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Participation with Christ

1 Corinthians 10:16-17

October 1, 2017

I want to talk about our participation with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ this morning.  I would like for you to just listen for a moment as I read some verses from Scripture.  Maybe close your eyes, just don’t go to sleep, and listen intently to the message of these verses.

Ephesians 2:1-7

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-- by grace you have been saved-- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 2:20

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 

Romans 6:1-11

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

There is participation with Christ.  It is as if we died when Christ died, it is as if we rose to newness of live when Christ arose.  Christ lives in us and through us.

I would like to look at a couple of verses in 1 Corinthians 10 this morning as we meditate on what it means to have this kind of relationship with our Lord.  The overarching theme of this chapter is:

Fellowship With Demons (vv. 14-15, 20-22)

In chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that idolatry, immorality, and even complaining against God are not questionable things; they are outright sin.  He makes it clear that Christians have no liberty in regard to these things.  Then in verses 14-22 he explains why the sin of idolatry is an abomination in the sight of God.

Specifically, Paul is addressing the idea of eating meat sacrificed to idols.  You see, it is one thing to take liberty in questionable things like eating meat sacrificed to idols, but it is a serious sin to partake in any form of idol worship.  There is liberty in attending pagan functions but never in worship of false gods.  The Apostle says in verse 14 that you must flee idolatry.

But before we get to self-righteous and say, “Well I have never bowed down in worship to any other gods,” we need to remember that idolatry is not just an image on the shelf that we burn incense to, say prayers to, or give gifts to.  Idolatry is having any false god.  Anything that we put as our primary concern or have a loyalty toward in life that takes the place of God’s place of preeminence.  It could be work, sports, habits, or anything that decreases our loyalty to God and our trust in Him.

I want to set a scene here from the Old Testament sacrifices.  The altar was a place where innocent animals were sacrificed for the sins of the people.  We may see the altar as a table on which food was sacrificed to God, and the priests ate from those offerings.  As the priest ate from the sacrifice, they became participants in the altar sacrifice.

In other words, everyone was involved in the sacrificial offering; the one who brought the offering, the offering itself, and those who ate part of the offering, were all participants in worship of God.  Look at verse 18:

18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?

The word translated “participants,” is the word κοινωνός {koy-no-nos'} which means a partner, associate, comrade, companion.  In other words, the priests who ate some of the meat that was sacrificed to God on the altar became participants or partners in the sacrifice.  They shared in the worship of God.

So, when it comes to religious ceremonies, whether Christian or pagan, it involves the participation of the worshipers with the object of their worship, God or an idol and each other.  All parties involved are partners in worship.  There is a bond together.  Thus, it is easy to see why worship of idols by a believer is such an abomination to the Lord.

He goes on to say in verses 20-22 that sacrifices made to false gods is the same as offering sacrifice to demons because they delight in any expression of worship that is apart from God or contrary to our Lord or draws us away from our walk with God.

20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

This is huge.  When we allow something in our lives to become more important than our Lord or our relationship with Him, it is idolatry.  But it is not just about the fact that we are worshipping a false god in our lives, it is because this act is as if we are worshipping demons, fellowshipping with demons.  That is a pretty ugly picture, but that is how God sees it when you and I put other things in our lives more important than Him.

What do we allow in our lives that becomes more important than God?  That is our idol.  What keeps us from our time alone with God in prayer and meditation on His Word?  That is idolatry.  What keeps us from fellowship with other believers, worshiping God with others?  Whatever that is . . . is our idol worship.  What keeps you from serving the Lord?  That is what you are fellowshipping with and whatever it is, it is as if you are a participant with demons Paul tells us in verse 20.

I think it is always important to examine our lives about what we make more important than God.  Remember, Satan delights in the fact that you have more important things to do than read your Bible, pray, go church, fellowship with other believers, or be concerned about the spiritual wellbeing of others.  What is your idol?  Is your fellowship with the demons?

Fellowship With Christ (vv. 16-17)

Now right in the middle of all this idol talk are two very important verses that I want to look at as we prepare for communion, verses 16 and 17.  The verses surrounding these two verses refer to having fellowship with demons through idolatry, but here he talks about having fellowship with Christ.  The Apostle Paul uses the communion service as an illustration of what he is talking about when it comes to our participation in idolatry.  The reason I want to look at this today is that I think it will help us understand better what it means to have a communion service.  Look at 1 Corinthians 10:16-17.

16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Again, the word translated “participation,” or “sharing” or “communion” depending upon your translation is the word κοινωνία{koy-nohn-ee'-ah} meaning fellowship, association, community, communion, or joint participation.  We are talking about fellowship with Christ.  Before we were talking about fellowship with demons through idolatry.

I see three aspects our joint participation as believers with Christ.

~ Participants in His Blood (v. 16a)

~ Participants in His Body (v. 16b)

~ Participants With Each Other (v. 17)

Participants in His Blood (v. 16a)

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?

The cup of blessing is more than likely referring to the third cup in the Passover meal, the cup of redemption.  At the Passover meal with His disciples, Jesus used this cup as a symbol of the redemption He was about to purchase with His shed blood on the cross of Calvary.  From this time forward, this cup was set apart as a special token of thanksgiving for God’s redemption for us through Jesus Christ.

So, in rhetorical style, Paul asks us if the cup of blessing, the cup at the communion table, if it is not also a participation in the blood of Christ?  When we are partaking of the cup at communion . . . we are in joint participation with the shedding of His blood for sin.  In other words, we have this in common together with our Savior.

We often refer to the elements of the communion table as symbols of His blood and body and this is true.  But it goes so much deeper than just being a symbol.  We spiritually participate in his suffering and death.  In fact, Philippians 3:10 refers to the fellowship of his sufferings.  Fellowship is the word κοινωνία{koy-nohn-ee'-ah}.

When we take time to remember Jesus taking our sin upon Himself . . . it should have profound meaning to us.  The drinking of the cup should remind us of His blood being shed and the cleansing of sin through it.  Jesus became sin for us, took our penalty for us, and with His death redeemed us.

Life is in the blood and the shed blood meant the death of our Savior . . . in our place.  It is as if we paid with our own life.  By drinking the cup, we participate in the most intimate and real communion we can ever have with Him.  I guarantee that if you are thinking about His shed blood and what that means as you take of the cup, Jesus is intensely aware of your heart of thanksgiving.

Now I am not trying to spiritualize what happens at the communion table.  We do not get saved or have our sins forgiven at the table.  You come to the table as a saved individual with your sins already forgiven.  But there is an intense identification that takes place when you understand that we are participants in the cross of Christ.

Shed blood means loss of life, our penalty paid, and as a believer, it means death to sin and its power over us.

But our verse doesn’t end there does it?  We are also:

Participants in His Body (v. 16b)

The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

Sometimes the bread being broken is applied to Jesus in that we say Jesus was broken for us.  We must remember that there was not a bone broken in his body.  They were going to break His legs on the cross so that He would die, but then they found Jesus already dead, so they didn’t.

When we think of the body of our Lord, we are reminded of His earthly life.  God in flesh, dwelling among us.  We are reminded of the physical sufferings He went through and we partake in the fellowship of His sufferings as we mentioned earlier from Philippians 3:10.

When we share or participate in Christ’s body, we remember and celebrate Jesus’ incarnation, the divine becoming human, his sinless life in this world, and His physical torture and death.  When we eat the bread, we remember His kenosis, His self-emptying, His suffering as we suffer, His being tempted as we are tempted, so that He could become our Mediator knowing all that we go through.

Jesus wants us to participate in communion on a regular basis because it is a spiritual experience where we are once again reminded of our participation in Jesus’ death and resurrection.  When believers partake in communion, the Spirit of God uses these symbols to rekindle our spirits in appreciation and awareness of our Lord’s great sacrifice for us or at least it should.  This is not to be some dead ritual we do.  This should invigorate our spiritual of thanksgiving and fellowship with Him.

There is one more special aspect of the communion table found in verse 17.  We become:

Participants With Each Other (v. 17)

17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

There is only one bread, Jesus Christ.  but there are many who are a part of one body, we who are believers, part of the one Body of Christ.  And what makes us one in unity?  We all partake of the one bread, Jesus Christ.  This is a profound celebration of a common spiritual experience.  The Lord's Supper, our Communion service, is an occasion when members of the church declare their unity with each other because of their common unity with Jesus Christ

Every single believer in this room stands on the same ground when it comes to our salvation . . . at the foot of the cross.  We are all forgiven sinners who possess eternal life through the sacrifice of our Savior.  We may all be different in so many ways, but in Christ, we are all the same.

This brings us back to the verse I mentioned earlier, verse 18.

18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?

Because of our faith in Christ, we are not only participants in the sacrifice of Jesus, but we are participants with each other in our faith.  We gather at the Lord’s table with bread and juice that represent our Savior’s life and death.  But the fact that we are around the table together indicates our participation with each other.

Though there are only two elements, the bread and the cup, we can certainly see this as a feast, spiritually speaking.  Life by faith in Christ is satisfying, fulfilling, gives purpose and meaning.  It is like having a feast at the table of the Lord.  In thinking about what the communion table means, Pastor Kevin Higgins of Woodland Baptist Church asked his congregation to imagine a scene with him.  He says imagine this:

The King of heaven and earth has prepared a feast in honor of His Son.  The table has been prepared, the Son has taken His place at the head, and it is you and I who have been invited to sit and dine and fellowship together.  As we look around the table we see one another…men and women, boys and girls loved by God, here by invitation.  The Son, Jesus Christ, is prepared to receive us as guests and honor us as His friends.  He has prepared a feast before us.

As we begin our fellowship together, we participate in conversations, not just with Jesus, but with each other.  We are all participants of the great sacrifice for sin.  We have much to share and much to rejoice together about.  There is laughter, conversations, encouraging words, words of thanksgiving, and communion with each other.

Can you imagine such a scene?  To be asked to eat with the King of Glory?  Think about this, . . . were He a physical king with a physical kingdom and you and I were invited to feast at his table, we would certainly prepare ourselves for the occasion.  Our dress and demeanor and language and disposition would all reflect great joy and honor toward the one who has invited us and there would be love toward each other.

God has indeed prepared a feast in honor of His Son.  The Communion Table is symbolic of that feast.  Jesus deserves honor, not ritual.  We don’t come to the table of the King because, that is what we are supposed to do.  We come because we so enjoy fellowship with Him and with our brothers and sisters in faith.

We don’t come to the table with sin unconfessed.  What a slap in the face of the King when we come to enjoy a feast in honor of his forgiveness bought by His death and resurrection but have sin we are holding on to.  We don’t come to the table with unresolved conflict with others at the table.  We make those things right so that we can all enjoy the feast together in unity.  It would be a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice to come any other way to the table.

No, we come to the table prepared, sin confessed, relationships restored, passion ignited, and consecrated to the King.  Communion is a marvelous union.  Jesus offers Himself to us, and we offer ourselves to Him.  Jesus gives Himself wholly for me, and I give myself wholly for Him.  He yielded His life for ours, now we are to yield our lives for His.  We are participants with the King, Jesus Christ.

We express gratitude to our dinner host.  It is because of His sacrifice; because of His shed blood; because of His suffering; because of His death that we have communion with Him.  We are participants in His death and God forbid that we should ever forget it.

Silent Prayer

Open Communion