Originally scheduled for October 5
I speak to sensible people; judge for
yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we
give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the
bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because
there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all
partake of the one loaf.
(1 Corinthians 10:15-17 NIV)
One of the more irritating phrases commonly
found in science textbooks is this: “it is intuitively obvious to
the casual observer…” Many a student is found what is intuitively
obvious to the writer of the textbook to be not at all obvious to
But what does it mean to be “intuitively
obvious?” Paul deals with this question here, indirectly. He makes
his appeal to the Corinthians on the basis that they are “sensible
people.” They should be easily able to figure out what he is saying.
May I submit that there are two kinds of things which are
One would be something that you
already know. It could be something that appeals to your common
knowledge as a resident of the planet.
The other meaning could be that it is
something you can easily reason out. It is this sense that Paul is
This is perhaps not so obvious to us today, but
Paul’s readers would be completely familiar with the worship of
idols. It didn’t matter which god you are worshiping, there were
certain ceremonial rules and principles which were the same in all
of these temples. They understood what ritual worship was like. It
is a form of acted out symbolism. We still see this today in many of
the arts. I am told that ballet can be interpreted symbolically by
those who understand what the symbolism means. A similar type of
interpretation can be applied to plays, as those who have ever
studied Shakespeare are quite well aware.
One thing is true across all of these forms of
symbolism: the simpler the symbolism, the more easily understood it
becomes. Paul applies this principle to communion. In so doing he
produces two facts which are logical results of the symbolism Christ
used in implementing communion.
He begins with what he calls the “cup
of thanksgiving.” The phrase only occurs in his letter to the
Corinthians, but it is an obvious point: whatever else it means, we
are thankful for the sacrifice of Christ’s blood on the cross. He
calls it a “participation” (other translations use the word
“sharing”) in the blood of Christ. This emphasizes the unity of the
church, for all of us together in the church are those who are
forgiven through the blood of Christ.
He continues on this theme by
pointing out the use of “one loaf.” Unlike churches in America
today, the church of that time would take communion from the bread
of a single loaf. They would clearly see this as a sign of unity.
Paul expresses this by saying that we are one body. He uses this
metaphor on other occasions to describe the church as a whole.
The way in which communion is served in the
modern church sometimes lends itself to the individual feeling very
much alone with God. The early church would’ve seen it somewhat
differently — they would’ve seen the unity of the church, being the
body of Christ. Remember this today as you partake. You are one body
with the believers around you because of the sacrifice of Christ on