piece, we are saying to one another, we’re in this together. During times of rejoicing, we’re in this together. During times of suffering and sadness, we’re in this together. We’re committed to one another through thick and thin.