WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST
Lord, give me a deeper appreciation of the Supper that You instituted.
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)
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It seems that at Corinth the wealthy were trying to resurrect the very class distinctions that the Lord’s Supper was burying. Have you experienced any of this at your church?
It is likely that we have heard the words of the institution of the Lord’s Supper countless times. However, when read within the context we become aware that, far from being a mere repetition of liturgical language, these words actually expose the failure of the community in Corinth to function as the Lord’s body. They were not “discerning the body of Christ” (29). Paul uses some sharp language from the beginning, declaring that the public meetings of the Corinthian believers “do more harm than good” (17)!
What was the problem? While the Jesus movement in this city consisted largely of people who were on the lower rung of the status ladder, there were also converts from the upper rung who possessed significant resources, including houses large enough to host meetings for the community as a whole. The temptation for these people to consider themselves as patrons of the church and to reproduce Greco-Roman patterns of status and honor in the seating and eating arrangements at the Lord’s Supper was considerable. The assembly in Corinth was reflecting, instead of transcending, patterns of social relationships in the dominant, imperial society.
Consider Vincent Donovan’s description of the celebration of the Eucharist in a Masai village in Africa, which was preceded by a traditional act of offering a tuft of grass as a sign of peace. Prior to the communion this grass would circulate from family to family throughout the community; if at any point it was refused, there would be no Eucharist until what was wrong was put right. “If there had been selfishness… and lack of forgiveness… let them not make a sacrilege out of it by calling it the Body of Christ” (Christianity Rediscovered, 95).
In what circumstances might Paul say our meetings “do more harm than good”?
Lord, help me to fully understand that there are no longer any class distinctions between members of the body of Christ.