Still thinking about communion, since Monday night. Gordon Fee has these great thoughts on 1 Corinthians 11:26–“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”
It’s a little “academic” sounding, but very worth working through. He says:
The focus of Paul’s concern is on the meal as a means of proclaiming Christ’s death, a point the Corinthian’s action is obviously bypassing, Despite the arguments of some to the contrary, the verb “to proclaim” probably does not mean that the meal in itself in the proclamation, but during the meal there is a verbal proclamation of Christ’s death. That seems to be exactly how Paul now understands the two sayings over the bread and cup, and thus why he has repeated the words of institution. With the word over the bread, they “proclaim” that this bread is “Christ’s body for you (us). ” It points to his death, whereby he gave himself freely for the sake of others. Likewise the cup; it signifies Chris’s blood poured out in death, whereby he ratified the New Covenant between God and his people.
It seems certain that their vision of the meal is less than satisfactory right at this point, probably not so much because they were not “thinking on Christ” properly, or failing to be in right communion with him, but because by their abuse of one another they were negating the very point of that death – to create a new people for his name, in which old distinctions based on human fallenness no longer obtain.
Because the words of institution [i.e. the words we say during communion] are so well known to most of us, and because in reading those words we also include Paul’s final comment in verse 26, it is easy for us to miss Paul’s concern in the argument for our own concern in “actualizing” the Lord’s Supper for ourselves. The latter [our own individual thinking about and concentrating on Jesus] is certainly legitimate if for no other reason than that the whole paragraph serves as a kind of paradigm of such actualizing for the Corinthian community. The Lord’s Supper is not simply a memorial of the Last Supper nor of Christ’s death per se. It is a constant, repeated reminder–and experience–of the efficacy of that death for us.
But for Paul, as he will now go on to point out, the concern is not simply personal or introspective. Salvation through Christ’s death has created a new community of people who bear his name. We ourselves rather miss the point of this paragraph if we think of the Table only in terms of our needs and not also in terms of those of others.
Yes. And hence, our great time together in the Lord’s presence, around the Lord’s table, on Monday night.