Summary: Exposition of 1 Corinthians 11 regarding Paul's thoughts regarding their error and their ideal.
Text: 1 Cor 11:17-34, Title: Drunk in the Church, Date/Place: NRBC, 10/16/11, AM
A. Opening illustration: In spite of his tendency to project sometimes speculative imaginative scenarios in his more popular study You Wretched Corinthians! Hans Frör well captures the connection between 11:2–16 and 17–34 in the following projected dialogue initiated by his fictitious barmaid Mara. Mara exclaims: “They’re bothering about veils, as though one had only to throw away a bit of material and everyone would be equal at the Lord’s table.… ‘Not slave and free, not poor and rich! That makes me laugh! Clearly the better class gentlemen have been looked after for quite some time in the dining room when our kind comes rushing along. They eat lavishly, drink the finest wines.… They mix up the well-laid table of the master of the house with the Lord’s table.… If we’re lucky, all that’s left for the shared meal is a bit of bread and a sip of wine.… We get the bits.” Tippy coming in first, and eating every last bite of dog food before Buddy gets there,
B. Background to passage: Paul has been answering questions since chapter five on various issues that the Corinthian church had sent to him in a previous letter. But now he brings up a subject that again he has “heard” about before moving to the next expressed question. He wants to rebuke them about how they approach the Lord’s Table. He understood (but gave them the benefit of the doubt) that they were following through with their accepted cultural practices of separating the classes of people at a meal. Part of this may have had to do with the actual houses that they were in. Nevertheless, he commanded (“instructions” is a strong word, used of orders given in the military) them that when they “gather as the assembly” to eat the Supper, they were doing much harm.
C. Main thought: So here are Paul’s thoughts regarding their error and their ideal.
A. Despising the Church (v. 17-22)
1. BTW, the meaning of “church” in the NT is “assembly.” So when Paul uses the term in this text, he is talking about the gathering of the believers for corporate worship. The early church met in homes (and just for your info, there is never a time when the bible speaks of church’s having church buildings). Usually in the dining room of a home, 10 people was the max capacity. At a dinner, the most important guests would be in the dining room, and the lesser would kinda be in an overflow atrium area that help about 30-40 people. So the largest church written of in the NT would have been about 50 people. The lower socially you were in the class structure, the further away from the food you sat (or stood), and the less quality and quantity of food you received. This was Greco-Roman culture. The more prominent guests would arrive first and eat first and the best, all the while looking down on those not worthy of the dining room. The main problem Paul is condemning in Corinth here is carrying on these cultural practices in the assembly of the family of God.
2. The higher class Corinthians were using this gathering to gorge themselves, get drunk, and put on display their selfishness and utter disregard for the “have-nots” of the church. Obviously in our way of doing the Lord’s Supper, this wouldn’t be a problem. Even if you took our way into a home, this still wouldn’t be a problem, why? We don’t have a meal. The early church have what were called “love feasts” because they saw the occasion of gathering as a special time to show love to one another. And so they had a meal together in the home which they were meeting in, and concluded the meal with the Lord’s Supper. So the problem here is multi-faceted: lack of love (selfishness), cultural import, and pride in socio-economic class. And Paul says this is despising the church of God! The word means to show contempt, look down upon, scorn, care nothing for, disregard as unimportant. Big accusation!
3. Jude 1:12, 2 Pet 2:13, Phil 2:3-4,
4. Illustration: Grace Family Baptist Church in Houston (Voddie Baucham) practices this. Each week they all come and share a meal following the morning worship, and conclude with the Lord’s Supper. "The church is more than simply a human society in institution; it belongs to God. To show contempt for the church, which is God’s, is to despise what God has made his own, and on which God has set his love, and therefore given it status and honor in his own eyes," “God AIMS to fill the universe with the glory of his Son, Jesus, by making the church the showcase of his perfections. Or, to put it another way, and include the idea of body: God means to fill the universe with the glory of his Son by putting the church on display as the embodiment of his Son…“The church of Jesus Christ is the most important institution in the world. The assembly of the redeemed, the company of the saints, the children of God are more significant in world history than any other group, organization or nation. The United States of America compares to the church of Jesus Christ like a speck of dust compares to the sun. The drama of international relations compares to the mission of the church like a kindergarten riddle compares to Hamlet or King Lear. And all pomp of May Day in Red Square and the pageantry of New Year's in Pasadena fade into a formless grey against the splendor of the bride of Christ.” Jesus Loves the Church and So Should You, Earl Blackburn