Paul warns the Corinthian believers to leave their idolatry as it doesn’t fit with being a follower of Christ. To bring the point home he talks about taking Communion.
“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
A little bit of a side note here:
Your church doesn’t do Communion biblically. Notice what he said about the bread coming from one loaf? Most churches have individual little square, Styrofoam bits for the bread. If you were to do Communion strictly literally it would be one loaf with pieces broken off of it. It is supposed to be wine if you’re going literal and the wine is from one cup, which being poured from one container might suffice. You’d be hard pressed to find a church that does all these things, especially in our Covid freaked out day.
Taking Communion is a participation or sharing in the body and blood of Christ. What does Paul mean by that? Does it mean you are literally eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood?
Paul uses “participation” a couple times in this chapter, which is helpful.
Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? (10:18)
Does eating a sacrificed animal mean you are literally eating the altar? No. The animal was sacrificed and cooked on the altar. When you eat the sacrifice you are participating in everything the altar stands for.
Later he uses the word in another way:
The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. (10:20)
Idolatry is the worship of demons, it is their demonic lies that are behind all false religion. Follow their lies and you are worshipping the demon behind it. If you eat meat sacrificed to idols are you literally eating a demon? No. You are participating in what represents demons.
Paul’s use of “participation” and “participate” shows what he means when he says taking Communion is a participation in the body and blood of Christ.
The bread and the wine represent Christ’s flesh and blood. The word does not mean you are literally chomping on Jesus’ thigh or drinking down His blood.
The elements represent something large. When you take the elements understand that you are identifying with something larger.
If you ate an Old Testament sacrifice you are participating in the whole of the sacrificial system, the altar, the priests, and the whole thing the meat represents. When you eat meat sacrificed to idols, it’s not just a hamburger; it represents all manner of things behind it.
When you take Communion it is required in the taker that they understand everything behind it. It’s not a normal snack. It represents big stuff and carries implications.
There is a warning here, and Paul will elaborate on it in 1 Corinthians 11.
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord ’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (10:21-22)
Communion is a serious thing. It represents high things. You’re linking yourself up with everything that Christ did in His body and in the shedding of His blood. This is not to be done flippantly.
The tendency of non-protestant/Reformed churches and non-Catholics is to get flippant. We go to extremes. If we go against the over-done pageantry of Catholic Mass then we go the other way and make it into a cavalier event. This is what the church in Corinth did. Paul has strong words for them in chapter 11.
Respect Communion. It represents big time stuff.