The Cause, Confusion, and Consequences: Problems with the Lord’s Supper

August 18, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 1 Comment
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In I Corinthians Chapter 11 the Apostle Paul, after addressing some issues concerning head coverings in church services, also addressed abusive practices pertaining to the Lord’s Supper.

Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

I Corinthians 11:17-18

Like many of their problems, the cause of the Corinthian Christians’ problems with their observance of the Lord’s Supper was disunity. The nature of the disunity was made clear:

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

I Corinthians 11:20-21

The whole point of the Lord’s Supper was supposed to be fellowship and communion, but the rich church members were eating their own meals instead of sharing with the poor members, and apparently some of the poor were looking forward to a free buffet instead of an opportunity to remember Christ’s death. People were using the occasion as a reason for physical excess rather than spiritual worship.

The Holy Spirit through Paul identified their confusion: Worship must involve sacrifice. It is antithetical to selfishness.

Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 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.

I Corinthians 33-34

Furthermore, this is an ordinance of the Church commanded by the Lord, so naturally there are consequences for doing it unworthily.

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

I Corinthians 11:26

Jesus is the reason for the whole affair – to remember that He instituted the New Covenant in His blood – so it is obvious that it should be a joyous but also a solemn affair.

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.

I Corinthians 11:27

“Unworthily” is often said to said to mean that someone with unconfessed sin should not participate in the Lord’s Supper, but none of us are worthy – only Christ is. The context seems to plead for understanding “unworthily” as meaning something done without the proper dignity or motivation for being there, although the next verse does lend support to the idea that we must take an inventory of any sins which are keeping us from fellowshipping with the Lord with a clean conscience:

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

I Corinthians 11:28-29

“Damnation” here refers to consequential judgment, not eternal damnation.

For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

I Corinthians 11:30

The consequences of eating and drinking unworthily in remembrance of Christ’s shed blood and broken body are revealed to be sickness and potential death.

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  1. […] Adiaphora and Analyzing Ambiguous Activities (I Corinthians 10) 68. A Fawning Farewell (Exodus 12) 69. The Cause, Confusion, and Consequences: Problems with the Lord’s Supper ( Corinthians […]


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