The Lord’s Supper – 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
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In the second half of this chapter, the Apostle Paul will address what is potentially the greatest failure in the church, then and today:
Failure to honor the most sacred part of our relationship with God our Savior; the sharing of "The Lord's Supper."
I believe that "The Lord's Supper" is greatly misunderstood in our churches.
As a result, it is observed in an almost blasphemous way.
Paul tells us that God will judge us for our disobedience to Christ's command:
"Do this in remembrance of Me."
And for the "unworthy manner" (Vs. 27) we share in it, and fail to discern the body of Christ." (Vs. 29)
We comply with every detail of the ritual of "communion," but do we really discern (understand) the body of Christ in the "Lord's Supper?"
The "Lord's Supper" is the highest and holiest expression and exercise of Christian worship.
We have only two sacraments given to the Church according to God's Holy Scriptures:
1. Baptism - To be done at the beginning of the believers walk with the Lord, a profession of faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
2. Communion (The Lord's Supper) - To be done continually and often throughout the believer's life, in remembrance of what the Lord has done to save us from sin and ourselves.
The sacrament of communion is to continue in the Church until Christ returns (Matt. 24:26), and by this we "proclaim" His death and sacrificial atonement for us.
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
(1 Cor. 11:26)
Nowhere in the Scripture are we commanded to remember the Lord's birthday, but those who are His are commanded to remember His death day, and given a holy sacrament to fulfill the command.
As always, we must understand the context of time in which this passage of Scripture was written, and the desired effect it would have on its readers.
In that day, "The Lord's Supper" was preceded by a social, or fellowship (koinonia) meal and was called an "Agape Feast" (Love Feast).
This was part of the common practice in the early church:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
And it was done daily:
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,...
And the result was:
...praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
And, eventually, it was done weekly with the same result:
"On the first day of the week, we came together to break bread."
But there was a problem in Corinth, the church there was not honoring God with their practice of "The Lord's Supper."
As a result, it brought judgment (Vs. 29) and discipline (Vs. 30).
Let us now look into the Word of God and seek to understand His commandment and desire for us.
Conduct at the Lord's Supper
"In the following directives..."
* "Directives" - Commands, instructions. (NKJV)
"...I have no praise for you..."
* The Corinthians are back to "I praise you not," the "I praise you" (Vs. 11:2) was short lived!
"...for your meetings do more harm than good."
* "Meetings" - Their gathering for Agape Feasts followed by the Lord's Supper.
* "More harm than good."- They should have gathered for a great spiritual blessing, but instead it led to weakness, sickness and death (Vs. 30).
"...come together as a church..."
* "Church" - Ecclesia (Gk.), the elect, chosen called out assembly of believers.
* Called to gather for this purpose:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The building is not the church!
"...there are divisions among you."
* Paul is referring to the first problem he addressed:
- Sectarianism/carnality (1 Cor. 1:10-17, 3:1-3)
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
(1 Cor. 1:10)
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?
(1 Cor. 3:3)
"...I believe it..."
* It was reported to Paul by a righteous brother from Corinth. (Vs. 1:11)
"There have to be differences among you to show..."
* "Differences" - Heresies (KJV), corrupt behavior, false teaching.
* "Show" - To prove, to separate the "wheat from the chaff."
“…which of you have God’s approval.”
* In this manner, the Lord "shows" who are His.
"...it is not the Lord's supper you eat..."
* It was impossible for them to honor the "Lord's Supper" because of the manner in which they conducted the "Agape Feast" that preceded it.
"...some of you go ahead..."
* In other words, they didn't wait for all to eat.
"...your own private suppers..."
* The rich had their own special food and drink.
"...as a result, one person remains hungry."
* Often, the poor would come in to the feast with no food and the rich didn't share.
Church fellowship was broken between believers by this practice. When we "come together" for fellowship, it's to be together with "our Father," "His Son" and each other joyously (1 Jn. 1:3-4).
And even worse!
"...another gets drunk..."
* How does this honor the Lord!?
"Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!
* "Despise the church of God" - What is the church of God? We are! Do we despise each other?
* Paul is saying that if they were not going share in fellowship, they should have eaten in private and not humiliate or offend the poorer brother.
I wonder if we come to the Lord's table with reverence and respect for what we are about to do during communion? And do we revere and respect our brethren?
Institution of the Lord's Supper
"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you..."
* "I received" - Was Paul at the last Passover supper of the Lord?(Matt. 26:26-28, Mk. 14:22-24, Lk. 22:17-20)
No, Paul received the ordinance for the Last Supper by direct revelation, just as he'd received the Gospel commission.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...
(1 Cor. 15:3-4)
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
* Paul taught, or "passed on" that which he was given by the Lord Jesus.
Do we? Do we teach and share what the Lord has done for us, the mercy He has shown us? A healed demoniac did. (Mk. 5:18-20)
"...on the night He was betrayed..."
* The Passover Feast, the night the forces of hell met to destroy our Lord, or so they thought! But it was all in the Father's plan for our redemption:
This Man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross.
"...when He had given thanks..."
* The Lord gave thanks while the shadow of the cross hung over the upper room.
Sin was knocking at the door. Demanding its pound of flesh.
And He gave thanks. He gave thanks to God.
So should we. Do we understand the debt of gratitude we owe the Father for what His Son did for us?
"...He broke it (the bread)..."
* This speaks to the fact that He willingly allowed His body to be broken on the cross for us.
"...this is My body which is (broken) for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
* "Do this" - Clearly a command.
* The Passover supper, "Seder," Old Covenant remembrance of God's redemption of His people from their bondage in Egypt (Ex. 12).
* The bread speaks of His broken body; "the cup" speaks of the new covenant.
His body was the cup that held His blood.
He was born to die and shed that blood.
"This cup is the New Covenant in My blood; do this whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me."
* We have forgiveness of sin and mercy and because of His shed blood, the righteous requirement of a holy God was paid in full!
This is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
* This is the "New Covenant" in His blood, instituted during Christ's last Passover supper, God's redemption of us, His children from our bondage to sin.
"...you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes."
* "You" - All of us proclaim (preach) the core of the Gospel, the Lord's death, by sharing the Lord's supper.
"...until He comes."
* This is a new directive given to Paul by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16) for us.
* This was not given at Christ's last Passover supper in any of the synoptic Gospels. (Matt. 26:26-28, Mk. 14:22-24, Lk. 22:17-20)
* It is in three parts:
1. Commemoration - "Do this in remembrance of Me." - The past.
2. Communion - "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup." - We are joined to the living Christ. - The present.
3. Commitment - "Proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." - We live in expectancy of our returning Savior. - The future.
"I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
Do you want to be at the Lamb's wedding supper?
"So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner..."
* "The bread," "the cup" - The elements of communion that signify the body and blood of Christ.
* "Unworthy manner" - With indifference, disrespect or unbelief.
* We are all "unworthy" of Christ and His sacrifice, but that's why He came!
"...will be guilty of sinning against...the Lord..."
* Who wants to fall into the hands of an angry, righteous God?
"Everyone ought to examine themselves before..."
* The communion ceremony is only for believers in Christ. It is His body and blood that saved us.
* The communion is available to all who believe, trust in Him.
* Do you believe? (Jn. 3:16) If so, take the elements, proclaim His death for you (Vs. 26).
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?
(2 Cor. 13:5)
"For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ..."
* "Without discerning" - Not knowing Christ as Lord and Savior.
* "The body of Christ" - His physical body that was offered as the propitiation and sacrificial atonement for our redemption from sin.
"...eat and drink judgment on themselves."
* By taking the Lord's supper without belief in Him and His work on the cross, you are asking for greater condemnation.
"That is why...you are weak and sick..."
* Many in Corinth shared in the Lord's table without discernment of His body, and illness befell them.
"...and a number of you have fallen asleep."
* This was not unusual in the early church. A Corinthian man's incest (1 Cor. 5:1-6). Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10) for example.
"But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment."
* Simply - If we had judged ourselves rightly, God would not have judged us.
"...we are being disciplined...so that we will not be condemned..."
* Disciplined - Chastened (KJV), instructed, corrected for our good.
"...when you gather...all eat together..."
* Remember verses 20-22?
"...when you meet together..."
* It's expected that we will "meet together," we are His church (Heb. 10:24-25)
"...it may not result in judgment."
* The Lord's judgment and discipline.
Before we share in the Lord's supper, we need to look around us at those with us in the Church.
Not to criticize or compare others to ourselves, but to "discern the Lord's body." He is the head of the Church and we are His body on earth.
Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.
(1 Cor. 10:17)
The Lord's supper should be a picture of unity in the Church, not disunity, a joyous gathering.
The Lord's Supper is a family meal, and the Father desires that His children are present and love one another.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
It is impossible for a Christian to get close to the Father while separated from his brethren.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(1 Jn. 4:11)
No one should come to the Lord's table who is not a believer.
Likewise, a believer whose heart is not right before the Lord and his brothers, should not come to the table unless he first "examines himself."
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
(1 Jn. 1:9)
For he will only ask for the Father's "discipline" and chastisement.
So, let us examine ourselves, confess, repent, partake and "proclaim" "the Lord's death until He comes."
That we might say as Paul did:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.