GOD’S WORD FOR YOU
1 CORINTHIANS 10:12-13
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When we left off, Paul had warned the Corinthians with many cases from Israel’s history when the people fell into sin even in the best of times: when God was with them physically in the pillar of cloud and fire, when Moses was personally leading them, when Aaron was their high priest, when they were daily fed with manna, and they had water supplied by the hand of God whenever they needed it. Yet they still fell, again and again.
12 So the one who stands should be careful that he doesn’t fall! 13 A testing has not overtaken you yet except what is common to man. But God is faithful. He will not let you be tested beyond your ability. But when he tests you, along with the test he will give you an outcome that you will be able to bear.
The Corinthians had no reason at all to think that they should be free from temptation or sin. Sin is the condition we are all born into; we can’t escape from sin by means of our own decisions or personal righteousness. This is because our own decisions are always corrupted by the inclination to sin we inherit from Adam and Eve (Genesis 8:21). We naturally lean toward what is evil. So, Paul warns: If you don’t think sin has any wages, if you think there are no consequences for the sinful ungodly choices you make, if you think you’re standing up on your own, be careful! Watch out that you don’t fall!
But this may lead someone to say that what Israel went through was unique, that what “we Corinthians” are going through doesn’t happen to anybody else! No, Paul answers. There is no testing you are going through that isn’t “human” (anthropinos), or what is common to everyone. This is what happens to sinful people. The word “human/common to man” is a term Paul also used with the Romans to describe ordinary human language (Romans 6:19), and with the Athenians for ordinary human servants’ hands (Acts 17:25). A lot of other people, ordinary humans, have undergone similar tests, and they came through those tests.
So what is the difference between being tested by God and being punished by God? Don’t they feel the same? Discipline and testing have to be distinguished from punishment, because punishment always refers to unforgiven sins. Discipline and testing don’t have any connection to sin, but they are imposed on believers by God. This discipline is God’s Fatherly grace toward us, “God is dealing with you as sons” (Hebrews 12:7). If he does not discipline you, “then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8), but he disciplines us for our good (Hebrews 12:10). So when we have sorrows, they are not a reason for being frightened of God’s wrath, but of joy and celebration. “If our work is attacked,” Luther said, “then let us be of good cheer and firmly trust that it is well-pleasing to God, that is, believe that it is of God himself, for what is of God must be crucified in the world.” Remember that Jesus said: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
Notice carefully what Paul is saying in verse 13. When God tests us, there will be an outcome, a final result, that we can bear. So if I am tested in some way, by loss or difficulty, sickness, stress, or setback, I can cheer up, and go and share my discovery with my sons and my friends. God is with me! God is guiding me! The ancient believer wrote truly when he said: “Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them,” and again, “Mighty men will be mightily tested.”
Compare your own troubles with Joseph in the last part of Genesis. He was given dreams from God that were scorned and dismissed by his family. He was thrown into a pit. He was sold into slavery. He was wrongfully accused by his master’s wife. He was thrown into prison and shackled there and his neck put in irons (Psalm 105:18). He interpreted dreams of men there with high standing, but they did not remember him. His former master did not intercede for him. His master’s wife did not repent and proclaim his innocence. He had to wait in prison until the Pharaoh himself, “the ruler of peoples” set him free. All of this took pace to give God glory, to show just how God is concerned about all of us, and how he works through all things to provide for his people and to bring the Gospel to the world. Joseph himself said to his brothers, “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:7-8). So when troubles strike us, when loved ones die, when plans do not turn out, when disaster seems to strike like a snake or a torpedo to sink a ship, we should not accuse God of hating us, but praise God for loving us. He honors us by working through us and not through others. I can wonder, “What marvels will God bring about through what has happened?” But I should not point my finger and demand: “What’s going on, God? Do you even know what you’re doing?” Of course he does. And who am I to question him? Let me rather sit in prison like Joseph and keep being the believer that I am. Let me sit with my feet in the stocks like Paul and Silas, “praying and singing hymns to God” because the other prisoners will be listening (Acts 16:25). I have sins to confess, the Gospel to hear, the promises of God to share, to commandments to obey. Let me sing and meditate on these things, and serve.
Your holy heart has one obsession,
One blessed thing it burns to do–
To cleanse the sinner from transgression;
So I, a sinner, come to you.
Lord, may your body and your blood
Be for my soul the highest good.
(I Come O Savior, To Your Table)
1 CORINTHIANS 10:14-16
14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I say to you, as sensible people, judge for yourselves what I am saying. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless: is it not a joint partaking of the blood of Christ? The bread that we break: Is it not a joint partaking of the body of Christ?
The main point Paul is making here is that we must flee from idolatry, that it is best not to have anything at all to do with pagan idols. Don’t even come close to them! Do not test the waters there! Then he draws an example from the Lord’s Supper. In doing so, he teaches us some important things about Holy Communion, but we should not lose sight of the fact that his original point was a warning about idolatry. So he says: Just as our communion in the sacrament is a participation, a joint partaking, in the actual body and blood of Christ, so also if you mess around with idolatry, you are entering into a dangerous participation with demons and Satan himself (10:20).
When we apply these words to the Bible’s sacrament, we see that Paul is showing that the body and blood of Christ are actually present in the Lord’s Supper. This means that we partake of the body of Christ in a physical way, because we partake of his body and blood for its benefits, and also regarding its (his) substance. For Paul talks about partaking of both the body and the blood of Christ. “If that participation,” Gerhard says, “were to be understood as a merely spiritual participation, there would not have been a need to name the body and blood of Christ as distinct items, since faith embraces Christ by a single act, as is clear from John 6” (The Lord’s Supper §101).
This presents a three-part or triple partaking established by the Apostle:
1, A sacramental partaking in the body and blood of Christ, which takes place through the mediation of the consecrated bread and wine (1 Corinthians 10:16).
2, A spiritual laying hold of the entire Christ and all his benefits, which is done by faith (1 Corinthians 11:26).
3, A communion (fellowship) of the body of the church (1 Corinthians 10:17).
The first of these is the foundation of the other two. The consecration and use (reception) of the elements with the word of God makes the sacrament through the power of Christ’s words, that this is not simply a memorial, but is for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7). This is precisely what we receive, and this explains how we lay hold of the entire Christ and all his benefits. Luther says: “There is not the least doubt in my mind that the text of Paul, ‘This is my body which is broken for you’ (1 Cor. 11:24), is simply to be understood of the breaking and distributing at the table, as Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 10:16 [“the bread we break”].” Since we do this publicly, we proclaim our fellowship with the whole body of the church. More about this later in this chapter.
For the moment, as we are now entering into the discussion of the Lord’s Supper which will continue for some while in this book, we do well to remember the essentials:
○ In the Lord’s Supper, the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present and are truly offered with the things that are seen, the bread and the wine, to those who receive the sacrament.
○ These are given not only to the godly, but to all who receive the sacrament (wicked Christians, unbelievers, heretics, etc.). About those who receive it in an unworthy way, Paul will give a sharp warning in the 11th chapter (11:29).
○ It is not to be administered in one form only, but both the bread and the wine, so that both the body and blood of Christ are received, with all of Christ’s benefits, without any doubt or question or misunderstanding by those who receive it.
○ The words of Christ are not to be omitted, but should be spoken publicly, as Paul says: “the cup of blessing which we bless.” This blessing occurs through the recitation of the words of Christ.
○ The body and blood of Christ are not only received spiritually, but also orally through the eating and drinking, not as if we are cannibals but because of the sacramental union in a supernatural and heavenly manner.
○ Sometimes we use the terms “in the bread,” “with the bread,” or “under the bread,” to reject the error that the bread and wine cease to exist, as if they have been transformed into the body and blood and no longer have their own substance (this teaching is called transubstantiation) and to indicate the sacramental union between the untransformed substance and the body of Christ.
And so we conclude here: What is the Sacrament of Holy Communion? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ for us Christians to eat and to drink for our eternal good.
By faith I call your holy table
The testament of your deep love,
For by your gift I now am able
To know the heart of God above.
Lord, may your body and your blood
Be for my soul the highest good.
(I Come O Savior, To Your Table)
Pastor Timothy Smith
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Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota
God’s Word for You – 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 and 14-16