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Home The Light Articles from 1999 1 Corinthians 10:15-17

1 Corinthians 10:15-17

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1 Corinthians 10:15-17

In 1 Corinthians 10:15-17 Paul uses the Lord's Supper as his main example to support his teaching against idolatry. In idolatry as well as in the Lord's Supper there is an association with the object worshipped; hence, Paul uses the Lord's Supper as an example because of this parallel truth. Careful attention should be given to verses 16 and 17; "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."

Notice Paul's use of "we" in verses 16 and 17. He uses it four times in these two verses. From this usage at least two truths are borne out. First, all believers are involved in the physical act of breaking the bread each for himself, thus it is not an ultra special act of breaking performed by the one serving at the table. This brings out the idea that each believer is significant in the body of Christ. The Lord's Supper has a strong aspect of one-ness to it. The idea here is that as a body of believers we are one. The Lord's Supper pictures this unity in that it utilizes one loaf of bread, and one cup of fruit of the vine.

Second, the participation in one loaf of bread and one cup of fruit of the vine was the common practice for the early church. Paul assumes the Corinthians were consistent in practicing this aspect of oneness in the Lord's Supper, and uses it to reason against idolatry. It is difficult to see how Paul could argue in this way if the early church was not consistent in this practice. Furthermore, to use it as an illustration in support of his argument against idolatry would hardly have been convincing to the Corinthians had they not actually been practicing it on a regular basis.

Moving back to the first point, notice that Paul makes reference to the cup. The singularity of the cup is what is stressed here. Clearly there was but one cup at the assem-bly of which all partook.

Also notice that the bread is likewise singular in verse 16. Paul explains this singu-larity of the bread in verse 17 by saying, "Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf." In this verse we begin to understand why he stresses the oneness motif of the cup and loaf of bread. In this passage, he uses one cup and one loaf, showing that together they represent the oneness of the body of Christ. Thus, it is important that these elements are undivided before the body. Neither the cup of fruit of the vine nor the loaf of unleavened bread must be divided prior to the dividing as each partakes. Certainly not for convenience. To do so for any reason destroys the picture of unity that Paul paints in this passage. Each believer must see the loaf as one loaf, not many pieces. Many pieces picture division rather than unity. The believer himself is to drink his part from the cup and to break his part from the loaf. As he takes his part, he has individually identified with the loaf. What a blessing, what a reminder, what a sermon against division.

In most churches today, the aspect of unity is lost in the Lord's Supper. This is because the one loaf and one cup are replaced by crackers and grape juice which are already broken and divided-up for the body, thus portraying disunity. If 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 is to have any meaning at all for us today, we likewise must follow the pattern, otherwise the picture of unity alluded to in our text is lost. —Adapted

 

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