One: 1 Corinthians 11.17-34

June 16, 2013 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: One | First Letter to the Corinthians

Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Corinthians 11:17–11:34

Good Morning! Today we continue our series ONE on the book of 1 Corinthians, in chapter 11:17-34. During this letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he has reminded them of the centrality of Jesus Christ crucified purchasing people from slavery of sin. He as challenged them for their sexual immorality and their tolerance for engaging with idol worship in the culture. When we got to chapter 11, this began a section where Paul begins to address with this church specific challenges and issues he has heard about what things look like when the individual Christians in Corinth gather together as a church. He began by commending them for remembering to faithfully gather as a church for prayer, praise, and preaching. While there was a lot of good in the gathering, namely vibrant participation in the services by all, including the women, there were also several things Paul found concerning that need to be addressed.
17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.
While Paul could commend them for many aspects of their gathering and give them some additional correction or instruction to guide them towards greater faithfulness he saves one of his most intense and direct rebukes he gives any church in any of his letters for how the Corinthians have perverted Communion, The Lord’s Supper. This aspect of their gathering is bad enough it overshadows any good they accomplish in prayer, praise, prophesy, or preaching. He gives them a rebuke, reminds them of the Gospel they’ve received, and instructs them to reflect on their hearts and actions hoping they would ultimately repent.
Part I v17-22 – Rebuke
The church in Corinth has a lot of divisions to deal with. They are dividing over specific personalities or pastors they’re lining up behind. They have groups that are weak in knowledge and some that are spiritually/intellectually prideful. They differ on how to engage with a pagan culture and how to steward their Christian liberty. Here they are clearly divide on socio-economic lines, rich and poor. But it is more than just that simple. Very practically speaking how they are organized as church creates huge opportunities for divisions. Not unlike us, they didn’t have one large central space with one big gathering very often. They are separated by geography and times as they met in a series of house churches spread around the city similar to our ROAD Groups. This meant they didn’t have as strong a connection with the whole church in the city as they do with their individual small group, group leader, or pastor. They’ve become cliquey and fragmented. This became most evident during the times they did come together as one assembled church. These large gatherings, likely at a man named Gaius’ large house, included a full meal where all contributed and all shared. The few rich with less obligations would show up first and immediately start into the buffet and bar. The majority of poor and slaves would have to wait to be released from their bosses and masters. By the time they arrived the rich were full and drunk on communion wine and there not enough food left to keep them from going hungry. They were humiliated. When they gathered there was no sense they were one united family brought together by Jesus, but a collection of individuals and cliques. The emphasis was not on what they shared in common but on what divided them. An occasion that should have been significant for its focus on the crucified Jesus Christ intended to remind the church, and show the city around them, the unity and holiness God’s people have in Christ is instead defined by selfishness, drunkenness, and disunity. Sadly this church looks no different than the world around it. I cannot think of a worse rebuke you could give a church than when you come together it is not for the better but the worse. That means the church is so dysfunctional, the people in the church, and the witness of the gospel to the world around it would have been better served if they all stayed home!
Being divided is not always a bad thing. Verse 19 says, sometimes divisions are necessary for the sake of Gospel integrity and Gospel mission. Divisions can act as a test, like checking the purity of a fine metal, to recognize who has a genuine and active faith in Jesus and hopes others come to faith in Him, and who is merely a professor of Christianity. The problem with the church in Corinth wasn’t that there weren’t a plurality or majority of faithful and active members sacrificially contributing to the life and mission of the church. It was the few who were not only failing to contribute but were selfishly focused on their own desires and consumption who were destroying the unity of the church.
We should be more concerned with our quality and depth of our faith as individuals and as a church family than in having a large quantity of people who claim to be Christians but live and act identical to the world around them. By God’s grace at Damascus Road Church we have an awesome core of committed members who serve, give, and live for the gospel, in community and on mission, and it would be a disservice to what God has done to them and though them to not distinguish them from those who are clearly not living for the gospel but rather for themselves. Weekly we have 350-400 people participating in service, 300 are actual covenant members. We have staff and elders who work on a volunteer basis throughout the week. Road Group leaders who open up their homes. 85% of all of our giving comes from our covenant members. They are living what we hope for all members, they have relationships and responsibilities. As encouraging as all that is it is there are also people and issues that are discouraging. Members who use ministry and volunteer resources, but never or rarely serve in any capacity. 60% of our members are giving faithfully, meaning 40% of our MEMBERS are giving next to nothing financially.
If you claim to be a part of a church, this church, but all you do is attend or consume don’t assume you are actually in communion and on mission with God’s people. What you are doing isn’t benign or insignificant to God or his people, its offensive. In Corinth many were living comfortably at home, bringing nothing to the table. They wanted to enjoy the benefits of the community without investing in it, they wanted to consume without contributing. They were willing to consume so much, even from those who have contributed from what little they had, they got drunk! When you are drunk on your own consumerism your actions show you despise and wish to humiliate those who are sober-mindedly giving and serving to the church. Paul is righteously angry with the consumers in Corinth. They had lost sight of why they gather. Paul couldn’t even call the communion at Corith the Lord’s Table because it was so tainted by human selfishness it was no longer under God’s authority or prescience. For the consumers their purpose for gathering had less to do with remembering Jesus and more to do with getting the fill of their personal needs/desires. If that’s what you want, stay home! This gathering is for a community of people who want to be a participant and contributor to the body of believers, remembering who they believe in and why they believe in Him.
Part II v23-26 Remember the Gospel you have Received
Christians are not religious. Meaning our worth or status before God is not dictated by our actions, but rather Jesus actions on our behalf shows our infinite worth and justified status before God. Even in Paul’s righteous rebuke of the consumers in Corinth, he is not telling them to simply step up, shape up, or ship out. He points them back to Jesus and reminds them of the gospel they have received. He reminds them of how communion is given to us by Jesus to regularly show us the truth and beauty of the gospel.
There is good news for sinners in the world and consumers in the church. The good news is while Jesus was being betrayed he was giving communion showing His people how to remember his sacrifice on the Cross that was to come. We are ALL betrayers of God. From our first parents Adam and Eve choosing to consume what God forbade betraying God as King, each of us has been born disposed to consume rather than contribute. We all consume resources of God’s earth, we are all drunk on our own selfishness and pride robing God the glory he is due as our Creator and King. Left alone we are slaves to consumption and will constantly betray the God of the Universe and declare ourselves kings of our own kingdoms. But we have not been left alone; God comes to us in Jesus contributing his perfect sinless life as a sacrifice for our sinful life of consumption. As the world was preparing once again to rejecting Jesus, He was preparing to save the world. On the night of Passover when God’s people shared a meal of remembrance of how He took them out of slavery in Egypt, Jesus gives His people a new remembrance meal for a new covenant.
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34
The elements, the symbols of communion, the bread, the cup of wine or juice, are not significant on their own; they are not magical or mystical. Communion is only as significant as the person who gave it to us. He took the bread, He gave thanks, He broke it, and He said this is my body which is for you. Remember me!
The significance of the death of Jesus should be at the center of what we do, dominating every service we have. If you are looking for something more significant or newer, or better than the cross you will NOT find it. The sacrifice can never be re-given, only remembered. Jesus Christ the Lord established this “dinner”, provided for it by his death, and He invites people to it. The only thing we contribute to it is our sin, selfishness, and betrayal that He consumes and takes with Him to the cross. Jesus commands it, Paul reminds us. He has made a promise to us as individuals and us as a people, the church, that we will not be defined by what we take, but by what He gave. Every time we celebrate the Lord’s death we are also anticipating His return. It’s a death with a promise, a promise of forgiveness of sin, a promise of a new life in this life and the life to come, promise of Jesus return ushering in a new heavens and a new earth with no more sin, selfishness, or death. Because of this new promise/covenant all the things that have previously divided us (geography, social status, worldly wealth, gender, personal preferences, etc) do so no longer as we are all united in Christ, by Christ. We all share equally in the benefits of His body and blood; none are hungry for mercy while others are drunk on grace. Those who enter into this personal covenant with the Lord naturally enter at the same time into a covenant-relationship with His people, the church. This is why we use the term “Covenant Member” and refer to ourselves as a covenant community because we remember His promise.
Part III v27-34 Reflect and Repent
We are called to reflect on why we take communion, even why we gather with other Christians in a service as one body. We do not take communion as individual Christians, each with our own meal, but as a united church body. We don’t minimize this by letting it become routine we mindlessly carry out, but glorify it by remembering Him every time we gather. The Jesus sacrifice on the cross is infinitely important, so is the fact that He is to return. We are to remain vigilant. The Corinthian church was undermining the significance of communion and the gathering of the church by their hearts and their actions. The death of Christ was not central, the return of Christ was not dominant; the love of Christ was not in control. It was NOT the Lord ’s Supper because they were taking it in an unworthy manner, thinking it was about them when it’s about Him. To identify with the broken body and shed blood of Jesus, and say you are part of His body of believers in the church by taking communion; while all your outward actions show greed, selfishness, insensitivity, as some in Corith did, is to be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. It was these attitudes that brought about the death of Jesus. So we examine our motives and actions seriously before we come to the table:
How have your actions and attitudes undermined or built up the covenant community at Damascus Road? What do you think about other people in our congregation? Those less fortunate, less equipped, or simply are different from you? Do you have preferences you hold tightly to in who you let in your company?
How do you talk about your church with people from other churches or with non-Christians? How do you talk about other churches or ministries with those in the church or with non-Christians?
Why do you gather on Sunday at a service? Is it to be with Jesus and His people or some other motive? Are you more often seeking to contribute to the gathering or to consume?
When did you last ask what you could do to help or serve? When did you last ask what could you give? When did you last ask what you could learn so you can teach others and help them grow?
When you consider the freedom from sins eternal consequences Jesus gives on the Cross do you respond with indifference minimizing your sin or do you respond with joyful gratitude knowing your sin is serious? Do you want others in the world to hear and respond to the gospel? Or are you satisfied you have?
Many people hold back because they feel unworthy. The truth is you are, we are unworthy. We are never perfectly worthy, Jesus makes us worthy. Taking communion is a declaration of our unworthiness and His worthiness in our place. Each of us, if we are a Christian, is obligated, not to reach some moral high ground or spiritual standard of perfection (real or imagined) but pursue some rigorous and honest self-reflection. However, some take part without even the slightest bit of self-examination. Some of you need to run to this table and others need to be slow and reflect.
After we reflect we are to repent and turn away from our attitudes and actions. Resolved that we are a new creation in Christ we don’t have to be slaves to sin but have freedom to worship the God, who gave us everything even His own body and blood, by using our time, talent, and treasure to contribute to His body the church for the purposes of lifting up Gospel Truth, in a Gospel Community and attempting Gospel Living. We praise God we are not condemned as the consuming betrayers of the world, but that He loves us as His children. He loves us enough to discipline us with hard words as a gracious reminder to repent of our sins of selfishness, for the purposes of correction so we can more faithfully commune with His body the church, because of His body on the Cross.
“Give yourself to the Church. You that are members of the Church have not found it perfect and I hope that you feel almost glad that you have not. If I had never joined a Church till I had found one that was perfect, I would never have joined one at all! And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect Church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us… All who have first given themselves to the Lord, should, as speedily as possible, also give themselves to the Lord’s people. How else is there to be a Church on the earth? If it is right for anyone to refrain from membership in the Church, it is right for everyone, and then the testimony for God would be lost to the world!
As I have already said, the Church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s. Nor need your own faults keep you back, for the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow Believers. The Church is the nursery for God’s weak children where they are nourished and grow strong. It is the fold for Christ’s sheep—the home for Christ’s family.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Reflect, repent and come to the table to remember the gospel of Jesus Christ you have received.
Give your tithes and offerings not as a consumer but as a contributor to the body of believers.
Sing loudly praises to the King who was slain for the sins of His people but will return again in victory.
Benediction Romans 8:1-4
1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

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