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Evangelical Christians do not believe in Transubstantiation. Instead, a view held by many is that the communion elements are mere symbols of Christ's body and blood (source).

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 (ESV)

How do evangelicals holding to the symbolism view interpret 1 Corinthians 10:16? What does it mean to partake in the body and blood of Christ by means of the bread and the cup?

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From Barnes' Notes on the Bible:

The more obvious signification is, that there is a sense in which it may be said that the cup is blessed, and that by prayer and praise it is set apart and rendered in some sense sacred to the purposes of religion. it cannot mean that the cup has undergone any physical change, or that the wine is anything but wine; but that it has been solemnly set apart to the service of religion, and by prayer and praise designated to be used for the purpose of commemorating the Saviour's love. That may be said to be blessed which is set apart to a sacred use (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 20:11); and in this sense the cup may be said to be blessed; see Luke 9:16, "And he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven he blessed them," etc.; compare Genesis 14:9; Genesis 27:23, Genesis 27:33, Genesis 27:41; Genesis 28:1; Leviticus 9:22-23; 2 Samuel 6:18; 1 Kings 8:41.

Is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? - Is it not the emblem by which the blood of Christ is exhibited, and the means by which our union through that blood is exhibited? Is it not the means by which we express our attachment to him as Christians; showing our union to him and to each other; and showing that we partake in common of the benefits of his blood? The main idea is, that by partaking of this cup they showed that they were united to him and to each other; and that they should regard themselves as set apart to him. We have communion with one κοινωνία koinōnia,) that which is in "common," that which pertains to all, that which evinces fellowship) when we partake together; when all have an equal right, and all share alike; when the same benefits or the same obligations are extended to all. And the sense here is, that Christians "partake alike" in the benefits of the blood of Christ; they share the same blessings; and they express this together, and in common, when they partake of the communion.

The bread ... - In the communion. It shows, since we all partake of it. that we share alike in the benefits which are imparted by means of the body of the Redeemer. In like manner it is implied that if Christians should partake with idolaters in the feasts offered in honor of idols, that they would be regarded as partaking with them in the services of idols, or as united to them, and therefore such participation was improper.

(emphasis added by me)

The idea is that it is participating in the body and blood of Christ, not partaking of the body and blood of Christ in the sense that it's literally his body. The point of the passage is to say that when we eat the elements, we participate in their symbolism, their celebration of Christ, and their uniting the believers together. Therefore, similarly, if we participate in idol feasts, we're participating in the symbolism, celebration of the idol, and uniting that comes with it. It's a warning against participating in these things, not necessarily referencing its literal transformation into Christ's body.

EDIT: This is highlighted too by Paul in verses 25 and 26 where he says they can eat anything sold in the market (some of which had been sacrificed to idols) because “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it." Even though it had been sacrificed to idols, by buying it in the market they weren't participating in the idol worship it was originally consecrated for.

  • So, Christians participate in the symbol of Christ's body and blood (i.e. bread & the cup) just as idolaters participate in the symbols of the demons (i.e. the idols)? – Radz C. Brown Oct 29 '15 at 14:34
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    @RadzMatthewCoBrown - As I understand it, yes. – TheIronCheek Oct 29 '15 at 14:52
  • @RadzMatthewCoBrown - Unless I'm misunderstanding what you're asking, that is... – TheIronCheek Oct 29 '15 at 14:55
  • If that were so, then, your answer was excellent. – Radz C. Brown Oct 29 '15 at 14:58
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    @sam There are so many resources concerning the typology of the Euchurist and that of the Manna. One book I would highly recommend is 'The Hidden Manna A Theology of the Eucharist' written by Father James T. O'connor. 1 Cor 10:1-4 I want you to know, brethren,, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the Sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which fallowed them, and the Rock was Christ. – Marc Oct 30 '15 at 16:33

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