The New Testament Epistles

 February 22, 2013
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #8: Questions Concerning Christian Worship, 1 Corinthians 11.2-14.40

 

 

Lesson 8.1: Conduct At the Lord’s Supper
 Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11.17-34

 

 

1 Cor 11.17-11.34 (KJV)

Part 1: “The Corinthians are reproved because of factional grouping while eating the Lord's Supper” (vss. 17-22)


17 Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.
18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.
21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

 

Part 2: “Paul recalls to them how the Supper was instituted” (vss. 23-34)


23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.


Introduction

No passage in the entire New Testament is of greater interest than this. For one thing it gives us our authority and justification for the most sacred act of worship in the church, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper; and, for another since the letter to the Corinthians is earlier than the earliest of the gospels, this is actually the first recorded account we posses of any word of Jesus.


Commentary

Part 1: “The Corinthians are reproved because of factional grouping while eating the Lord's Supper” (vss. 17-22)

17 Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.

From the beginning of the church it was customary for the believers to eat together: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers…And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart” (Acts 2:42, 46; KJV). It was an opportunity for fellowship and for sharing with those who were less privileged. No doubt they climaxed this meal with the Lord’s Supper. They called this meal “the love feast’ since its main emphasis was showing love for the saints by sharing with one another. This “agape feast” (from the Greek word for “love”) was part of the worship at Corinth, but some serious abuses had crept in; that is the problem Paul is addressing in this section.

(In the original Greek this verse reads, “But in giving you this charge, I praise you not that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.”) At the beginning of this chapter Paul praised them for praying for him and following the instruction he gave them through his preaching and letters: “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor 11:2; KJV). But that was no longer the case, and he cannot continue to praise them in the matter he is going to deal with. It is too serious and grave.

“…that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.
The Greek word translated “better” means “advantageous,” and the Greek word translated “worse” means “deterioration.” Here Paul is pointing out the spiritual effect of their coming together for the Lord’s Supper. As we mentioned before, Satan and his demons have on their agenda to rob the Lord Jesus of the praise, honor, and glory He is due—and at the same time hinder believers in their spiritual growth and stewardship; and he was very successfully achieving his goals in the assembly in Corinth. The Holy Spirit has an agenda too; it is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ through the believer in each meeting of the assembly; but he was not being very successful at the time Paul wrote this letter. Actually, their meetings, which were intended to build them up, were doing more harm than good; they were getting worse, and the Lord will punish them if they don’t change their ways.

When the Corinthians celebrated the Lord’s Supper their behavior was unacceptable because they regarded the occasion as a time for hilarity, instead of reverent worship and Christian love toward one another. They failed to recognize the Lord’s Supper as a call to obedient faith that accepts seriously the meaning and reality of Christ. The historical fact that Israel was not immune from God’s judgment as she trekked through the wilderness is an indication that the church at Corinth is also subject to his judgment.

18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

For first of all,
“For first of all” denotes that this is a priority in the mind of Paul and that it is something that weighs heavily on his heart.

when ye come together in the church,
This does not necessarily mean that there was a building where they held meetings that was designated as the “Corinthian Church,” but rather it refers to the assembling together of believers.

I hear that there be divisions among you;
This differs from chapter 1 verse 10 where Paul refers to divisions within the church—groups forming and following various leaders such as Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and others. In our present verse the meaning is dissension. The believers were divided; they were not right in their hearts toward one another.

Paul would have to accept some divisions to arise over differences between church members; there can be honest disagreements so long as they are not personal and do not go against God’s will or His Word. For instance genuine believers would naturally be separate from those who were not true believers. However, when people in a church develop into self-willed divisions (such as class distinctions, or the factions describes in v. 3.4), these are destructive to the congregation. Apparently Paul was referring to class (economic) distinction here, because these divisions were hurting a time of fellowship that should have been drawing believers together, not separating them. It has been suggested that the rich, contrary to custom, greedily consumed their more bountiful provisions before all the poor came, so they would not have to share their food with them; this would do great harm to unity within the assembly—to be treated so scornfully by the rich members not only hurt their stomachs, it also hurt their pride. The “agape feast” was supposed to be a time for edification, but they were using it as a time for embarrassment.

and I partly believe it.
Paul had hopes that, even though the reports that he received were true there might have been some degree of exaggeration in them. Perhaps the situation was not quite as serious as it had been presented to him and certainly it would carry weight with the believers in Corinth for Paul to give them the benefit of the doubt. He had hopes that the reports had been exaggerated and that when he arrived there he would find that conditions were not as ugly and serious as the letter indicated.

We should follow Paul’s example here. Experience tells me Christians like to expect the worst. They are not willing to allow a little ground for exaggeration. If we hear an evil report about a fellow believer or minister, we are always prone to believe the worst, or even worse than reported; but not so with Paul. And when writing the Corinthians Christians he assured them that he was giving them the benefit of the doubt and hoped within his heart that when he arrived he would find things better than reported.

For there must be also heresies among you,
This is the conclusion Paul had reached; that because of the sin in the lives of some of the believers in the assembly, there must be heresies (divisions or factions) among them. Divisions in the church always created factions—little groups uniting together under the leadership of some individual—and that should not happen in the church of the living God. (The word translated “heresies” does not necessarily mean false doctrine, but sects, as in Acts 5.17 and 5.15.)  The love feast and communion celebration had become so perverted that it was a sinful, selfish mockery. The Corinthian Christians could not legitimately say they were devoted to the Lord, since it was not honoring Him.

Paul knew that the disturbing reports he had received meant that there was sin in the Church and it would not pass without God taking notice: “Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!” (Luke 17:1; KJV). Such is the corrupt state of the human heart that, in spite of all the influences of grace and the promises of glory, men will continue to sin against God; and His justice must continue to punish men.

In the whole nation of Israel, freed from Egyptian bondage by Almighty God, and bound for the Promised Land, only two men gained the approval of God and were allowed to enter the Promised Land: “But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (1 Cor 10:5; KJV). Many in the Corinthian assembly did not have this approval, which His discipline of them demonstrated: “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor 11:30-32; KJV). Paul knew that the current sickness and frequent deaths among the Christians of Corinth were a judgment from God because of the irreverent way they had celebrated the Lord's Supper.

that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
This denotes that God is not the author of confusion. God is not the author of party spirit or of divisions within the assembly; but rather, He overrules this evil with individual believers who resist such divisions and refuse to take sides. These believers are therefore recognized by God and have His approval. The Christian who is big enough, strong enough, and spiritual enough to stand with Jesus for truth in the midst of divisions, refusing to take sides, is of untold value to God and will be used by Him in the interest of unity in the assembly.

20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.
21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

The Lord’s Supper was initiated by Jesus before He died. In a private meal with His disciples often called the “Last Supper,” Jesus spoke to His disciples about the significance of this last meal: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it; and he gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins. But I say unto you, I shall not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom” (Matt 26:26-29; ASV). Jesus and His disciples ate a meal, sang psalms, read Scripture and prayed. Then Jesus took two traditional parts of the Passover meal, the passing of bread and the drinking of wine, and gave them new meaning as representations of His body and blood. He used the bread and wine to explain the significance of what He was about to do on the cross. The Lord’s Supper was celebrated from the earliest days of the Christian church: “Those who accepted what Peter said were baptized. That day about 3,000 people were added {to the group}. The disciples were devoted to the teachings of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer” (Acts 2:41-42; GW). “Breaking of bread” refers to Communion services that were celebrated in remembrance of Jesus.

Here Paul is saying, “When the believers get together for the purpose of observing the Lord’s Supper, there are factors that made it an utter impossibility for them to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in its true meaning—there were divisions that existed among them and a spirit of selfish self-indulgence.” It is true, they did assemble and they did eat a Supper—but it was not the “Lord’s,” since their actions denied the facts relating to the real meaning of the Lord’s Supper, and prevented the Lord’s putting His stamp of approval on it. As we study the following verses it becomes clear that the Lord could not take part in some of the things that were going on at what they claimed to be “the Lord’s Table”—But it cannot be His table if He is not present.

The statement “in eating” points out that what they were doing was simply eating a common meal; there was nothing special about it at all—something they could have eaten anyplace. They may have been mixing up the “love-feast” (agape) with the Lord’s Supper. The love-feast was a meal where the early Christians ate together and shared the food on the table. Each person brought something to contribute to the meal, and all the food was put together to make a common feast. Therefore the poor who could bring just a little, shared in the abundance of those who were better off. We have the same kind of meal today in most churches, and they are very popular; when there is a “pot luck” people show up who rarely come to church. Now, the problem with the Corinthian feast was that it had become an occasion for showing class distinction. The poor brought their little bowl of beans, and when the meal was over they went away hungry. But the rich brought meat, vegetables, fruit, a pie of some kind, and some wine; they became intoxicated as well as making gluttons of themselves. It seems they did not put their food together, there was no sharing; instead each ate what he brought. So it was not a common meal at all, because they did not share and share alike. The result was that the meal destroyed the very Christian principle that it should have put on display. It was not scriptural to call a meal like this “the Lord’s Supper” and all it achieved was to damage the spirit of fellowship and the believer’s testimony for the Lord Jesus. It has been correctly said, “For where Christian fellowship is, there is heaven! The Spirit of Christ is present. Where Christian fellowship is not, there is hell.”

We are not to conclude from these verses and from vs. 22 and 34 that Paul did not approve of having a meal. What he opposed was the individualism which did not require waiting for the group and the inconsiderateness which humiliated God’s poor. Paul could find nothing to praise about this disorderly conduct.

22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

What Paul is saying here is, “If the only reason you are assembling together is to satisfy your own hunger, then you might as well eat at home, not in God’s house. The Lord Jesus did not establish the Lord’s Supper to satisfy physical hunger and thirst, but for an altogether different reason with a deep spiritual significance.” Of course the divisions within this church became abundantly clear whenever they had a dinner, but it was only evidence of the deeper problems in the church. The Corinthians thought they were advanced believers, when in reality they were only little children who must be fed the milk of the word, and not the meat. Paul did not suggest that they abandon the feast, but rather that they restore its proper meaning.

despise ye the church of God,
The apostle is not referring here to the invisible church, the body of Christ. He is referring to the local church or assembly. Whether the believers meet in a home or in some type of public building, the phrase “despise ye the church of God” signifies the holy character of the church of God—meaning the local assembly. The house of God (the “meeting-place,” as the old-timers call it) is a sacred, sanctified place. We do not worship the building, we do not worship the pews, the pulpit or any of the other furnishings; but as the house of God where we meet together in one body to worship God, it should not be treated as an ordinary meeting place.

“Jesus told His disciples This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:25; KJV). When we observe the Lord’s Supper, that service looks in three different directions. (1) It is a commemoration. He repeats, “This do … in remembrance of me.” This table looks back over two thousand years to His death upon the Cross. He says, “Don’t forget that. It is important.” That is in the past. (2) This table is a communion (sometimes we call it a communion service). It speaks of the present, of the fact that today there is a living Christ. (3) It is a commitment. It looks to the future—that He is coming again. This table won’t last forever; it is temporary. After the service it is removed, and we may not celebrate it again because we just do it until He comes back. It speaks of an absent Lord who is coming back. It looks to the future. Anyone who partakes of the Lord’s Supper for any other reason would be far, far better off if he did not partake at all!

and shame them that have not? (or put them to shame)
Paul impressed upon the hearts and minds of his converts the divine truth that all believers are one in Christ. In the church of the living God there are no uppers and lowers, no slaves and slavemasters. We are all one united into one body through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and therefore it was a disgrace for the assembly in Corinth to observe suppers like they were doing, with the rich becoming drunk and making gluttons of themselves while the poor left the supper hungry. This kind of conduct was a disgrace in the eyes of God.

What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.
It would have brought Paul great joy if he could praise them like he did in chapter 1, verse 4 through 7, and again in verse 2 of this chapter. But actions such as he had just enumerated were not worthy of praise. It was impossible for him to praise them; therefore he repeated what he had already said in verse 17: “I praise you not.”

 


Part 2: “Paul recalls to them how the Supper was instituted” (vss. 23-34)

23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Paul received the gospel he preached directly from the Lord Jesus Himself. “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:11-12; KJV). No doubt they already knew this, but now he assures them of it. He probably said this in reply to his opponents, who had maintained that Paul had derived his knowledge of the gospel from other men, since he had not personally known the Lord Jesus, or been one of those whom He called to be His apostles. In reply to this, he says that he did not receive the gospel from man in any way; the main purpose of this chapter is to state and prove this point.

What the apostle is about to say concerning the pattern and meaning of the Lord’s Table, he received directly from the Lord Jesus, and here he reveals once again the divine truth that the risen, glorified Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper, and he confirmed the instruction that we should observe this ordinance until the day when Jesus returns for the Church. Paul is not giving the Corinthians a new doctrine or new facts; he had already given them the details when he was with them in person, but he had given it to them orally, and they had failed to accept and obey it. Word of mouth should have been sufficient, but evidentially it was not; so now Paul repeats his instructions in writing so that the inspired Word of God is published for all mankind on the pages of Scripture.

The Bible contains guidance for all believers for all time—“the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). No other faith or revelation is to supersede the holy Scriptures, which were given for the saints—all Christians, holy (that is, consecrated to God) by their calling, and according to God's propose. We do not need human instruction, because God has given us the “perfect law of liberty.” “That which is perfect” has come, and all we need to know about God, the devil, salvation by grace, heaven, hell—and anything else we need to know about our spiritual welfare and eternal destiny is contained in God’s Word, and nowhere else.

“…That the Lord Jesus…”
The name Jesus means “Savior,” and He is my Lord, the Lord of all believers, and I pray He is your Lord too. After a person is saved he should confess Jesus as Lord; and he should partake of the Lord’s Table, because Jesus commanded it—the broken bread and the cup point to His broken body and shed blood. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.

the same night in which he was betrayed
This phrase means that while the previously arranged negotiations between Judas and the chief priests were actually going on, Jesus was at the same time instituting the Lord’s Supper (Judas had already left the upper room to meet with the chief priests.). In other words, the betrayal negotiations were going on at the same time Jesus was breaking bread and offering the cup. It was not long after the negotiations were completed that Judas fulfilled his part of the bargin by betraying Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. We must remember the betrayal did not surprise Jesus, because he was omniscient, which means He knew all things that were coming upon Him, and when He went to the garden He was aware of all that was going to happen. I point out this detail here, not simply because it is a historical fact, but to declare once again the deity of Christ and to show the somberness of the circumstances in the upper room in contrast to the carelessness and selfishness being displayed during the supper that was being observed in the Church at Corinth.

On the night when Jesus was betrayed, “he…took bread…” (He took one of the loaves of bread that had been brought specifically for the Passover supper.) “… And when he had given thanks…” means “to speak well,” and in general signifies to praise, to acknowledge the goodness of God. This is the meaning in these verses. It must be understood from this that the Lord Jesus did not impart a special or divine blessing to the bread and fruit of the vine. He gave thanks for the bread, He gave thanks for the cup; but He did not bless these elements in a way that made them become His actual body and blood. Such doctrine is heresy and cannot be found in the Word of God.

“…he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you:”
The Greek has it, “which is given for you,” the same as it reads in Luke 22.19. The word “broken” is probably inserted to go along with the breaking of bread. It is true that the body of Jesus was devastated by abuse and pierced by a spear, but the reality is that He GAVE His body—and scripture says “not a bone of Him was broken.” In His body He conquered the world, the flesh, and the devil, and then was nailed to the cross for the remission of sin.

“This do…” simply means “Each one of you give thanks and break the bread for yourself.” (In 1 Corinthians 10.16, it says “The bread which we break,” which signifies that each believer broke his own portion.) Any born again believer has a right to go to the Lord’s Table, give thanks, and break a portion from the loaf. The breaking of the bread and the taking of the cup are acts for each individual believer to perform: “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat.” (When the Bible refers to man in this sense, it is referring to male and female—mankind.)

“…in remembrance of me.
Notice that it does not say, “in memory of me.” We are to eat the bread and drink from the cup in remembrance of Jesus. The Greek word used for remembrance means “bringing to mind.” Here it means bringing to mind the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ who came into the world, took a body, and in that body took our place, conquered the world, the flesh, and the devil, fulfilled ALL of the law, and then offered His body on the cross so that believers might be reconciled to God. We should always remember that we are saved, kept, and our needs supplied only because Jesus took our place, paid the sin debt, and purchased eternal life for us.

25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

After the same manner
What Paul describes here took place after the Passover Supper, which preceded the Lord’s Supper.

The meaning of the phrase “After this manner” is simply as He had done with the bread, he did likewise with the cup; He took the cup filled with the fruit of the vine, which was on the table with the bread, and after He drank its contents, He said “This cup is the new testament in my blood.” The cup (i.e. its contents) represents the new covenant which was ratified by the blood of the Lord Jesus that was shed as He hung on the cross. There He gave His life to atone for your sins and mine. The life of the flesh is in the blood that is pumped through the veins and arteries by the heart; Jesus died when His blood flowed out of His body, He gave His life.

What is the new covenant? In the old covenant (the promise of God to His people before Jesus Christ came into our world), people could only approach God through the priests and the sacrificial system. God would forgive people if they would bring animals for the priests to sacrifice. When this sacrificial system was begun, the agreement between God and human beings was sealed with the blood of animals. The people of Israel entered into this agreement after the exodus from Egypt (see Exodus 24). But animal blood did not in itself remove sin (Only God can forgive sin), and animal sacrifices had to be repeated day by day and year by year.  Jesus death on the cross ushered in the new covenant (or agreement) between God and man. This concept is key to all New Testament theology. Under the new covenant, Jesus died in the place of sinners. Unlike the animal sacrifices, Jesus’ blood truly removed the sins of all who had faith in Him. And Jesus’ sacrifice will never need to be repeated; it is good for all eternity (See Hebrews 9.23-28). Now people can personally approach God and communicate with Him. Eating the bread and drinking the cup shows that God’s people are remembering Christ death for them, and that they are renewing their commitment to serve Him. How do we remember Christ in the Lord’s Supper? By thinking about what He did and why He did it. Moreover, remembering has both a forward and backward aspect; we remember Christ’s death, and we remember He is coming!

It is true that the cup represents the new covenant, but the cup is not identical with the covenant. The fruit of the vine in the cup was not the actual blood of Christ, and there was no point in the ceremony where it became anything other than grape juice; and the bread was not His actual body. The bread and the fruit of the vine are a means of commemoration and communion.

The most wonderful thing about the new covenant is that God, through the death of His Son, grants eternal life to sinners by an act of free grace in response to faith in the shed blood of God’s only begotten Son. It is only because Jesus willingly shed his blood and gave his life on the cross that God can be just and yet justify ungodly sinners—but only on the merit of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus. This is the peculiarity and the astonishment of the gospel, even while pardoning, and treating the undeserving as if they were innocent, God can retain his pure and holy character. His treating the guilty with kindness does not show that He loves guilt and sin, since He has expressed his loathing for it in the atonement. His admitting them into His earthly family and then to heaven does not show that He approves of their past conduct and character, for the reason that he showed how much he hated their sins by giving his Son up to a ghastly death for them. When a governor pardons criminals, the principles of justice and law are abandoned. The sentence is set aside, and its penalty is not inflicted. But that is not the case with God. He shows no less regard for his law in pardoning than in punishing. This is the wonderful thing about the gospel plan of salvation.

this do ye,
Here is a definite command. Believers should observe the Lord’s Supper, but when He said, “as oft as ye drink it,” there is no hint as to how often it should be observed. As a matter of fact that particular information is not stated anywhere in the Bible. Some churches celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, some every two weeks, and others have it once a month or once a quarter. All we are told is “this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. We should do it, and as often as we do it it should be done in remembrance of Jesus—and for no other reason. Neither is there any Scriptural instruction concerning the time of day the Lord’s Supper should be held. I believe, however, by having communion every week there is the possibility it could become just another ritual, like so many other things in our worship services. However this is the most sacred ordinance we in the Christian Church have since it represents the shed blood of Jesus Christ, without which there could be no salvation. It also points to Christ’s return, which for the church is the blessed hope.

Someone is probably wondering, “Did the cup contain wine?” It is a question that continues to be argued today. But I can assure that it was not wine; it was grape juice. There is no place in the New Testament where wine is mentioned in conjunction with the Passover meal or the Lord’s Supper. The bread they used had to be unleavened, and do you think they would use a drink that was leavened. Wine is leavened, so it was not present that day.

26 For as often as (whenever) ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

“For as often as” gives no directions as to how often, although a frequent remembrance is implied. In Acts 20.7 it was held on Sunday evening—“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” The first day of the week may have been the convenient and regular time for its observance.

The Greek word translated “shew” means “proclaim.”  Our Lord is saying the very act of partaking of the bread and the cup proclaims that Jesus is coming again. The same Greek word (translated “preach”) is used in Acts 4.2; 13.5; and 38; 15.36; 17.3 and 13; 1 Corinthians 9.14 and Colossians 1.28. In all these Scriptures, the meaning is “to proclaim.” The Lord’s Supper is a way of preaching the gospel. It is repeated in the church to proclaim our deliverance from sin, in the same way the Passover is repeated to recall the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. While the observance of the Supper is proclaiming the gospel primarily in acts rather than words, it is also true that the words that are spoken interpret the acts of breaking the bread and drinking the cup. The gospel is presented through the communion service as the elements are explained. They point to His physical incarnation, sacrificial death, resurrection, and coming kingdom. Therefore, both word and deed paint a vivid picture of the gospel of our redemption when we observe the Lord’s Supper. At the Lord’s Table, we do not walk around a monument and admire it. We have fellowship with a living Savior, as our hearts reach out to Him by faith.

The celebration of the Lord’s Supper will cease when the Remembered One returns for His own, because then we will have His literal body, and will no longer need the symbols of His body and blood; but until then we should not cease to observe the Supper that sets forth the remembrance of Jesus, who died for us. It is not an act of mourning, but an occasion for living hope. He, who has come, will come. The church lives in hope.

But why does Jesus want us to remember His death. Because everything we have as Christians centers in His death. We must remember that He died…and was buried (1 Cor. 15.3-4). It is not the life of our Lord, or His teachings, that will save sinners—it is His death. Therefore we must remember why He died: Christ died for our sins; He was our substitute—“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6; KJV)—and He paid the debt we could not pay.

27 Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

 “Wherefore” brings us back to the truth which was stated in the previous verse; that when a believer eats the bread and drinks the cup, “ye do shew the Lord's death till he come—it was a horrible and shameful death, but it was also a redeeming and atoning death that Our Lord Jesus suffered upon that rough wooden cross. His death is extremely important to every believer, because without it we would still be dead in our sins with no hope of avoiding hell, for that reason it is wrong and extremely dangerous for one to partake of the bread and the cup unworthily.

What does it mean to “eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily?” I must admit that I am unworthy to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and if you are honest you would have to admit that you are unworthy too. All believers are unworthy sinners saved by grace. The warning we are given here relates to our spiritual condition. A person is guilty of partaking of the Lord’s Supper unworthily when he eats and drinks without remembering the Lord’s death. It is also true of a believer who eats the bread and drinks the cup when he is living a carnal lifestyle or engaging in open sin. If one holds a grudge against a brother or sister in Christ, lacks brotherly love, or lives a life that is not spiritual and dedicated to the Lord, and then partakes of the Lord’s Supper while in that spiritual state, he is partaking of the bread and cup unworthily. And those who eat the bread and drink the cup unworthily “shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.”

The Greek word that has been rendered “guilty” means “liable to the penal effect of a deed.” Therefore, anyone who eats the bread and drinks the cup unworthily is committing an act which involves him in the death of Christ—and that is a very dangerous thing to do. Please do not take part in the Lord’s Supper without first doing some serious soul-searching and enlisting God’s help in correcting whatever is wrong in your life.

“But let a man examine (prove) himself” refers to men and women; man is used here for mankind. This means you should test yourself; search your heart under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Be honest with yourself and with God, and if you have any unconfessed sin in your life, confess it: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9; KJV). When you have confessed your sin, it means that you have turned from that sin. It means that you have said the same thing which God has said. Sin is a terrible thing. God hates it and now you hate it. But confession restores you to your Father. But if we will not judge our own sins, then God will judge us and chasten us until we do confess and forsake our sins. The believers at Corinth were guilty of coming to the Lord’s Table drunk and with contempt for those less fortunate than they were; then they failed to examine themselves, but they were experts at examining everyone else. When the church gathers together we must be careful not to become “religious detectives,” who watch others, but who fail to acknowledge our own sins. If we eat and drink in an unworthy manner, we eat and drink judgment (chastening) to ourselves, and that is nothing to take lightly.

1 John 1.4 tells us that the epistle of John was written so that our joy might be full. Full joy and the abundant life are the spiritual birthright of every believer; but we cannot enjoy that birthright if there is anything between us and the Lord Jesus. All unconfessed sin should be acknowledged, forsaken, and confessed before taking part in the Lord’s Supper.

29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

“Damnation” is used here in an unusual way, since it is used to express judgment. The Greek word translated damnation in the King James Bible means discipline, or chastening, by our heavenly Father. The same word is used in verse 32, where it refers to believers who are judged and punished by the Lord. The Holy Spirit is issuing a warning here to the born again, blood-washed believer who DOES eat the bread and drink the cup unworthily; but He is NOT saying he will be damned and burn in hell for doing so. He will be judged, chastened, and disciplined, but not damned, and he will not lose his salvation, though he may lose his reward.

not discerning the Lord's body.
Here the word “body” does not refer to the Church, the Body of Christ, nor is it referring to the local assembly, which in this instance is the church at Corinth. The reference in this place is to the Lord’s BODY, the same body spoken of in verses 24 and 27 of this chapter. When a believer does not understand what the bread and cup really represents, he cannot grasp the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, and consequently he eats unworthily. That is what Paul is saying, and we should listen to his warning.

Paul knew that back there in Corinth the believers were making gluttons of themselves and becoming drunk with wine at the Lord’s Table, and they could not worship in their hearts, and remember the crucifixion of Jesus and think about the pending return of Jesus; the blessed hope, and glorious appearing of out great God and Savior. Those who were acting in this way were eating and drinking unworthily and they would be judged as some had already been judged.

When Paul says “many sleep” he doesn’t mean that they are “dead spiritually,” but physically. They had been misbehaving at the Lord’s Table and God punished them for it; some were weak, some were sick, and some had died and were buried. The Greek word translated “sleep” is never used in the New Testament to stand for spiritual lethargy.

The Greek word used in this verse denotes (in four places in the New Testament) natural sleep, and in fourteen places it is used to denote the death of the body, and always, without exception, it refers to the death of a believer, never to the death of a sinner.

There is no mistaking what Paul is saying here, “Because of the way many of you have been acting around the Lord’s Table, some of you are sick and many are dead.”  Those who had died had committed THE SIN UNTO DEATH. Someone might ask, “What is a sin unto death?” It is mentioned in 1 John 5.16: “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” Here “death” refers here to physical death. It has no reference at all to spiritual death because the child of God has eternal life. John is saying that believers can commit a sin for which their heavenly Father will call them home; that is; He will remove them from this life physically, perhaps because they are disgracing Him. I believe that is what happened in Corinth. Some of the people there had actually been getting drunk at the Lord’s Table, and they were missing the meaning of it altogether. Paul wrote to them, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep”—that is, they were dead. Paul is saying that they had committed a Sin unto Death. At this point I must make one thing perfectly clear—John was not speaking of an UNPARDONABLE SIN. He is talking about a sin that leads to physical death, not spiritual death. These people were God’s children. He would never have taken them home if they had not been His children. The Lord doesn’t whip the Devil’s children—He whips only His own. When His children sin unto death, He will take them home. What is this sin? What is it specifically? Well, for Moses and Aaron it was one thing—they lost their tempers, and they destroyed a type of the Lord Jesus. Ananias and Sapphira were living like hypocrites. And in the city of Corinth, there were believers who were getting drunk and were disorderly at the Lord’s Table. So a sin unto death is no one thing specifically. I have a notion that for you it would be different from what it would be for me, but I am of the opinion that every believer is capable of committing the sin unto death—whatever it is for him. You can go on in sin until God will remove you from the scene. This does not mean that every Christian who dies has committed the sin unto death, but it is possible to do that.

Absalom also committed a sin unto death. I believe that Absalom was really a child of God, but he led a rebellion against his father, King David. I have observed something over a period of years. I have watched how God has dealt with troublemakers in the church. I’ve not only seen Him remove them by death, but I’ve also seen Him set them aside so that they were of no more use in the service of God at all. It is possible to commit the sin unto death. Let me repeat that it is physical death not spiritual death. I think that if a child of God goes on disgracing the Lord down here, the Lord will either set him aside or take him home by death. God doesn’t mind doing that. I think He does it in many instances.

The UNPARDONABLE SIN is the subject of Matthew 12.32, where Jesus said: “And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” There is no sin committed yesterday that the Lord would not forgive today because He died for all sin. The Holy Spirit came into the world to make real the salvation of Christ to the hearts of men. If you resist the working of the Spirit of God when He speaks to you, my friend, there is no forgiveness, of course. There is no forgiveness because you have rejected salvation made real to you by the Holy Spirit. And it is the work of the Spirit of God to regenerate you. As long as you reject the gospel, your sins are not forgiven, you are spiritually dead, and on the Day of Judgment you will be cast into hell, because you have committed the UNDARDONABLE SIN.

31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

All believers should search their hearts, and allow the Lord to search their hearts. We should differentiate between what is right and what is wrong and be determined to do that which is right and avoid doing that which is wrong. If we are not sure what is the right thing to do we need to pause and ask, “What would Jesus want me to Do?” We should always check the condition of our hearts before we partake of the Lord’s Supper, so we can come with humble and repentant hearts. This is so important, because if we would do this, we would not be judged by the Lord. This is the judgment Paul describes in verses 29 and 30. While it is true that nobody can come to the Lord’s Table worthy of Christ’s redemptive work, all believers can come with the right attitude and the right motivation to thank and praise God for what He has done. Many Christians at Corinth had become sick, and some had died because they had the wrong attitude and motivation when they celebrated the Lord’s Supper. If one will stop and judge himself appropriately before going to the Lord’s Table, he will escape from the sickness and deaths which are the results of sin.

As believers, if we practice self-judgment, we will avoid the Lord’s judgment, but if we fail to do so, then God has no alternative but to apply His righteous judgment to our case. God will judge and He will chasten. But there is something very wonderful about God’s judgment as it concerns believers; it never means condemnation or damnation as we will see in verse 32. The Lord will judge the world in the future, so He must deal with His own now.

32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
This verse is easy to understand, and I love what it says. Paul’s meaning is simply this: “God’s purpose for chastening is so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” The following verses express the same thought:
• Hebrews 12.10: “For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” Sometimes I think my earthly dad got a little angry with me and vented his anger on me—but even then he did it for my profit, I’m sure. My heavenly Father disciplines me for my profit also—there is no doubt about that! I believe that there is no way you can become a full–grown child of God living in fellowship with Him (that is the main thought behind “That we might be partakers of his holiness.”) except through the discipline of God.
• Hebrews 12.6: “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” Our earthly fathers have corrected us and we have called them a good father. Should not the heavenly Father, receive the same respect when He disciplines us? Our earthly fathers corrected us according to their own pleasure. Sometimes they were severe, other times mild. Sometimes they showed favoritism; sometimes they were concerned only for their own interest. But our heavenly Father always corrects us for our profit (Gen 50:20; Ps 119:71; Rom 8:28), so that we might share in his holiness. When passing through affliction, one must also remember that it is brief. With our human fathers it was for a few days, and with God there is always a time afterward during which the benefit of our training is enjoyed.
• Revelation 3.19: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” This is very encouraging to sinful people, like me.  When Jesus says "Whom I love, I rebuke and chasten” you may think He is being harsh, but His motivation is love for your souls. If He hated you, He would leave you alone to continue in sin until it ruins you. Sinners ought to take the rebukes of God’s Word and the rod of His correction as tokens of his good-will to their souls, and for that reason should repent in earnest, and turn to Him that punishes them; better are the frowns and wounds of a friend than the flattering smiles of an enemy.

God is love, and He is holy. And when he chastens His children it is for our benefit; so we will increase in knowledge, joy, and fellowship—and the result of His chastening is that we become conformed to Him. Every born-again believer is predestined to be conformed to the image of His dear Son—“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29; KJV). Therefore, if we refuse to judge ourselves, search our hearts, repent, and clean up our lives, He will take the initiative and chasten us, in order that we are not condemned with the world.

Do not get the idea that all heartache, suffering, disease, and disappointment is due to God’s chastening; because it is NOT. Some of God’s greatest saints suffer the most. They glory in their chastening and He receives glory from it. Like Paul, some of God’s saints can say, “In whatsoever state I find myself, I will be content.”  A believer should not dread or fear the Lord’s chastening. The Word of God teaches that God chastens everyone who is born again and everyone who is not chastened is NOT a child of God—“But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” (Heb 12.8; KJV). God’s principle of disciplining His own people is completely in accord with human practices. This quotation from Proverbs 3:12 stating God’s practice, corresponds to the commands God gave in Proverbs to fathers. “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (promptly)” (Prov 13:24; cf. 22:15; 23:13). Love and corporal punishment are not incompatible; they are two complementary and necessary aspects of training. Indeed, If ye be without chastisement, then you are not a true son.

No born again, blood-washed believers, will be condemned along with the world to burn in the lake of fire. The world will receive eternal condemnation because it has rejected Christ. All of the chastening that believers will receive will occur before they succumb to physical death, because chastening is a sign of sonship.

33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.

Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
Here is some advice that has to do with the importance of love and fellowship among the brethren—it is to be done in godly order. The whole matter can be summed up in this way: All believers should keep in mind that the Lord’s Supper is not an ordinary meal for the purpose of satisfying the hunger of the body. It is a solemn tribute and memorial of the Lord’s death, until He returns for His church. Those who are hungry should eat at home or they will have to face chastening and judgment from the Lord. They must not be gluttonous and drunk around the Lord’s Table.

“Tarry one for another” means those who arrive at the Lord’s Table early should wait for the others before eating. They should come to this meal in the right frame of mind, desiring to fellowship, and to prepare for the Lord’s Supper that will follow. To come with the wrong attitude would bring God’s judgment upon them. How sad when a blessed time of fellowship and thanksgiving is turned into a time of division and judgment. Paul did not want this to be the case in Corinth.

And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation.
Since he has said, “Those who are hungry should eat at home, not in the assembly,” we are assured that Paul makes a distinction between the Lord’s Supper and an ordinary meal.  The word rendered “condemnation” here is the same word rendered judgment in verse 29. The believers who do not want to invite judgment or condemnation from the Lord should eat at home, before coming to the house of God and participating in the Lord’s Table. Those who do not do so are inviting the Lord’s chastening.

Believers are kept from being consigned to hell not only by divine decree, but by divine intervention. The Lord chastens His people in order to drive them back to righteous behavior and even sends death to some in the church to remove them before they could fall away: “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24; KJV).  Jesus Christ is God. And He is our Lord; He should be the Lord of our lives. Glory should be given to Him. We should glorify Him, tell how great He is, how wonderful He is, how mighty He is and mighty to save. He is majestic, the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is mighty—all power is given unto Him in heaven and in earth. This universe has not slipped from under His control. All authority belongs to Him and whether you like it or not, you are going to bow the knee to Him someday.

And the rest will I set in order when I come.
What is referred to here are those things related to the questions the apostle had already answered up to this point, but were of minor importance, and could be put off until later; when he was personally present with them.

 

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 In a interview about his Parkinson’s disease, Billy Graham said, “I think God sent it to me at this age to show me I am totally dependent on him.” Suffering is a feared intruder to us all, but it can bring the benefit of greater dependence on God.

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