The Lord's Supper and the Body of Christ
C. H. Mackintosh
"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come" (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
... There is involved in the Lord's Supper an intelligent recognition of the oneness of the body of the Christ. "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 bread" (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). ...
The Lord's Supper demands that the body be fully recognized: if the one body be not recognized, it is but sectarianism: the Lord Himself has lost His place. If the table be spread upon any narrower principle than that which would embrace the whole body of Christ, it is become a sectarian table, and has lost its claim upon the hearts of the faithful. On the contrary, where a table is spread upon this divine principle, which embraces all the members of the body simply as such, every one who refuses to present himself at it is chargeable with schism, and that, too, upon the plain principles of 1 Corinthians 11. "There must", says the apostle, "be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you".
When the great Church principle is lost sight of by any portion of the body, there must be heresies, in order that the approved ones may be made manifest! and under such circumstances it becomes the business of each one to approve himself, and so to eat. The "approved" ones stand in contrast with the heretics, or those who were doing their own will.1
But do not the numerous denominations at present existing in the professing Church altogether preclude the idea of ever being able to gather the whole body together? and, under such circumstances, is it not better for each denomination to have their own table? If there be any force in this question, it merely goes to prove that the people of God are no longer able to act upon God's principles, but that they are left to the miserable alternative of acting on human expediency. Thank God, such is not the case. The truth of the Lord endureth forever, and what the Holy Ghost teaches in 1 Corinthians 11 is binding upon every member of the Church of God.
There were divisions, and heresies, and unholiness, existing in the assembly at Corinth, just as there are divisions, and heresies, and unholiness, existing in the professing Church now; but the apostle did not tell them to set up separate tables on the one hand, nor yet to cease from breaking bread on the other. No; he presses upon them the principles and the holiness connected with "the Church of God", and tells those who could approve themselves accordingly to eat. The expression is, "So let him eat". We are to eat, therefore: our care must be to eat "so", as the Holy Ghost teaches us; and that is in the true recognition of the holiness and oneness of the Church of God.2
When the Church is despised, the Spirit must be grieved and dishonored, and the certain end will be spiritual barrenness and freezing formalism: and though men may substitute intellectual for spiritual power, and human talents and attainments for the gifts of the Holy Ghost, yet will the end be "like the heath in the desert". The true way to make progress in the divine life is to live for the Church, and not for ourselves. The man who lives for the Church is in full harmony with the mind of the Spirit, and must necessarily grow.
On the contrary, the man who is living for himself, having his thoughts revolving round, and his energies concentrated upon, himself, must soon become cramped and formal, and, in all probability, openly worldly. Yes; he will become worldly, in some sense of that extensive term; for the world and the Church stand in direct opposition, the one to the other; nor is there any aspect of the world in which this opposition is more fully seen than in its religious aspect. What is commonly called the religious world will be found, when examined in the light of the presence of God, to be more thoroughly hostile to the true interests of the Church of God than almost anything.
But I must hasten on to other branches of our subject, only stating another simple principle connected with the Lord's Supper, to which I desire to call the special attention of the Christian reader, it is this: the celebration of the ordinance of the Lord's Supper should be the distinct expression of the unity of all believers, and not merely of the unity of a certain number gathered on certain principles, which distinguish them from others. If there be any term of communion proposed, save the all-important one of faith in the atonement of Christ, and a walk consistent with that faith, the table becomes the table of a sect, and possesses no claims upon the hearts of the faithful.
Futhermore, if by sitting at the table I must identify myself with any one thing, whether it be principle or practice, not enjoined in Scripture, as a term of communion, there also the table becomes the table of a sect. It is not a question of whether there may be Christians there or not; it would be hard indeed to find a table amongst the reformed communities of which some Christians are not partakers. The apostle did not say, "there must be heresies among you, that they which are Christians may be made manifest among you". No; but "that they which are approved". Nor did he say, "Let a man prove himself a Christian, and so let him eat". No; but "let a man approve himself", that is, let him shew himself to be one of those who are not only upright in their consciences as to their individual act in the matter, but who are also confessing the oneness of the body of Christ. When men set up terms of communion of their own, there you find the principle of heresy; there, too, there must be schism.
On the contrary, where a table is spread in such a manner and upon such principles as that a Christian, subject to God, can take his place at it, then it becomes schism not to be there; for, by being there, and by walking consistently with our position and profession there, we, so far as in us lies, confess the oneness of the Church of God — that grand object for which the Holy Ghost was sent from Heaven to earth.
The Lord Jesus, having been raised from the dead, and having taken His seat at the right hand of God, sent down the Holy Ghost to earth for the purpose of forming one body. Mark, to form one body — not many bodies. He has no sympathy with the many bodies, as such; though He has blessed sympathy with many members in those bodies, because they, though being members of sects or schisms, are nevertheless, members of the one body; but He does not form the many bodies, but the one body, for "by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13).
I desire that there may be no misunderstanding on this point. I say the Holy Ghost cannot approve the schisms in the professing Church, for He Himself has said of such, "I praise you not". He is grieved by them — He would counteract them; He baptizes all believers into the unity of the one body, so that it cannot be thought, by any intelligent mind, that the Holy Ghost could sustain schisms, which are a grief and a dishonor to Him.
We must however, distinguish between the Spirit's dwelling in the Church, and His dwelling in individuals. He dwells in the body of Christ, which is the Church (see 1 Corinthians 3:17; Ephesians 2:22); He dwells also in the body of the believer, as we read, "your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God" (1 Corinthians 6:19). The only body or community, therefore, in which the Spirit ean dwell, is the whole Church of God; and the only person in which He can dwell is the believer. But, as has already been observed, the table of the Lord, in any given locality, should be the exhibition of the unity of the whole Church. This leads us to another principle connected with the nature of the Lord's Supper.
It is an act whereby we not only shew the death of the Lord until He come, but whereby we also give expression to a fundamental truth, which cannot be too strongly or too frequently pressed upon the minds of Christians, at the present day, viz., that all believers are "one loaf — one body". It is a very common error to view this ordinance merely as a channel through which grace flows to the soul of the individual, and not as an act bearing upon the whole body, and bearing also upon the glory of the Head of the Church.
That it is a channel through which grace flows to the soul of the individual communicant there can be no doubt, for there is blessing in every act of obedience. But that individual blessing is but a very small part of it, can be seen by the attentive reader of 1 Corinthians 11. It is the Lord's death and the Lord's coming, that are brought prominently before our souls in the Lord's Supper; and where any one of these elements is excluded there must be something wrong. If there be anything to hinder the complete showing forth of the Lord's death, or the exhibition of the unity of the body, or the clear perception of the Lord's coming, then there must be something radically wrong in the principle on which the table is spread, and we only need a single eye, and a mind entirely subject to the Word and Spirit of Christ, in order to detect the wrong.
Let the Christian reader, now, prayerfully examine the table at which he periodically takes his place and see if it will bear the threefold test of 1 Corinthians 11, and if not, let him, in the name of the Lord, and for the sake of the Church, abandon it. There are heresies, and schisms flowing from heresies, in the professing Church, but "let a man approve himself, and so let him eat" the Lord's Supper; and if, once for all, it be asked, What means the term "approved"? it may be answered, It is in the first place, to be personally true to the Lord in the act of breaking bread; and in the next place, to shake off all schism, and take our stand, firmly and decidedly, upon the broad principle which will embrace all the members of the flock of Christ.
We are not only to be careful that we ourselves are walking in purity of heart and life before the Lord; but also, that the table of which we partake has nothing connected with it that could at all act as a barrier to the unity of the Church.
1 Those who are competent to do so can look at the original of this important chapter, where they will see that the word translated "approved" (verse 19) comes from the sarne root as that translated "examine himself" (verse 28). Thus we see that the man who approves himself takes his place amongst the approved, and is the very opposite of those who were amongst the heretics. Now a heretic is not merely one who holds false doctrine, though one may be a heretic in so doing, but one who persists in the exercise of his own will. The apostle knew that there must be heresies at Corinth, seeing that there were sects: those who were doing their own will were acting in opposition to God's will, and thus producing division; for God's will had reference to the whole body. Those who were acting heretically were despising the Church of God.
2 It may be well to add a word here for the guidance of any simple-hearted Christian who may find himself placed in circumstances in which he is called upon to decide between the claims of different tables which might seem to be spread upon the same principle. To confirm and encourage such an one in a truthful course of action, I should regard as a most valuable service.
Suppose, then, I find myself in a place where two or more tables have been spread; what am I to do? I believe I am to inquire into the origin of these various tables, to see how it became needful to have more than one table. If, for example, a number of Christians meeting together have admitted and retained amongst them any unsound principles, affecting the person of the Son of God, or subversive of the unity of the Church of God on earth; if, I say, such principles be admitted and retained in the assembly, or if persons who hold and teach them be received and acknowledged by the assembly; under such painful and humiliating circumstances the faithful can no longer be there. Why? Because I cannot take my place at it without identifying myself with manifestly unchristian principles. The same remark, of course, applies if the case be that of corrupt conduct unjudged by the assembly.
Now, if a number of Christians should find themselves placed in the circumstances above deseribed, they would be called upon to maintain the purity of the truth of God while acknowledging as ever the oneness of the body. We have not only to maintain the grace of the Lord's table, but the holiness of it also. Truth is not to be sacrificed in order to maintain unity, nor will true unity ever be interfered with by the strict maintenance of truth.
It is not to be imagined that the unity of the body of Christ is interfered with when a community based upon unsound principles, or countenancing unsound doctrine or practice, is separated from. The Church of Rome charged the Reformers with schism because they separated from her; but we know that the Church of Rome lay, and still lies, under the charge of schism because she imposes false doctrine upon her members. Let it only be ascertained that the truth of God is called in question by any community, and that, to be a member of that community, I must identify myself with unsound doctrine or corrupt practice, and then it cannot be schism to separate from such a community; nay, I am bound to separate.
From Miscellaneous Writings, by C. H. Mackintosh.
The Lord's Supper and the Body of Christ