1 Corinthians 11: 23-25; 10: 15-22
I want to speak a little as to the loaf. (I read these scriptures to get the context in which the loaf comes in.) Regarding the Lord’s supper, the scripture says He “took bread, and having given thanks broke it, and said, This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me”. We do that each first day of the week. The loaf on the table in this setting represents the body of the Lord Jesus, and as we break it and eat of it we are appropriating that precious body. Christ is before us. We are calling Him to remembrance, “this do in remembrance of me”. It is mentioned twice in this passage, both in regard to the loaf and the cup, being an intensified thought; the mind and heart of the believer who participates is fastened on Christ. That is what is before us primarily. It is not exactly the saints that are brought before us - we will come to that in chapter 10 - but what is before us is Christ and the remembrance of Him and the calling of Him to mind. The believer, as participating in the thanksgiving, the loaf, the bread, has in mind the death of the Lord, and both the bread and the cup, bringing in the death of the Lord. His resurrection would come in also. We remember One who is alive. He was once dead, but He is alive now. These are thoughts that fill the heart and soul and affections of the believer, linking them with a Man in the glory, a Man who is about to come to us. That is the great thought in coming up to the Supper, that Christ is going to come to us.
It is not so much the saints. The saints gather, and you take account of them as they come, you see the brethren gathering together, and you view them as the brethren of Christ. That is the company that gathers. You see the saints first of all. The table is set; someone has set the table, love has acted in that. You come in and sit down and look at the table, and take account of the memorial. It means something to the believer who is about to participate in the service of the Supper that has been set on by the Lord Jesus. He sees the brethren sitting around the emblems; it is a collective thought, be there few or be there many, That is what is the intent of the heart and mind of the believer at that time - Christ is being made way for. The Lord comes amongst us as the Son of God, comes in and takes up His rights in our hearts. He does not take up His rights in the world yet, but takes up His rights in the hearts of the believers, those present. That is the setting of the Supper.
Last Lord’s day we were breaking bread in another place and it came to me in giving thanks, as we finished eating, that we had all participated of that one loaf; everyone that was there had eaten of the one loaf, and participated in the celebration. It was a fresh dedication on my part and the part of each one to the Lord Jesus and to the fellowship. That is what I want to draw attention to.
In chapter 10 it says, “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of the Christ? Because we, being many, are one loaf”, it is not exactly the main thought in the Supper. But it is a thought which has to enter into the mind and life of the believer, “we, being many, are one loaf”. That same loaf represents all the saints. That is something to grasp hold of too. It comes into the heart from that point of view, out of the death of Christ has sprung, 'that wondrous living throng’, Hymn 152, John 12: 24.
The one loaf represents the fellowship, “we, being many, are one loaf”, and in putting our hands to that one loaf we are committing ourselves to the Lord Jesus and to His testimony. We belong to a fellowship and that fellowship is described in chapter 1, “God is faithful, by whom ye have been called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord”, 1 Cor 1: 9. There is one Christian fellowship. Here it is referred to in verse 21, “ye cannot partake of the Lord’s table, and of the table of demons”; that means you cannot be in fellowship with the Lord and in fellowship with demons, and I am not thinking in any way that any of the saints are associated with anything to do with demons. I do not think that at all. But, partaking of the Lord’s table is a view, it seems to me, similar to chapter 1 of 1 Corinthians, “the fellowship of his Son”. All believers belong to that fellowship; there is only one fellowship in the world and that is the fellowship of God’s Son. At the time when Paul wrote the Corinthian epistle there was only one fellowship. It has often been said that in Corinth there were three kinds of gatherings, the Christian gathering, the Jewish synagogue gathering and the pagan temple gathering. That is what was in Corinth. In our day, with the public breakdown of the church, there are many Christians breaking bread together, independent companies. I use that in a general sense. There are Christian companies in this city, apart from ourselves, who break bread together. But you and I are not committed to them in a practical sense, in what they go on with, because we have taken our escape, according to 2 Timothy 2, “Yet the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, The Lord knows those that are his; and, Let every one who names the name of the Lord withdraw from iniquity”, v 19. So that in acting according to that, it then says, “If therefore one shall have purified himself from these, in separating himself from them, he shall be a vessel to honour, sanctified, serviceable to the Master”, v 21. By withdrawing from iniquity we are not responsible for what other believers go on with, but we are responsible to one another and to the Lord for what we do in participating together in the celebration of the Supper. When you put your hand to the loaf you are committed to the fellowship of God’s Son, you are committed to the company with whom you are breaking bread. It is an expression of committal to the Lord and to one another. All we who participate put our hands to the loaf, we take of it and eat of it. We are expressing Christian fellowship together. It is a broken day, thus the expression of fellowship limits it to those with whom we express fellowship in the breaking of bread.
So in this setting, “we, being many, are one loaf, one body”, immediately involves those of us who express fellowship together at the Lord’s supper, we all partake of that one loaf. We are committed to one another, to the Lord, to Christian principles, we understand fellowship. We are associated with one another in a most intimate way, we are partners together. Where I go, I take you; where you go, you take me. How intimate that is. In all our committals we take one another wherever we go, whatever we do. I am not suggesting or thinking that anyone is doing anything wrong; that is not what is in my mind. What is in my mind is this matter of the one loaf and the intimacy of the bond that binds believers together as expressing fellowship together. The bond is in the Holy Spirit, that bond is in consecration to Christ. It is a practical thing and every Lord’s day we do that freshly and it remains through the week, and next Lord’s day we express it again freshly. If we miss the Supper it does not alter the fact that we are in fellowship together - we might be ill, but I am speaking about the normality of things, “we, being many, are one loaf, one body”. All the saints are in that loaf abstractly. In our hearts and affections there is love for all the saints, there is nobody excluded. Practically it comes down to those with whom we express fellowship and we, brethren, are bound up with one another as expressing fellowship together in a most intimate way. We are partakers with one another, partners with one another, in the fellowship of God’s Son. We are all committed to the understanding of the truth as we know it. “Have an outline of sound words” (1 Tim 1: 13); that outline is in my heart and in your heart, and I am governed by my understanding of the truth, and I am governed by the understanding that the saints have of the truth. So if I do not understand it fully, I will come into the understanding of it. That is what the reading meetings and the ministry meetings do, help us to come into an understanding of the truth.
I just had these thoughts in my heart and my mind to commend them to each of us: to see the dignity that attaches to the fellowship, and the intimacy that attaches to the fellowship, and the responsibility attached to the fellowship so that we are careful where we go, how we go, what we do, every one of us because we want to represent Christ in every setting in which we are, and carry with us the confidence of the saints. We are acting with dignity in relation to the circle of the saints with whom we break bread together. I leave these thoughts with us for our encouragement, but also for the responsibility that attaches to us, especially in the partaking of the loaf.
13th November 2007