The Lord’s Supper is an ordinance of the church that is meant to be a visible representation of the death of Christ as the once and for all sacrifice for our sins. When we observe The Lord’s Supper, oftentimes the emphasis placed upon the process of Jesus’ death rather than on the purpose for His death.
Yes, there was an almost indescribable pain and suffering that Jesus went through for us. We should never minimize the suffering that Jesus endured for our sin.
But I believe that what The Father wants us to remember is that because of the finished work of the Cross, we’ve been miraculously and gloriously totally set free from the power and penalty of sin.
Scripture tells us that when we partake of The Lord’s Supper, it is also meant to be a demonstration of the oneness that we have as Christians in The Lord Jesus.
1 Corinthians 10.16,17 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
The world back then, like our world today, was very rigidly divided. The early Church was the one and only place in the entire ancient world where the barriers that divided people were broken down.
In the church there were the free men and there were slaves. There were the Greeks and there were the people who did not speak Greek, who were called barbarians. There were the Jews and there were Gentiles. There were there were the cultured and the ignorant. There were the rich and there were the poor. Because of Jesus Christ, the Church was the one and only place where all men could and did come together.
The church was a hospital where all sinners who had been burned or hurt by the world, their own sin or the devil could find hope and healing in Jesus Christ.
One of the early church traditions was the eating of a common meal before they observed The Lord’s Supper. It was similar to what we would call an agape dinner. Everyone would bring a “dish to pass” to share with others before they took The Lord’s Supper. It was a time for these various groups of people to come together and share a common meal with one another.
But in the Church at Corinth, things had gone sadly wrong with the Love Feast. In the Church there were “the haves” and the “have not’s”. There were those who could bring plenty of food and drink, and there were slaves who could bring hardly anything at all. In fact for many a poor slave the Love Feast must have been the only decent meal in the whole week. But in Corinth, the love of many was waxing cold. The rich did not share their food with the poor. The different house groups kept to themselves and ignored or despised those who did not meet with them.
The result was that the very meal at which the social, economic and even theological differences between members of the Church should have been obliterated only succeeded in aggravating these same differences. It was a disaster.
This loveless, selfish attitude was met with a from rebuke by Paul,
11.17 Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse (your meetings do more harm than good).
11.18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions (Gr. schismata) among you; and I partly believe it.
11.19 For there must be also heresies (Gr. haireseis) among you, that they which are approved (genuine) may be made manifest among you.
The words come together found here in verses 17 and 18 speak of the corporate assembling of the saints for a time of corporate worship, instruction from God’s Word and fellowship.
Hebrews 10.25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
God has designed within all cultures the call for corporate gatherings of His people for worship, the hearing of God’s word, prayers and fellowship. These assemblies are meant to be for our good and His glory.
Today should be a time when we lift our hands and our voice to God in worship. Today should be a time when we hear and embrace God’s Word as it is being taught. Today should be a time when we pray with one another and for one another. Today should a time when use our spiritual gifts and resources to reach out to one another in love.
TV church is fine if you are sick or in the hospital, or working on Sunday. But TV church is not coming together in The Name of The Lord. Listening to our favorite bible teachers and singing along with K-Love or any other radio station during the week is not coming together as a body.
Once again, Paul is grieved by what he hears about their conduct when they gathered together to eat the common meal before they observed The Lord’s Supper.
Two other times Paul is concerned about what he hears about the church at Corinth.
1 Corinthians 1.11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
1 Corinthians 5.1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
It is a tragic thing indeed when The Name of Christ and His gospel is spoken against because it is commonly reported that there is sexual immorality and division and dissension amongst those professing to be united with Jesus by faith.
The first problem Paul mentions with regard to the agape dinner and The Lord’s Supper is the same problem that he addressed at the very outset of his letter: division and dissension. He calls this divisive, party spirit a sign of spiritual immaturity and carnal.
Even when they were coming together to eat the agape dinner and celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the Corinthian church was splintered into factions. You could cut the tension in the air with a knife.
Many interpreters believe that these divisions were caused by rivalries that had developed among the various Corinthian house churches that we read about in chapters 1 and 3. These house meetings you remember rallied more around their favorite teacher than they did Jesus Christ.
It is interesting that Paul identifies these groups as divisions in verse 18, heresies in verse 19. Both of these words are found in Galatians 5.19-21 and they are listed amongst the works of the flesh along with adultery, sexual immorality and idolatry.
It is a very serious matter to cause division among God’s people. One of the things that God hates is when a person sows discord and division among the brethren. Paul instructed the church to warn a divisive person twice and then reject him if he does not repent (Titus 3:9–11).
Spiritual unity is at the very heart of the Christian faith and the life of Christ’s church. Ephesians 4.3 tells us to endeavor, or be eager to keep the unity of The Spirit in the bond of peace.
The only good thing that Paul finds about this sad situation is that over time, God revealed those who were genuine followers of Jesus Christ and those who weren’t.
11.20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. 11.21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
11.22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? (If they intended to selfishly indulge themselves, they might as well have stayed at home) or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? (do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing) What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not
We learned in chapter 1 that the church of Corinth was made up largely of the poorer class, including slaves.
1 Corinthians 1:26–28 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh (the educated elite), not many mighty (influential), not many noble (those from aristocratic families) are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world (uneducated) to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world (no influence or power) to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised (considered as being without merit or worth in this world), hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not (absolute nothings), to bring to nought things that are (those who are highly esteemed, well educated and influential): That no flesh should glory in his presence.
Most of the church did not belong to what we would call, “the upper class.” They were the blue-collar people of our day.
The agape feast was a time when all believers were supposed to share their meals in a common place after which they would partake of the Lord’s Supper together.
However, when the Corinthians came together for their fellowship meals before eating the Lord’s Supper, some of the members separated themselves by house groups and social classes, and ate their meals separately. Some were even bringing their own bottle to church and getting drunk at church before taking communion.
The poor, who could not contribute much, if anything to the meal, were often ignored, despised and left hungry.
Jude tells us tat these individuals were stains on those love feasts. They were irreverent and cared only for themselves.
This carnal and holier than thou attitude of some of the members at Corinth was a total misrepresentation of the unity and love of Christ that should exist among all members in the body of Christ.
Paul condemned these actions and as we will see next week Lord willing, he is going to point out some serious consequences of not discerning The Lord’s Supper properly and remind them of the real purpose of the Lord’s Supper.
No caste system in the body of Christ
A church where social and class distinctions exist is no true church at all. A real church is a body of men and women united to each other because all are united to Christ.
A church is no true church if the art of giving and sharing is forgotten. The true Christian cannot bear to have too much while others have too little. It is more blessed to give, than to receive. A genuine follower of Jesus Christ finds his greatest joy in sharing and giving to others for the glory of God.
Social, economic pride and cultural narrowness cannot coexist with the gospel of grace. They are mutually exclusive.
James 2.1-5 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts.
Though God does indeed call us to discern and to discriminate between good and evil. Discrimination that is based on mere externals such as economic status, racial or ethnic differences, and the like is considered an evil form of judgment that has no place at all in the body of Christ. It is contrary to the character of God Who is no respecter of persons.
Many denominations, one body of Christ
It is my personal conviction that the body of Christ today is more divided and splintered than ever before.
Ephesians 4.3-6 Endeavoring to keep the unity of The Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all
In this letter to the Ephesian church, Paul presents one of the most significant statements on spiritual unity shared anywhere in the Bible. He contends that in the church of Jesus Christ there is only one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all.
It has been said that, “To have religious zeal, without becoming a religious partisan, is a great proof of true devotion to Jesus Christ.”
All of these references using the word one reflects the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17.22,23 And the glory which thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
To “endeavour” is a call to work for unity among believers with a passion and commitment that result in a 100% effort. We must remember that Jesus made unity among believers paramount in His prayer to the Father (John 17:20-23). It is to be one of our primary examples to a non-believing world of the power of God’s love within us.
This unity of The Spirit is not based upon human institutions but rather on that which transcends all distinctions. The Name of Jesus and the one and only gospel that bears His Name.