Part Two: To Celebrate Communion Involves a Clear Separation From Idolatry and a Special Intimacy With Him and His
Fellowship means activity. So far we have seen how the activity of pouring over His Word is directly related to our fellowship with Him.
‘Playing Both Ends’ Impossible!
Here we see that our fellowship involves the partaking at the Lord’s table. If we are to follow the Christ, a clear separation from idols of this world is called for. Jesus Himself said that we cannot serve God and mammon. And again: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Mt. 6:30). If we are in fellowship with Jesus, then we should not be worshiping idols. A clear demarcation is laid out by our Lord. It cannot be for the Christian a playing of both ends against the middle.
Paul masterfully and repeatedly sets this out. “Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship (koinonia) has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty'” (2 Cor. 6:14-18).
We are in the light–Jesus, the Light of the world. Because we have that union with Him by faith and the grace of God, we are God’s children. What a blessed relationship with God we have that He calls us His sons and daughters!
This is that fellowship we treasure. And as in any family in which the relationship exists with the parent, so also with siblings. So it is in the church. As in the familial relationship there is devotion and loyalty to the family, so it is in the church.
To be loyal and devoted to our Father and His Son means not to acknowledge any rival or usurper as the head of our family, the church. What does Christ have in common with the devil and his demons who are behind the dumb idols of this world? No commonality, no more than truth has anything in common with lies, nor righteousness with iniquity!
Whether at the communion table or in our fellowship in general, there is a clear separation from idolatry involved. And there is a special intimacy involved, as in a family, so in this case — in the family of God.
This is not the first warning to the Corinthians about idolatry. Paul had warned them: “Now these things are warnings for us . . . ” (1 Cor. 10:6), and “Therefore, my beloved, shun the worship of idols” (1 Cor. 10:14).
Israel of old was a prime example of playing both ends against the middle, of trying to have it both ways. At Sinai while God was giving the commandments to Moses, the people in the camp were going after an idol, the golden calf. Over and over again in the next forty years the see-saw struggle continued. Indeed it continued through Israel’s history.
And it has been recorded as a warning to us. There are still the common gods of the people all around us. They may not take the form of a statue covered with gold. Rather, gold itself is a god. They may not be called by the old names like Baal, but the idols are still among us. Pleasure is an idol when it supplants the worship of God. Luxury is a god when it so occupies our efforts to have it that we neglect His Kingdom work. Pride is an idol when we get so wrapped up in our innate gifts that we forget who gave them to us.
And let us not think that we are so strong that it cannot happen to us. Remember how ‘strong’ Peter thought he was, even so strong as to say, “I’ll never deny you, Lord.” Yet but a few hours later he denied Him three times over and even with an oath. And this man was the leader of the apostolic band. He had walked with Jesus for those years. He had heard and seen. “Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). David, the man after God’s own heart, also fell.
Come, Confessing . . .
Let us come, then, being warned to put away our idols. Come, not grumbling like the children of Israel. Rather, come confessing and admitting sin.
True confession is not “I’m sorry I got caught,” but “I’m sorry I did it.” To be truly sorry means that you see it was wrong and want not to do it again. We should come to communion in the same frame of mind the tax collector had: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” His repentance was a sincere thing of the heart.
With this attitude we then come to our koinonia with God in communion. We do not come as if we are doing God a favor, like the Pharisee in the temple. We come to receive His undeserved love and His unmerited favor. In communion we are united with our God.
What an intimacy is here! “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16). In a mysterious way we are united with our Lord and receive Him. What special comfort there is for those who are close to Him, who repent of all their sins and discern what is present in the sacrament of communion! What great intimacy and what great favor to partake of His own body and blood for the remission of our sins!
And as the intimacy is great and the favor is great, so the danger is great to hearts not united to Him by repentance and faith. After explaining the separation from idols necessary for proper communion observance, Paul then explains, after giving the words of institution, how serious is this business of examining ourselves before coming to communion. “Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Cor. 11:28-30).
Those who repent of their sins and come with humble dependence on the Lord for the assurance of their forgiveness in Him should by all means approach the communion table. Come in your weakness, knowing that then you will be strong in Him. Come to receive that very positive assurance that nothing stands between you and eternal life through Jesus.
And as you come and partake, recognize also in our communion that we stand and kneel together. “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17). We are united in Him, and so in communion we see both the horizontal and the vertical fellowship. And notice here again–as we have seen before and as we will see again–that fellowship means activity. Repentance, confession, approaching the table.
How sad that over the years we do not see some at the communion table. How sad that among the younger we do not see the regularity that we see among the older. Can it be a case of thinking one is strong and not so in need? If that is the case, then idols of pride, self-assurance, and physical strength may be crowding into one’s life. Cast those idols aside and see yourself in all your weakness and need. Repent and approach to renew that special mysterious intimacy with your Lord.
We share our mutual woes, Our mutual burdens bear, And often for each other flows The sympathizing tear.
— David Koenig