Many of us will observe the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper this Sunday in our local churches, so it is appropriate that we take some time to pause and consider some of the implications of this Divinely-authorized teaching tool.
This memorial of eating the bread (representing Christ’s body) and drinking the cup (representing Christ’s blood) reminds us of our need to receive Christ’s work on the cross as the only payment for our sins—and of the immediacy of the forgiveness that He offers to the believing sinner.
Hopefully, these simple but profound truths are deeply impressed upon us each time we participate in this commemorative event. But there is another aspect inherent in our celebration of the Lord’s Supper which is rarely emphasized, and it comes from a text that is often neglected.
Regarding this text, 1 Corinthians 10:17, The MacArthur Study Bible states:
This refers to the bread of communion as the symbol of Christ’s body given for all who believe. Since we all partake of that body, we are one.
A study guide that I helped to prepare on the book of 1 Corinthians makes the point that I am getting at more clearly:
The cup represents the blood of Christ; the bread represents the body of Christ in two senses—the human body of Christ that was placed on the cross and the unity of His spiritual body in the local church (1 Cor. 10:16, 17).
As the congregation gathers to observe the Lord’s Supper, the communion bread is broken. That which was once a united whole is torn into tiny pieces. Those pieces are consumed by individuals who make up the church, and as they eat them, they demonstrate their fundamental unity.
In other words, the elements of this ordinance offer a representation of the Savior, first and foremost. But the bread, in particular, also depicts the unity of the very congregation that is participating in this ordinance.
Truly, this is a unity that also contains a great diversity, as the Apostle Paul explains in Romans 12:4-5:
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
Paul goes on in this passage to explain the implications of this proposition. “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,” (Rom. 12:6, NASB) he states. Just as the various parts of the human body have different purposes and perform different tasks, so it is in the church body.
Paul addressed the Corinthian church using the same analogy in 1 Corinthians 12-14. See, for instance, 1 Corinthians 12:12, 14, 27:
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
For in fact the body is not one member but many.
Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
Of course, so much could be said about these controversial chapters—which are both detailed in doctrine and also profoundly practical. However, I would like to press just one major point, which is clear in both texts mentioned above. It is the fact that, just as the human body is dependent for life, health and strength on every single component performing according to its designed purpose, so it is in the local church.
Paul makes this point simply in Romans 12:7-8. He makes it again in a more complex manner in 1 Corinthians 12:16-17. Did you notice what Paul does so subtly within this passage? He interchanges the name of a member of the body (“ear”) with the action that it performs (“hearing”). Sadly, merely possessing two ears does not guarantee that one will be able to hear. That outcome is dependent upon the proper performance of those members.
In a similar way, a local church may be filled with people who are gifted—spiritually and otherwise. They may even realize that, together, they form a body that is a local representation of the greater church of Jesus Christ. However, they will not truly fulfill Christ’s plan for His church until each one is serving in accord with His individual purposes for them.
How do you view your life today in terms of the “one body” of Jesus Christ which is His church? Are you performing that eternal purpose for which He has prepared you?
And how do you view your life today in terms of Christ’s “body which is broken for you” (1 Cor. 11:24)? Will you meditate upon the significance of this ordinance before participating in it this weekend?
We are entering into a month of remembrance of the death, burial and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I pray that this will be a very spiritually enriching and meaningful time for you and yours—and the church family with which you are united—beginning this Sunday when you “partake of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17).
For more on the topic of the Lord’s Supper, view this sermon by Dr. Randy White:
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®.
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 John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible ESV (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), p. 1698.
 Paul Scharf, Working Together in the Body of Christ: 1 Corinthians (Schaumburg, IL: Regular Baptist Press, 2013), p. 113. My understanding of this passage is developed from the teaching of my systematic theology professor, Dr. Myron Houghton. You can read an excellent article by him on a related subject (“Baptists and the Body of Christ”) here: <http://www.faith.edu/resources/publications/faith-pulpit/message/baptists-and-the-body-of-christ/read>; Internet; accessed 3 March 2016.
 Here is another article, from a slightly different perspective, which complements Dr. White’s teaching as seen in the video above: <http://baptistbulletin.org/the-baptist-bulletin-magazine/unleavened-bread-required-for-communion/>; Internet; accessed 3 March 2016.
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