(1 Cor 10:15-17) I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 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? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
Paul adds to the Gospels the idea of thanksgiving. It’s the “cup of thanksgiving.” The ESV translates more literally: the cup of “blessing.” But in the Passover meal, the blessing offered over the cup was a thanksgiving to God for the meal, so the NIV has the correct sense.
The meal, of course, is the sacrificed Jesus. We not only remember Jesus, we remember what he did for us.
The NIV translates koinonia as “participation.” It can also mean fellowship, sharing, or partnership.
What might it mean to “participate” in the blood and body of Christ? If anything, it means a commitment to sacrificial living.
Love one another
(1 Cor 11:20-21) When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.
Obviously, this is speaking of a combined communion and love feast. After all, enough food was being eaten to eliminate hunger for some.
The sin — a sin against the body of Christ — was to take the meal without sharing (the same word translated “fellowship” or “participation.”) You see, you can’t fellowship with God and not fellowship with his children. In fact, when the Lord’s Supper is taken in a loveless way, it’s not the Lord’s supper.
(1 Cor 11:26) For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
The word translated “proclaim” can be equally well translated “preach” or “teach.” And all three meanings work. The meal teaches the members. It preaches gospel to visitors. And it proclaims our faith to the world.
You see, First Century homes surrounded a courtyard that opened to the street. Most meals were taken there, in a very public place. Taking this meal in a loving community of slaves, Jews, Gentiles, women, foreigners, and the poor plainly declared the meaning of the gospel to all who walked by. It was indeed a proclamation!
Until he comes
“Until he comes” means not only that we are to do this until his return, but that this meal proclaims the fact that he will come again.
Discerning the body
(1 Cor 11:27-29) Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
“Recognizing the body” refers, I think, foremost to recognizing the church, that is, that we are part of a body to which we owe certain obligations, foremost, love. After all, the sin Paul was addressing was a lack of consideration for other members.
In fact, the sin is greater than first appears. The early church often used the love feast to feed the poor. Leaving people hungry was not just rude, it was an insult to the poor in defiance of God’s many commands that we be concerned for the poor.