1 Corinthians 11:23-26; 10:6-22; John 6
In these three scriptures we have the most solemn and yet the most blessed subject that we could possibly be called upon to consider set before us; for what more solemn subject could be presented to us for our meditation than the blood-shedding and death of our Lord? and yet what more blessed, for in this has been fully manifested that love of Christ that has been truly said to surpass knowledge? Greater love, the Lord Himself has said, has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends; and though those few disciples to whom He said these words were His friends, in the day in which He laid down His life for them, we can say, “When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son,” and though it may be, and it is, to the imagination of the creature utterly overwhelming in its might and majesty, it is nevertheless true that when there was nothing in our hearts toward Him but hatred, not even the shame, the gibbet, the curse, the wrath, the abandonment of God, could quench the love that burned in His heart toward us. When our hearts are touched by this they are touched by the very infinitude of God, for God is love.
In the Supper of our Lord we have set before us the . . .
of this unspeakable love of Christ by His beloved saints. It is not here the inauguration of this holy ordinance, for we find in the Gospels that the Lord gave it to the disciples before He suffered, and here the Apostle reminds the saints at Corinth that he had already delivered it to them. Here it is the indoctrination of the saints into the true meaning, import, and character of the holy feast, which if ever they had understood they had at this time entirely forgotten. Through the allowance of the fleshly mind they had become divided up into sects and parties, much like what we have in the professing church today, and each of these separate parties ate the supper by themselves. It was now their own supper, for it had lost the character of the Lord’s. This the Apostle seeks to correct, and makes known to them that the reason sickness and death were so prevalent among them was on account of the disgraceful way in which they had conducted themselves at this sacred ordinance.
He introduces the subject by reminding them that it was introduced by the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed, and one can well understand how the reference to this awful exhibition of base ingratitude, by one that had dipped with our Lord in the same dish, must have pierced like a sharp arrow the conscience of the Corinthians, who had been giving a loose rein to the flesh which through Judas struck with venomed fang such a traitorous blow at the meek and lowly Saviour of the world.
The best education that God could bestow upon fallen man had from the beginning been bestowed upon the fallen race, but something even beyond the ministry of the Word, and dispensational privileges, had been bestowed upon Judas, for he had been the companion of God manifest in flesh for a period of, I suppose, three whole years, and had been entrusted with a ministry of grace beyond all that had previously been given to the greatest of the prophets, and yet for thirty pieces of silver he sold his Divine Master to His enemies, and those that sought His life. But such is the flesh in every one of us, and so this the Corinthians were found living a very loose rein.
Judas goes out into the night, the slave of his accursed avarice, the betrayer of infinite Love, the tool of the devil. How loathsome to every upright mind is such heartless treachery, and yet in the school of God shall each of us find wrapped up within his own skin the elements of the betrayer. We are all ready enough to proclaim our horror of the betrayer of Jesus, but when we have learned what we really are we shall abhor ourselves. Such treachery witnessed from the battlements of heaven might well make the celestial hierarchy shudder, but to find this treachery in our own hearts is unspeakably appalling.
It was when the traitor was manifested, and when he went out in the darkness of the night to do his deed of darkness, that the Lord Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood; this do ye, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.
What was there now to wait for? There was no mending of the flesh, no softening of the human heart, no reconciling of the carnal mind. The judgment that had long hung over the rebel race must now be executed. If executed on the creature he is lost for ever. This would mean the triumph of the devil, the dishonour of God, the loss of His creature, the eternal destruction and utter misery of the whole human race.
“This is My body, which is broken for you.” The floodgates of the love of Christ are thrown wide open. What Judas was doing at that moment, what Peter would do before the cock crew, what the others would do consequent upon the outrage in Gethsemane, hinders not in the least the outflow of that shoreless and fathomless ocean of love that swelled in the heart of the Saviour, and tore its living and triumphant way through every barrier that rose up against it, until the bitter chalice of Divine judgment was to the very dregs exhausted, and the blackness and the darkness and the wrath and the forsaking were over for ever, and in all its solitary grandeur and greatness it swathed Golgotha with a glory that declared salvation for a world of fallen men.
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Here we may learn the eternal and unalterable disposition of God to His people: love from which there can be no separation. Love that nothing could measure but the death of His only begotten Son. This is the covenant, a covenant of love. It is not like the old covenant telling man what he should be for God, but this is telling us what He is on our behalf. In this we have the seal and confirmation of all that God is to us in the love of His heart. And all this brought to us by the Lord Jesus.
“This do in remembrance of Me.” How could we forget Him? Shall we not rejoice to celebrate such love as His? What a table He has spread for us! Shall we be indifferent to it? Shall we hesitate to partake of it? He has died for us. He has settled every question that was between our souls and the God whom we had offended. Let us gather around Him. Let us sit down with Him and listen to His singing as He leads the praises of God. Let us bow the knee before Him. Is He not everything to our ransomed souls? Let us keep Him in glad remembrance until we see Him and are with Him in His glory, and let us remember Him in His appointed way: for as often as we eat the bread and drink the cup we show the Lord’s death till He come.
is the way in which the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood are presented to our minds in chapter 10 of this epistle. In chapter 11 we have the privilege side set before us, and in chapter 10 the responsible side. We are identified with that of which we partake. In partaking of the cup we are identified with His death, and all that flows from that death. It is the fellowship of His death; and all who partake of it are by that means identified with that which it represents. In eating that which was offered to idols the heathen had fellowship with demons, for the things that were offered by them were offered to demons. The priests in the economy of law in partaking of the sacrifices were in fellowship with Jehovah, for to Him the sacrifices were offered. In partaking of the bread and cup we have fellowship with Christ. This is the import of the act.
The cup represents the blood of Christ, and the bread the body; but in the mind of the Apostle it is not this only that he calls our attention to, but our partaking of these things, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not the fellowship of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the fellowship of the body of Christ?” Though the loaf is in the first instance the body of Christ—His own body, in partaking of it we are identified with it; and then verse 17 tells us that “we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. This verse affirms that we are one body by the fact that we all partake of that one loaf, but verse 16 tells us that that body is the body of Christ. In chapter 11 the cup and the bread are definitely said to be the blood and body of the Lord; here it is not so, for the cup is the fellowship of His blood, and the bread is the fellowship of His body. We must not attempt to make Scripture say what it does not say.
Then he says, “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons.” Now here I think he is speaking of that which is represented by the cup, being vitally identified with the death of our Lord, and my reason for saying so is that he says no person can drink of both. He does not say, Ye should not; but, ye cannot. It is impossible to be vitally and intelligently identified with Christ in His death, and identified with the demon to whom the sacrifice is offered.
Next he says, “Ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of demons.” When he speaks of the table he has before his mind that which is represented by both bread and cup, for it takes both to express the infinite wealth of blessing that is presented before our eyes by these means. The Table is prepared before us in the wilderness. Nothing more could be placed upon it that would add anything to the richness of this boundless preparation that He has made for those who love Him. With this we cannot be identified, if we are partakers of the table of demons. To attempt to unite them is to provoke the Lord to jealousy, and to defy His power.
It has been said that jealousy is inconsistent with love. But this is an entire mistake. Where there is the tendency to be unfaithful, the least movement in that direction, the determination to preserve the beloved object at all cost from evil must surely be aroused. In such circumstances where no jealousy is there is no love. He will not allow any attempt on the part of His people to connect His Table with the table of demons, and Himself with the demon. In chapter 11 we see what stern measures He takes to guard the Supper from desecration, and in this chapter we see He will not allow Himself to be associated with demons.
In John 6 we have that which 1 Corinthians 10:11 speaks of presented, in a still different aspect. In the epistles to the Corinthians it is the body and blood of our Lord, but in John 6 it is the flesh and blood. Possibly the reason of this is that in Corinthians the death of our Lord is viewed more in a sacrificial way, and in John’s Gospel as the food of our souls: for life we are to eat His flesh and drink His blood.
From the moment man came under death on account of sin there was no way of deliverance for him: except through death. It is not only that man is a sinner and amenable to the judgment of God, but if he is to be in right relations with God he must have another life than that which he received from Adam. In the life of flesh he cannot live to God, for it is in its nature enmity against Him. In John 5 this life is presented on the line of the sovereignty of God: the Father and the Son quicken whom they will; but in chapter 6 it is presented on the line of our appropriation: we are to eat His flesh and drink His blood that we may have eternal life.
That Christ died that we might live is a most blessed truth; but to say that He died that we might live in the life derived from Adam would be to turn that truth into a most mischievous falsehood, for, as I have said, the very nature of that life is enmity against God, and it cannot be altered. And the way in which we are to avail ourselves of this life that is in Christ and to which neither sin nor death can ever be attached is set before us in this chapter.
The Jews boasted that their fathers had eaten manna in the desert, but the Lord reminds them that this did not render them immune from death, “Your fathers did eat manna, and are dead.” But He was the Bread come down from heaven, “that a man may eat thereof, and not die.” Moreover this bread was His flesh, which He would give, not for the Jews only, but for the life of the world. He was the Bread of life, but to be eaten His blood must be separated from His body.
Sin brought death into the world, and from the day it came in it dominated the whole human race. And death alone can remove the sin that brought it in. No one but the Lamb of God can remove sin. He alone can take it away. But He must die to do this. In His death it has received its judgment, and in the appropriation of His death, the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood, I die to the sin that dominated me, and to the evil life that was dominated by it, and in the life of the One who died for me I live to God. And there is no other way of life, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.” Now that death has come in we must feed upon it for deliverance from it, for only in the life we derive from Christ can we live to God.
“Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood has eternal life.” He has this life in present possession, and with the certainty of being perfected in glory, “I will raise him up at the last day.” And not only this but such a one “dwelleth in me, and I in Him”; for to be in His life is to be in Himself, and to have Him dwelling in us.
He had to die in order to be appropriated by us, for apart from His dying He could not have come within the reach of our appropriation; and not only this, but we, having accepted Him in death, are now privileged to feed upon Himself, “As the living Father has sent Me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth Me shall live by Me.” His death is ours, and in eating His flesh and drinking His blood we eat and drink death to our whole old sinful condition, and in eating Himself we claim as our own that beautiful life of His that was developed down here in this scene of contrariety; and the beautiful characteristics that were so fully the delight of the Father’s heart, and which are so excellent in our eyes, tell us what a glorious life it was.
How glad we should be to be privileged to celebrate that love that surpasses knowledge, and to eat the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of Him who died for us, and thus brought His love to light. And how careful we should be not to provoke Him to jealousy by putting Him on a level with idols, of which there are many in that which professes His name on earth. May we also know better what it is to make His death our own, and may we be filled with the infinite delight that springs from the knowledge that that meek, holy, lowly, heavenly life is ours in our relationships with the Father and the Son, and with one another.