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First Corinthians 10--Communion, part 2

May 25, 2017

Communion (koinonia) is an outward act that has spiritual consequences. In Hebrew thought, eating and drinking with others signifies unity (common union, or communion) between people. When done in a religious setting, it signifies friendship and covenant between God and the people, as well as between the individual people themselves.

For this reason, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:16 that the wine of “the cup of blessing” in communion is “a koinonia in the blood of Christ.” It identifies us with Christ and makes us participants in the cross. Paul says elsewhere that we are “united with Him in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6:5) and again “that our old man was crucified with Him” (Romans 6:6).

The cup of blessing, being the first cup of the Passover meal, signified being brought (or taken) out of Egypt, as Exodus 6:6 says. In other words, we were taken out of fellowship with Pharaoh and placed in fellowship with Christ. Israel’s experience under Moses prophesied of greater things under Christ. Drinking from the cup of blessing is a statement that says, “I am no longer in fellowship with the world and its laws of sin and death. Whereas the world and the flesh commands me to sin, I am now following the law of God (Romans 7:25), which commands me to conform myself to the perfect image and law of Christ.”

Koinonia means “fellowship” and is often translated that way. For this reason, in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul emphasizes the transfer from one fellowship to another in regard to the cup of blessing. The second cup, which is the cup of plagues, signifies divine judgment upon our flesh, even as God brought judgment upon Pharaoh for refusing to let Israel go. Though believers are now in fellowship with Christ, the flesh does not give up so easily.

The same can be said of non-Kingdom political systems and governments that do not recognize Jesus Christ as King, or agree with His laws. These manifestations of the flesh also come under judgment in the cup of plagues. The beast nations have been judged one by one over the centuries, and the final judgment upon Mystery Babylon is now approaching. The pattern seen in the book of Exodus is that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart in order to complete ten plagues. Ten is the number of the complete law.

The cup of redemption has been fulfilled partially, but full redemption comes only when the old man of flesh (“Pharaoh”) is fully dead, never to rise again. Paul refers to this moment as “the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23). It is fulfilled on the first day of the feast of Tabernacles, when the overcomers are “changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52), putting on incorruption and immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53 KJV).

In the middle of the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus Christ will return, and the Head will join the body to put the finishing touches on the body of Christ, both individually and corporately. Then this New Creation Man will be presented to the Father on the eighth day of Tabernacles, according to the law (Exodus 22:29, 30).

That final presentation of the body of Christ to the Father is signified in the final cup of wine called the cup of praise.

The Bread of Communion

Paul also tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17,

16 … Is not the bread which we break a sharing [koinonia, “communion, fellowship”] in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.

For many years, I pictured the bread of communion as the body of Jesus that was “broken” at the cross. That is certainly true, but Paul says that we are the body of Christ. Hence, when we eat the bread of communion, we are not only remembering Christ’s death on the cross, but are also declaring that we are broken bread as well. Christ’s willingness to die for us was part of His covenant with us.

So also, communion shows our own willingness to die for each other as part of the same covenant. Our covenant is with Jesus, but also with His body. The law of unity makes it impossible to separate Christ from the many-membered body. On what basis? Paul says, “for we all partake of the one bread.”

The Cup of Demons

The apostle continues to speak about communion throughout the rest of chapter 10 and all through chapter 11. However, in 1 Corinthians 10:18 he shifts his focus to the story of Israel in the wilderness in order to remind us of his overall theme about avoiding disqualification as an overcomer. In other words, we are not to follow Israel’s bad example, which caused them to die in the wilderness without entering the Promised Land.

1 Corinthians 10:18-21 says,

18 Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar? 19 What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

No doubt Paul was referring primarily to Israel’s sin in participating in the worship of Baal-Peor with the Moabites in Numbers 25. That, of course, was a serious sin, for in eating their meat that had been sacrificed to Baal-Peor, they covenanted with idolaters and became one body with them. Israel had no right to do this, for they were already in covenant with God (Christ). They had been married to Christ at Mount Horeb where they took their marriage vows.

Hence, being joined to idolatrous Moabites was an act of fornication as with a harlot, as Paul told us earlier in 1 Corinthians 6:15, 16,

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? For He says, “The two will become one flesh.”

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:20 that the Gentiles (ethnos, “nations”) sacrifice to demons. Their idols are “nothing,” Paul says, for they are just artistic renderings of spiritual entities that are normally invisible to the naked eye. The problem is not really the physical idol, which serves as an intermediary, but the spirit behind it.

Paul calls these spiritual entities daimonion, or “demons.” Some believe that “demons” are simply a Hebrew metaphor for physical disease or some mental (i.e., soulish) condition. Such a view fails to understand the difference between soul and spirit, as well as the link between body and soul. The soul is fleshly, or carnal, for the law says (literally) that “the fleshly soul is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11).

Demons are spiritual entities, not soulish. Though they do not originate in the soul, they may certainly enslave the soul. In fact, they may become so entrenched in the soul that it is easy to think that they are, in fact, just aspects of evil soulish behavior or mental illness. But anyone who has experience with demonic beings or who has done any deliverance ministry knows that demons are actual spiritual entities that desire to control the minds and bodies of people. To set people free requires treating them as Jesus treated them. They must be treated as actual entities and cast out in the name of Jesus.

Sacrifices to Demons

In the Song of Moses, we read about Israel’s idolatry in Deuteronomy 32:16, 17,

16 They made Him jealous with strange gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons [shayd] who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread.

Moses equates demons with gods. The Hebrew word translated “demons” is shayd, which the Septuagint renders (in Greek) as daimonios. This shows that daimonois should be defined by the Hebrew word shayd. The Hebrew word comes from the root word shud, “to be strong or powerful.” The context is perhaps more significant, for Moses essentially calls them elohim, or “gods.” That suggests that they are spiritual entities that wield power beyond the mere presence of an idol made of wood or stone.

In the laws of sacrifice, which directly impact communion in the New Testament, we read in Leviticus 17:7,

7 And they shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat demons [sa’er, or satyrs] with which they play the harlot. This shall be a permanent statute to them throughout their generations.

Scripture uses a different word here, but nonetheless, it serves the same purpose. Perhaps it better describes Paul’s concern about believers being joined to harlots. At any rate, it is unlawful for believers to “play the harlot” by sacrificing to demons. Paul makes it clear that Israel did this when they joined the Moabites in their worship of Baal-Peor.


This is part 48 of a series titled "Studies in First Corinthians." To view all parts, click the link below.

Studies in First Corinthians


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Category: Teachings
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones