The Lord’s Supper 1 Cor. 11: 17-34 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
In 1 Cor 11:17-34, Paul dealt with matters pertaining the the Lord’s Supper. Whereas, Paul praised the Corinthians for remembering him and keeping the ordinances he delivered to them in 1 Cor 11:2, he praised them not for their conduct in the Lord’s supper [1 Cor 11:17]. There were some obvious problems. So, Paul dealt with them. They had trouble with these problems:
Divisions – The Lord’s supper is the communion of the body and blood of Jesus Christ by many who are one body in Christ [1 Cor 10:17]. However, the Corinthians were not coming together as one. There were divisions [1 Cor 11:18] among them. People were divided according to whom they followed. Paul dealt with these underlying divisions in 1 Cor 1:10-12.
Heresies – But they were also divided over heresies among them [1 Cor 11:19]. Heresies manifest the truth. As one preacher said, “Truth stands out best when it is close to error.” However, the heresies should be outside of the church, not inside. And Paul was sure these heresies were inside the church.
Ignorance – The Corinthians didn’t know what they were doing. Paul said they were coming together but “not to eat the Lord’s supper,” [1 Cor 11:20]. They were coming to a meal, where people could bring their own supper, and some brought wine [1 Cor 11:21]. Therefore, those who had food ate, and those who didn’t have food were hungry. Some were even getting drunk. Paul shamed them with his questions in 1 Cor 11:22. He told them not to eat and drink at church but at home, not to despise the church of God and not to shame the “have-nots.”
So, Paul reminded them of the proper way to observe the Lord’s supper. He gave them what the Lord gave him from the night that the Lord was betrayed. Jesus and his disciples were keeping the passover that night. As they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it and brake it and gave it to his disciples. He said, “Take, eat; this is my body,” [Matt 26:26]. He took the cup and gave thanks and gave it to them. He said, “Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins,” [Matt 26:27-28]. And this is the same way that we observe the Lord’s supper, today.
Notice these points of clarification on the Lord’s supper.
First of all, this bread and cup were part of the passover supper. Therefore, Jesus was connecting the passover [Ex 12] with what he was going to do later that day by dying and shedding his blood on the cross. His was the last sacrifice for sins [Heb 10:10-14].
Second, there was no transubstantiation at this supper, as taught in Roman Catholicism. Jesus hadn’t died yet. Can you imagine turning bread into his flesh and the fruit of the vine into his blood to reenact a sacrifice that hadn’t even taken place yet?
Third, the Bible always refers to the contents of the “cup” as “the fruit of the vine.” It is never called wine and couldn’t be wine. The fermentation of wine is the result of adding yeast, a leavening agent, to the grape juice to make alcohol. At a supper of unleavened bread, there is no way that the Lord would offer a drink made with yeast. Even after blessing it and giving the cup to the disciples, Jesus called the contents “the fruit of the vine” and testified of drinking it “new” in his Father’s kingdom [Matt 26:29].
Fourth, the Lord’s supper is a memorial of the death of the Lord Jesus. It is not a sacrifice and the bread and cup are not an offering, as taught in Roman Catholicism. The Lord said, “this do in remembrance of me,” [1 Cor 11:24].
Finally, there is no saving power in observing the Lord’s supper. The Lord’s supper doesn’t put you in or keep you in the body of Christ. It is a memorial for those who have trusted Jesus and are already in the body of Christ [1 Cor 10:16-17].
Notice these admonitions.
Paul told us not to take the Lord’s supper unworthily [1 Cor 11:27]. A person who eats the bread and drinks the cup unworthily is guilty of the body and blood of Jesus. There are two ways, in the context, to take the Lord’s supper unworthily: first, by not discerning the Lord’s body [1 Cor 11:29] and, second, by not judging ourselves [1 Cor 11:31].
Before taking the Lord’s supper we are to examine ourselves [1 Cor 11:28], which involves judging our sins [1 Cor 11:31]. In practice, we judge the sins in our lives by God’s word, confessing them to the Lord [1 Jn 1:9]. You don’t want to take the Lord’s supper with unconfessed sin in your life. In 1 Cor 11:32 Paul tells us that when the Lord judges us, he chastens us, so that we “should not be condemned with the world.” He wants us to be “partakers of his holiness,” [Heb 12:10] and to bear the “peaceable fruit of righteousness,” [Heb 12:11].
Furthermore, you must correctly discern the Lord’s body. The Lord’s physical body is his resurrected body seated at the right hand of God in heaven [Heb 1:3]. The Lord’s spiritual body is the church, made up of members who have been baptized into his body by the Holy Spirit upon receiving Jesus Christ as their Savior [1 Cor 12:13, 10:17]. The Lord’s body is not the bread, as Catholics teach, but the bread represents those who are now in his body.
A person who “eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself,” [1 Cor 11:29]. Damnation here doesn’t refer to going to hell. The next verse shows you the damnation that those in the Corinthian church had experienced. Many were weak and sickly among them and many slept (died) [1 Cor 11:30]. There were physical consequences to their disobedience.
Paul concluded with a couple of practical instructions for the church. First, In 1 Cor 11:33, he told the Corinthians to tarry for one another before they ate, so they could all eat at the same time. Thus, when we take the Lord’s supper, we wait until all have been served so that we can all eat of that bread together. Second, in 1 Cor 11:34, he told the Corinthians not to come to the supper hungry. At the Lord’s supper, the quantity of bread served to each person is not sufficient to satisfy hunger.