One Bread—One Body

"For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread." (1 Cor.10:17).

In these words, fraught with deep spiritual meaning, the faithful Apostle strengthens his appeal to the Corinthian Christians and through them to us. We, like them, are so prone to idolatry, so easily led into ways which cannot be reconciled with the fellowship that is ours in Christ. "Wherefore, my dearly beloved" Paul pleads "flee from idolatry." (v.14) That was a very real danger in those days, and to those early Corinthian believers, living in the most notoriously depraved and paganised city of the then known world, it was a very necessary exhortation. But it was not merely that Paul would wean them from the worship and service of false deities, "gods many, and lords many." (1 Cor.8:5) He knew that such service and such worship involved not only fellowship with pagan men and women but also common‑union, joint participation, with demoniac intelligences behind the veil. He understood only too well the corrupting influence of those debased and debasing ceremonies and sacrifices; that they had nothing in common with the things of Christ, and with all his heart he strove to turn his brethren away from them and toward the infinitely purer and nobler faith of which he was himself a minister.

The whole burden of Paul’s message in this chapter is comparison between the pagan’s fellowship with idols and demons and the Christian’s fellowship with Christ. Just as the believers’ union in worship and offering was not merely an association together for the mutual acknowledgement of God’s supremacy, but in deed and in truth a fellowship and communion with the risen Christ beyond the Veil, and the experiencing of an indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God: so was the worship and sacrificing of the pagans an actual fellowship with demons, "spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies." "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice" he warned them earnestly "they sacrifice to demons, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with demons." (1 Cor.10:20*) This danger of being associated with the enemies of Christ was a very real one in the Apostle’s mind. Doubtless he saw in mental vision the last great conflict at the end of this Age when these same evil powers are arrayed, with all their human dupes, to give battle against the rider on the white horse, coming forth from heaven in righteousness to judge and make war. (Rev.19:11). He knew that the saints must not be hesitant in the slightest degree about their allegiance. They may in no wise have any interest in common with these powers of evil which with all their followers will be overthrown and deprived of all power before the Millennial Kingdom is set up, and so in all earnestness he reminds them "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and the table of demons." (v.21*)

With what emphasis does this call to separation to the fellowship and communion of Christ come to us at this season! Now, more than at any other time during the year, we are mindful of our Master’s willing, steadfast consecration to his Father’s Will, even unto death. For him there was no compromise and no hesitancy. Just previously He had "set" his face to go to Jerusalem, knowing that death awaited him there. The people had flattered him, had received him as king; the disciples had pleaded with him to set up his Kingdom there and then and give the world the blessings it so sadly needed. To all their suggestions He had turned a deaf ear, walking resolutely along that path which, even though it led to suffering and death and the apparent failure of all his work, He knew to be the only one that could end in the consummation for which He had come into the world.

This same consciousness of a mission and this same inexplicable resolution in carrying out the terms of that mission is what Paul seeks to impress upon his readers, and now that the season for more than usually earnest thought about these things is upon us we do well to take from his exhortation all that it can give us of inspiration and encouragement.

"Behold Israel after the flesh" he commands, and his command carries a question. "Are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?" (v.18). Participators with the altar; that is Paul’s thought. The priests upon whom fell the obligation to eat of the sacrifices were holy unto the Lord and could never be the same as ordinary men again. In partaking of the sacrifices of the altar they had become holy like the altar and were in a very real sense in fellowship or communion with the altar, and through that with God. And so are we. Because we have eaten of the offering, made it a part of ourselves, we have become identified with the Altar which is Christ, and have become joint‑participators with him, not only in the power of future blessing for which the altar stands—for more than anything else in the typical Tabernacle the Brazen Altar stood for justification by faith, and only through justification by faith in Christ will man receive blessing in the next Age—but also in the power of present suffering which the same altar symbolises. And it is the power of that present suffering, a suffering in which we participate with our Lord, that is going to mean so much to men redeemed from death by the Ransom given once for all at Calvary many centuries ago.

So the Apostle comes to the central feature of his theme when he takes up this question of suffering. "The bread which we break" he urges "is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" (v.16) There is a vital difference between the cup and the bread. "This is my blood of the New testament (Covenant), which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt.26:28), Jesus had told them on the Passover night. Remembering that the first Covenant was itself made legal and binding by the shedding of blood (Heb.9:18‑20) the disciples must quickly have realised that this New Covenant which was to succeed where the old one had failed was to be made sure by the death of Jesus himself, by the shed blood of He who "gave himself a ransom for all." (1 Tim.2:6). His death provided the Ransom and we are redeemed by his blood, the New Testament is positive enough on that central truth. Why such a ransom was necessary; why Divine justice required such an offering before the dead in Adam could be released and in what way Justice is satisfied by the death of Jesus on the Cross, are all questions which have been asked and answered with varying degrees of spiritual insight throughout the Gospel Age. Independent of all the philosophy and theology that has been built up around the doctrine of the Atonement, the one fact stands out whether we understand it or not the death of Jesus was essential to man’s salvation, and that without faith in him and a definite and personal acceptance of his sacrifice made for us, there can be no release from sin and no entrance into life.

"There is none other name under heaven given…whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12).

It has been well said that the Ransom does not give men everlasting life. It does guarantee to every man a full and fair opportunity to attain everlasting life. That "life for the world" which is symbolised by the "poured‑out blood" of Christ is life as Adam enjoyed it before he sinned, a life which would have made it possible for him to enter upon his eternal inheritance provided he observed the conditions. Much the same is true of humankind in the Millennial Age. All, without exception, will come back from the grave, as Jesus foretold (John 5:28), awaking to conscious life and recollection in bodies free from the effects of inherited sin. Thus will the Ransom become of effect to all men. But unless those awakened ones are persuaded so to order their lives in harmony with Divine principles that they do attain full perfection, morally as well as mentally and physically, the blood of Christ will, so far as such are concerned, be of no avail. If under the favourable conditions of that blessed day the heart of any one of the sons of men remains fully set in him to do evil, his blood‑bought life can again only end in death, and this time without remedy. "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." (Rom.6:9; Heb.10:26) Since it is clear that the risen masses will require something more than the gift of conscious life in a new body, great and marvellous as is that gift, it follows that there is another aspect to the doctrine of the Atonement parallel to that which is symbolised by the shed blood.

That aspect is pictured by Jesus as the breaking of his body, a body which, thus broken, becomes food for the life of the world. This eating of the mystic bread which is his body is not the giving of new life, which is symbolised by the blood, the cup, but it is the continued sustenance of a life already given. The blood is poured out once for all; the bread is to be partaken of into eternity. Jesus died on the Cross, once, and that act is never to be repeated. The one act was sufficient to give all men, Church, and world alike, new life. But He "ever lives" to sustain men’s everlasting lives by that which He gives them, his body. Is that why the people desired him on one occasion "Lord, evermore give us this bread!" (John 6:34)? "The bread that I will give is my flesh" He had said "which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:51).

Neither is this bread a free gift in the sense in which the cup is a free gift. The redemption that is in Christ Jesus, the benefits of the Ransom, are awarded to all men irrespective of personal merits or personal action. All are to receive freedom from Adamic condemnation and reversal of the Adamic death sentence. All who exercise faith in Christ, whether in this Gospel Age or in the incoming Millennial Age, whether of the Church or the world, will receive the free gift of justification and have their past sin, no matter how heinous, no longer counted against them. All who received life from the first Adam will receive life again from the Second Adam. But in order to maintain that life they must partake of the mystic bread, and that, translated into plain language, means to live their lives in exactly the same way that Jesus lived his. It means that no man can live everlastingly except he lives in full harmony with God’s laws and God’s ways. He must, as it were, live "in tune" with God, for as Paul said to the Athenians "In him we live, and move, and have our being." (Acts 17:28). In order that he might learn how to live that life, man must have an example, an exemplar, to show him the way. There has only been one such example, Christ Jesus himself, who came to earth for that purpose. For three and a half years He was the perfect example of how a man should live, and the consequence of his steadfast setting of that example was that his body was broken. He had shown mankind that perfection is only attained through suffering. "Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." (Matt.8:17) "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted." (Heb.2:18). It is the example of that life that will be man’s inspiration in the next Age and in that sense they will "eat (of) the flesh of the Son of Man" (John 6:53) and live forever.

In exactly the same way do we, his disciples of this Age, partake of his flesh, this bread. We too, no less than humankind in the Millennial Age, are to order our lives after that perfect example if we would enter into immortality. We too must learn that only by suffering, endurance, the willing laying down of life upon behalf of others, can we ourselves be perfected. "He that loseth his life…shall find it." (Matt.10:39) And to us is granted a privilege that can never come to the sons of men in the future Age, for we, who have pledged ourselves to be followers of our Lord to the end of time, who have been "buried with him by baptism into (his) death", (Rom.6:4) are privileged to have our own lives used as examples for the future Age; our own experience and character‑development employed in the instruction and conversion of men in that Day. We too are to be made merciful and faithful priests of the future if we are rightly exercised by our experiences in the Christian life now. But the degree of our fitness for holding forth the word of Life then, and in that sense becoming living bread for the world then, is entirely dependent upon the degree to which we partake of the living bread ourselves now. Unless we eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, we have no life in us; and a lifeless corpse can never become the medium of new life to a resurrected world.

This, then, is our fellowship, a fellowship in Christ which is also a participation with Christ, a common‑union with him. This is why we cannot have fellowship or union with the world and its demons. We have been "baptised for the dead" (1 Cor.15:29) and it is only by participation with our risen Lord that we shall make that baptism effective and, in receiving and partaking of the living bread, become the means of giving life to others. "And the Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let him that heareth say ‘Come.’ And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Rev.22:17) That grand climax to God’s dealings with men on the earth can only come to pass when we who are the first‑fruits unto God have first entered into our privilege and obligation of renouncing the world and all that is in it, and joined in full communion with Christ our Lord and with each other as a family apart. "The bread which we break (eat), is it not the common‑union of the body of Christ?" (1 Cor.10:16) "Lord, evermore give us this bread!" (John 6:34)


"This, indeed, is what is written: ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being’ The last Adam became a life‑giving spirit." (1 Cor.15:45 ISV)