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April 19, 2015

First Corinthians – Part 25


Last time we looked at the fact that the cup of blessing used in the communion is likely something new to the passover feast. A tradition that was installed prior to Christ and which the Lord re-interpreted in light of the New Covenant. In this lesson we will take the discussion further as Paul takes us into teaching that can be best understood by the times then present.

Chapter 10: 16-21

Before moving further into the chapter, let us investigate the connection of the Lord’s supper with the passover. Matthew 26 shows the nature and circumstances under which the Lord’s supper was instituted:

KJV  Matthew 26:26 ¶ And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. 30 ¶ And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. (Mat 26:26 KJV)

The passage provokes some questions like — what were they eating? 

KJV  Matthew 26:17 ¶ Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? 18 And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. (Mat 26:17 KJV)

If they were eating the passover where did the cup come from? The ordinance of the passover is discussed in Exodus 12: 

 21 ¶ Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.
 22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.
 23 For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
 24 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever. (Exo 12:21-24 KJV)

Notice that the lamb is called the “passover” — kill the passover. This is the essence of the ordinance and it is to be kept for ever. Later in verse 43 more is given on this:

KJV  Exodus 12:43 ¶ And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: 44 But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. 45 A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof. 46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. 49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you. 50 ¶ Thus did all the children of Israel; as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.
 (Exo 12:43 KJV)

The ordinance required that the stranger eat only after being circumcized. This was a Jewish ordinance — more details are given in Leviticus 23:

4 ¶ These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.
 5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover.
 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.
 7 In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.
 8 But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. (Lev 23:4-8 KJV)

There is NO cup here — there is a lamb (the passover), unleavened bread — but NO cup or wine.

Jewish Tradition

Since Matt 26 tells us that the Lord celebrated the passover where at least one cup was involved — we must conclude that the cup was an addition to the feast. Is there some Jewish source that might bring some light to the traditions that we find mentioned in the gospels and first Corinthians that might shed light on our understanding? As it happens there is an ancient Rabbinic text called the Mishna, here is a useful quote from Wikipedia (with the regretable correction of “AD” to “CE”).

The Mishnah was redacted by Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi before his death around 217 CE,[5] in a time when, according to the Talmud, the persecution of the Jews and the passage of time raised the possibility that the details of the oral traditions of the Pharisees from the Second Temple period (536 BCE – 70 CE) would be forgotten. The majority of the Mishnah is written in Mishnaic Hebrew, while some parts are Aramaic.(Taken from Wikipedia )

In Pesachim 10 there is a detailed list of instructions for how the feast should be observed, for example and I quote:

2 They pour the first cup [of wine] for [the leader of the seder]. The House of Shammai say: He recites a blessing for the day [first], and then recites a blessing over the wine But the House of Hillel say: He recites a blessing over the wine [first], and then recites a blessing for the day. ( Taken from )

Notice that there are conflicting traditions from different houses. This is the first cup! It could be that one cup was used and charged with wine each time a different phase of the rememberance was traversed.There are four cups mentioned and since the tradition is old and is ostensibly the result of an effort to retain traditions that predate the time of Christ it would be reasonable to assume that the cup of blessing is one of these cups.


The cup of blessing which Paul says “we bless” which reminds us that Paul also partook in blessing it, he infers is the communion of the blood of Christ – the word for communion is “κοινωνία” — there must be something we have in common if we are to have communion or fellowship. The blood and the bread (unleavened bread) both symbolize different aspects of the sacrifice of Christ which the Corinthian believers by partaking enacted the reality of their effectual partaking of Christ’s sacrifice. If you partake in the symbols it should mean that you partake in the relality.

KJG  1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
TBT  1 Corinthians 10:16 τὸ ποτήριον τῆς εὐλογίας ὃ εὐλογοῦμεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐστί; τὸν ἄρτον ὃν κλῶμεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐστίν;

The communion comes from the reality of Christ’s sacrifice. 

 17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
 18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

The partaking of symbols should be an instance of the reality of communion with Christ, the partaking was evidence of the unity.  Paul uses Israel after the flesh as an example the eating of the sacrifices was evidence of the ministry of the altar (levites).

 19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?
 20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.
 21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.

In verse 19 Paul reveals the reality that the idol is nothing and the sacrifice is nothing. This agrees with verse 25 — however in verse 20 and 21 there might seem to be a slight tension. What does he mean Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils? The answer lies in the way in which partaking occurs — 

KJG  1 Corinthians 10:20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.
TBT  1 Corinthians 10:20 ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι ἃ θύει τὰ ἔθνη, δαιμονίοις θύει, καὶ οὐ Θεῷ· οὐ θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς κοινωνοὺς τῶν δαιμονίων γίνεσθαι.

In partaking of the cup there is an implied fellowship — ( κοινωνοὺς ). That is there is an agreement of something in common with the religous practices of the idolaters. This cannot happen — what is found in the shambles can be eaten — but when explicitly connected to observance of a pagan feast partaking becomes fellowship. This cannot happen. The word koinonia is used in a number of places in the scriptures. Lets look at a few of them.

Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. (Act 2:41-43 KJG)

Fellowship here was around the doctrine and practice related to the Acts — things were happenning — people added, there was a continuance — the apostles doctrine was taught and observable signs and wonders performed. The fellowship here is different to what we have today. Acts 28 happened. Try as you may complete fellowship would be impossible with these acts believers — why? Because the basis is different, the economy is different, the doctrine is different — God is acting in a very different manner because the Jew first advantage must be maintained.

KJG  Romans 15:26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. 27 It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.  (Rom 15:26 KJG)

Here Paul reveals “communion” in a very real way — the fact that the gentiles were partaking of the Jew’s spiritual things meant that they had a responsibility to supply the physical things needed by the Jerusalem church. Their fellowship materialized as a “contribution” (κοινωνίαν). Could we have complete fellowship with these believers — No!! Why? Because we have not been given these responsibilities – Acts 28 happenned, the events of Acts 28 meant that a new economy was produced and we are partakers of a different calling. The Jew is not today “first”.

Let us now jump the great divide — lets cross the Jordan so to speak.

KJG  Ephesians 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
TBT  Ephesians 3:9 καὶ φωτίσαι πάντας τίς ἡ κοινωνία τοῦ μυστηρίου τοῦ ἀποκεκρυμμένου ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων ἐν τῷ Θεῷ τῷ τὰ πάντα κτίσαντι διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,

PAul says “to make all me see what is the fellowship of the mystery”  the words “fellowship of the mystery is “ἡ κοινωνία τοῦ μυστηρίου” this is equivalent to the communion of the mystery — today our fellowship is around the mystery it is what distinguishes us from the other companies and while we may share some things like salvation by grace we do not fellowship around ordinances given to Israel nor do we make Israel first spiritually.