Communion Table and Counterfeit; Blood of Christ; 1 Cor 10:14-22
Having given those examples Paul comes back to the main issue in verse 14. The main issue in verse 14 seems to suggest that by now he recognizes that the underlying issue isn't eating the meat down at the temple. It isn't the fact that they couldn't get meat anywhere else, it was that they were going to the temple and getting the meat but they were still attached to all of the practices associated with idolatry. What often happens in the life of the believer is that whenever he is challenged to give up something that is a legitimate right in life and he goes into some sort of reaction, and he complains and gripes and grumbles about it, often what out is being pointed out by the Lord through the Holy Spirit is that there is some area of the sin nature that has not been dealt with and has some sort of habit pattern that is being challenged by giving up a legitimate right. The trouble with this is ti often becomes a staging area for later sin nature revolt, reversionism, and as Paul is going to point out in this section from verses 14-22, it can become a staging area for demon influence in the life of the believer. Whenever we have an area of sin nature that the Holy Spirit is dealing with and we refuse to acknowledge it, refuse to face it, refuse to deal with it, and we continue to rationalize it, and in fact try to justify its existence, then that can become a toe-hold in our life for doctrines of demons and demon influence where the believer is shipwrecked in his spiritual growth and he actually becomes a disciple of the devil. This is the warning that Paul is giving in verse 14. What he recognizes is that the Corinthians have such a reaction to his telling them to be willing to give up the meat that has been offered down at the temple that he realizes that there is something behind this, it is not simply a matter of the meat, it a matter of the fact that they are still attracted to the idolatry.
This is the problem of syncretism and it continues to be a problem for believers throughout the church age. That is, that we are born in a system dominated by human viewpoint which the Bible calls worldliness. Worldliness is a translation of the Greek word KOSMOS [kosmoj] which we often refer to as simply comic thinking because we are thinking like the devil. The key characteristic of Lucifer's thinking at the time of his fall is arrogance, and arrogance always pushes its focus on self. Self is the orientation of arrogance. We get into self-absorption where we focus on our own rights, our own abilities or whatever is going on in our own lives, and as we get into self-absorption we always move from there to into self-indulgence where we start justifying giving in to whatever the self craves. Then we move from self-indulgence to self-justification and we convince ourselves that our behaviour is totally justified. Then we get into self-deception and we get into this terrible cycle of arrogance skills, moving from self-deception. Self-indulgence, self-justification, and the cycle continues.
Human viewpoint is always in contrast to divine viewpoint which is the thinking of Christ. The thinking of Christ is given to us in the Scriptures, and the role and purpose of the believer in spiritual growth is to have his thinking renovated (Romans 12:2). We are to be completely transformed. We are not to be conformed to this world but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our thinking, so we have to overhaul our thinking from the ground up. Human viewpoint characterizes the thinking of most of us in ways that we don't even imagine because this almost like the air we breathe in the culture around us. We are brainwashed with human viewpoint thinking from the moment we are born, and we are each born with a sin nature which is like a radio that is tuned to the wave-length of human viewpoint thinking. So that receptor in our sin nature just sucks up human viewpoint from day one and continues dominate, and worldliness provides the rationales and the justification for sin nature behaviour, whether it is operating in the area of weakness or in the area of strength. The tendency of the sin nature and the tendency of carnality is to resist the renovation of our thinking. The tendency of the sin nature is to continuously resist Bible doctrine, and so what happens is people try to take a human viewpoint and accommodate it to divine viewpoint and merge the two together, and this is what is called syncretism. It is trying to have your cake and eat it too. This was the problem in Corinth. They were still holding on to old practices that were enjoyable, that appealed to the sin nature, that were fun, and they did not want to make a clean break with the old pagan practices. So Paul commands them in verse 14.
1 Corinthians 10:14 NASB "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry." He recognizes that this is the root problem. It is not a problem of just eating meat, it is a problem of the fact that they are still worshipping the old gods and still giving credence to the idolatrous system practiced in the temple.
1 Corinthians 10:15 NASB "I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say." Wisdom here indicates that they have doctrine in the soul. He is speaking to them theoretically as if they have doctrine in their soul and should be able to, because of the fact that they are believers and because of what they have been taught in the past, think objectively about his rebuke. This is one of the great problems that people have, That is, whenever they are challenged, whenever somebody tries to correct us when we have slipped into bad behaviour, there is always the tendency to rationalization, to justification, to some sort of defence mechanism to validate our behaviour. So Paul says right up front that this is a real test as to how they were going to handle this correction. How you handle correction is a real sign of your maturity and your objectivity. Paul says he is going to speak to the Corinthians, he is going to straighten them out, challenge them with some problems, and he says, "You are wise, you have the truth, you should be able to handle this like a mature person, si judge for yourselves what I have to say." In other words, he is telling them to respond to what he says like a mature person and don't respond in defensiveness, subjectivity and emotionalism and trying to justify their behaviour.
Then he starts to get into the principle: 1 Corinthians 10:16 NASB "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?" Here he is going to draw an analogy between the Lord's table and a counterfeit communion table which is the devil's communions table, and that is the communion with the demons involved in idolatrous worship. He is going to say that there is no partnership between the believer who through positional truth participated in the death of Christ on the cross and the idolater who goes down to the temple. In chapter 11 Paul is going to come back to this subject of the Lord's table. Remember that the one thing that runs through all this section has to do with eating. The reason he mentions the cup first here is that in the sanctification of the meat in the temple they would lift up the wine and lift up the meat and they would offer it to the gods. So this is a part of the ceremony that would take place in the temple where the cup would come first. So here he takes the cup and he looks at it as the cup of blessing. This is a figure of speech. The cup here is used as a symbol or a metaphor of that which it contains, and what it contains is blessing. The cup is blessing to the believer even though it was judgment to the Lord. The Lord said to Peter, "You cannot take this cup which I am going to drink." The cup that He was going to drink was the judgment for our sins, and metaphorically speaking the cup contained all the sins of the world. So His judgment is blessing to us because He bore the penalty for our sins on the cross we, then, can be blessed freely and graciously and have eternal life because of all that he did for us on the cross. So the cup of blessing is the cup that contains blessing for the believer, and we bless it, not in the sense that we are the source of blessing but blessing has to do with praise and we praise the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Then Paul says of the cup, "Is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?" The word translated "communion" here is the Greek word KOINONIA [koinwnia], and this is a key word in this section. KOINONIA has to do with fellowship, with sharing something, with partnership. So, "Is it not the sharing of the blood of Christ?" We have to understand what it is to share the blood of Christ, and to do that we have to understand something about what the Scripture teaches about the blood of Christ. But first we need to understand a few things about the background of the Eucharist table—which is probably the best term to use because it focuses on giving thanks—and the whole concept of what takes place at communion.
There are basically three views on communion. The Roman Catholic view is called transubstantiation. This really goes back to the whole problem of syncretism once again. What happened in the early church is that when people were saved out of a Greek culture and came into the church they brought all of this Greek philosophical baggage with them in terms of their thinking, and rather than exchanging their old forms of thinking for divine viewpoint they tried to interpret the Bible in terms of their previously established human viewpoint categories. They used the categories of Greek philosophy to interpret the Bible. This is how the whole concept of transubstantiation came into practice. On one hand you have the cup and on the other hand the bread. The cup was filled with wine, and in the early church it was wine. Some people try to make an argument that wine involved fermentation, fermentation involves yeast, and leaven in the Scriptures is a picture of sin, and so the cup could not be alcoholic. Well there is a false reasoning there. That is, the bread could not have leaven because the bread represents the body of Christ or the person of Christ. It could not be leaven because the bread was to picture the sinlessness or the impeccability of Jesus Christ. The cup represents His death, the payment for sin, and from the time of the Exodus it was always celebrated with an alcoholic wine. The fermentation of the wine was never considered to be an issue, and never considered to be yeast or leaven by the Jews. There are certain characteristics of the wine. First of all colour; they would use a good red wine. Then there was the fact that they would use a certain quantity, a cupful. It was a liquid. So there are various attributes to that wine. But in Greek thought what underlies all the attributes of something, something you can't see, is what was called the basic substance of the wine. It is the same thing with the bread. It might be white ion colour. There would be a certain quantity or amount of the bread. It would have a certain size, dimensions. All of this you could say were the attributes of that piece of bread. But underneath all of that was a substance that you don't see; all you see is the various attributes that would go along with it. In transubstantiation [tran = Latin for change; substantiation = substance] there was a change of the substance, so that the qualities, the attributes, didn't change but that underlying substance has been changed into the literal blood and body of Christ. That is a mystical concept with various theological problems, because of that there developed what became know as the Mass where you have the sacrifice again and again and again of Christ, and there is a rejection by Roman Catholics of the all-sufficient work of Christ on the cross.
In the Reformation Luther rejected that but he didn't do much better. He came up with a view called consubstantiation. Con is a preposition meaning with, and the substance doesn't change, but the body and the blood of Christ is still there. The problem with both of these views is that the humanity of Jesus Christ must be localized today; it is in one place. He ascended in His human body, which he still has (His resurrection body), into haven and is currently seated at the right hand of God the Father. You do not have His human body showing up at every communion service across the world every time communion is performed.
Then among the reformers, i.e. the followers of John Calvin, there were two views that were set forth. The first was the view of Calvin himself which was a view that the purpose of the Lord's table was spiritual; there was a spiritual presence of the Lord there. This is how doctrine developed, or how in history our understanding of doctrine developed, and it is so important to understand that concept. Luther made a huge step when he separated from the Roman Catholic church and understood the principle of justification by faith alone in Christ alone, but in many other areas of doctrine Luther didn't do so well. This was primarily because he was spending 99% of his time just trying to stay alive and fight for this one doctrine of justification by faith. He made a big step towards a literal interpretation of Scripture but he didn't go very far, he didn't have time in his life to apply that to every area of theology. We have to remember that they didn't have the framework, the terminology that we have available to us.
The next person came along and said, no, consubstantiation is not it, and Calvin comes along and says there is still too much mysticism there and he articulated that there is a spiritual presence there. There is still a problem with Calvin's view and Zwingli, a reformer in Switzerland, nailed it. He said the purpose of the Lord's table is simply a memorial. And that is what we hold to, that is that the Lord's table is a memorial, to simply remember, to focus, to concentrate and to be reminded of the person of Jesus Christ and the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. So the vast majority of Protestants who reject Calvin's spiritual view and they hold to Zwingli's view that the Lord's table is a memorial.
When we look at what Paul is saying here we now have to understand what the term "blood of Christ" means. This is a term that creates a knee-jerk reaction among a lot of fundamentalists because they have sung a lot of hymns about the blood of Christ and they see the terminology throughout the Scriptures, and yet they have failed to do their homework on just what this term means. Not only that, there is also a failure to deal with the fact that an emphasis on the literal blood of Christ is a sort of a hold-over problem from Catholicism. There was an early Roman Catholic heresy that took a literalistic view of the atonement, that said that Jesus shed His blood on the cross and the angel came down and took His blood, gathered it up in a sacred bowl, took it to the heavenly temple and put it on a heavenly altar in order to placate God's wrath. This was a Medieval heresy based on a literalistic interpretation of the term "blood of Christ" and the phrase in the Scripture called "shedding of blood." We must understand that the term "shedding of blood" throughout the Scripture was a figure of speech. That means it is a non-literal term that is used to stand for violent death. This goes back to Genesis chapter nine, verse six, where we have the first authorisation of capital punishment; that whoever sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed. If we were to take the position that if murder is committed by strangulation, by poison, or by beating, then it doesn't deserve capital punishment because there is no blood shed. Furthermore, capital punishment would have to be the kind of death that would involve bleeding to death, it couldn't be electrocution, hanging, lethal injection, simply because those deaths are not shed blood. We almost intuitively reject that because we know the English language and that when we read that phrase we know that shedding of blood means a violent death of murder and it doesn't necessitate the actual, literal shedding of physical blood or bleeding to death. The term "shedding of blood" is classically understood as simply a metaphor for violent physical death.
E.W. Bullinger: "We lose nothing of the facts but gain immensely as to their meaning when we understand that by metalepsis blood is put for death, and death for the atonement made by it and its infinite merit." What he is going to say is that metalepsis is a form of a figure of speech called metonymy. For example, we have already seen one metonymy when we talk about the cup. Jesus said: "Let this cup pass from me." The cup is put for the contents, and the contents would be judgment. So in this case what Bullinger is saying is that blood represents physical death and that physical death in turn represents something else, i.e. the spiritual payment for sin. Metalepsis is nothing more than a double metonymy where there is blood put for death and that in turn stands for something else. So he says: "In metalepsis blood is put for death and death for the atonement made by it in all its infinite merit. In like manner the cross is put first for the crucifixion as an act, or for Him who was crucified thereon, and then this is put for the resulting merits of His atonement procured thereby." We are not saved by the cross, those two beams don't do anything. By the cross we mean what happened on the cross, i.e. Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins. But, once again, it is not His physical death, it is the payment for sin. Furthermore, Bullinger concludes: " So that such expressions are to be avoided such as washed in the blood of the Lamb, and the sentiment contained in the verse, 'There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Emanuel's veins, And sinners plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains.' All such expressions are contrary to physiology and common sense. In the New Testament the expression "the blood of Christ" is the figure metalepsis because first the blood is put for bloodshed, i.e. the death of Christ is distinct from His life and then His death is put for the perfect satisfaction made by it."
The point is, "the blood of Christ" is a figure of speech. It is not His literal blood that saves, it is the fact that Jesus Christ had to suffer a violent death on the cross. Does that violent death and that idea of violence indicate a judgment, just as it does in Genesis 9:6? There had to be a judgment on Jesus Christ but what kind of judgment was it? This was a death where most evangelicals fall apart simply due to a lack of clarity in understanding the penalty for sin. In Genesis 2:17 God told Adam that in the day that he ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die. However, in that day he did not die physically. He did not die physically for 930 years. What happens in Genesis chapter three is that there is a clear separation. When God came to walk in the garden with Adam and Isha after they ate the fruit. As a result of their eating the fruit, their disobedience to God, God outlined for them the consequences of that act in Genesis 3:14ff. The last thing He mentioned was that since they came from dust they would return to dust, and this is the first mention of physical death. If physical death is the penalty for sin then labor pains are the penalty for sin, the serpent crawling on its scuts is the penalty for sin, thorns and thistles is the penalty for sin. The penalty for sin was spiritual death, i.e. the image bearer, the human race, mankind created in the image and likeness of God, were separated from God, marred by son, and as a consequence of that death which entered into human history the entire creation shifted and changed. The outline of those consequences is what we read in Genesis 3:14ff but there must be a distinction made between the judicial penalty for sin and the consequences for sin. Therefore if physical death is a consequence but the judicial penalty is spiritual death then the penalty that was paid for that sin must also be spiritual death. If what Jesus Christ was doing on the cross was paying the penalty for our sin then He was paying the price of spiritual death on the cross. So the death that is efficacious for our salvation is not His physical death but His spiritual death.
Jesus Christ had to die physically on the cross and that is to show that God validated His payment for our sins. His physical death was for several reasons.
1) He had to die physically in order to demonstrate that He had victory over physical death.
2) He had to have victory over physical death to demonstrate that God had accepted and validated His sacrifice on the cross.
3) He had to die physically in order to get a resurrection body.
4) He had to die physically on the cross in order to be resurrected in order to once again demonstrate that He was who He claimed to be and that the penalty for sin had been paid for on the cross.
So we are not saying that the physical death of Christ on the cross was not important but it is not the key element in the efficacious payment for our sins. The atoning work on the cross was a spiritual, substitutionary atonement. So let's paraphrase verse 16: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the sharing of the substitutionary spiritual death of Christ on the cross? Yes." But what does Paul mean by the sharing of the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross? This is another way of looking at what is called the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That is, at the very instant of salvation we are identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. So we are identified with His death on the cross, so that His death is our death, His payment for sin is our payment for sin, and it is an indication that now that we have accepted His payment for sin on our behalf we now have eternal life, the greatest spiritual blessing possible.