We have discussed Christian liberty in 1 Corinthians because the recipients found it difficult to discern proper use of food sacrificed to idols (8.1). In much of the history of the western church, this has been no problem at all. Our day, though, finds a renewal of the problem when cultural leaders are turning to the propagation of eastern religions. Yet we have always faced the problem of “secularizing” influence in the church. But what bearing does this have on our observance of the Lord’s Supper?
“Much in every way,” and this is the point of 1 Corinthians 10. Paul’s great concern about his readers was their inconsistency, mixing pagan practice with their practice of the Supper. For them he feared “sharing the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons” (10.21). Yet we are, as it were, a priesthood (10.18) participating in the sacrifice from the altar. Deliberately eating meat sacrificed to idols meant participating in the service of demons. To mix this with the Lord’s Table is to incite God to anger (10.22).
Now to our point, 1 Cor 10.16-17. By sharing in the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim our share in the blood and body of Christ. We claim all the blessings we have discussed, redemption, adoption, forgiveness, cleansing. We receive them by faith. This is our share in Jesus’ sacrifice.
But we make a further claim. We claim, by sharing the “one bread,” that we are one body together, in Christ. That very unity determines our lives and defines our values. Since we share the one bread and thus are one body, Paul urges us to recognize that not all permissible things are worthwhile (10.23). We have heard it said that the good may be the enemy of the best. So while all foods are acceptable before God (10.25-26), they are not good in all situations.
What makes the difference? The good of the others (10.24). Temptation is the common lot of the human race, and the temptation to idolatry not less so (10.32). But the one who thinks that he is on firm ground must be careful of falling as the Israelites did in the wilderness (10.6-12).
Because we are a unity, then, demonstrated by the Supper, we must adopt a new set of values. One of those values must be to seek the good of others, not our own. This entails learning how a secular, or worse, a pagan world influences life. It involves learning to react properly to how non-believers (10.27-28) or how to protect the weak conscience of a table partner (8.7) at the Supper. The Supper calls us to be other-centered. We share the table; we share life.