THESIS #68 of 95 - Partaking of the Eucharistic species is at best ineffectual if unaccompanied by the obedience of faith
1Cor11:26-30 As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a person must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For the one who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not discern the body. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number are deceased.
The previous few posts have examined the centrality of the Eucharist within the life of the Church and for individual Christians. In the passage quoted above, Paul is primarily concerned with how the Corinthian Christians were conducting themselves at the Lord’s Supper – disgracefully in some cases. In the wording of my thesis, their participation was not accompanied by the obedience of faith; or indeed faith itself, “failing to discern the body” (v29). But many Christians today should perhaps ask themselves, why are the penalties for partaking of the Lord’s Supper unworthily so drastic? “For this reason, many among you are weak and sick, and a number are deceased” (v30). Such would hardly be the penalty for half-hearted hymn singing or insincere praying – No, Paul is intimating here that partaking in the Lord’s Supper is quite different from any other act of worship.
A few chapters back Paul described the chalice as “the cup of blessing that we bless, being the communion of the blood of Christ” (10:16). For the first 28 years of my Christian life, I understood the bread and wine to be merely symbolic of the body and blood of Christ. My understanding has changed, particularly since the spiritual encounter that led to my book and these posts. That is especially in view of Jesus’ teaching in John 6, not least where He states:
“Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that anyone may eat from it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats from this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I will give for the life of the world also is My flesh.” Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” (Jn6:49-52)
This harks back to the previous chapter of Paul’s epistle (1Cor10) in which he warned the Corinthian Church that they were no more spiritually secure than their Jewish forefathers who were as much “the people of God” as they were. However, there is a difference, for as the text from Jn6 indicates, until Jesus was incarnated, lived, died and was resurrected, the Bread of Life and Cup of Salvation were not available. Yet if the latter were merely symbolic, why would that have mattered? But it did matter: “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. I am the living bread that has (only now) come down from heaven” (Jn6:49). Likewise, the symbolic “drinking from the rock that represented Christ” (1Cor10) did not result in the spiritual life to which Jesus referred.
Neither did the animal sacrifices: “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the form of those things itself, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually every year, make those who approach perfect” (Heb10:1). The blood of Christ on the other hand provides both pardon and sanctification to the participant. Again, if the bread and wine were merely symbolic why would the animal’s blood and sacrifice that symbolically prefigured Christ’s atoning death not have been equally efficacious?
But then there is the witness of the earliest Christian writers, and that is what ratified the issue for me. The matter is of such importance that I suggest you read my earlier post focusing on this subject (link below).
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