Summary: Deals with the true significance of the Lord’s Supper.
The Cure for Communionitis
I. Present Maladies
A. A history of the “Love Feast”
B. Abuses found in Corinth
C. Application for today
II. Pristine Model
A. Rooted in history
B. About God’s gift
C. Celebrates a new covenant
D. Proclaims our allegiance and hope
III. Preventive Medicine
A. Each one examine himself
B. Show respect for one another
This morning we are going to participate in one of the greatest celebrations that the Church can engage in. As you can see, the table has been set before us in anticipation of our sharing together in the Lord’s Supper.
I realize that for many, the Communion celebration doesn’t seem like it’s really that big of a deal. Some of you may be even thinking, “When are we going to get to the ‘celebration’ part of this?” I remember as a child thinking that Communion Sundays were those times when we would get a “snack” in church. I imagine that some of you may simply regard this event as just an archaic ritual that we customarily observe on a regular basis that is totally void of real substance or meaning. There are others here who may feel that this is just a morbid remembrance of the death of Jesus, and may wish that we could skip this reenactment altogether.
I want to talk about the Lord’s Supper this morning because of the misconceptions surrounding it and because of the weightiness of this event in the life of the believer. I’m going to endeavor to explain its significance to you with the intention of moving you toward entering into this celebration in the manner in which it was intended to be experienced—for the very purpose of Communion is to provide us with a tangible means of having communion with God; a fresh encounter with our loving Savior, Jesus.
The way that I plan to communicate the significance of the Lord’s Supper is by looking at an example of a church that had totally lost sight of its meaning and had turned Communion into a mockery. We’re going to look at 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. In this passage, Paul describes what he sees as this church’s present maladies, followed by a pristine model of what the Lord’s Supper should be, and then he concludes with a prescription of preventative medicine. I invite you to turn with me to 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 (p. 854).
The first thing that Paul addresses in this passage is the present maladies found in the church at Corinth.
A History of the “Love Feast”
What Paul is referring to in these verses is unfamiliar to most of us today. I personally have never attended a church that practiced the form of worship and fellowship that is described for us here. So, I will take a little time to explain what Paul is talking about.
A practice of the early Church was the celebration of the Agape Feast or Love Feast. “This was a meal shared by the early Christians when they met together for fellowship and the Lord’s Supper” (IBD, p. 656). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia gives this further explanation:
In the opinion of the great majority of scholars the Agape was a meal at which not only bread and wine but all kinds of [foods] were used, a meal which had the double purpose of satisfying hunger and thirst and giving expression to the sense of Christian brotherhood. At the end of this feast, bread and wine were taken according to the Lord’s command, and after thanksgiving to God were eaten and drunk in remembrance of Christ and as a special means of communion with the Lord Himself and through Him with one another (WS).
When Christ instituted the observance of the Communion celebration, you will recall that He did it in connection with the Passover Seder. “Thus it was natural for the early Christians, whenever they celebrated the Lord’s Supper, to do it in connection with a common meal” (IBD, p. 656). We read in Acts 2:42-46 concerning the practices of the early Church, that it was common for the believers to gather together for meals and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
The idea behind the Agape Feast was that everyone would come together and bring whatever they were able. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary states, “At this meal the Christians, in connection with their common Redeemer, ignored all distinctions of rank, wealth, and culture, and met as members of one family” (WS). It was expected of the rich to provide more than they personally needed in order that the needs of the poor would be met out of their abun-dance. Referring back to the passage in Acts 2, Luke records they had everything in common (v. 44) and they gave to anyone as he had need (v. 45). The Agape Feast was designed as a public profession of their bond to each other in Christ and of their commitment to minister in His power and grace.