"When the Church Communes"
The idea of the Communion is that of fellowship. It was a central part of the early church. As we reflect upon Memorial Day, we remember the memorial of the Lord's Supper.
When The Church Communes
(1 Cor. 10:14-17)
A. The sacrifices of the OT were commanded by God. They were far more important than we sometimes think today. To sacrifice to something other than Jehovah and call that idol a god angered Jehovah. For sacrifices mean something. Ex. 22:20 says, “Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the LORD must be destroyed.” When Solomon did not follow God, and took for himself wives and concubines from foreign lands and built altars to those gods, we read (1 Kings 11:9-10).
B. But it was not just offering a sacrifice to something other than God alone that angered God. What about when the Jews offered to God their “less than” perfect offerings? Do you remember his feelings? Mal. 1:7-14
C. The system of sacrifices was more than just doing something to “appease” God, to make him “feel better,” or to “boost his ego.” A sacrifice was a time of entering into relationship and worship. It was a drawing of the people to God and God teaching his people about obedience. Therefore, a time of sacrifice was very important within the Jewish culture. But the Roman/Greek culture also viewed sacrifices as holy and relational with their “gods.” When they participated in a sacrifice, they did so honor or appease their gods, and to proclaim their god’s deity.
I. The Passover
A. Come with me back to the night before the crucifixion. Back to the night that would lead to the betrayal with a kiss by Judas, a verbal betrayal by Peter and betrayal of the rest by running away and forsaking him, watching it happen from a distance.
B. Come back with me to just before that happened. It was the night that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. It was the night that he wanted to teach them something important by taking a very important Jewish meal, the Passover, and recreating the meaning.
C. The Passover originally was about God’s power over all life and use of that to set His people free from the bondage of Egypt.
D. God struck down the firstborn of every house: from Pharaoh who sat on the throne, to the slave girl who works at the mill, to the firstborn of the cattle in the field. The only way to not lose a first born was to take blood from an innocent lamb with no blemish and paint in on the lintel and the two doorposts and to stay in the house until morning. That night a death angle passed over all Egypt killing the firstborn of any who did not obey God.
E. Every year after they were to keep the Passover to remember the deliverance of God and do so at the death of the innocent lamb that became their symbol of sacrifice.
F. Jesus took that meal, that story, and did something strange. Luke 22:19-21.
A. Fast forward 20 years or so. Paul had been converted from Judaism to being a disciple of Christ. He was set apart to be a missionary to the Gentiles and in that role helped to start many congregations around the northern part of the Mediterranean Sea. Corinth was one of those places. It was a city of influence and idol worship, especially that of Aphrodite.
B. This congregation struggled to follow the teachings of Christ and often found itself as a church in spiritual turmoil. When Paul wrote to them several times, he had to often discipline them in letter form. One such writing came from the text read to us. I want to add to our reading from chapter 11. (1 Cor. 11:17-26)
C. Paul takes for us the teaching of the Lord’s Supper in chapter 10 and expounds upon them in chapter 11. When you put this who passage together we find some truths that need to be taught and retaught concerning the Communion and the Church.
III. koinonia – Participation, Communion, Fellowship
A Paul wants these Christians to think as someone who is mature. He asks them to come to a conclusion. (1 Cor. 10:16-17)
B. Christian communion in worship is a unity movement because we are all in Christ. The key word here is “participation” in the NIV/ESV, “communion” in the KJV, and “sharing” in other translations. It is a derivative the Greek word koinonia. The teaching is that of fellowship or being united.
C. When we partake of the communion each Sunday, we enter into a relationship testimony with Christ and with each other. It was never intended to be individual. While there is nothing wrong with a shut-in or person in the hospital wanting someone to bring them communion on a Sunday that was not the intent of the communion. It is not some holy food used to heal us. This is a time of fellowship and participation.
D. The drinking of the cup and the eating of the bread is a sharing in the blood and body of Jesus Christ. Paul wants them to realize the depths of what Jesus did and how we are bound to one another. We miss out when we think of the church of “they” or “what I go to” instead of “us” and “who I am.”
E. Understand that table unites us as one body. This is more than “just” a congregation, “just” a church, or “just” a place of worship. We, the people, are bound together as one in Christ when we participate in the communion with Christ each time we eat the bread and drink the cup.
IV. When Do We Partake?
A. There are several great questions that I am asked. One is, “When should Christians partake of the communion?” In churches today you will find some that partake every day, some once a week, some once a quarter or other less frequent times.
B. This congregation chooses to partake each Sunday. The reason is based upon the passages from 1 Corinthians. We partake when the “church comes together.” We come together to worship every Sunday, so we partake every Sunday.
C. In Acts 20:7 we find that Paul stayed several days in a place and we read what happen when they came together. The story continues, but what we find is that the church came together on the first day of the week and did so in part to “break bread.” That phrase is used to describe “table fellowship,” specifically, the Lord’s Table and the fellowship of that table as a church.
V. Who Communes?
A. I am sometimes asked the question, “Who should take the communion? Can kids, visitors, or people who are not members here partake of the Lord’s Supper?”
B. Those are great questions and the Bible gives us a simple answer. The question of who partakes is decided by the answer Paul gives – the church. He gives instruction to the individuals to consider when they partake. 1 Cor. 11:27-29
C. So today we ask, “Who is in a covenant relationship with God and a part of His church?” Again, the Bible gives us the answer. When a person comes to understand their sin and the sacrifice of Jesus at the cross it is much like the Jews understanding the Passover and the redemption of the firstborn. They knew, without doubt, that lamb replaced the firstborn child. They redeemed their child by a sacrifice and they were to tell their children what they were doing. Acts 2:36-47 tells us that people who accepted the message were baptized and added by God to the number (the church).
E. I don’t stand in judgment of anyone who takes of the bread and drinks of the cup. This church offers what is called “open communion.” That means you decided if you are in a covenant relationship with Christ and, if you are, if you will unite with us in honoring what Jesus did at the cross.
A. In just a few moments most of here will chose to partake of the body and blood of Jesus through the bread and juice that is on the table. It is why for over 2000 years churches have come together. While they love to sing, pray, unite in charitable giving and reading of the Holy Scripture, they know that a church unites around the table.
B. It is my prayer that you are in that saved relationship with Jesus. But maybe you are not sure or maybe you have questions. I hope you will talk with me or someone so we can help hear from God the answer to your questions. If you are here, and in in a spiritual need, let us pray for you. If you are here and separated from Christ and know it, we want to help you be united with Christ. We are a church which belongs to Christ. If we can be of spiritual help to you please come as we stand and sing.