The Mystery of Christ

The Mystery of Christbread and wine

The Communion of Reconciliation

By Pete Coker

Intro

            A much overlooked aspect of Communion, the Lord’s Supper, is the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles. In Christ, the hostility between Jew and Gentile, circumcised and uncircumcised, has been broken down. Prior to the sacrifice of Christ, Gentiles were strangers to the covenants God had with the Jews. But now in Christ Jesus, Gentiles, who were once far-off from the promise of God, are brought near to the promise by Christ’s shed blood (wine). Christ, who made both Jew and Gentile, has broken down the wall of hostility through the sacrifice of His own body (bread).

 “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life” (John 6: 33,35 ).

 He is Our Peace

Scripture informs us that God divided all mankind into two classes, Jew and Gentile. The Jews were God’s chosen people as they were the people through whom God made salvation available to all people. Greeks and all non-Israelites were considered Gentiles.

Under Old Testament law considerate treatment was accorded to Gentiles for conditions of peace. Gentiles were allowed in the outer part of the Jewish Temple, called the Court of the Gentiles. The men of Israel often married Gentile women but after their return from exile in Egypt this practice became frowned upon. The separation between Jews and Gentiles became increasingly strict until, by the time of Christ, it had grown into complete hostility.

Jesus abolished this enmity by his suffering and death, thus bringing peace to Jews and Gentiles, reconciling them both to God (Eph. 2: 16).

 “…by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

Made Us Both One

Christ, in His death, broke down the dividing wall of separation between Jew and Gentile as signified by the partition wall in the Temple which separated the Court of the Gentiles from the place of the Jews. As Paul states in I Corinthians; “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread and one body: for we are all partakers of that one body.”

Again in Ephesians 2: 15, 16, Paul said:

 “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body –Jews or Greeks, bondslaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit (I Cor. 12: 13).

 Unity of the Spirit

In light of what the Apostle Paul reveals in The Mystery of Christ, he exhorts all believers to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility, gentleness, and patiencein love. Be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The Apostle Paul adds, “there is one body and one Spirit…one hope…one Lord…one faith…one baptism…one God and Father of all, who is over all…through all and in all.”

Maintaining the unity of the Spirit was upmost in Paul’s mind when addressing the church in Corinth, a church he planted. The disunity there was not between Jew and Gentile, but with factions and worldliness within the Corinthian church. The city of Corinth was known for its sexual immorality, religious diversity, and corruption. The church in Corinth was being influenced by the surrounding culture and began to divide over various issues. Paul addresses some of their divisions and dissensions in his letter to the church of Corinth. He said:

 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Cloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I follow Paul, or I follow Apollos, or I follow Cephas, or I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?…Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ…For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only  in a human way? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul, and another, I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human?…I (Paul) planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one…For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building (I Cor. 3).

 With Christ’s ascension into heaven he bestowed gifts to mankind. He gave; the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers. He gave these gifts to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, ‘for building up the body of Christ, until we attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love’ (Eph. 4: 12b-13, 16).

 The unified ministry of the Father, Son, and Spirit, the Trinity, honors each other in its ministering to believers. The Father and Son abide with believers through the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul stated, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (2 Cor. 13: 14).

 Spirit and Powerpouring wine

Wine with its alcohol content signifies the power of the blood of Christ and our unity in one Holy Spirit. Christ’s blood sacrifice is also referred to as the Atonement, which means to reconcile, or the bringing together of two who are opposed.  In communion, believers partake of the cup, the wine, in part to examine the self, to reflect and self-judge. This is done not in the natural man but in the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. As it is written:

 What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him (Isaiah 64:4), these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him. So also, no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given to us by God” (I Cor. 2: 9-12).

 The Apostle Paul said that he demonstrated the Spirit and power that our faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Our faith is not founded in worldly wisdom, our faith’ foundation is in the power of God. Our spiritual strength is supplied through the Holy Spirit:

 “…according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3: 16-19).

 Cup of the New Covenant

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22: 20).

 The New Covenant is the new agreement God has made with mankind. It is also called the covenant of promise, originating with the prophet Jeremiah. The promise was that God would provide salvation for mankind as mankind could not obey the old covenant because of human weakness and sin. Under the New Covenant God writes His Law on human hearts and minds.  Through Christ’s death on the cross, the new covenant accomplishes the removal of sin and the cleansing of the conscience (Heb. 9: 14), thereby being a better covenant established on better promises. (Jer. 31:34; Heb. 8:6, 10: 2, 16, 22)

 “For where there is a testament there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood” (Heb. 9:16- 18).

 “…I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I (Jesus) go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper (Holy Spirit) will not come to you, But if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn. 16: 7).

 “But now, He (Christ) has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Heb.8:6)

 God Frees His People

The bread and the wine represent the body and blood of Jesus. Ultimately, the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is the remembrance, acknowledgement, and commemoration of God’s works through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is also a time for believers to examine their own lives in light of God’s word and to draw upon the Holy Spirit to empower us to live according to God’s revealed will. We are freed from the bondage of sin, the curse of the law, to live in the Spirit, according to the Law of Christ.

 In partaking of the Lord’s Supper we remember the work of Christ on our behalf, whose work is past, present, and future. We acknowledge the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles. Jews are reconciled to God, but not fully realized, it is future. Gentile believers are therefore not to think themselves better or above Jews, but recognize them in our future reconciliation.

 We are reconciled together as one body, and made to drink of one Spirit. Let us therefore be “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18b)

 Fellow Heirs

In Christ, Jews and Gentiles are fellow citizens, no longer strangers and aliens, but all members of the household of God. All believers in Jesus Christ are united as fellow-heirs and partakers of the promise of the Gospel. Jews and Gentiles in Christ Jesus are joined together as one, built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets with Christ as the Chief Cornerstone. Together we are one body, a holy temple, the dwelling place for the Spirit of God. The uniting of Jews and Gentiles as fellow-heirs is what is revealed to Paul by the Spirit as The Mystery of Christ, which was not understood in previous generations. The Mystery of Christ is revealed so that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Eph. 3: 10). There is therefore, in Christ, communion between God and all His people, Jew and Gentile. The church, God’s people are a living temple where the Spirit of God moves and has His being.                                         

“For as often as you eat this bead and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (I Cor. 11: 26)

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