Friday, 10 October 2014
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? 1 Corinthians 10:16
Paul’s previous words asked for us to flee from idolatry and then he immediately asked us to judge his words, as to whether they truly are words of wisdom (he said to them “I speak as to wise men.”). In this then he is asking us to use wisdom and grow in wisdom by reflecting on his words of instruction. And so he begins with, “The cup of blessing which we bless.” Three thoughts on what this may mean arise. The first is that the cup is the means by which we receive a blessing. In other words, we are blessed as we partake of the cup. The second is that the cup is a cup by which we bless the Lord. And the third is that the this is a Hebraism (a Hebrew term) which describes the cup.
Scholars argue over which is intended by Paul, but in actuality all three ideas have merit. The first is certainly true in one sense. We have been blessed (past tense) through receiving Christ, but yet we are commanded to participate in the Lord’s Supper as well. Paul will note this in the coming chapter. The Lord surely looks with favor upon those who partake of this holy sacrament as He instructed us to do. The second concept has merit also. We offer our praise and thanks back to the Lord when we are obedient to His directive. Our taking of the cup is an act of blessing toward Him in this regard. And finally, the term “the cup of blessing” is comparable to what is mentioned in Psalm 116 –
“I will take up the cup of salvation, And call upon the name of the Lord.” Psalm 116:13
In this psalm, the term cos yeshuot, or the “cup of salvation” is used. This actually then forms a pun on the name of Jesus, which is Yeshua. The “cup of Yeshua” was anticipated in the 116th Psalm. In other words –
“I will take up the cup of Jesus,
And call upon the name of Jehovah.”
It is an Old Testament picture of the incarnation of Jehovah in the Person of Jesus. Paul then is using the “cup of blessing,” or cos haberakha, as a Hebraism – the cup stands in regard to the “state of blessing” just as the psalm’s cup stood in regard to the “state of salvation.” It is this “cup of blessing which we bless” that Paul equates to “the communion of the blood of Christ.” This brings to remembrance the words of the Lord (which Paul will explain in the coming chapter) that the cup is His blood. But what does that exactly mean?
Because He held a cup of wine in His hand when He said that, it is intended to mean that it is a picture of His death, not a literal nor a spiritual drinking of His blood. Paul confirms this in his words of chapter 11 when he says that in the meal “you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” It is a picture of the suffering of the Lord; a remembrance of His work.
After this, Paul notes that, “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ.” Again, this is a pictorial remembrance of the broken body of Christ. Jesus held the bread in His hands and said, “This is my body.” It is not His literal body, nor is it a spiritual body. Instead, it is a symbolic representation of His death. And in that death we share “the communion.” The Greek word for “communion” is koinōnia. It is a “participation” or a “fellowship” in this wondrous act. As Vincent’s word studies notes concerning the Passover observed by the Jewish people in relation to the Lord’s Supper, “The Passover was celebrated by families, typifying an unbroken fellowship of those who formed one body, with the God who had passed by the blood-sprinkled doors.”
There is no reason to assume that we either literally eat the body of Christ (Catholic transubstantiation), nor that we somehow spiritually partake of the blood of Christ, becoming sharers in His divine life (Calvinist doctrine). When we call on Christ, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit and it is in that act that we share in His divine life. The cup and the bread as noted by Paul here are symbolic representations of that awesome position in which we stand.
Finally, there is curiosity by many as to why Paul places the cup first in this verse instead of the bread first as other verses place it. The most likely reason is that Paul took the extra time to deal with and explain the bread (verse 17) and so he dispensed with the matter of the cup first.
I will take up the cup of salvation in my hand
And I will call upon the name of the Lord
It is in the name of Jesus where I take my stand
And in His name I am attentive to God’s word
For He is the very Word of Life, this I know
And in Him alone can I live and grow
I will take up the cup of blessing in my hand
And in the name of Jesus will I ever bless my God
It is in His name alone where I take my stand
And in Him alone will I fellowship in the path I trod
How can it be, O great and awesome God, that You have come and united with Your own creation in order to redeem Your fallen children? It is beyond my comprehension and yet it is what Your word proclaims. And so I place my faith, my trust, my hope, and my eternal soul in the Lamb who was slain to ransom me from the grasp of the devil. I thank You and I praise You for all You have done. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.