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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 74 - 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17 - The One Loaf Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


It is only in passing, and as an illustration of his argument on another subject that the apostle introduces the Lord's Supper here; and yet how full his statement, how bright the aspect in which he presents it to us! The oneness of the worshipper, even in a heathen temple, with the whole religion or system of worship, and with the false god into whose temple he comes; this is his theme. It is in illustration of this that he reminds us of the Supper. Strange that in connection with a pagan altar and a temple of devils he should be led to give us one of the most striking of all his statements regarding the Supper. He takes the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils, places them side by side, and shews us the one from the other. There is an infinite difference; and yet there is a likeness; for there is a oneness in both between the worshipper and the god worshipped. On this dark canvas of a heathen temple he draws his picture of the holiest of Christian ordinances. In the Evangelists we are shewn the Supper from the Jerusalem upper chamber; in the eleventh chapter of this epistle we see it from a Christian church; here we are shewn it from a heathen temple.

He speaks of the "cup" as symbolizing the body of our Lord which contained the blood or living wine. He puts the cup first, because in speaking of the heathen rites he had already made special mention of the cup first; perhaps also to shew that the order of the two symbols was of no consequence; and perhaps to prevent the possibility of Romish error in refusing the cup to the worshippers.

Let us now meditate on the cup and the bread, or the cup and the platter, as set before us here.

I. The cup. It may have been of gold, or silver, or brass, or wood; it matters not. It was made of earthly materials, as was the Lord's body, and it was the vessel for containing the wine, as was the Lord's body for containing His blood,—that blood which was drink indeed, which was the new wine of the kingdom.

(1.) Its name. "The cup of blessing which we bless." All blessing is in Scripture connected with Messiah, His person, and His work. Hence that vessel which so specially points to Him receives this name. It contains blessing,—the blessing,—the long-promised, long-looked for blessing. The wine in that cup is impregnated with blessing. Every drop of it speaks of blessing,—of that which God calls blessing,—of that which is fitted to do us good and make us happy, to remove death and give life. The words, "which we bless," are not priestly words, spoken to imply the consecration of the elements by a priest's blessing. The "we" is all believers; and the word "bless" is literally, "to speak well of"; and the whole expression is, "the cup of the well-speaking, of which we speak well," or praise; referring to the united praise and thanksgiving of the worshippers. And of that cup it is meet that we speak well. Though its literal contents are simply wine; yet that wine is the divine symbol of all blessing; so that we may say truly. Its contents are blessing,—every drop fraught with blessing,—blessing which faith receives, and in which hope rejoices.

(2.) It's meaning. "Is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?" or, "is it not communion with the blood of Christ?" That wine is then the symbol of the blood; the blood of the new covenant, the everlasting covenant. That blood is the life; and that life is the payment of the sinner's penalty: "The soul that sinneth it shall die." In that cup there is both death and life,—the death of the Surety, and the life flowing out of that death; our death flowing into Him, so that He dies; His life flowing into us, so that we live. Thus the cup is the cup of blessing for the sinner, because it contains both the death and the life. Of this blessing, symbolized by that cup and its contents, we become possessors when we believe on the name of the Son of God; for it is faith that opens up the communication between us and His fullness. But in the Lord's Supper there is more visible, more palpable contact, though still of the same kind. Hence, the words of our text, "the communion of the blood of Christ." The word communion is properly "partnership,"—"partnership in the blood of Christ"; all that the blood contains for the soul becoming ours,—the whole blood becoming the property of each believer. All its blessings,—the paid ransom, the cancelled penalty, the forgiveness, the life, the joy, all becoming ours; we being partakers of Christ, partakers of His blood, partners in His death and life.

He, then, that takes that cup is committed to all that it symbolizes; he is counted as one with it; the possessor of its contents; the partaker of its fullness. He is to reckon himself one with Jesus in His death; and God reckons him such. Nothing less. He has the whole, or lie has nothing! It is not a little strength, or healing, or refreshment from the blood which he is made partaker of; but the blood itself, and all that it contains. For the possession, the enjoyment of all that fullness, every communicant is responsible. If be a worthy communicant (a believing man), the blessing will flow in, and these symbols will help the inflow. If he be an unworthy communicant, he is not the less responsible for participation of all that fullness; and that will be his condemnation. He took into his hands the cup of blessing, he put it to his lips, and yet he did not drink one drop!

II. The bread. The word more properly signifies "the loaf" or "cake," intimating its original oneness or completeness. It is necessary to keep this in mind, as the point of the apostle's argument turns on this. Let us consider.

(1.) What the bread signifies. It is bread,—the common Passover loaf, unleavened bread,—made of the corn of earth; grown in our fields, cut down, gathered in, winnowed, ground, and formed into a loaf for the Passover table. Such was Christ's body,—our very flesh; born, growing up, ripening, cut down, prepared for our food. A thing by itself; unleavened and pure; free from sin; in all respects fit for the souls' food. "My flesh is meat indeed." It is Christ's body that is thus symbolized and set before us as the whole food and nourishment of our souls. Except we eat His flesh, we have no life in us.

(2.) What the breaking of the bread signifies. It points us to the cross; it speaks of a crucified Christ. Not a bone of Him was broken, and yet His body was broken; head, hands, feet, back, side, pierced and bruised and wounded. His body unbroken is no food for us. It is no nourishment for the soul of the sinner. It would not suit our taste, nor satisfy our appetite, nor feed our souls, nor prove wholesome food. We need something in which death is; death as the payment of sin's penalty. All without this is tasteless and unnourishing. Hence the unprofitableness of that theology whose center or foundation is not the cross of the substitute; atonement by the death of the surety. "The bread which we break," says the apostle, evidently pointing with special emphasis to the breaking, and announcing this as the main feature of the symbol. It is on the broken body of our Lord that we feed. Incarnation without crucifixion does not satisfy the soul. Bethlehem without Golgotha would be mockery.

(3.) What our partaking of it signifies. For we do not merely gaze upon it or handle it; we take it and we eat; we eat not in solitude or in our chambers, but as a company at a feast. This act of eating, then, has a twofold signification or reference,—a reference to Christ and to ourselves.

(a) A reference to Christ. It is "communion with the body of Christ," partnership with that body; so that all that is in it of virtue, or health, or strength, or excellence, becomes ours. It is one with us and we with it. The whole fullness of blessing contained in it becomes ours. We reckon ourselves one with it, and God reckons us one with it. As he who eats of the idols' bread in a heathen temple is responsible for the whole idolatry of the place, and is so dealt with by God, so he who eats this broken bread in faith is identified with a crucified Christ and all His fullness. Partnership with the body of Christ; how much that implies!

(b) A reference to ourselves. It realizes to us the perfect oneness between the members of Christ's body. As the loaf is made up of many parts or crumbs, and yet is but one loaf; nay, gets its true oneness from the union of these many parts, so is it with the members of the body of Christ. Many, yet one; one, yet many; the number not marring the oneness, but perfecting it; the oneness not hindering the number but requiring it for its full development. This is one of the numerous symbols used to unfold this peculiar truth. There are others no less expressive. One family, many members. One temple, many stones. One body, many limbs. One loaf, many parts! We may add others. One city, many citizens. One ocean, many drops. One firmament, many stars. One song, many words. One harmony, many notes. One sun, many rays.

Thus in these symbols we have partnership with Christ, with His blood, with His body, so that all that He has is ours. Each has the whole fullness, as each inhabitant of earth has the whole sun. Oneness with Christ and oneness with each are embodied in these symbols. We are many, yet one; many members yet one body, and one head. All that He has is ours. His life, our life; His light, our light; His fullness, our fullness; His strength, our strength; His righteousness, our righteousness; His crown, our crown; His glory, our glory; His inheritance, our inheritance: for we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.

If these things be so,—

1. What a blessed place should the communion table be to us. A Peniel where we prevail with God, and receive the blessing in full. What strength, health, joy, light, should we find there! There the whole fullness of Christ is presented to us.

2. What manner of persons ought we to be. Holy, powerful, separate from the world, like Him by whose body and blood we are nourished. Nothing is lacking to those who have this heavenly communion, this divine partnership.

3. What love and unity should prevail amongst us? One with Christ, one with each other. This ordinance represents the oneness, increases it, cherishes it. Sitting side by side, we are drawn closer to the Lord, closer to each other in and through Him.

4. What longing for the time when we shall see Him face to face. Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. Amen! Even so come Lord Jesus.