Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What the Lord's Table and Spiritual Gifts have in common

Image result for lord's supper images
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 "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? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread." 

1 Corinthians 11:29 "For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly."

1 Corinthians 12:12 "For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ."

Paul is writing to the church at Corinth on a host of various topics. In 1 Corinthians 10-11 he addresses various issues relative to the observance of the Lord's Supper. Then, in 1 Corinthians 12-14, we find Paul addressing the important topic of spiritual gifts. Although the Lord's supper and spiritual gifts may be different subjects, there is a vital common ground shared by both - namely in how the gifts and the supper relate to the church as the body of Christ. Moreover, to consider the body of Christ must necessarily include it's head and Lord - Jesus Christ. Today's post aims at meditating on this common ground shared by the Lord's Supper and the spiritual gifts.

1. The Lord's Supper demonstrates the body of Christ, the gifts define the body of Christ - thus both depict Christ and His church
As we consider 1 Corinthians 10-11, we note how Paul reminds his readers of the importance of the Lord's Supper. In 1 Corinthians 10 we find him paralleling the Lord's Supper as a sign for demonstrating the reality of Christ and His church, just as the various festivals in the Old Testament signified the reality of God's covenant with Israel. Concerning Israel in this regard, the commentator Albert Barnes notes: 

"Behold Israel - Look at the Jews. The design here is to illustrate the sentiment which he was establishing, by a reference to the fact that among the Jews those who partook of the same sacrifices were regarded as being one people, and as worshipping one God." 

With respect as to how the Lord's supper demonstrates the reality of the body of Christ connected to its head - Jesus Christ, Matthew Henry comments: 

"Did not the joining in the Lord's supper show a profession of faith in Christ crucified, and of adoring gratitude to him for his salvation ? Christians, by this ordinance, and the faith therein professed, were united as the grains of wheat in one loaf of bread, or as the members in the human body, seeing they were all united to Christ, and had fellowship with him and one another."

The Lord's table serves to demonstrate the reality of the church that is composed of all who have been truly born again, who profess faith in a Risen Lord as their head. So then, how do we define the organic life of the church body. If the supper demonstrates such, then we find the gifts given by the Holy Spirit as a means of defining the body. In the opening passages quoted in today's post, 1 Corinthians 12:12 indicates how the gifts serve to highlight the church's diversity and unity among the members. Each member is distinct with regards to their gifts, and yet they all form one harmonious whole. Such gifts outline the spiritual gift finger-print of each local church, which in turn points to the head - Jesus Christ. 

When we consider the Lord's supper and the gifts together, we find that they work in respectively demonstrating and defining the body of Christ as in connection with its risen and ascended Lord. Let's note one more point of common ground between the Lord's table and the spiritual gifts....

2. Both the supper and the gifts show the church's dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ
We've seen how 1 Corinthians 10-11 and 12-14 depict the relationship that Jesus Chris t has to His body - the church. Jesus of course retained his human nature and physical body (albeit a glorified, resurrected one) following His resurrection and ascension (see Luke 24; Acts 1:11-14). The metaphor of the church as the "body of Christ" represents the logical and mystical union all Christians have with the Lord Jesus Christ. Such truths as that of the Lord's supper and the spiritual gifts highlight the Lordship of Jesus over His church. 

In this second point, we now see our dependence upon Jesus Christ in both the Lord's supper and the gifts. Such dependence is communicate by the language of "eating and drinking". The Apostle Paul unifies both the Old and New Testaments by first commenting on how Israel of old ultimately depended on Christ as He was in His pre-incarnated presence among them in 1 Corinthians 10:3-4 "and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ." Then Paul uses this same "eating and drinking" language to describe the church's dependence upon Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 10:16 "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?" 

Jesus Himself would often use this imagery to describe the disciple's relationship of dependence and union with Him in texts such as John 6:51 "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” So the Lord's supper is a sign that signifies this mystical reality shared between Christians and Christ. When we partake of the elements, it is we ourselves in whom Christ dwells by the Person of the Holy Spirit. They are symbols for sure, but not just bare ones. We are as it were participating in and with our Lord Jesus Christ, performing what the Psalmist describes as the walk of faith in this "eating and drinking" language of Psalm 34:8 "O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!" The Lord's supper unquestionably shows the dependence the church has upon the Lord Jesus Christ.

But now do the spiritual gifts communicate this same idea of dependence? They do. When one comes to 1 Corinthians 12:13-14, this language of "eating and drinking" is found yet again with respect to the gifts: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many." The great Baptist commentator John Gill notes: 

"(I)f they are regenerated and sanctified, they appear equally to belong to Christ, to be of his body, and have an equal propriety in all immunities and blessings belonging to his people (see Colossians 3:11). And have been all made to drink into one Spirit; are all partakers of the same graces of the Spirit, as faith, hope, love, &c. and daily receive under his guidance, direction, and influence, out of the same fulness of grace in Christ, from whence they draw and drink this water with joy; and all drink the same spiritual drink, the blood of Christ, whose blood is drink indeed."

Closing thoughts
So in meditating on the common ground shared between the Lord's supper and spiritual gifts, we have found two main themes between them:

1. Both depict Christ's relationship to and over His church.

2. Both show the dependence the church has upon her head - the Lord Jesus Christ

Both the Lord's supper and the gifts remind us that we cannot separate our understanding of the church from the head - Jesus Christ. He is the Lord and Savior of His people and they ever depend upon Him. May we as followers of Jesus Christ look to Him today as Savior, Lord and treasure as we exalt Him as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

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