For Better or Worse? (1 Cor. 11:17-34)
Since the beginning of July, we have been following a series called Living in God’s Great Plan. Although aimed at construction of building, teaching was on living faithfully, obediently, and courageously. If we are to live in a great plan, we need to know the Master Planner Himself. One cannot fully grasp an idea without first understand the thinker.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Here we know our hope is Christ and the future is salvation and eternal life in Christ. That plan is called the Gospel. And then in Hebrews 13:20-21, “Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
The Hebrew author incessantly highlights the bloody death of Christ; the glorious resurrection of Christ; the massive equipping and preparation through intense disciplining by Christ – so that we are to “do his will”, to execute his plan, to carry out his Gospel not one person, not the other person, but all persons together through Jesus Christ to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
The Big Idea: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the blueprint of God the Father given to His children as instructions to live purposefully, meaningfully, and productively for His everlasting glory of which we will be part of in His eternal kingdom.
17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? 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 do not praise you.
We come as one body to share and receive spiritual nourishment.
The level of seriousness is often absent in churches today. More and more sermons are preached to amuse than to admonish. Christians develop an appetite for candy. Sweet to my ears, satisfying to my soul. When churches lose focus of their purpose, the sheep becomes a wandering flock. People need to be fed. As spiritual beings they need spiritual food. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).”
But if the word which is supposed to come from the mouth of God is preached from the agenda of man’s heart, God’s plan (Gospel) is misrepresented. Does our coming together do more harm than good? Has the spiritual health of our church grown to become better or on the contrary, worse? Are we stronger, or weaker?
What Paul is actually asking, “Is the result of our gathering as a church useful?” Notice the information Paul has are news that were delivered to him – “I hear.” They were credible – “I believe.” They broke Paul’s heart – “I do not praise you.” What type of news come out of our church? What do you talk about at your dinner table? How do your friends see you? Does your light shine confidently or is it hidden cowardly under the bushel?
Truth is – and we must fact truth – Division is not always seen within. Division is seen from outside in.
Here’s how we can avoid division:
1. Teach the Word to instill understanding (feed me)
2. Participate in God’s eternal plan (train me)
3. Restore, repair, rebuild (send me)
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the blueprint of God the Father given to His children as instructions to live purposefully, meaningfully, and productively for His everlasting glory of which we will be part of in His eternal kingdom.
We remain as one body with hope in the glory of our suffering.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
Although this passage describes the Lord’s Supper, it is not about the Lord’s Supper. It is for us to remember how our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the Gospel. Paul wants Christian people to be considerate of Jesus’ emotions. He was a man – like you and me. He knows he is going to be betrayed. He knows he is going to die. Yet He gathers His disciples together to show them how they ought to come together, to share with each other, to care for one another, and to remember that Christ also suffered. And as we suffer, to comfort each other. And Paul said, “Together, we die to ourselves, and in doing so, we wait and live as if Christ is coming again!”
It is also important for us to look at these verses outside of our monthly communion practice. Forget the silver platter, the disposable plastic cups, the elements – think of the real meaning of all this.
This passage is often referenced during communion. But the context is about our attitude towards coming together as a church (v18). Paul was not present at Lord’s Supper. Paul was not just repeating what was recorded. This is not a copy and paste statement. Not a ritualistic introduction with empty substance to an act of obedience as significant as the Holy Communion. Communion is not that 10 minute activity at the end of first Sunday. This is about our part in coming together as Christ’s church. We cannot approach our coming before the Lord’s Table as routinely, as casually, as recklessly. Paul says, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you.” It literally means to take on and to give over.
It’s important that we who have received grace also walk in the grace. The Lord our Master in His darkest moments served rather than to be served. The breaking of the bread is an illustration of the shattering of his body, and He wants us to “take and eat” it. To receive and consume Christ deeply and internally so we can boldly display Christ externally.
We feast as one body in memory of Christ’s sufficiency
27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.
Eating and drinking sustains our physical life. But we need to “eat this bread and drink this cup” in a manner that is worth of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We now enter into a private conversation between a pastor and his church. You see, life in the church is not always what we try so hard to make it look like. We teach the message of truth but we must also be true to ourselves. We don’t silence truth. Listen to what this pastor says to his flock – people on directory; watch care; newsletter; members; Elders; BOM; Church face book followers.
• You are guilty, worthy of punishment
• You need to check your attitude
• You should care about your ways
• You know why you are sick and weak?
• You need to wake up
• You need to wait
• You gotta mind your manners
Look, I am not Paul but someone need to be honest with ourselves and raise up issues and challenges that is facing our church. Living in God’s Great Plan requires people who are great.
Lord, what do you wish to say to us today? Lord, have you spoken and we just refuse to listen? Lord, does our coming together as a church worthy of the Gospel? Lord, are we behaving like your children? Lord, are we leading your sheep according to your will?
1. Come, Holy Spirit, heav'nly Dove, with all Thy quickening powers; kindle a flame of sacred love in these cold hearts of ours.
2. Awake our souls to joyful songs; let pure devotion rise, till praise employs our thankful tongues, and doubt forever dies.