Summary: Communion is not merely a ritual. It is fellowship and involvement in the life of Christ and His Body, "The Church".
THE LAST SUPPER
1 COR. 11:17-34
Pastor Greg Mc Donald
But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 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. 19 For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you. 20 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 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. 23 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; 24 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." 25 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." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the 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, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world. 33 So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you may not come together for judgment. And the remaining matters I shall arrange when I come. 1 Cor 11:17-34
In these verses Paul is talking about a problem related to an abuse of the observance of the Lord’s Supper. This problem was so bad that he suggested the meetings were actually "not for the better but for the worse" (v.17).
Since Holy communion in the church today is usually in the context of a worship service in the sanctuary, it is hard for us to visualize the circumstances to which Paul was addressing himself.
The early church had developed a very lovely tradition in connection with the observance of the Lord’s Supper. They had a meal that was called a Love Feast to which each member brought what he or she was able to share.
The resources were then pulled, and the whole church sat down to a common meal which provided a beautiful picture of the oneness they shared in Christ. It was a way of creating and developing real Christian fellowship in the church.
Then, in connection with the meal, the Lord’s Supper was celebrated. This had a certain naturalness to it since Christ had instituted the practice at the close of the Jewish Passover meal.
But there were several things that had happened in the Corinthian church to take away from the Love Feast whatever love it had and to create a situation so bad that Paul rebuked them strongly.
When they met, instead of being one family, they tended to divide up into seperate groups. This could have been an extension of the divisions along social lines. This seemed to be the case, because Paul mentioned how the richer members seemed to keep themselves rather that share their food and have fellowship with those who were poor.
Also, there were some people who were having so much to drink that they were becoming drunk. In this atmosphere where sharing had been forgotten, the church tried to celebrate the sacrifice God made in sharing His Son for our sins, and it was a mockery.
To Paul it made no difference if the right words were spoken and the right actions were performed if the condition of the church’s fellowship and the spirit of its members stood as a contradiction to the true meaning of the Lord’s Supper.