Every religion has rituals that help people express devotion or remember a key event or truth. Rituals and religion go together. And yet, even though I’m a follower of Jesus, I don’t love rituals. I’m far more concerned with relationships than I am with rituals. But I have to be honest, Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 10:15-22 is making me question whether I have given ritual too diminished a role in my own formation. Maybe there’s more to ritual than immediately meets the eye. Maybe ritual is a pathway to the relationship.

In seeking to keep the Corinthian church on track and walking with Jesus, Paul wrote,

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? (1 Corinthians 10:16)

Paul is clearly writing about what we call Communion or the Lord’s Supper. It’s a ritual or ordinance, and it’s usually described as a way to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again.” (1 Cor. 11:26) However, here he suggests that Communion is more than remembrance or proclamation, it’s participation. The Greek word translated as “participation” is “koinonia” which literally means “shared in common or fellowship.” Paul is saying that when we celebrate communion, we fellowship with Jesus; we share in his life in a unique, real, and special way.

However, there is a second point he makes as well. Listen to 1 Corinthians 10:20,

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.

So, it’s not only possible to have fellowship with Jesus through ritual, but also to have fellowship with demons through ritual. Pagan rituals would have been very well-known by the Corinthians as they were surrounded by them. Paul doesn’t want them to make the mistake of thinking what goes on in the pagan temple is no big deal. He wants them to realize the same thing that happens at the communion table can also happen in a pagan temple – only with a demon instead of God. This is a caution for the Corinthian church about missing out on the union possible with Jesus but also cautions about the way demons want to fellowship with them for the purpose of destruction. When we downplay the power of ritual, we miss the invitation from Jesus for union and the danger of opening our lives to communing with demons.

In all of this, Paul wants to open our eyes to the spiritual power of ritual. Both God and demons meet people as they worship. Are there any ways you have participated in demonic rituals that may have opened your life up to fellowship with evil? If so, I want to encourage you to confess and repent and even to reach out for prayer. The strongholds that have been created can be broken, but they must be intentionally brought down. Secondly, next time you celebrate communion, know that it’s truly an invitation to fellowship, not an empty rote ritual.

Ryan Paulson
Lead Pastor

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