Summary: A word from Paul to correct abuses around the Lord’s Table.
The Reality of the Lord’s Supper
* The church at Corinth was a church with a host of problems. To read this letter named First Corinthians is to comprehend, at least, some of the problems of the Corinthian church. Starting in Chapter 1, we can discern that they had a problem with cliques, pride, spiritual immaturity, immorality, courage, greed, commitment, & this is just the first 7 Chapters! It seems that everything God gave to this church, they would pervert and misuse. Chapters 12-14 speaks to the misuse of Spiritual Gifts that were so utterly abused in this congregation. In fact, the Corinthians were so adept at perverting whatever they placed their hands on, that this process bore a nickname; It was called “To Corinthianize it.” This meant “their version.”
* As an aside, it would seem that America could bear the same title as could Alabama as could Hueytown. Our human tendency is to change, whatever is placed in our hands, to become comfortable to us or even what we deem best. Admittedly for many earthly, manmade things, this is no big deal because the end result is the same. However, when we take God’s word & attempt to make it what “we would like it to be or say”, then it is a big deal.
* One of the issues which they were perverting was obviously the celebration of “The Lord’s Supper.” Even today, as I stand before this table I am aware that the manner in which we partake of this meal is markedly different than in the first century. It seems that in the First Century, the “Observance of the “Lord’s Last Supper” was celebrated at the end of a Festive Supper meal instead of being at the end of a Worship Service. The bread and wine were possibly set aside until the end of supper & then blessed, broken, & shared. Or as some would suggest, that during the meal this was an integral part of the “Love Feast” which mirrors our “covered-dish” meals.
* Paul felt it necessary (as do I) to bring back a truly spiritual dimension to this Holy time. From our 1 Corinthian’s text, let’s quickly hear his words;
1. He Confronts – He begins, “I’m giving you instruction because from a spiritual standpoint, when you get together you are doing no good.” Honestly, church members don’t care to hear words of confrontation like this and many pastors are hesitant to say it because of the repercussions. Yet, Paul doesn’t let up.
a. He Identifies the sin – While the problems are many, Paul sticks his spiritual knife in and says in effect, “Not only are you doing no good, but you are doing badly.” The NIV translates this phrase like this; “You are doing more harm than good.” How sobering! This is exhibit one in the case against, “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you gather in the name of the Lord, it is okay.” Paul says, “Not so.” When God’s people get together, He insists that we do it His way, for the better.
b. He Itemizes the sin – Were I to offer these with names which are simple and easy to remember, I would say, “Divisions, Distractions, and Deceptions.” These problems are easily seen. The divisions have to do with people who think like you do bonding together to get their way in the fellowship. These cliques become a distraction to the entire body because each little group has someone they “approve of” and make it their business to make sure their person is “recognized.” Nothing distract a body of believers like a “Paul Apollos” complex in their midst. A distraction for the family of God is anything which takes our mind, focus, and heart away from Christ. From Paul’s words, we know that to come to the Lord’s Table with these kinds of problems is not divinely acceptable.
* In modern times, people resist the confrontation from God. God demands holiness, righteousness, and even purity. Candidly, to come to the Lord’s Table with sin in our life can bring about dire consequences.
2. He Corrects – In verse 20, Paul’s tone may be seen as a little sharper. It almost like a father who corrects his child, gently at first, and then the tone changes. Look at how Paul handles this correction.
a. By Rebuking – His sharp rebuke begins with the indictment of, “you didn’t really come gather to eat the “Lord’s supper,” really you gather to become gluttons and demonstrate your arrogance and selfishness. You have lost your common decency because you may have much to eat at your place but you put yourself ahead of people who are less fortunate. He is simply talking about graciousness among the His people. You have forgotten what the real meaning of this special time is all about.