Supper Time (1 Corinthians 11:17-34)
To so many the Lord’s Supper is just an empty feast. To some, it is just one of those items of worship we must do so that we can get out of here. To some, it is a time to clip fingernails, make the check out for the contribution, or get a little sleep before enduring a boring sermon.
The Lord’s Supper needs to be a special, important, momentous time in our week. “On the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread. . . .” (Acts 20:7). The early church came together for the purpose of breaking bread. They did not come together to hear some great oratory; to be seen in a nice, new, expensive outfit; to be entertained; or to be taught about God. The reason the early church assembled as to break bread.
Since the Lord’s Supper was the purpose for the early Christian assembly, this should also be the purpose of our assembly. This should be the highlight of our week, the most important thing we do all week. Wild horses should not be able to keep us from the Supper.
However, in Corinth, the Lord’s Supper was neither special nor important. Paul praised the Corinthians in keeping the traditions as he had handed them down to them, but he could not praise them for the way they partook of the Lord’s Supper. When the church was coming together, it was not for the better but for the worse.
Because the Corinthian church was having difficulty making the Lord’s Supper as special as it ought to be, Paul gave them some instructions on how to partake this feast. This morning, we want to examine these instructions that we might make this supper special.
A Time of Unity, vv 18-22, 33-34
The Lord’s Supper was dividing the Corinthian church.
Divisions existed in the Corinthian church. When the church came together, these divisions were made manifest. Although these divisions existed in Corinth, the Lord does not want the church to be divided. 1 Corinthians 1:10. We are to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3).
These divisions were serving a useful purpose—they were showing who was and who was not a genuine Christian.
Divisions prevented the Corinthians from taking the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper was never intended to be the spectacle they had made it out to be.
Divisions existed in the love feasts.
The Corinthian church was coming together for a common meal before they ate the Lord’s Supper. This meal apparently followed the custom of the public sacred feasting among the Jews and Greeks. Food was brought together for all to share, with the rich bringing more and the poor bringing less. AS Paul describes it, cliques were established, and the food was not distributed equally.
The rich would go ahead and eat what they could afford to bring. They would go ahead and eat before the poor got there before the poor so they wouldn’t have to share. The poor would go hungry while the rich would get drunk.
The rich were not doing right. If they wanted to eat a big meal, they should have eaten at home. They were despising the church—they didn’t care how things looked or what went on. This is the Lord’s church; we must care about what goes on and how things look. They were shaming the poor, making the poor embarrassed.
The Lord’s Supper should have united the Corinthians. The Corinthians should have waited for one another. They should have shared with one another—the Lord’s Supper should never divide believers.
The Lord’s Supper should unite us. At the Lord’s Supper, there are no class divisions (Gal 3:28). At the Lord’s Supper, I’m saying, “I need Jesus.” At the Lord’s Supper, I need to be careful that I don’t hold grudges (Matt 5:23-24).
When we come together to eat the Lord’s Supper, we are basically saying that we want one another. Do you want your Christian brethren? Are you united with them when you take the Lord’s Supper?
A Time of Remembrance, vv 23-26
The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus. This is not something developed by man through years of development. This was Jesus’ idea—this shows just how important the Lord’s Supper is.
The Lord’s Supper is in memory of Jesus.
The bread represents his body. The bread represents his body which was given for us—our sins were so horrible that they required Jesus to give his body for us. We need to take the bread while we remember that Jesus’ body was given for us.
The fruit of the vine represents his blood. It represents the new covenant, the agreement between us and God concerning our salvation. The covenant was sealed with the blood of Jesus. Jesus gave his blood in order to remove the Old Covenant, which was against us, and institute the New Covenant whereby we can be saved. We need to take the fruit of the vine while we remember Jesus’ blood was given for us.
Our minds need to be focused on Jesus’ sacrifice when we take the Lord’s Supper. There is much to distract our minds while we take the feast. We can be making plans for the afternoon. We can read the bulletin. We can be whispering to our neighbor. Are you focusing on the Lord’s death when you take the Lord’s Supper or are you distracted?
The Lord’s Supper proclaims Jesus’ death. The word for “proclaim” is often used for “preach.” When we partake the Lord’s Supper, we preach the death of Jesus. We tell the world that we believe that Jesus died for our sins.
The Lord’s Supper expects Jesus’ return. In taking the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim Jesus’ death until he comes. We’re telling the world that we believe that Jesus is coming again.
A Time of Examination, vv 27-32
Examination is not pleasant, but it’s often necessary. No one enjoys going to the doctor and being examined, but we must to remain healthy.
We are to take the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner.
Eating is a worthy manner has nothing to do with whether or not we are worthy to take the Lord’s Supper. If this is what Paul meant here, none of us could take the Lord’s Supper, because none is worthy. “Worthy” here is an adverb; Paul is referring to the manner in which we take the Supper.
Eating in a worthy manner means that I examine myself. Before I take the Lord’s Supper, I need to see that my life is on target. I need to see that I have the proper attitude in taking the Lord’s Supper. Paul does not say this to discourage people from eating, but he says this to encourage them to eat with the right attitude.
Eating in a worthy manner means that I discern the body (regard it differently than other foods).
Eating in a worthy manner means that I am not judged by the Lord. If I examine my own life, God wouldn’t need to do it for me. If I corrected my own life, God wouldn’t need to do it for me.
God is not pleased when I don’t take the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner.
When I fail to take the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner, I am guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. I am sinning against the body of Jesus. I am treating Jesus’ body with contempt.
When I fail to take the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner, I am bringing judgment upon myself. God spiritually judged those in the Corinthian church. Many were weak, sick, and some were dead spiritually. God will judge us I we take the Lords’ Supper unworthily. God spiritually judged those in the Corinthian church so that they would not be condemned along with the world.
Do you examine yourself when you take the Lord’s Supper or do you need God to do it for you?
The Lord’s Supper should be the most important part of our weak.
Have you truly taken the Lord’s Supper this morning—have you been unified with your brethren, have you remembered the Lord’s death, and have you examined yourself?
When you examined yourself what did you find? Did you find one who was doing the will of God? Did you find one who needs to come to Jesus right now as we stand and sing?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Main Street church of Christ in Pikeville, Kentucky.