What is the point of 1 Cor 10-12? Unity in the Body.
The key is unity with the Lord, and unity with his body – the people of the church. Since we are one with the Lord and each other, we are urged to honor the body. Does this mean that we look for every way to withhold the Lord’s supper from sinners? How can we feel free to eat? On what grounds should we judge the youngest covenant members?
Paul warns that in light of the Lord’s table, we should examine ourselves.
In 1 Cor 10 he gives numerous Old Testament examples of when the “baptized” and communing Israelites (vv.1-5) ought to have examined their behavior (vv.6-10). Let’s remember at this point, that the children were always participant in Old Testament eaten sacraments (the Peace Offerings – see Ex 12.47 on who and Lev 7.11-38 for definition of the meal). Paul himself emphasizes the whole community’s inclusion in both the rite of initiation, and in covenant renewal through eating spiritual food and drink (1 Cor 10.1-5). It was both an inclusive group, and and a group whose members old enough to examine themselves needed examination. But a requirement to examine did not rule out those too young to examine.
Examination does not exclude infants – and it is not NEW in the New Testament.
The Examples Even Give a Pattern for Mercy for “Your Little Ones.”
Those to young to examine are too young to need examination. Both old and young are sinners. Both old and young are saved by grace through faith. We are told to ame sure that we are not defiling the table with gross public sin – but only those responsible for leading the group were held responsible by God in the following example:
One of the example passage to which Paul alludes, Numbers 14, gives a time when many died for grumbling…and God specifically says that the parents are responsible, but the little ones are not.
If we add to that 1 Cor 10.13 which says we face common temptations, and God always gives believers a way out, then we come to the following conclusion: We should not fear that our children will sin at a level that they have no way out of. If they can “examine” themselves, then God may allow them to be tempted at a level needing examination, but they will be able to repent in accordance. If they can’t examine because they aren’t able, then God simply will not allow tempation to sin at that level: “he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability” (1 Cor 10.13)- he is faithful to his people, and does not let us sin in a way in which we cannot deal with our Lord.
No one who comes to the table is not a sinner. All are sinners, and all need grace, and that grace is presented in the picture portayed – the body and blood of a forgiving lamb. If the gospel picture portays blessing only to the intelligent, then we will be prone to believe that forgiveness is somehow more effective over the people who have received it. If the Children should be considered as already baptized into his death (Rom 6), then they should be portrayed as forgiven.
The point of coming is to show reception of forgiveness.
The reason some older people should examine themselves, is because their flaunting of public sin or sin against the church body DURING the meal, is not a picture of a man coming to receive forgiveness. Rather, it is a man spitting on forgiveness.
Paul did not wrtie the warning in 1 Cor 10-11 in order to withhold the table from anyone. His aim was not to put a stop to communion, rather it was to put a stop to public, unrepentant, gross sin. If he comes with an attitude of sin against the altar (idolatry – 1 Cor 10.7, 14, 20-21), or against the church members – the poor, the weak, the gentile (1 Cor 11.21-22, 33-34; Gal 2.11-13; possibly Ac 6.1-4), then he doesn’t display a hand up to God, but a hand out against God.
As long as we come to the table as sinners before God, then we are accepted. This is repentance. The best example of such repentant faith, according to Jesus, is seen in “even infants,” for “the kingdom belongs to such as these” (Luke 18.15-17).
Adults who need to examine themselves need to examine if they are acting like the children in Christ who are the best examples of humble faith.