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Monday, June 5, 2017

The Lord's Table

The Bible uses different terms to describe practices and institutions that God has ordained. These different terms are intended to help us understand and appreciate God's will regarding these activities. Specifically, we can gain a deeper understanding of the Lord's Supper by considering the terms the Bible uses to refer to it. Let us consider one such expression.

1 Corinthians 10:19-22 - What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?

This passage refers to the Lord's Supper as the "Lord's table." Consider lessons we can learn.

The Meaning of the Lord's Table
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One important lesson to learn is that the language used to describe the Lord's Supper in Scripture is highly symbolic. This is true of most memorials. A memorial involves a physical object or activity that reminds us of some important person or event. So, what is done in the memorial is symbolic of the thing being remembered - it is not the literal, physical thing itself. As a result, the language used is often highly symbolic. Many people make mistakes about the Lord's Supper because they take symbolic language in ways that are not intended.

So, the bread is not literally the body of Jesus but it is a memorial that reminds us of His body. And the cup, the fruit of the vine, is not literally His blood but a memorial that reminds us of His blood. To eat the bread and drink the fruit of the vine symbolizes our spiritual communion with Jesus' body and blood.

Likewise, "Lord's table" is a figure of speech referring to the feast itself, not to a physical structure. The physical object on which the elements are placed is not the Lord's table. The physical structure has no spiritual significance or meaning. The table is symbolic language for the meal. To partake of the table simply means to participate in the meal.

And it is the "Lord's" table because the purpose of it is to honor or worship Jesus. It is not a common meal or a feast to honor some human being.

Lessons about Fellowship
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In the context Paul is discussing fellowship (verse 20). Fellowship basically means sharing, and Paul uses various terms in the context to refer to this fellowship.

In verses 16,17, he describes "communion" (fellowship) with the body and blood of Jesus in the Lord's Supper. Verse 18 states that, by eating their animal sacrifices, Old Testament Israelites who would "partake" (fellowship) with the altar. This fellowship with the true God is contrasted to fellowship with idols, which Paul here describes as demons (verses 14,20).

The Christians in Corinth had generally been converted from heathen idol worship. Worship in the idol's temples often involved great banquets or feasts, including drunkenness and gluttony. Paul calls these the tables of demons. In contrast to these tables, which were memorials to false gods, we have the Lord's table as a memorial to the true God.

The lesson is that one cannot please God if he "partakes" (fellowships) in the worship of the true God, specifically in the Lord's table, while also partaking in these banquets in the idol's temple. One must make a choice. Fellowship one or the other, but not both.

The same is true today. In our past, we may not have physically worshiped images. But if we wish to fellowship God, truly remembering the death of Jesus in the Lord's Supper, we must not continue to participate in the worship of false religious groups around us. We must come out from among them and be separate (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1).

So, one important lesson we learn from our participation in the Lord's table is that it must have an impact in our lives in many other areas. Jesus died to save us from sin. If we seek to memorialize that death in the Lord's Supper, we must recognize the importance of separating ourselves from all forms of sin, including participation in false worship.

(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2017
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