There is one other aspect of the Lord’s Supper that we do not think about often as God’s people. This is the fact that the Lord’s Supper is a “sacrificial meal.” I do not mean by this that when we partake of the Lord’s Supper that we are offering a sacrifice to God. The Lord’s Supper is not explicitly referred to as either a sacrifice, an offering, or even as worship that we offer to God in the New Testament. What I mean by this is that the New Testament portrays the taking of the Lord’s Supper using terminology from the Old Testament that would bring to our minds the idea of partaking of a sacrifice. Under the Old Covenant, the priesthood would take a portion of the sacrifices they offered on the altar on behalf of the people for themselves, and they would partake of the meat from these sacrifices. The Lord’s Supper is, in a sense, a fulfillment of what the priests did.
We, as the priesthood of Christ, partake of the “body” and “blood” of our sacrifice as we partake of the Lord’s Supper. Remember that Jesus said when He inaugurated the Lord’s Supper, as He held the bread in His hands, “This is my body.” And when He took the cup, He said, “This is my blood” (Luke 22:19-20). Jesus did not say, “this symbolizes my body,” or “this symbolizes my blood.” I agree that this idea is there, but I think there is more to the language that He uses than that. We take away some of the force of the passage when we insert the word “symbolizes” into it. He could have said “this symbolizes my body and blood,” but He didn’t. He is giving sacrificial language in the passage. He says, “This is my body and blood which is given for you...” then he gives them instructions to take the bread and fruit of the vine and to partake. Whenever we are partaking of this sacrificial meal, we are making His sacrifice real to us. THIS IS His body which was given for me. THIS IS His blood which was shed for me.
Paul also uses priesthood/sacrificial terminology in 1 Cor 10 where he talks to the Corinthians about two tables that they can eat at: the table of idols (Satan) and the Lord’s table (in partaking of the Lord’s Supper). He is trying to show them that when one partakes of meat in the idols’ temples, they were showing their participation in the altar and were having fellowship with demons. When one sits at the table of the Lord, he/she is showing as they partake of the “body” and “blood” of the Lord that they have benefited from His sacrifice and are in fellowship with Christ. He then tells them, “Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” Those who eat of the sacrifices are participants/partakers in the altar. They are in fellowship with the altar, sharing in the blessings of the altar’s sacrifice, and they are having fellowship with the One in whom the sacrifice was made to.
I don’t believe in the Catholic interpretation of this idea-that the emblems actually become the literal body and blood of the Lord before we partake. I do believe Jesus is using figurative language. He is speaking metaphorically, but I would argue from these passages that we should think about it in the sense of what the passages say. “This is My body,” and “This is My blood.” Our minds need to think of the body and blood of the Lord. As we partake, we are reminded of how this sacrifice is our sustenance as priests, but not like the Old Testament priests who received their physical sustenance from the sacrifices. Christ’s sacrifice sustains us spiritually. It gives us eternal life.