Simple Papers on the Church of God: Part 16, the Breaking of Bread

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Now nothing like this table had ever been known before. It is true that a Jew could speak of Jehovah's table (Ezek. 41:22;44. 16; Mal. 1:7,127Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible. (Malachi 1:7)
12But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. (Malachi 1:12)
), for both the golden altar, and the altar of burnt-offering are thus designated by the prophets, since on the altar Jehovah's portion was placed. But in the New Testament, the Lord's table is the place at which He dispenses to all believers the memorials of His death. At the table of the Lord, of which the prophets write, no man sat. At the Lord's table, of which St. Paul writes, Christians have their place. Hence examination, or proving oneself, δοκιμἀξειν, becomes every Christian, not to stay away, but to judge himself, διακρἰνειν, and so to eat of the bread and to drink of the cup. Now in this the Corinthians had failed. For meeting professedly to partake of the Lord's supper, either at a meal or after it, the custom appears to have been for the richer ones to provide the food, of which all together were to eat. But, alas! self had come in, and the richer brethren consumed the provisions themselves. Gluttony and drunkenness prevailed where solemnity should have characterized the meeting. The poorer brethren were hungry, and wanting; whilst the richer were full, and were drunken The assembly of God was despised, and those who had no houses to eat in were put to shame The disorder was grievous; it was scandalous (11: 21, 22), and the Lord had already strongly marked His disapproval of it. (xi. 30) How did the apostle deal with it? He reminded them that " the Lord Jesus on the night in which He was delivered up took bread; and having given thanks, brake it, and said, This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me. In like manner also the cup, after having supped, saying, This cup is the new testament (or covenant) in my blood: this do, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye shall eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye announce the death of the Lord until He come." (11: 23-26) Simple, but surely heart-searching, must this statement have been; a quiet, but how great a rebuke to their ways at the table. The Lord, their Lord, on the night of His betrayal, fully conscious of all that was before Him, thought of His people, and instituted this supper for them. Should then disciples of that Lord be thinking of themselves, and allowing flesh to work unchecked, when they met to show His death? How could they after that! The professed purpose of their meeting should have rebuked all the disorders they had permitted and indulged in.
The Lord had died. But why? They well knew. We know. He was delivered for our offenses. Then at His table, at His supper, was the last place where self should have been unrestrained, unjudged; and we should observe how the apostle endeavors to impress this on them, and to keep it before them. Recapitulating that which he had received of the Lord about the supper, Paul omits certain words with which we are made familiar by the evangelists. "Take, eat" are, according to the best authorities, to be left out. "Drink ye all of it," it will be seen, has no place in St. Paul's account of what the Lord said about the cup. The word "broken," too, in verse 24-not found in any evangelist in this connection-we may be pretty sure is an addition for which there is no Scripture warranty.
Now there is a significance in the omission of "Take, eat" in this recital of the institution of the supper; for the apostle evidently was divinely-directed, not to fix their thoughts so much on the privilege which was theirs, as to impress on them the solemnity of what they were engaged in. Hence he simply writes, " This is my body, which is for you," fixing their attention and ours likewise on that of which the bread is the emblem; and the same with the cup. Surely as they read these words, and understood their import, a sense of shame must have come over them-remembering the scenes they had witnessed, and in which some perhaps had openly had part. And what must still further, one would think, have impressed them were the words peculiar to St. Paul "For as often as ye shall eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye announce the death of the Lord until He come." How little soever they had been conscious of it, that was professed by the breaking of bread. He who is the Lord, the highest in dignity in creation, had died; and yet in the presence of the memorials of His death they had been unimpressed, unsolemnized. What brought Him to die? Sin, and their sins. On no other occasion then could they have been better or more forcibly reminded of what sin is in God's sight; yet what had been the scenes witnessed at such times? Of what a nature were they partakers! But were they worse than others? Alas! we have all the same evil nature; and though from circumstances drunkenness or gluttony could not be indulged in at the table in these days, self may be just as active in many other ways. What grace to provide atonement for such wretched creatures as we by nature are!
"The Lord's death." Such words invite meditation; they take us back to the past. " Till He come." This carries us on in thought to the future. Partaking of the supper they announced the Lord's death, and that in view of His return. The Lord had died, but the Lord will return; and He has lost none of His rights by death. In this He stands out alone from all that have entered into death. All that was His in this world before the cross is His now, and will be claimed by Him by-and-by. What was His by birth (Psa. 2) is His still, and He will possess it, though He has died. But is this all that we have to think of as we announce the Lord's death? Oh, no! for by it all our blessings for eternity have been purchased, and are put beyond the reach of uncertainty. The mercies of David are made sure, because He is risen. (Acts 13:3434And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. (Acts 13:34)) Atonement, too, has been made by His blood shed on the cross; and the whole question of sin will by-and-by be openly proved to have been dealt with by His death. (Heb. 9:2727And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27); John 1:2929The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)) He has tasted death for everything; He has annulled by His death him that had the power of death; delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage; and has made propitiation for the sins of the people. (Heb. 2) Earth is concerned in His death, and far more than earth. How much results from the Lord's death which His people are privileged to announce!
The supper, then, was no common meal. To partake of it unworthily was no light matter. He that did so was guilty of the body and blood of the Lord; i.e. liable to judgment because of the slight thus put upon Him. Such an one ate and drank judgment to himself (κρῖμα, not damnation, κατάκριμα) from not discerning the Lord's body; i.e. what the bread signified. The Lord's body here has no reference to the Church; and Paul never called the Church by such a name. The Church is the body of Christ, not the body of the Lord. The Lord's body in our chapter is that of which the bread was the emblem, as He Himself had said, " This is my body." Hence the man's guilt consisted in treating the supper as an ordinary meal, not discerning in it that of which the elements were but figures. Now such conduct the Lord would not allow to go on unchecked. Self-judgment would indeed avert His judicial interference; but where that remained lacking, He Himself, the Lord, would, and had interposed. Weakness, sickness, and death had visited many of the Corinthian assembly for these grave scandals; but perhaps, till pointed out by the apostle, they were scarcely aware of the reason for these divine visitations upon them. Yet there was grace in them. Because they were really Christians the Lord dealt thus with them, that they should not be condemned with the world.1
They had eaten unworthily. How many souls have been troubled about this, and have kept away from the table from not understanding the language and meaning of the apostle. No question was intended about their worthiness to be at the supper. As Christians they were worthy, though of course viewing the matter in another light since their place there was of grace, they might be, and as we must ever own they were, unworthy of it. But the sin dealt with was the partaking of the supper in an unworthy manner. Their ways at the table were what the apostle was writing of, and what the Lord had rebuked. They partook in an unworthy manner, not discerning the Lord's body. Such are guilty as respects His body and blood.
How then shall we provide against this? The Lord has told us, "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat." What care does this evince that we should not render ourselves liable to judgment? What desire does it manifest on the Lord's part that all His people, unless disqualified by church discipline, should come and eat? C. E. S. (Continued from page 252)