Koinōnia (1 Corinthians 10:16)Now we step back to verse 16 to examine the idea of koinōnia that Paul is teaching.
"Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?" (10:16)
One word stands out because it is repeated again and again -- the Greek word koinōnia, "participation" (NIV), also translated as "communion" (KJV) or "sharing" (NRSV). It means sharing something in common with others. The root koinē means common in contrast to private -- common ground, common pastureland, communal property, a couple's community property. When it refers to people, it means "participants, fellows." The idea is that which is shared in common with others.
Paul uses this word koinōnia to describe the believer's relationship to the blood of Christ and to the body of Christ -- that is, the sacrifice of Christ for us. Since we are sharers in the sacrifice of Christ for us, how can we also share in pagan sacrifices? That is Paul's argument here.
But it is worthy of meditation to consider yourself as having a share in, or perhaps a claim upon, the blood of Christ shed for you and for all your Christian brothers and sisters. You are a shareholder in the cross. In a sense, you are a participant and sharer in this sacrifice made for you. Dwell on that and it will touch you to the center of your soul.
Q3. (1 Corinthians 10:16-18) What does koinōnia mean? What does it mean to "participate" or "share" in the blood of Christ? Or in the body of Christ?
Now Paul gives an illustration of his point from the sacrificial practice of the Old Testament priesthood.
"Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate (koinōnos) in the altar?" (10:18)
The noun koinōnos is used in verse 18 to mean, "one who takes part in something with someone, companion, partner, sharer." Paul is referring here to the practice of the priesthood to eat a portion of the sacrifices brought to the tabernacle or temple. A portion was eaten by the priests and a portion was burned on the altar. In the case of a fellowship offering, a portion was also eaten by the offerer and his family.
The meat from sacrifices, along with the tithe, provided food for the priests and their families (Leviticus 10:12-15). But the priests' eating of the sacrifice was more than for food, as we see from the incident when Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu were slain by God for making unrighteous offerings. Aaron and his remaining sons Eleazar and Ithamar were in deep mourning and neglected to eat the sin offering, as was required by the Law (Leviticus 6:26). When Moses found out, he was angry:
"Why didn't you eat the sin offering in the sanctuary area? It is most holy; it was given to you to take away the guilt of the community by making atonement for them before the LORD." (Leviticus 10:17)
In other words, not only the offering of the goat by fire, but also the eating of a portion by the priests, was part of the atonement process.
Eating a Portion of the Sacrifice for Sin