Eat Jesus’ Flesh and Drink His Blood? (Pt 9)

Daily Devotional | Day 343

“For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17).

 We will conclude the current series by looking at two things Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10 because of their relevance to what we have so far discussed.

The first point is from our opening Scripture in which Paul writes, “we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” Paul is talking about believers, specifically those gathered for the Lord’s Supper. And the bread he is talking about is the loaf of bread used for the Lord’s Supper. This is the same bread of which Paul said, “The bread which we break, is it not the communion [fellowship] of the body of Christ?” (10:16). But now he says the Lord’s Supper participants are one bread, referring to the Lord’s Supper bread.

Next, Paul tells us the reason why we are one bread: “for we all partake of that one bread.” Because believers eat from the one bread, they are one bread (and therefore one body). Paul’s point is, the bread we break represents us. We are that bread. As the bread is one, so are we. Anyone at the Lord’s Supper who eats a piece of that one bread is acknowledging and celebrating the fact that he or she is part of the one bread.

Paul chose his words carefully. Notice he did not say Jesus is that one bread. Rather, he said we are that one bread. The obvious question is: If we are indeed one bread, does this mean that when we eat the bread, we are chewing on each other? The answer, of course, is no. The Lord’s Supper, as we have emphasized throughout this series, carries a more profound truth which has nothing to do with chewing Jesus’ flesh or our own. What we do at the Lord’s Supper is celebrate fellowship with Jesus’ body and blood, as well as fellowship with one another.

Let us now look at Paul’s second point. He drew an example from Israel’s temple sacrifices to illustrate how fellowship works: “Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” (v. 18). In the Old Testament those who served at the altar, Aaron and his sons, ate the sacrifices brought to the altar (Deuteronomy 18:1-5). Paul says, because they ate the food sacrifices (meat, grain, etc.), they became partakers of the altar. Did they have to chew or swallow the altar to become partakers of the altar? No. All they had to do was eat food sacrificed at the altar, and this resulted in them having fellowship with the altar.

Using the same (spiritual) logic, Paul explained that those who ate food sacrificed to idols were in effect having communion (fellowship) with the demons to whom the food had been dedicated (v. 19-20). To have fellowship with demons, one does not have to swallow demons. All one has to do is eat what is dedicated to demons. This is the same principle by which Paul explains that the bread we break at the Lord’s Supper is fellowship with the body of Christ, and the cup we bless is fellowship with His blood (v. 16). And it is on this basis that he warned the Corinthians, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons” (v. 21).

By the very fact that the Lord’s Supper is in remembrance of Jesus’ body and His blood, that makes the celebration sacred – dedicated unto Jesus’ death. As a result, everyone who eats the bread and drinks the cup is in effect having fellowship with the body and blood of Jesus. Likewise, whoever behaves in a manner that tampers with the sacredness of the celebration is guilty of the body and blood of Christ. Such a person eats and drinks judgment (11:27, 29).

In sum, at no point did Jesus indicate – even remotely – that He would give us power to convert bread into His body or convert drink into His blood. No one can create Jesus from bread. Jesus dwells in us, not in bread. To suggest that the Lord’s Supper bread in our mouth is Jesus’ flesh is the result of misreading the Scriptures. Such a misreading inevitably leads to serious temptations, including the temptation to worship the bread and the drink. It is our hope that this series has shed some light on this all important topic. We further hope that the insights we have shared will help us draw closer to Jesus and better understand what He did (and did not do) for our salvation. Amen.

For further study1 Corinthians 10:1-33; 12:12-27

Eat Jesus’ Flesh and Drink His Blood? (Pt 5)

Daily Devotion | Day 339

“For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:28-29, NKJV).

The night of the Last Supper (Passover) was special meant a lot to Jesus. He had been looking forward to this particular night with intense expectation. Here is how Luke put it, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16). In today’s presentation, we will pay attention to something Jesus said at this supper. It will help us better understand what it means to eat Jesus’s flesh and drink His blood.

When some think of what happened at the Last Supper, they assume that the Apostles alone ate the bread and drunk from the cup. That would mean Jesus was a spectator at the Last Supper. But that is not the case. After Jesus gave the cup to His disciples, He added, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). The bread Jesus gave them, as well as the drink, were all part of the Passover meal. This was a moment of fellowship. Jesus and the Apostles all partook of the same meal. Jesus was no spectator. We know this from what He said: “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on . . .” By “this fruit of the vine,” Jesus was referring to the fruit of the vine He had just given to the Apostles.

This means Jesus drunk the same fruit of the vine which He gave the Apostles. He added that He would not drink of it again until He drunk it new with them at a later time, in the Father’s kingdom. This explains why He instructed the disciples to celebrate this supper in His remembrance. He would no longer be physically present to sit and dine with them (feasting together and drinking the fruit of the vine). He wanted them, in the meantime, to keep His memory (as well as their fellowship with Him) alive by regularly breaking bread and drinking the cup at the Lord’s supper. As often as they did this, they would be proclaiming the Lord’s death until He returned.

Furthermore, Jesus had indicated that there would be yet another supper, a fulfillment, where He and His disciples would drink again the fruit of the vine which they had together enjoyed at the Last Supper. That would happen when He appeared a second time to gather His bride (the Church) to be with Him forever.

The Book of Revelation gives us a hint of what to expect: “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb [Jesus] has come, and His wife [the Church] has made herself ready. . . Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (19:7, 9). This marriage supper of the Lamb is what Jesus was speaking of when He said, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” This tells us that the new covenant is a marriage covenant between Jesus and His wife, the Church. And this covenant is established in His blood.

Jesus had no problem drinking the same fruit of the vine He gave the Apostles because He knew that His blood was not in the cup. His blood would be shed on the Cross, not in the cup. When He gave them bread (His body) and drink (His blood), Jesus was indicating something more profound. He was indicating that He would soon offer Himself (body and blood) as a husband offers himself to his wife with the aim of becoming one flesh. Therefore, when we eat the Lord’s Supper, we remember Jesus as a Loving Husband who gave His life for His wife, the Church. At the same time, we long for the ultimate  Lord’s Supper celebration in heaven: the marriage supper of the Lamb.

If we suppose for a moment that at the marriage supper of the Lamb, we would be served the meat and blood of Jesus, we are in for a rude awakening. That did not happen at the Last Supper, and it will not happen at the main event in heaven. May the Holy Spirit increase our understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice. Amen.

In our subsequent presentations, we will turn our attention to what John chapter 6 says about eating the Bread of Life. Stay blessed. Amen.

For further studyMatthew 22:1-14

Eat Jesus’ Flesh and Drink His Blood? (Pt 4)

Daily Devotion | Day 338

“So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church” (Ephesians 5:28-29, NKJV).

What we are doing in this series is examine what the Scriptures say about eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking His blood. In later presentations we will have much to say about John chapter 6. In the meantime, stay with us as we explore this subject one layer at a time. We want to shed light on all the necessary pieces which form the mosaic of how Jesus feeds His people. We concluded yesterday’s message on the theme of nourishment. Today, we will go deeper by addressing the question: In what ways does Jesus nourish His Church? After all, eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking His blood boils down to the issue of nourishment. We will find out if the means by which Jesus nourishes us includes putting His flesh and blood in our mouth or not. To address this question today, we will appeal to the authority of two prominent Apostles, namely Peter and Paul.

Let us start with what Paul writes in Ephesians 5:25-29. We are interested in what he says about nourishment. He says, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes itjust as the Lord does the church” (v. 29). Here, Paul is urging husbands to do for their wives what Jesus did (and does) for the Church. But what is it that Jesus does for His wife, the Church? The answer is, Jesus “nourishes” the Church. And how does Jesus nourish the Church?

Paul gives us the answer in v. 25-27: “Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that he might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” The key ways Jesus nourished (nourishes) His Church are highlighted in bold font. Jesus nourished the Church by loving herdying for hersanctifying her and cleansing her. He did this so that His Church would be a beautiful, spotless and presentable bride, full of vitality.

After making this point, Paul told husbands to learn from Christ and nourish their wives as He did. Now we know that Jesus’ love for us is our nourishment. When He sanctifies and cleanses us, that too is His way of nourishing us. What is missing here is the idea that Jesus nourishes us by putting His flesh and blood in our mouth, down into our stomach. If Jesus would nourish the Church by putting His flesh and blood in our mouth, now would have been the perfect time for Paul to tell us. But he did not. Either Paul knew about this kind of nourishment (feeding on the Son of God via the alimentary canal) and did not tell us, or He was unaware that such a nourishment existed. The latter is the reality. Paul did not know about such nourishment.

Now let us turn to Peter. He was writing to Christians (most likely recent converts) scattered around “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). At one point, Peter said to them, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (2:2). When Peter speaks of “the word,” he is referring to the word of God. Earlier, he had reminded these believers that they became born again through the incorruptible word of God which was preached to them (1:23-25). Now Peter tells them that the word which brought about their new birth is the same word by which they would grow. Therefore, he encouraged them to nourish themselves on the pure milk of God’s word.

Here, as in the case of Paul, if chewing the flesh of Jesus was part of the believer’s nourishment, now would have been the best occasion for Peter to say so. But Peter new nothing about feeding believers by putting the Son of God in their mouth. He knew nothing about it because Jesus said nothing about it.  

We have said enough for today. We will continue next time, if the Lord wills. Until then, feed on Jesus by feeding on His word. Amen.

For further studyJohn 6:1-36; 15:1-17

The Lord’s Supper: Lessons from Corinth (Pt 5)

Daily Devotion | Day 334

“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 the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17, NKJV).

Today we will summarize the main points we have discussed so far. In addition, we will look at concrete ways we can apply the Corinthian experience to our present day experience of church and the Lord’s Supper. I initially thought we could finish today, but there is a very important aspect of the Lord’s Supper which needs to be covered. We will take care of that tomorrow, God willing. An essential point which has emerged from our study so far is that discerning the Lord’s body (1 Corinthians 11:29), has a two-fold meaning.

First, those who participate in the Lord’s Supper ought to understand that the assembly (the church) is the Lord’s body, a holy convocation. Offensive behavior toward anyone in that assembly is an offense against the Lord’s body. This is why in Corinth, when people created confusion at the Lord’s Supper and despised the poor, they incurred the Lord’s judgment.

Second, one ought to understand that during the Lord’s Supper, God’s people gather around a meal to remember, to fellowship with and to honor the body and blood of Jesus. As a result, any attitude (including any mindset) which undermines the sacred purpose of this meeting constitutes a grave offense against the body and blood of Jesus. If this happens, judgment is inevitable.

In our opening Scripture (1 Corinthians 10:16-17), we learn that the cup of blessing which we bless at the Lord’s Supper is the fellowship of the blood of Christ. Likewise, the bread which we break is the fellowship of the body of Christ. The believers in attendance, Paul concludes, are one bread and one body. When we eat the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of the Lord, it results in fellowship with His body and blood. Because we are intimately joined to the Lord as one body (and one spirit), what we do to one another, we do to Jesus personally.

Consequently, an attack against a believer (or the community) is met with a strong response from the Lord. In the New testament, there are instances where the Lord intervened on behalf of His people because the church was under some form of attack. We recall, for example, the story of Ananias and Sapphira who lied to Peter (Acts 5:1-11), Saul who persecuted the Church (Acts 9:1-5); and of course, there is the Lord’s intervention in the seven churches, e.g. the church at Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-23).

Some practical lessons for us:

While the circumstances in Corinth may differ from ours today, the underlying message is applicable to all Christian churches. Jesus pays attention to our motives and our behavior in the churches. And depending on what we do, He will respond with blessings or judgment. Therefore, we need to attend church meetings with godly motives and maintain a sense of reverence and decorum.

Church time is sacred. It is not the time for comedy, or the time to gossip, create confusion, despise others, bear grudge, show off our latest fashion, or to expose sensitive parts of our body through provocative dressing.

If you feel the church meeting is taking too long and you have somewhere important to be, you are free to leave. You are not the church’s prisoner. It is better for you to leave respectfully than to stay and grumble, constantly looking at your watch. If you have a problem with giving money to support the church, keep your money; but do not complain in your heart or in your words about giving. If you do, you will be offending the Lord.

If you have an issue which you think needs to be addressed, speak with the appropriate elders in your church. But whatever you do, do not engage in irreverent behavior, even if you believe everyone is wrong and you alone are right. Participate in church meetings, especially the Lord’s Supper. But have a single goal: to fellowship with the brethren, to edify and be edified, and to glorify the Lord. Do this and you will be blessed. Amen.

For further study: John 17:1-26

The Lord’s Supper: Lessons from Corinth (Pt 4)

Daily Devotion | Day 333

“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28, NKJV).

In parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series we discussed the problem at the Lord’s Supper in Corinth as well as its consequences. Today we will look at the solution Paul proposed to end the crisis. Paul’s solution is summed up in our opening Scripture: “let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” This solution is to be applied in two ways. First, Paul is calling for a change of thinking regarding how one approaches the Lord’s Supper. Second, he is calling for a change of external behavior with respect to the Lord’s Supper. In what follows, we will discuss the specifics of what Paul is saying.

Thinking affects behavior and behavior affirms thinking. What you think of the Lord’s Supper will shape your attitude toward it. Obviously, the behavior of the Corinthians shows they were not thinking right about the Lord’s Supper. They thought of it as an ordinary meeting, and they behaved accordingly. But those who intend to participate in the Lord’s Supper must examine themselves about the nature and the purpose of this celebration. To help the Corinthians think right, Paul reminded them that the Lord’s Supper is not an ordinary supper. It is a proclamation of the Lord’s death. As he put it, “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (v. 26). 

This is what Christians must have in mind when they participate in the Lord’s Supper. When they attend this meeting, they need to keep their thoughts and motives aligned with Christ’s. The last thing they want is to treat the Lord’s death (or the church) with contempt and suffer the consequences. When they examine (judge) themselves, they would behave well at the Lord’s Supper and escape judgment (v. 31). Otherwise, the Lord Himself will intervene and judge and punish (discipline) those who trivialize His Supper. They should be thankful for this form of judgment, because it is the Lord’s way of sparing them something far worse: condemnation along with the world. (v. 32; v. 30; see Revelation 3:19).

The other part of the self-examination involves behavioral change. Paul’s appeal is, “my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment” (v. 33-34). Since the Lord’s Supper was (and still is) a fellowship meal, our attitude at the meal matters. Love is patient, we are told (1 Corinthians 13:4). From what Paul said here, we know that some in the community had neither the patience nor the inclination to wait for their brethren. They therefore went ahead and ate their own supper. This attitude defeated the purpose of the Lord’s Supper.

Patience, after all, is an essential component of love. Being patient is being loving; being impatient is being unloving. And in the absence of love, the Lord’s Supper loses its meaning. When this happens, eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper draws judgment instead of blessing. To avoid this, Paul gave the following practical advice: Wait for the brethren. But if you cannot wait because you are hungry, eat at home before you join the Lord’s Supper. It is better to eat at home than arrive at the Lord’s Supper hungry, angry and impatient.  

God willing, we will conclude the Lord’s Supper series tomorrow. Stay patient. Stay loving. Amen.

For further studyExodus 12:1-28 and Revelation 2:18-23