The Lord's Table
Extracted from: "Church of the Living God"
Chapter: "Assembly Meetings"
We have learned that I Corinthians 10:16, 17 speaks of that phase of the breaking of bread which is the expression of the fellowship of the members of the Body of Christ and that the one loaf is also spoken of as a figure of the spiritual body. In this same chapter we find the only occurrence in the New Testament of the expression "the Lord's Table" which expression we have used a number of times. We purpose now to consider this phrase and to inquire what is implied by and associated with this term.
The bread on the table is the symbol of the Lord's body, but since the literal body is the figure also of the spiritual body, the one loaf is taken also in this passage as the figure of the one Body of Christ composed of all believers: "For we being many are one bread, one body" (v. 17, New Trans.). So we see in this passage that the Holy Spirit associates the term, "the Lord's Table," with the one body and our fellowship together as members of that body. We may say the Lord's Supper and the Lord's Table are synonymous in one sense and yet in another sense they have distinct aspects as they present two phases or aspects of the truth associated with the breaking of bread. The Supper is associated with the individual remembrance of the death of the Lord, while the term, "the Lord's Table" is associated rather with that phase of the Lord's Supper where a public expression is given to the oneness of Christ's body and of our fellowship together as such.
The Table speaks of the visible expression of fellowship of the one body. The ground of fellowship which God has for us is that of the one body of all believers, and this is founded upon the redemption by Christ's blood. Positionally all believers are at the Lord's Table in the sense that they are in the fellowship of the Body of Christ. In the breaking of bread together, we manifest a practical expression of this fellowship. The term "the Lord's Table" is a typical one and is not to be understood in a literal sense. It does not mean a piece of furniture upon which the bread and the cup are standing, but the principle or ground upon which the Supper is celebrated. The ground taken in the breaking of bread determines the character of the table spread upon it.
The Table of the Lord is expressive of fellowship with Him and with the members of His Body and there His authority and His rights must be owned and the holiness of His name maintained. If other ground is taken than that of the practical owning of the unity of the Body of Christ which God has marked out for us, the table spread upon such a ground does not bear the true characteristic of the Lord's Table. Tables maintained on denominational or independent lines necessarily cannot be on the ground of the unity of the Body of Christ and hence do not answer to the characteristic of the Lord's Table in I Corinthians 10.
Wherever the principles of the unity of the Body of Christ are not recognized in practice and a man-made ground of fellowship is adopted instead, there is no exhibition of the truth of the Lord's Table and hence such tables cannot be Scripturally owned as the Table of the Lord. They are really the tables of parties on man-made grounds of fellowship. The Lord's Supper may be celebrated there with reverence and thankful love by sincere Christians ignorant of the truth connected with the Lord's Table, but there is not the manifestation of the oneness of the Body of Christ and consequently the truth of the Lord's Table is not realized or enjoyed because principles subversive to the fellowship of His Table are held.
Another important feature that must be manifested if a table is to be owned as the Lord's Table is holiness and truth, for this is the very character of Him whose table it is professed to be. ("He that is holy, he that is true"-Rev. 3:7; "Be ye holy; for I am holy"- 1. Pet.1:16). If for instance, any unsound and unscriptural teachings affecting the person of Christ are admitted or retained in a gathering, or if persons who hold and teach them are received by the gathering, the very person of the Lord of the Table is attacked and holiness and truth violated. How then can such a table be owned as the Lord's Table?
Likewise, if moral evil is allowed in the fellowship at the Table, it cannot be owned as the Table of the holy and true One. So we see, then, that the holiness of the Lord's Table must be maintained as well as the oneness of the Body of Christ. The purity of God's truth must never be sacrificed in order to maintain unity at His Table, nor will true unity ever be interfered with by the strictest maintenance of truth and holiness. But all must be done in a spirit of grace, meekness, and lowliness as otherwise the Lord's character of grace would be distorted.
Now let us look at verses 18 to 21 of I Corinthians 10, where we have the principle of fellowship applied to eating at the altar. We have already seen that the thought of fellowship is the prominent truth connected with the Lord's Table. After speaking of partaking of the Lord's Supper in verses 16 and 17, the apostle says: "See Israel according to flesh: are not they who eat the sacrifices in communion with the altar?" (New Trans.). Here is an important principle for us. To eat at an altar or table is expressive of communion and fellowship with that altar or table as well as with those at that altar. To sit at a table and eat denotes identification with that table and with what it stands for.
The apostle goes on to speak of the altars of the heathen and says: "what (the nations) sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God. Now I do not wish you to be in communion with demons" (New Trans.). Behind the heathen idol was a demon and the heathen, without realizing it, brought their offerings to these demons. Therefore it was the table of demons and for a Christian to even sit in an idol-house and participate in a heathen meal connected with their offerings, as some of the Corinthians thought they had liberty to do, would be to ally oneself with the table of demons and to be in communion with them. So verse 21 says, "Ye cannot drink (the) Lord's cup and (the) cup of demons: ye cannot partake of (the) Lord's table and of (the) table of demons" (New Trans.).
It is impossible to drink the cup of the Lord, acquiescing in all that it stands for, and then to drink of the cup of demons also. To do so would be to associate the Lord's Table with the table of demons and to deny the fellowship of the Lord. Thus the apostle showed the Corinthians how serious a matter any connection with the heathen altar would be. This was a danger confronting the Corinthians at the time Paul wrote to them, This danger of association with the table of demons does not exist for us today, generally speaking, but the principle which Paul applied in the matter still remains for us to apply to present conditions. That principle is that the act of eating at a table is expressive of identification and fellowship with that table and with what it stands for and with all who likewise partake.
We are not surrounded by tables of demons as the Corinthians were, but there are many tables of religious parties and sects about us and the danger is that we are liable to associate the Lord's Table with principles which contradict the fellowship of His Table and which overlook or even deny the sole authority of the Lord over His Table. In a word, the point for us to realize is that wherever we take the Lord's Supper, we thereby express communion with the table in that place and identify ourselves with the ground and principles upon which that table is spread. If one who is breaking bread with those who meet on the ground of the unity of the Body of Christ and who seek to give practical expression to the truth of the Lord's Table were to visit another gathering meeting on denominational or independent ground and break bread with them and then return to the fellowship of the Lord's Table, or vice versa, he would thereby act inconsistently by associating the Lord's Table with contradictory principles. To do so is clearly wrong, though it may be done in ignorance and calls for instruction in the truth. Communion with the Table, then, is also expressed in the breaking of bread and these important considerations of fellowship which we have discussed are associated with it. Thus there is more to the breaking of bread than the average Christian realizes.
To sum it all up, it would, therefore, be well for each one to ask (1) Whom am I remembering in the Supper? (2) Am I remembering Him in a worthy manner? (3) With whom am I remembering Him? and (4) On what ground and principles am I remembering Him?
In closing our meditations upon the Lord's Table we would say that amidst the ruin and universal failure and division of the Church in which we find ourselves, it certainly does not become any group of Christians to make high claims as to exclusive possession of the Lord's Table. Our endeavor and concern should rather be that of ever seeking to give practical expression to the truths of which the Lord's Table is symbolical and to be true to the fellowship of His Table. The Lord has His Table and He will take care of it. He has not given it to any ore particular company of Christians, but gives all believers the privilege of being at His Table, with the attendant responsibility of behaving accordingly.
When the question is asked, "WHERE IS THIS TABLE OF THE LORD?" we reply with the weighty words of another:
"There where they, be they but two or three, are gathered together without having any other gathering center but the Lord Jesus alone; there where they do not link up the Holy Name, which constitutes their bond of unity, with any iniquity, and the discipline which becomes the house of God is maintained; there where they guard themselves from every principle of independence (which would rob the Lord of His authority), and submit themselves one to another in the fear of God without party spirit or controversy, while, at the same time, all the redeemed are embraced as forming the one body in the Spirit, and all endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, happy to welcome at the Lord's Table all those that are begotten of God under only one condition that they be sound in walk and doctrine. There where there are such Christians they have, in spite of all the common ruin and all the imperfections that may adhere to their testimony, the Lord's Table in their midst; that is, they realize gathered around the Lord Jesus, as they collectively celebrate the Lord's Supper, that they are one bread, and one body with all the beloved of the Lord throughout the whole world."