Summary: The Lord's Supper signifies the greatest fact in a person's life. It is a symbol of his death that men might live forever. The purpose of this memorial is that you might never forget that this is life's greatest fact.
The pyramids of Egypt are symbols of man's desire to be remembered. Man alone among all creatures
builds a tomb to perpetuate his name. He builds houses, but so do muskrats and birds. He organizes into
cooperative society, but so do bees. He forms armies with captains and generals, but so do ants, which
also have hospitals for the sick and schools for the young. Other creatures weave, spin, set traps, and hunt
game, but none ever bury their dead and set up a marker for a tombstone. Man alone has a desire to be
remembered, and he alone instinctively senses that death is not the end, but that the real person is
somewhere continuing to exist, and they want to be remembered.
On the night Jesus was betrayed, only hours from the cross, He too expressed a desire to be
remembered, but He did not request that they build a towering tomb or a marble monument, or any
material memorial at all. He only asked that they observe a simple service in remembrance of Him. Its
very simplicity makes it all the more appalling that men could pervert it into anything but what it was
meant to be, and more amazing yet that they should begin to do so only 20 years after its institution. As
we look at our text we immediately see that Paul is trying to solve the problems of a local church
involving the Lord's Supper. His handling of the problem falls into three sections we want to consider.
We see the perversion of the Lord's Supper by the Corinthians; the purpose of the Lord's Supper according
to Christ, and the peril of the Lord's Supper for the careless.
I. THE PERVERSION OF THE LORD'S SUPPER.
Try and imagine what would happen if we observed the Lord's Supper by everyone bringing their own
meal. The bread would be distributed during the meal and the wine at the conclusion. Add to this the
presence of people who are not converted plus Christians just shortly converted from paganism. This is
the picture we see at Corinth.
The idea was beautiful to have what was called an agape feast at the same time they observed the
Lord's Supper. It was a literal reproducing of the setting in which Jesus instituted it. He and His disciples
had a Passover meal on that occasion. But what happened was that they began to secularize the church
and make it like one of the Greek clubs that met for a common meal. It became a mere satisfying of the
physical appetite. The meal became an end in itself and its significance as a memorial to draw their minds
to the remembrance of the cross was being forgotten. Verse 20 says it was not the Lord's Supper but their
own supper they came to eat.
On top of this it became a scene of thoughtless indifference to human need. It became a stasis seeking
banquet in which those who could bring all the best things did so. And the poor were left to look on in
envy as they chewed their dried bread. It was not pot luck, but each brought their own meal. The result,
of course, was as Paul indicates in verse 17 that they went away from the Lord's Supper worse than when
they came, and they were bad enough then. In verse 22 he writes, "Shall I praise you for this? I praise
you not." This love feast led to such disorder that it was finally prohibited completely by the Council of
You might ask how such corrupt conduct could come into the church even to the point of drunkenness,
as Paul charges in verse 21? It is a very simple process. All you need to do is bring the world into the
church and you soon have a church of the world-not only in it, but of it. The Corinthians used the Lord's
Supper as an excuse to continue their pagan banquets, and the result was that the purpose of the Lord's
Supper was perverted and became paganized. Paul does not write them off as hopeless, but goes on to
II. THE PURPOSE OF THE LORD'S SUPPER.
Verse 24 and 25 have been two of the most influential verses in history. How one felt about them has
often been a matter of life and death. The question is, are they literal, or are they symbolic? These words
were read in the first evangelical communion service ever held in Zurich, Switzerland on April 13, 1525.
Zwingli the famous Swiss reformer had convinced the people that they were symbolic, and by approval of
the town council and order of service was published a week in advance telling the people that the Lord's
Supper would be observed like never before. As people gathered in the great cathedral they saw tables