While Paul discusses baptism in several of his letters (at least Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Galatians), he addresses the subject of communion less frequently. His material containing the Last Supper tradition has drawn much attention (1 Cor. 11:17-34), although even there he introduces the subject of the Eucharist in order to correct abuses in the congregation at Corinth. Less familiar are the comments he makes in 1 Corinthians 10 about the “cup of blessing” and the “bread that we break,” which he describes as a fellowship with the blood and body of Jesus (1 Cor. 10:16-17). This follows statements about the “baptism” of Israel in the Red Sea (v. 2) and their sharing in a form of the communion meal in the wildness (v. 3-4)—all brought into a discussion about food sacrificed to idols. While these comments are secondary to his main concern, they do provide insight into Paul’s theology of communion and of the sacraments in general.
Paul’s intention in this text is not to formulate a systematic sacramentlogy; however, key statements and underlying assumptions in his argument contain implicit theological principles for doctrinal retrieval. At the risk of anachronism, Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 10 entails an essentially Calvinistic understanding of the sacraments. The following interaction with the passage as well as some of John Calvin’s writings aims to demonstrate this.