Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The table of demons

1 Cor. 10:14-22 (ESV)
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. [15] I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. [16] The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? [17] Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. [18] Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? [19] What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? [20] No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with 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. [22] Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

This passage in 1 Corinthians is absolutely essential to the Lutheran understanding of the sacrament of the Altar. In a moment of extreme lucidity, Paul breaks it down for all Christians of all times. The Cup, it is still wine, but it is the blood of Christ also. The bread, it is still bread, but it is the body of Christ also. Then he compares it to the sacrifices of the Old Testament. You participated in the sacrifices, received their benefit, and confessed your faith, not by burning a goat on the altar, but by eating the sacrifice. Burning the goat didn’t do much of anything, it was the eating that made you a participant in the altar. That is a participant in the feast that God was putting before you. Most sacrifices only had parts of the animal roasting on the altar, those were being consumed by God, who started that fire. The rest of the animal would be eaten by others, the priests, and those offering the animal. In this way you feasted with God, by eating the same animal He was consuming. And in eating with God, He blessed you. It really wasn’t a sacrifice in the sense of giving something up. It wasn’t a chore, it was a feast. So should our sacrament of the altar not be considered a chore to be done every once in a while, but a feast of forgiveness to be celebrated as often as possible.
But here we also see that deaf, dumb, and blind idols have a reality behind them. The food offered in pagan sacrifices are offered to demons, who wear the idols as masks. Non-Christian worship is Satan worship, a rose by any other name…
So I wonder here. We often use this to justify closed communion. I do anyway. I don’t know how far I want to push it though. Most people I deny communion to, are Christian after all. They confess Jesus Christ as their Savior, the Bible as the word of God, etc. (I do not here speak of pseudo Christians, such as JWs, or the LDS who have skewed views of the Trinity that put them outside the realm of Christianity). No it is often others who go by the name Lutheran, or some other reformed denomination, Baptist or Presbyterian. I deny them, at least at first, because I want them to know what they are confessing when they come to the Lord’s Table in our Church. Many would be scandalized by the confession. Most believe it morbid blasphemy to think we eat and drink the body and blood of Christ. That God gives Himself to us under the forms of bread and wine. But that is just it, to deny that it is the body and blood of Christ, is to deny that Jesus was and is God, and makes Him out to be a liar. It also turns the sacrament from being gospel to being law. And any confusion of Law and Gospel that would deny Jesus was and is God, and make Him out to be a liar, must originate with Satan the father of lies. I don’t know that I would say these people worship Satan, but Satan certainly robs them of the comfort of the forgiveness of sins with this blasphemous doctrine, that we do not participate in the altar of the Cross, where Christ sacrificed Himself for the forgiveness of our sins, in the Lord’s Supper.

10 comments:

Es ist das Heil said...

How do you feel this passage in
I Cor. relates to John 6:53-56?

Bror Erickson said...

es ist das heil,
Personally I think Jesus was alluding to things to come, namely the Lord's Supper, in John 6. There is a long debate about this in Lutheranism, stemming from Luther's desire to remain trained on the Verba at the colloquy of Marburg. I am on the side that says he had to be hinting to the Lord's Supper. The People though were offended by it. As many people are offended by it today. So I think it correlates fairly well. Does that answer your question, or was there something more specific?

Es ist das Heil said...

Pastor-
I am with you on this one. In light of the greek word sarx (flesh as opposed to spirit), and haima (literal blood or the atoning blood of Christ), this passage (John 6:53-56) sticks out like a sore thumb. That is, it appears to me that this section is alluding to the Lord's Supper.
I don't think I understand any other view. In view of the Greek, how do they not think it alludes to the Lord's Supper? Am I missing something?

Bror Erickson said...

es ist das heil,
The problem comes in here
John 6:60-64 (ESV)
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" [61] But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? [62] Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? [63] It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. [64] But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)

So Zwingli wanted argue that later jesus says the flesh is of no avail, as if he is taking back what he says above. my personal take is that Jesus is subtely changing the topic. Our flesh is of no avail. That is we are incapable of believing the things of God on our own, but need the Spirit to give us faith in those things that are most true.

Es ist das Heil said...

Pastor-
Yes, I think I have that in view of I Cor 2:14. And I understand that Zwingli (and other reformers leading to the churches of today) was WAY OFF in lots of areas, but if you ask some Lutheran Pastors today, (even some LCMS), they hold that John 6 doesn't speak of the Lord's Supper.....??????
How do they get that??

Bryan said...

When we try to have the Lord's Supper after our own ideas about it or how we want to make sense of it (or make it more tasteful according to cultural decorum) we usher in all sorts of reasons to doubt the promises that our Lord attaches to the sacrament. Thanks, Bror, I've been working on how pastorally to approach the dreaded topics of intinction and individual cups. God be praised that we have His Word on the topic and that He is so confoundingly clear regarding How He wants to grant access to His mystery.

Bror Erickson said...

es ist das heil,
I understand how they get there, but I don't agree with it. Basically they give into Zwingli's argument and exegesis. They then conclude that it must not be talking about the Lord's Supper because Christ's words of institution are quite clear. They defend this by appealing to Luther at Marburg. However, Luther was a skilled debater, and knew to keep the debate where it belonged, on the words of institution. I think he was merely ceding ground there so to speak, in order to bring the debate back where it belonged.
Having translated a lot of Sasse, and Bo Giertz I find it comforting that these two twentieth century pillars of light saw John 6 as at least alluding to the Lord's Supper. And Sasse was the foremost authority on the Colloquy of Marburg.

Bror Erickson said...

bryan,
I'm not sure what I said that dealt with intinction and individual cups.
I haven't and probably won't breach those subjects with my congregation, as I see them extremely periphial to other more important things. I'm overjoyed for instance that I get to give them the blood every week even if it is in individual cups, and that they understand it is His body, and His blood, and through it we receive forgiveness. I'm also over joyed that my congregation keeps me on my toes when I am tempted to forego the closed communion thing.

Bryan said...

just things that I am working through, Bror. Its not like I'm going to lay down the law or anything. We are working on changes to our way of distributing the bread and wine which (I hope) will unify the congregation more around the table. We plan to try to use both the common cup and the individual cups rather than switching back and forth from Sunday to Sunday. Like you say, these are issues that can be rather "peripheral" but can lead to doubt. The dunker still receives wine after all.

Bror Erickson said...

Bryan,
No I didn't think you would lay down the law. But I've seen a few chancel prancers get their lacy undergarments, the ones that match their vestments, all in a bind on these things, while ignoring what seem to me to be greater issues. I definately think, though, there should be uniformity from Sunday to Sunday. I imagine some stay seated when only the common cup is offered, and vice versa, that would be a bad thing, especially if you only do communion every other week. That would mean people are going a month without communion, and it really is showing and causing a divide in the congregation. That would be an issue to deal with, a hill to die on if you will.