Paul moves on from head coverings to a major issue involving the church as a whole and its participation in the Lord’s Supper (holy communion):
“But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized” (1 Cor 11:17-19).
Paul’s condemnation has two parts – first, how the Lord’s supper is abused and second (to follow in the next blog) – spiritual gifts in the church.
“When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses 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 commend you in this? No, I will not” (1 Cor 11:20-22).
This criticism of the Corinthian church is stunning. Imagine a Sunday morning when the Lord’s Supper – Holy Communion – is to be served at your church. Imagine that you could bring anything you want for “supper.” Imagine just sitting down and starting to eat without everyone else doing the same. Imagine eating your feast in front of a family that has no money to buy and bring a meal to church – that’s their problem. Imagine downing a whole bottle of wine and getting drunk and disorderly.
Scary, isn’t it? Wouldn’t we be despising the church and humiliating our brothers and sisters in Christ? Yet that is how the Corinthian church supped together. That is why Paul sounds livid in this passage. He is shocked and angry at them. And he states what he gave them originally while he was in Corinth:
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 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.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:23-26).
What Paul had received from the Lord and given to the Corinthians was the precious gift of perfect unity in the Lord Jesus Christ. What he shares next is the unacceptable form of disunity from Christ:
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another – if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home – so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things, I will give directions when I come” (1 Cor 11:27-34).
Is there disunity in your church? Are there factions taking one position over another? Are many of you weak and ill? It could be because of judgment due to focusing on the wrong things.
If so, find perfect unity in sharing the Lord’s Supper together as one body.
The body of Christ!