My Table and No Others
1 Cor. 10:14-22
Introduction: It is difficult to sit at two tables.
1. Ms. Doubtfire
Robin Williams plays a divorced man that dresses up as an English nanny in order to see his kids every day. He has three children. He becomes great friends with their mom (his ex-wife, who doesn’t realize his real identity). Ms Doubtfire is invited to a very important family dinner with his ex-wife’s new boyfriend and the children. Only he has an appointment with his T.V. producer at the same restaurant at the same time! He has to keep excusing himself to change from his disguise for his family to his real person for his meeting. Eventually, Ms. Doubtfire sits at the TV producer’s table and his mask fall off at his family’s table. Sitting at two tables becomes a disaster!
2. Sitting at two tables is impossible.
You know the experience. Two people invite you to dinner and one of them you have to turn down. Or even worse, you get invited to two weddings on the same day! You have to make a choice. You can’t go to both tables. Many of the Corinthian Christians were trying to do just that. They were trying to sit at the table of Christ and the table of idols. They didn’t understand that taking the L.S. meant choosing loyalty. It was a time of covenant renewal. God invites us to choose his table. But it is all or nothing proposition.
Move 1: Participation in the body and blood of Christ (14-17). Read entire text.
1. The problem of idolatry in Corinth.
Corinth was a center for Greek culture and therefore Pagan idolatry. New converts to Christ did not always part ways with their old habits in the temples of Apollo, Aphrodite, and others. Temple prostitution was a normal part of religious expression and was rampant in Corinth. Thus the problem of sexual immorality in Corinth. It was also common to go to a temple and eat meat sacrificed to idols. Apparently, the Corinthians did not see the implications of these practices. Paul’s solution is simple; FLEE!
2. The problem of idolatry in Israel.
This was not a unique problem to Corinth. Paul uses Israel as a prime example (1-13). Read V 7. Paul wanted them to learn from history. God did not tolerate the Israelites idolatry. He will not tolerate yours either.
3. The Lord’s Supper is union with Christ.
Paul believes that they will be sensible enough to understand this. No doubt the “cup of thanksgiving” and the “bread” are referencing the L.S. For Paul this is not just a memorial! It is actual participation with the blood and body of Christ! The word for participation is the same for fellowship. Lk 22:20 Jesus calls the cup the blood of the new covenant. This is not just remembering what Christ did. It is a covenant renewal every time we take the cup and the bread. It is actual fellowship with Christ.
4. Christ is one and so are we.
I believe Paul means “one loaf” quite literally here. This is something lost from moving communion into buildings, but it used to be around a table in someone’s house. They would take from one loaf of bread and this had real meaning. It represented that though there are many in the body of Christ there is only one body. Christ alone was sacrificed. It is Christ’s table we come to and we do so together.
Move 2: Take a lesson from Israel (18).
Again, Paul is giving a history lesson, wanting them to remember that when the Israelites sacrificed on the altar of God, and then ate at the table the meat of the sacrifice, they participated in everything that altar represented. The same was true if the Israelites sacrificed on the altar of an idol and then ate the meat of that sacrifice. They were united themselves to someone other than God. This reminds us of the connection between the OT fellowship sacrifice and the L.S.
Illustration: How do we view the L.S.?
Often we have been caught up in debates about the substance of the emblems. There is the Catholic view that says the emblems literally change into the body and blood of Christ. Scripture does not seem to teach that, nor is it necessary to the purpose of the Supper. OTOH, we have sometimes stripped the L.S. of any real meaning. When we say it is only a memorial, we remove the mystery and the grace of the Supper. Paul tells us that we literally fellowship or participate with the blood and body of Christ when we take the communion. Certainly, this is experienced through faith, but Christ is no less present. Communion is not a funeral. Jesus is alive and we eat at his table!
Move 3: The table of demons (19-20)
1. Idols are nothing.
It is apparent that some Christians in Corinth believed they could go to the temples and eat the meat sacrificed to idols because they knew that there was only one God, so what does it matter? Paul ascribed to this view when it came to eating meat off the streets, as long as it didn’t cause anyone to stumble. But to actually go to the place where the meat was sacrificed and eat it in the temple was different. But Paul does agree that there is only one God. By forbidding this practice he is not endorsing that idols are really rival gods.
2. The demon of the idol.
This is a striking verse. Paul says that there are demons behind idolatry. That shouldn’t surprise us. Satan has always been about trying to get people to worship something other than God. If the Corinthian Christians ate the sacrificial meal they would fellowship actual demons! This correlates to what it means to eat the Supper and participate with the blood and body of Christ. This is a most serious problem.
Illustration: The temple of Buddha.
The first couple of times I went to Japan, I was fascinated with Buddhist temples. The architecture was amazing enough, but even the intricate design of the idols was fascinating. That was all ruined for me when we went sightseeing with some non-Christian Japanese friends. To us the idols were not a god at all. However, our Japanese friends tried to get us to do several simple rituals that involved calling on the “gods.” We refused to do it. It was a very awkward moment, but I decided I had had enough of temples and would never visit again with non-Christians. The message we were sending was their god was okay, too. I have been back with other Christian friends and now see it all in new light. The idols look menacing to me. You can almost feel a presence in the room. Where there are idols there are demons. I have a sense of what Paul means when he says he does not want us to participate with demons.
Move 4: Choose your table (21-22).
1. Christ invites our choice.
God never forces his will upon us. We have to choose. You can’t serve demons and the Lord or sit at both tables. Jesus said you can’t serve both him and money. Joshua said, “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” It has always been a choice. He is saying that it is an extreme division of loyalty to take the cup of the L.S. and the cup of demons. You can’t sit at two tables. God’s invitation to his table is open to all, but he will not be second choice or any other choice but the only choice. Each time you drink the cup of the L.S. you are indicating your choice.
2. Our God is a jealous God.
Paul reminds us of Ex. 20:5 and many other OT passages. God does not share your loyalty with anyone. And just in case you think you can get away with it, Paul reminds us of our weakness before God. To try to get away with it is to challenge God and test his jealousy. That’s a challenge that will result in only one thing. God will cast that person from his table forever.
3. Other tables in our culture.
Perhaps, you are thinking that this is a very nice lesson, but we obviously don’t go to pagan temples and fellowship demons. That’s good, but do you think that the principle of loyalty extends beyond pagan temples? When we take the Lord’s Supper we proclaim that we have chosen the table of Christ. BTW, it is his table and he is host. We renew our covenant with him every time we take the L.S. It is a relevant question to ask does our loyalty only rest in Christ or do we sit at other tables? Do we sit at the Lord’s Table on Sunday and other table the rest of the week? Sunday is not just the time to sit at the Lord’s Table; it is to proclaim your allegiance every day of your life.
We all struggle with other loyalties. That may not be the same as Pagan temples, but there are some who dare to try to arouse God’s jealousy. Sitting at Christ’s table on Sunday is committing ourselves to live by his table the rest of the week. We live our lives oriented around that table. Money, work, success, sex, power, apathy, drunkenness, violence, etc., can all be another table. They can all become idols and be just as effective as any other.
4. Come to the table of God.
Christ hopes you choose his table. It is best by far. It is where you enjoy his grace and fellowship. It is where he is the gracious host. Guilt and struggles are not a reason to run from his table, but a reason to run to the table. Many have thought that we had to be nearly perfect during the week to come to God’s table. But the table is the work of God, just like baptism is. The table is where we experience healing. Some say that you should go to the table only once a month or a year because it becomes too familiar. Imagine saying that you are only going to eat at the table once a year with your spouse because you might be too familiar! Familiarity leads to even better table fellowship. His table is set today. I hope that you choose to dine with Christ.
To eat at God’s table for eternity, we must come only through the blood of Christ. Rejecting Christ is to reject the table of God. Accepting him is to embrace that table.