Introduction - The apostle Paul has given here perhaps the most complete instruction we have concerning the correct observance of the Lordís Supper. The Lordís Supper is intended to occupy a large part in the heart of the believer. To remember the Lord Jesus in the Breaking of Bread is our primary purpose in meeting together as a church, and the value of the experience depends on the condition of the hearts of those who participate.
Here we find that in Corinth, the hearts of the believers were not with the Lord as they met, but were occupied only with self in view. It is as we shall see a serious thing to come to the Lordís Table with an unprepared heart and just as serious to receive the Supper in a careless manner. Having this in mind, the apostle writes to Corinth to rebuke them of their sinfulness and to correctly set out the order and meaning of the Lordís Table, and how Christians should approach it.
The text is divided up into three sections.
I vs. 17-22 discusses Disorder at the Lordís Table
II vs. 27-34 talks about the Judgment of Disorder
III and vs. 23-26 we have clearly the Order and Meaning of the Lordís Table.
As we look through Scripture we find that the Christian Church met together on the first day of the week; Acts 20:7, "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread......." This was the resurrection morning and their purpose in the breaking of bread was to remember the Lord Jesus Christ and to worship Him.
It is important to remember it was the first day of the week, every week. Not just once a month, or once every six months, but at least once a week. And it is the Breaking of Bread that is our primary object of coming together. It is not for preaching or teaching, though this may be a beneficial part, but the leading object is to break bread; to remember the Lord Jesus.
However, we see in the following verses that the Corinthians came together not for the better but for the worse. Now we must realise that it is very possible to come away from the meetings of the Church having been harmed rather than blessed.
The word Ďbetterí in verse 17 indicates what is advantageous for us.
The word Ďworseí indicates a deterioration and both are suggestive of the effect the meeting has on our spiritual lives. It is a sad fact that often we come together, not for the better but for the worse.
In the first place we find that there was a spirit of division among
Instead of realising that the Lordís Supper speaks of unity in the Church and that all partake of the one loaf and the one cup, the Corinthians were grouping together under various heads.
We remember earlier in chapter 1: 11-12 which reads, "For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloeís household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ."" So there was division.
We remember as Ephesians 4 tells us that we are to endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. When we come together we are to come as one body of believers, under the one Head, who is the Lord Jesus.
Now in vs. 19 Paul says that there must be factions among you.
This doesnít mean that this is a necessity. God does not condone division. Rather, Paul is saying that because of mans sinful condition it is inevitable that factions should result. Although this in general is detrimental to the Church, yet one good thing may come out of it, and that is , that those who are truly spiritual men who are approved of God will be made manifest; they will be recognised among you.
So we learn that when we come together, firstly it must be in unity. If it is not, then we are denying the oneness of the body and the headship of Christ.
It seems that the believers when they met would first partake of the so called ĎLove Feastí which was a meal that the brethren shared, after which followed the Breaking of Bread. The believers came together to make a common meal out of something that is to be holy. Those who were rich brought abundantly and as a consequence they became intoxicated. Those who were poor brought very little and consequently some went hungry. In doing so, unity is completely denied.
To attach this situation to the Lordís Supper is a terrible abuse.
Paul says in vs. 22 that in doing this the Corinthians despised the Church of God and despised those who had nothing. The poor it seems were looked down upon by those who were rich. The Lord Jesus died for both the rich and the poor and both are to be treated as equal in their standing before God.
Paul corrects this disorder by asking the question, "Do you not have houses to eat and drink in ?" In other words we donít assemble together to eat and drink a common meal. This we are to do at home as vs. 34 says, "But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgement."
So the Corinthians abused the Lordís Supper by first making it into a
common meal and secondly despising those who were poor. Now as said before,
we donít have this problem, however other problems arise in our gatherings
which equally need the same rebuke and correction.
(a) Firstly, there seems to be with many Christians an inconsistency in their approach to the Lordís Table.
Iíve heard of statements being said to the effect of, "I think Iíll have
a day off this Sunday." And perhaps there are those who wake up on a nice
sunny morning and decide to make the best of the weather and go to the beach
instead. This attitude should never be with the Christian. The Lord desires
us to be here to commune with Him. It is not for ourselves that we come but
it is for Him. Let us never think that we can have a day off from the Lord.
(b) Then there are those with unprepared hearts.
Those who come out of obligation and not desire. Those who find it hard work to get out of bed, whose heart and mind is on anything but the remembrance of the Lord. This is part of the unworthy manner that is later spoken of.
(c) Then there is the problem with the lack of response to our priestly duties, and this problem is amongst the men in particular.
We read in I Peter 2:9, "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood....." and then in Hebrews 13:15, "Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. You see, each of us is a priest and it is not only our duty but also our privilege to give our praise and worship unto the Lord in our ministry when we meet together. The men should ever bear this in mind. I say the men of course, because women as we know are to keep silent in the Church.
But each man ought firstly to make himself available to his priestly duty and secondly he is to be prepared to share something during the meeting. The Lord never desires a dumb priest. We are to have our hearts prepared to give something, and then we are to have something prepared to give. You see, the psalmist says we are to give unto the Lord the glory that is due His name. That is what we are here for and that is exactly what worship is. Psalm 29 says, "Give unto the Lord o you mighty ones, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due His name. Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." So there is sometimes the problem with the lack of our priestly duties.
Any of these or other disorders the Church may have we are to put right so as to approach the Lordís Table in its due reverence and holiness.
Now that we have discussed a few disorders in the Church we continue on to see the Judgement of such Disorder.
Paul is not speaking of our own personal unworthiness. We have been cleansed by the blood of Christ and we can thus approach God on the merit of the worthiness we have found in Him. However, Paul is speaking here of the manner in which we approach the Table.
W.E. Vine, "To regard the bread and cup as if they had no significance, that is to say, without contemplation of the death of Christ as set forth in the elements, or to take in a manner inconsistent with the character of the ordinance (as was the case at Corinth, vs. 21) or again, to partake while in an unspiritual state or while indulging in sin in the private life, or while entertaining bitterness of spirit against a fellow believer instead of living in brotherly love, is to partake "unworthily".
If we eat the Lordís Supper in such unworthiness of conduct and mind, we become guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. That is, of being involved in the guilt of His death. It is almost as though we crucify Him afresh, not realising that it was for our sins that caused His death on the cross. In doing so we eat and drink judgement to ourselves. This judgement is that which brings about the chastening of the Lord.
Now there are two types of judgement - Self Judgement and Godís
We are to confess to the Lord what is wrong, as we read in I John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." If there is something between ourselves and another brother we are to be reconciled to him again. Matthew 5:23,24 "Therefore if you bring your gift to the alter, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the alter, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
Likewise, before we approach the Lordís Table we are to put right those
faults that are present, thus judging ourselves to ensure that we are not in
a carnal state. In doing so we escape the judgement of the Lord. Yet if we
fail to judge ourselves, God will judge us.
Self judgement avoids chastisement. However, if this is neglected, the Lord will judge and chastisement is the result. We read in vs. 30 that some in Corinth were weak and sick, while still others slept, in other words, had died. Sickness is one way the Lord may chasten His people. Chastening is not necessarily punishment, but it is educational, and often the Lord uses sickness in order for us to realise our sinful state.
Death also is a form of the Lordís discipline. It is a blessed thing when a believer dies and goes to be with the Lord, but there is such a thing as going before due time. When a person dies, we should remember, it is not always an act of discipline, but very frequently an early death may be the result of the Lordís chastening.
When we are chastened of the Lord it is a very serious thing, yet we shall remember that Hebrews tells us that "whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." And chapter 12:10 gives the motive or outcome of the Lordís chastening, and that is "that we may be partakers of His holiness." The love wherewith He chastens us is for our profit.
So in these verses we find that before we approach the Lordís Table we are to judge ourselves to see whether we are coming in an unworthy manner. And the judging of ourselves avoids the judgment of the Lord.
These instructions were certainly not while here on earth; rather a direct revelation was given to Paul by the Lord Jesus. This expresses the importance of the Lordís Supper, that the Lord Jesus found it necessary to deliver these instructions in such a way.
Now notice that Paul includes in this verse, "that the Lord Jesus on he
same night in which He was betrayed took bread;" This detail is mentioned,
not simply as a historical fact, but it is there to enforce upon us how
solemn the whole circumstance is in contrast to how careless some approach
the Table. On the very night when our Saviour was to know to the fullest the
untrustworthiness, wickedness and treachery of men, He gave this feast in
order that His people might know of His continual love and devotedness to
us. Let us not be of the same heart as Judas when we approach this Table.
The Lordís Supper is a memorial. It is for us to gather and remember the Person and work of the Lord Jesus, primarily His work in sealing our pardon when He died on Calvary's tree. When we partake of this Supper it is to us a continual reminder of the substitutionary work of His death. He would not have us forget what it is that He has done in our place. Sadly enough, how often it is that we do forget, and this is why He calls us to celebrate this Supper frequently, that He may ever be on our minds.
The bread represents His body, the wine His blood.
The cup, we read, "is the New Covenant in My blood."
The great essential of the new covenant is the free bestowment of eternal life through the death of Godís Son, this life which is given to us in our response of simple faith. The New Covenant is sealed in His blood which freely flowed for you and I.
I want us to come back to the reason why the Lord desires us to remember
Him, but firstly verse 26 gives the purpose of the Supper
I canít give a Scripture and verse for this but I believe the Lord Jesus asks us to do this so that we may come together and have fellowship with Himself and commune personally with the Lord Jesus. We know that He Himself is within our midst when we gather here. I believe that this is the very purpose that God made man at the very first in the Garden of Eden. The Lord created man so He may have someone to commune with, to fellowship and even have friendship with. The Lord Jesus desires our attention, our communion and our fellowship.
Remember the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane which we read earlier?
The Lord Jesus went away and prayed for an hour and when He came back to His disciples He found them sleeping. This was a time when the Lord Jesus needed them most. He needed and desired their friendship, companionship and comfort, yet there minds were not with Him but were in a slumber. And we read the sorry words in Lukeís Gospel where an angel appeared to Him from Heaven to strengthen Him. Where were the disciples at this time?
When I consider our worship meetings I am often reminded of this occasion. You know, our meetings last for about an hour. During this time the Lord Jesus wants us to remember Him and commune with Him, have fellowship with Him. Yet remember to His disciples He said, "What, could you not watch with Me one hour." Brethren, it is not a big thing for us to gather here once a week to remember Him and commune with Him.