THE PROPER PRACTICE OF THE ORDINANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER:
– PROMOTES THE UNITY OF THE BODY
– PROCLAIMS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CRUCIFIXION
– PROTECTS AGAINST DIVINE DISCIPLINE
The Lord’s Supper was instituted as the central act of Christian worship. Its simplicity and symbolism point to the depth and richness of the significance of the Lord’s crucifixion for our salvation. Abuses in the practice of the Lord’s Supper at the church of Corinth led to these important words of correction from the pen of the Apostle Paul. The context was the love feast or pot luck fellowship meal that led up to the observance of the divine ordinance. The abuses surrounded the selfish indulgence of the believers at Corinth on such occasions. The divisions in Paul’s day seemed to revolve around social and economic status as the believers failed to share their food and drink in a way that would unite their fellowship. Today the divisions are even more dramatic revolving around the significance of the ordinance itself. The Roman Catholic mass takes the extreme position that the bread and the wine actually become the body and blood of Christ and communicate grace to the participants. But even within Protestantism there have been differing views regarding the meaning and practice of the Lord’s Supper.
I. (:17-22) SHAMEFUL SCHISMS – THE PROPER PRACTICE OF THE ORDINANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER PROMOTES THE UNITY OF THE BODY
A. (:17) Constructive Criticism
1. Correction Necessary
“But in giving this instruction,”
When people are involved in practices that are hurting the church instead of edifying the body, the Word of God must be applied first to provide instruction, and then followed up in a way to administer reproof, correction and then training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).
2. Commendation Not Possible
“I do not praise you,”
3. Coming Together Not Productive
“because you come together not for the better but for the worse.”
MacArthur: It would have been much better for those Corinthians never to have had a love feast, and even never to have observed the Lord’s Communion, than to have so abused them. They came together not for the better but for the worse. The term for worse is a comparative of kakos, which represents moral evil. Instead of the celebrations being times of loving fellowship and spiritual enrichment they involved selfish indulgence, shaming the poorer brethren, mocking the Lord’s sacrificial death, and scandalizing the church before the unbelieving world around them.
B. (:18-19) Demonstrative Divisions
1. (:18) Divisions Disrupt Body Unity
a. Importance of the Issue
“For, in the first place”
Paul doesn’t always follow out his enumerations.
b. Identity as One Body
“when you come together as a church”
c. Report of Divisions
“I hear that divisions exist among you”
d. Credibility of the Problem
“and in part I believe it.”
2. (:19) Divisions Separate True Believers From Pretenders
a. Inevitability of Divisions
“For there must also be factions among you,”
b. Separation of Wheat from Chaff
“so that those who are approved may become evident among you.”
Usage of dokimos consistent in Paul’s writings for contrast between legitimate believers and mere professors of faith in Christ; the opposite would be the reprobate
C. (:20-22) Self-Centered Selfishness
1. (:20-21) Selfish Approach Documented
a. (:20) Missing the Point of Worship
“Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper”
b. (:21) Putting the Priority on Self Satisfaction
1) Piggish Behavior
“for in your eating each one takes his own supper first;”
2) No Consideration for Others
“and one is hungry and another is drunk.”
2. (:22a) Shameful Conduct Exposed (for what it is)
a. Shocking Exclamation
b. Searching Question
“Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink?”
c. Sarcastic Accusation
“Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing?”
3. (:22b) Scathing Rebuke Administered (in place of praise)
“What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.”
MacArthur: A Christian’s attitudes and motives should be pure at all times. But when believers come to the table of the Lord, sharing the bread of His body and the cup of His blood, it is absolutely necessary that they leave behind all sin, all bitterness, all racial and sexual prejudice, all class pride, and all feelings of superiority. Of all places and occasions, those attitudes are most out of place at the Lord’s Supper. They grievously profane that holy, beautiful, and unifying ordinance of God.
II. (:23-26) SYMBOLIC SIGNFICANCE – THE PROPER PRACTICE OF THE ORDINANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER PROCLAIMS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CRUCIFIXION
A. (:23a) The Significance of the Setting for the Establishment of the Ordinance
1. Divine Institution
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you,”
2. Traitorous Backdrop
“that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed”
Morris: Paul brings out the poignancy of the institution of that feast of love which was to bring such strength and consolation to Christians, at the very time when human malignancy was engaged in betraying the Saviour to His enemies.
B. (:23b-24) The Significance of the Bread
1. Consecration of the Elements
“took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it”
2. Connection to His Physical Body via Symbolism
“and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you;”
3. Command to Practice the Ordinance
“do this in remembrance of Me.’”
C. (:25) The Significance of the Cup
1. Consecration of the Elements
“In the same way He took the cup also after supper,”
2. Connection to His Atoning Blood via Symbolism Surrounding the New Covenant
“saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood;”
3. Command to Practice the Ordinance
“do this, as often as you drink it in remembrance of Me.’”
D. (:26) The Significance of the Regular Practice of the Ordinance
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,”
“you proclaim the Lord’s death”
3. Finish Line
“until He comes.”
Piper: If the Lord’s Supper is worship, how does it express our inner treasuring of Christ’s beauty and worth? Let me mention three things from the text. We express the value of Christ by “remembering,” by “proclaiming,” and by “nourishing.” . . .
This supper is not about physical nourishment. It is about spiritual nourishment.
III. (:27-32) SOBER SELF-EXAMINATION (= PREREQUISITE TO PARTICIPATION) – THE PROPER PRACTICE OF THE ORDINANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER PROTECTS AGAINST DIVINE DISCIPLINE
A. (:27) Unworthy Participation Condemned
“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.”
1. What does it mean to “eat in an unworthy manner?” (27).
a. Not individual worthiness–nobody is worthy!
b. “Unworthy manner” is when you eat and hate your brother!
2. What should we be examining about ourselves before we eat? (28).
a. Whether or not we are worthy to partake?
b. “Do I love my brothers?” or “Am I united with the brothers?”
3. What does it mean to “not discern the Lord’s Body?” (29).
a. Same thing as to “despise the church of God” (22).
b. Church IS the body of Christ! (Eph. 1:22-23; 1 Cor. 12:27).
Hodge: To eat or drink unworthily is in general to come to the Lord’s table in a careless, irreverent spirit, without the intention or desire to commemorate the death of Christ as the sacrifice for our sins, and without the purpose of complying with the engagements which we thereby assume. The way in which the Corinthians ate unworthily was, that they treated the Lord’s table as though it were their own; making no distinction between the Lord’s supper and an ordinary meal; coming together to satisfy their hunger, and not to feed on the body and blood of Christ; and refusing to commune with their poorer brethren. This, though one, is not the only way in which men may eat and drink unworthily. All that is necessary to observe is, that the warning is directly against the careless and profane, and not against the timid and the doubting.
B. (:28-32) Self Examination Essential
1. (:28) Avoidance of Judgment –
Self-Examination with a Goal of Qualification and Participation
(not Disqualification and Avoidance)
“But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
2. (:29-30) Reality of Judgment
a. (:29) Possibility of Judgment
“For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.”
b. (:30) Examples of Judgment
“For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.”
3. (:31-32) Purpose of Judgment
a. Self Judgment Avoids Divine Judgment
“But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.
b. Divine Discipline Provides Necessary Protection
“But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.”
(:33-34) SUMMARY – ABUSIVE PRACTICES MUST BE CORRECTED
A. (:33) Assemble to Promote Church Unity by Practicing Loving Self Control
“So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.”
Must be unselfish and loving towards the other members of the body
B. (:34a) Avoid Divine Discipline by Maintaining the Symbolic Focus of the Ordinance
“If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment.”
It’s not about eating to satisfy your hunger
C. (:34b) Anticipate Additional Authoritative Clarification and Correction
“The remaining matters I will arrange when I come.”