NOT THE LORD’S SUPPER
Holy One, send me into the world in the power of your Spirit, to live, work, and share the gospel joyfully.
Read 1 CORINTHIANS 11:17-34
Correcting an Abuse of the Lord’s Supper
17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 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!
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.
And when I come I will give further directions.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Praise God, from whom all blessings flow, / Praise him, all creatures here below’.1
Celebrating the Lord’s Supper is a wonderful privilege, but it should not be taken lightly. That is the message of these verses. The phrase ‘fallen asleep’ (v 30) is a metaphor for death. Admittedly, it contains within it the hope of waking again at the final resurrection. Nevertheless, the meaning is clear: some Corinthians have died because of their flagrant disregard for the Lord’s Supper. This should make us all pause.
What were they doing that was wrong? The phrase ‘examine themselves’ (v 28) is often taken to mean individual self-examination. Let’s look inside ourselves, we say, and confess quietly before God. This is good practice, but it’s not Paul’s focus here. Paul is speaking to the whole church and urging them to reflect on their corporate practice. We should imagine the Lord’s Supper being celebrated in the context of a larger meal. It appears that some, probably the wealthy, were arriving at the meeting and not waiting for others who would have to attend to duties before they could come to worship. The rich ate and drank selfishly so there was nothing left for their fellow believers (vs 18,21,33,34). Not ‘discerning’ the body (v 29) means not discerning the whole body of Christ, namely the church. Of course, our personal relationship with God is important and may be partly in view in these verses, but the primary focus is on the way that relationship spills over into the quality of our relationships with others.
The reflection on 10:14–22 focused on the vertical, our relationship with God; here the focus shifts to the horizontal, our relationships with others. How can we practice a gospel-shaped inclusiveness, one that embraces the poor and marginalized? A church that refuses to do this runs the risk of Paul’s words applying to them.
How can you prioritize others in the life of your church – not just in the Lord’s Supper, but in a range of different ways?
Dear Jesus, you are my High Priest. May I always prepare myself to receive the bread and the cup. Thank you for your loving presence with me at the table.
1 Thomas Ken, 1637–1711
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