The Relationship Between the Cup and the Scattered Fire (continued)
The Unifying Work of the Cup
These things may sound simple, but they are profoundly challenging. Let us look again at this First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 16: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of (participation in) the blood of Christ?" Now look just over the next chapter. We come to this: "First of all, when ye come together in the church", "I hear that divisions exist among you; and I partly believe it". You see the contradiction? It is not just that we participate with Christ, but together we are on common ground in our participation: it is collective, it is corporate - a common participation, a together participation, a one participation. It is the Church. 'Now when you come together as the Church, there are divisions among you' - that is a contradiction, it is a violation of the very meaning of that cup.
You know, when you go back to the beginning of that letter, the Apostle has much more to say about this matter of divisions. He so early opens up the matter of divisions (1:10-13). 'There are contentions among you: one says, I am of Paul and I am of Apollos, and I am of Cephas.' It represents parties, does it not? Parties in the Church. The point is this, that the Apostle is steadily working his way towards the matter of the Table, and he makes that the climax. He is saying, in effect: 'You cannot have the Table in reality while it is like that - the reality of the Table is impossible - the reality of it - while it is like that! It is a contradiction, it is a denial, it is a mockery; it is the fundamental subverting of the very meaning of the cup, if it is like that. You cannot have it in reality - but you can have it to your own undoing and judgment.'
The Cup Needed for the Fire
"I have a baptism to be baptized with ..." "Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink? or to be baptized with baptism that I am baptized with?" (Mark 10:33). What the Lord was really saying, in other words, was this: 'I have a cup to drink; and, until I have drunk it, that very purpose for which I have come is in suspense. I have come to scatter fire into the earth.' The two things go together.
We shall perhaps see later the fire scattered. You see, we are all very interested in the scattering of the fire - put that how you will: if you like, the progress of the Gospel, the extension of the Kingdom, the salvation of souls, the expansion of testimony. It is all the same thing; it is the scattering of the fire. The earth has got to feel the touch of something from Christ - to register something against which it cannot stand. "I am come to scatter fire in the earth."
But note - that is all dependent upon the cup, from first to last, and upon all that the cup implies. You notice that Second Corinthians entirely rests upon those two things, "For as the sufferings of Christ abound unto us ..." (1:5): there is the cup. "Therefore seeing we have this ministry is, as you know, the letter of the ministry, but notice that it begins with the sufferings of Christ abounding unto us. The scattering of the fire, the fulfillment of the ministry, the service of the Lord, the expansion of the Gospel - however we may put it - rests upon the cup: and not merely upon the cup as for our salvation, but the cup in all those other aspects of a holy life, of an inward separateness, of something apart for the Lord.
(continued with # 5)