Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16, 17, NKJV)
As we begin our study this week in the book of 2 Corinthians, it is good to be reminded of the struggles that this church had and which the Apostle Paul addressed throughout the two letters he wrote to this struggling congregation. In chapters 10 and 11 of his first letter, the Apostle addresses his concerns surrounding the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in Corinth. It appears, based on the verses above along with what Paul says in chapter 11, that the saints in Corinth were given to divisions within the body. In the earlier portions of that first letter, Paul directly addresses the factions within the church and pleads with them “in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ…that there be no divisions among them…” (1 Corinthians 1:10). In chapter three, Paul charges them with living as “mere men…acting carnally or according to the flesh.” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). This was a huge problem in Corinth and the very source of so many of their other struggles. This is why in chapter 10 the Apostle admonishes the people by pointing to that one place where their union as one in Christ was most evident—at the Lord’s Supper. Here at the Table, saints are gathered together before Christ as one body. If there is one place where divisions ought not to be present, it is at the Table where Christ is present—His body is one body.
As I looked back over some of the communion letters that have been sent to you over the years, I noticed that these verses from 1 Corinthians 10 have been the focus of several letters during the time of our discussions of merging our two churches which began in 2012. For instance, more than 3 years ago, we considered this same passage in the communion letter written in February, 2013:
As we prepare to meet together this coming Sunday for our first-ever experience of worshiping together in the morning, there will surely be things we note about our similarities and our differences. Some of this will be hard as we’ll feel very much at home in the order of worship, but very much “out of place” in the location of our worship. Things that we all might readily admit are not essential or important as we sit comfortably in our own familiar place with the people we know and love, may suddenly seem very important to us as we sit among those we do not know and experience Sunday morning in a new environment. If, like me, you are struggling with these things, let me encourage you to bring your burdens and concerns before the Lord in prayer, and to consider carefully the simple, yet powerful, words of the Apostle Paul quoted above in 1 Corinthians 10—“one bread means one body.” As we come to the Lord’s Table and partake of that one bread, which is Jesus Christ, the bread come down from heaven (John 6), then we testify that we are one in Him, though we remain many. Everything that makes us different from one another falls away in Him as we are seen united as one body in Christ. It is this deep, profound mystery, now revealed in Christ, that we are always trying to work out practically as we learn to live with one another in peace and love. Paul reminds us that when we come to that Table together, and when we partake together of the bread and the wine, feeding on Christ spiritually, we are acknowledging that we are already one body together in Christ. We are already one in Christ, with all the things that make us different taken away in Him (cf. Galatians 3:26-28). And all of this is pictured for us in that visible sign and seal of the covenant of grace of the Lord’s Supper… It would be quite wonderful, perhaps, if there was a “magic” about communing together that would suddenly make the prospect of a potential merger happen without difficulty or real pain. While there is no deeper magic, there is amazing grace! And as we prepare ourselves to come this Sunday to the Lord’s Table, let us come with faith and receive the grace He so freely gives, believing the Gospel which unites us, and rejoicing together in our God Who saves sinners and makes us one in Christ. And then let us, by His grace alone, follow Him as He leads us to new things, which may include, if He is pleased, an opportunity to visibly display what we already know to be true: that though we are two churches now, we are, and have always been, one in Him.
So, how are you feeling three years after we first gathered around the Lord’s Table together? No magic, just lots of hard work because of God’s grace! And that work continues to this day as we seek to remember the truths taught by God in this passage—we are already one in Christ! Considering these things again does not mean that we are a divided church right now. No, by God’s grace, we are moving more and more to being a church united together as one, loving and caring for one another as Christ calls us. But we must always be on our guard, always seeking to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (cf. Ephesians 4:1-6).
In 2014 another communion letter was sent referencing these verses on the occasion of our second Communion service together—something that would lead to our vote later that year to merge our two churches into one visible community. Consider these words as you prepare yourself to come to the Lord’s Table this week:
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what a privilege it will be for us to gather together around the Table of our Lord and testify to our union together in Him and with one another. Consider these things as you prepare your own heart to come to this Table full of grace to worthy receivers. Edwards once again offers sound words for us to heed as we do so: “Let this exhort all to endeavor to attend the approaching administration of the Lord’s Supper in an agreeable manner. Let the approaching feast be indeed to us a feast of love. To this end, let us examine ourselves as to our walk. Let us cast away everything contrary to this holy union of heart. Let us examine our hearts and suppress every principal contrary, and cry to God to mortify and to inflame our hearts more and more. So this ordinance will be a resemblance of the glory of the eternal feast…” (Sermons On The Lord’s Supper, by Jonathan Edwards, p. 78)
In the Name of Christ, Who is our Peace,
Pastor Ted Trefsgar