Summary: Message 31 in our exposition of 1 Corinthians. This messages explores Paul's exhortation regarding the Lord's Supper. I suggest six essential elements in the celebration of the Lord's supper.
Chico Alliance Church
Pastor David Welch
"The Divine Dinner" I Corinthians 11:17-34
I. Reproof for fleshly behavior 1-6
II. Responses to specific inquiries
A. Concerning marriage 7
B. Concerning the voluntary limitation of Christian liberty 8-11:1
C. Concerning proper protocol for public worship 11-14
1. Proper decorum in corporate worship 11:2-16
2. Proper heart for observing the Lord’s Supper 11:17-34
Paul found it necessary to address internal heart problems connected to external worship symbols. An air of independence rather than interdependence between men and women caused difficulty in the church worship service. An atmosphere of disunity rather than unity became obvious by behavior even when celebrating the Lord’s Supper. An attitude of superiority and self-centeredness caused an imbalance in the understanding and practice of spiritual gifts.
Mystery and controversy have surrounded this celebration that has deep roots back to the Exodus from Egypt and overflows with deep symbolism we embrace to this day. Jesus called his disciples to prepare for His final Passover celebration before His crucifixion. This particular celebration became the transition from much of the symbolism of the Old Covenant to the reality of the New Covenant. The celebration of the Passover celebrated the covenant between Israel and God. Its celebration recalled the miraculous deliverance from years of horrible suffering under Egyptian slavery by the sacrifice of the lamb.
Its celebration affirmed their identification as God’s chosen people. As Jesus took up the bread and wine of the Passover, He made personal application to His sacrifice that would bring deliverance from centuries of suffering and slavery to sin. It would symbolize identification with Him and with those who would follow Him. It would become a commemoration and celebration of oneness with Christ through sacrifice. It would celebrate oneness and unity with the body of Christ. In light of the powerful purpose behind the Lord’s Supper, God directed Paul to address some issues related to the Corinthians celebration of it.
a) Obvious Contention Revealed 11:17-22
This Church at Corinth did not have a problem getting together as did the believers addressed in Hebrews. This church came together but did not come together in unity.
But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.
"Not for the better but for the worse." "Your services do more harm than good." Divisions manifested when they came together. Paul even expressed having no trouble believing the reports concerning divisions when he looked at what was taking place in the church. They were heaping approval on some. They were totally disregarding and ignoring others. They ignored unity and ministry and everyone did their own thing. Some were unwilling to wait for others. Others went hungry at the love feast. Still others pigged out at the feast of love.
The core contention at the Corinthian corral was selfishness; a basic disregard for the unity of the body accomplished through the sacrificial suffering and death of Christ. These believers declared their allegiance to Christ and unity with His body by partaking of the symbols of communion yet their actions declared something all together different. Basically they claimed a degree of spiritual maturity and communion that was not a reality.
b) The Original Conditions Recounted 11:23-26
Paul simply recounted with them what the Lord told him.
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 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." In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.
Jesus Himself identified the symbolism of the bread and wine.
The bread that had stood for God's abundant provision to His people for centuries pointed to Christ’s body which he would freely given for their benefit.