Summary: Every disciple should come to the Lord’s Supper with thanksgiving for the New Covenant and repentance from all sin.
Imagine if you would it’s thanksgiving dinner. You and your loved ones are sitting down to eat. The turkey is delicious – so is the mashed potatoes and the gravy and everything else. In the middle of the meal, your host stands up with a loaf of French bread and begins breaking off pieces, saying “Take and eat – this is my body which I’m giving for you.” You take the bread and wonder if you’re really supposed to eat it. Then he sends a goblet of wine around and tells all his guests to drink it, for it is his blood. About this time you’re wondering what exactly was in your host’s drink. Because that is STRANGE!
Have you ever considered that the Lord’s Supper, which seems so “normal” to us today, was a revolutionary – even strange – part of worship to the earliest disciples of Jesus. some of the earliest persecutions of Christians sprung up over misunderstanding of what exactly these people were doing eating flesh and drinking blood.
Why do we have what we call the “Lord’s Supper”? What does it mean – and how should we use it as a meaningful part of our worship of Jesus Christ?
In our continuing journey through 1 Corinthians, we’re going to study Paul’s instructions about these very issues. Let’s listen to what Paul has to say – so that after this message is finished we will all be able to partake of the Lord’s Supper together with greater meaning and understanding. Turn to 1 Cor. 11:17…
1 Corinthians 11:17-22 (NIV)
17In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!
CULTURAL BACKGROUND: The church in Corinth evidently had more food together than simply the bread and the wine. It appears that either before or after the actual Lord’s Supper (with the broken bread and shared cup of wine), the church enjoyed something similar to a potluck dinner. Only there were problems with it. Some people were being gluttonous and eating or drinking more than their share. Some were actually getting drunk! And some had to go hungry because of those who were at the front of the line.
Paul tells them when they do this they are NOT really partaking of the Lord’s Supper, for the Lord’s Supper has nothing to do with a potluck! (I’m not against potlucks – they just need to be differentiated from the Lord’s Supper!)
So, Paul continues by giving them (and us) instructions on what the Lord’s Supper really is, and how they should go about using it as an important part of their spiritual life.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NIV)
23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
The Lord’s Supper is a time to celebrate the New Covenant. (1 Cor. 11:19-26)
What is the NEW COVENANT? In short, it was an entirely new way for humans to relate with God almighty, which began with the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus.
You know your Bible is divided into 2 “testaments” – the Old and the New. These correspond to the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. In the Old Testament, therefore, you find that God is unapproachable except on one day each year, and even then only by the High Priest. On that day, known as the Day of Atonement or in Hebrew “Yom Kippur”, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the temple, and sprinkle blood from a bull which had been sacrificed. The blood was required for the forgiveness of the Israelites, and year after year the sacrifices were made.