Participation in the body and blood of Christ

When Paul asked the Corinthians, “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” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17), he was asking them those questions because they were saying they weren’t.

As far as we know, they weren’t saying it with their words.  There were no troublesome doctrinal statements coming out of Corinth postulating a representation doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.  Paul doesn’t point to any of their doctrinal statements; he points to their actions.  The immediate context of this passage is the Corinthians’ participation in the empty, idolatrous “idol feasts.”  As Paul continues to preach on the implications of that later in chapter 10 – and together with the context of the surrounding chapters – it’s clear that the Corinthians received these loving, miraculous gifts from God yet so often lived with no real love for one another.  They were denying the truth of the Lord’s Supper with their actions.

Paul beautifully connects the truth of what’s really happening in the Lord’s Supper (the miraculous real presence of Christ’s body and blood) with how we live with and treat one another.  For Paul, Jesus’ real presence in Communion is doctrine, but he preaches it with the conviction that doctrine is a lived reality.  

Christ’s body and blood are really present in Holy Communion. The Lord’s Supper is no mere picture.  In a miracle, Jesus’ true body and blood are present for us to receive with the bread and wine.  You are receiving the body and blood that was given to save you from your sins.

But do we ever “play church” on Sunday and act like there is no difference between us and the world?  Do we act so unchanged by what Christ gives us in this Supper that our actions are saying that God must not be giving us real, life-changing gifts?

What the Lord gave us on the Maundy Thursday meal isn’t an act or a show.  It is real.  Your sins really are forgiven.  Jesus really has given you his body and blood.  He really does live in you.

Paul’s assertion that Jesus’ body and blood are present in the bread and wine is intended to strengthen our fellowship and love for each other.  Jesus isn’t just living in us.  He is also living in our brothers and sisters.  Do you want to serve Jesus?   Serve them.  Do you want to show your love for Jesus?  Show your love for them.  Let your actions preach God’s forgiving love for all of us and the unity that it creates, and what we see and hear among us will be a witness to the miracle God is accomplishing in his Supper.

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