Dear Church of the Lord Jesus.
We belong to him. That is why I say, “church of the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are united to Him by His death and resurrection. This is the gospel. The simple amazing gospel. God has done it all. And this is what we get to be reminded of every time we celebrate the Lords Supper.
The Lords Supper is all about the Gospel
- Gospel unity
- Gospel remembering, proclaiming, and anticipating.
- Gospel self-examination and warning
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. You see Paul was in a sticky situation with this church. They were asking him for advice, but he also knew that with each of these questions there was strong division. As a pastor he is not just interested in truth, but true reconciliation in the church. So he says, “Great insight! But you also have to remember…” It might be called the “yes, but…” form of argument.
In Chapter 7 it was, “yes, it is good to remain single, but if you don’t have the gift you ought to marry.” In Chapter 8 and 9 it was, “Yes you are free in Christ, but don’t use that freedom to hurt your bother from whom Christ died.” In Chapter 10 he says, “Yes all things may be lawful, but not all build up.” You, see?
That is why this section it is so striking. He can give no positive comment here. No commendation. There is nothing good in what they are doing. When it comes to celebrating and remembering the very heart of what it means to be a Christian he says, “I cant think of a good thing to say about you.” In fact, they are making it worse by even coming together.
He goes on to explain, 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, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.
Division. There are a few reasons for it. There is good division when people in the church are following Christ single mindedly and others see it, feel confronted, and react negatively. Some people don’t like when their version of Christianity is upset. But often when division happens in the church the source is pride. It is the heart of all worldly division. Where there is no pride, there is true communion with God and each other.
You see, at the heart of all division is pride. Pride divides unlike any other sin. That is why pride may be the heart of all sin. It is separation of God and man, and man and man. And that is what we see here.
He speaks to this division and pride when he says, 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. It is hard to know what the situation was. But it appears to be something like this: In the Roman world during that time, they were likely working with a 10-day week. But Christians met on every seventh day. This means that for the pagan world of the time it was a regular workday. Therefore, the church would have to meet very early and late in the day, before and after work.
What possibly happened, was that since the wealthy could get off early and enjoy the afternoon, they would show up first and bring a nice glass of Pinotage, and some good food. After that the trades people would show up, the brick layers, the day workers, and they brought their sandwiches. And after them would come the slaves who had nothing. Who had to wait till the master went to bed before they could come out. By this time the wealthy had gone through a few bottles, and the spirit that was celebrated at the Lord’s supper was anything but the Spirit of Christ which unifies the body of Christ.
This picture explains why Paul says, 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? In other words, go home if that is what you do! You are not eating the Lords Supper anyways. Why use the church of God as if it is your home.
We are guests at his table. We are at his house. With the guests he has invited, not your little friends’ group.
Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? Pride leads to the humiliation of others. And that is what was happening. As the poor showed up with nothing, and the food was already gone.
What’s the point? They are not acting at all like the body of Christ. They are not submitting to one another. They are not serving one another. They are not eating together. How we treat each other is a sign of what we think of God. They didn’t care too much about the rest of the body, as long as they had enough. No one waited for the other. And some people were even getting drunk.
What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. He is quiet emphatic. He Is disappointed that the church he had so faithfully pastored was so abusing the table as to make it unrecognizable as the Lords Table.
The Lords Supper is all about Gospel (remember, proclaim, and anticipate).
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.”
Now there is a lot of dispute throughout church history and between churches on what exactly is meant when Jesus took bread and said, “This is my body which is for you
But the central command that he gives here is, “do this in remembrance of me.” For Jews remembering meant not just recalling to memory but recalling the events present significance for your life. For the Jew remembering something was so much deeper then what it is for us. It is not just a memory – it’s a reality that has shaped who we are.
You would think we Christians would never forget. He bore our sins in his own body on the tree. We have received the Holy Spirt as a guarantee of eternal life. We have been adopted by God, and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. Who could forget that!?
Do we really need to be told,, “And now, don’t forget this?” Yes. Because we so quickly lose sight and take it for granted. We start thinking about a lot of different things, even good things. What is on the agenda of the next meeting. Who needs to be visited. Who is doing the coffee. The audio and visual needs to be done, what is the next sermon series going to be on. The organ or piano. How will load shedding effect the sermon. And suddenly, before you know it, what is essential is merely assumed as these other things take precedence.
A shocking thing this that we should forget the savior who gave up his live. But we do.
That is why we must never think we are too old. Never thing we are beyond this. Never stop talking about it. It reminds me of that song,
Tell me the old, old story
Of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory,
Of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply,
As to a little child,
For I am weak and weary,
And helpless and defiled.
Tell me the story slowly,
That I may take it in,
That wonderful redemption,
God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often,
For I forget so soon;
The early dew of morning
Has passed away at noon.
Tell me the story softly,
With earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner
Whom Jesus came to save.
Tell me the story always,
If you would really be,
In any time of trouble,
A comforter to me.
Tell me the same old story
When you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory
Is costing me too dear.
Yes, and when that world’s glory
Is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story:
Christ Jesus makes thee whole.
Is this what we are doing at the Lords Supper? Or is it something that we do, because we do it. Contrast this to what happens in Malachi where the LORD tells them, “Your feasts stink.” You are just going through the motions. They were not even considering what they were doing. The church can do it too – we can simply do it as a right. Out of habit, or some superstition, rather than a true desire to be fed by him, and proclaim his death and resurrection.
But we not only are unified around the gospel by our remembering but also by our proclaiming. As Paul says, “26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. The Gospel is good news meant to be proclaimed! It was Francis of Assisi who was reported to have said, “Preach the gospel and if necessary use words.” Now whether he said it or not we do not know. And although there is some truth in it, the statement itself does not stand. Because the word gospel means “Good news.”
Its like trying to tell the evening news, please share the news with us, and if necessary, use words. And what is the news that we proclaim? The Lords death! That’s the gospel that need proclaiming.
What is this gospel? Most simply, what God has done in Christ Jesus. Or to expand, what God has done for us in Christ Jesus especially though his death and resurrection. Or to expand even more, “What God has done for us in Christ Jesus especially though his death and resurrection resulting in the taking away of our sin, receiving the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of what is to come, being adopted in Christ, and therefore being inheritors of God.” You see, it is all dependent on his cross and resurrection! And when we eat and drink, we publicly proclaim to each other and to anyone watching, and above all to the spiritual forces of darkness, that God has over come in Christ!
And we not only remember the Gospel to make it our own, proclaim the gospel to share it, we also look forward in this meal to its fulfillment. It says, “Until he comes.” This meal is a temporary thing. A sacrament wont be necessary anymore when the sign and seal is fulfilled. 100 million years in heaven we will not celebrate it. Just like Passover was to look back, it also looked forward. Especially later they would raise the cups at the end of the meal and say, “Next year in Jerusalem!” In a sense that is what we do! We say, “Next time in the new Jerusalem!”
Gospel Self-examination and Warning
The Lord’s Supper provides regular opportunity for spiritual and moral self-examination. 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. The question, “is what does it mean to drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner?” It has to do with the manner of our approach, not with us. It does not say, whoever is unworthy eats and drinks judgment on themselves. No. It says whoever does so in an unworthy manner. The questions is not if you are perfect and have all your ducks in a row. But are you coming with Faith, contrition, repentance, and love for Christ and his people. are you coming knowing and seeing your need?
If you come to the Lords Supper and you just cheated on income taxes, or you really love your porn, or you are abusive at home. If you come to the Lords Table and think that it does not matter how you life, then you have not done proper self-examination.
So what is self-examination. Well I can tell you what it is not. It is not a morbid introspection.
Morbid introspection looks in ourselves and focuses just on how morbid we are. We try to feel really bad over our sin, and once we feel really bad, we actually start feeling good about how bad we feel. The flesh seizes self-examination as an opportunity to turn our thoughts against us. Introspection is deceptive because it often looks like we’re doing the right thing: we’re not indifferent to our sin — we want to seek it out! But when that introspection makes us self-absorbed instead of Christ-absorbed, we undermine our faith. And that’s the problem it looks at sin without looking to Christ.
But true gospel self-examination looks at the cross – and there sees the terribleness of sin in the crucifixion, while at the exact same time seeing the forgiveness of sins in Christ. The gospel brings balance to self-examination. We learn that we are not changed by beholding self, but by beholding Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Robert Murray M’Cheyne famously said, “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.”
The gospel brings truth and grace to self-examination. Only when we are secure in the love of God for us in Christ are we empowered for self-examination that is humble, confident, and fruitful. The gospel brings power to our examination. Self-examination doesn’t have to be buckets of water thrown on the fires of our faith, where you begin to say, “How could God ever love me?!” Instead, it can be fuel. We can see where God is at work in us, and we can move forward with the confidence of knowing that he who began a good work in us will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6).
So, Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
If you don’t, he says the Lords Supper becomes dangerous. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
Paul is not just talking about sin against the church when he talks about discerning the body. He is saying that this is about the body and blood of Christ. In other words faith must be exercised. Your mind, your heart must engaged in this. We look beyond the elements to that which the elements are a sign and seal of. And it is serious enough that there is warning attached. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
Some of these people had already died physically. It probably did not mean eternal condemnation, but that could also be implied. The Lords Supper is meant to be a blessing it is. To teach us to remember, learn to confess and examine. And return to the cross. But when we treat the cross with indifference the threat of the cross falls on us
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.
Indeed, as you judge yourself at the foot of the cross, we are not judged! That is the irony. But when we don’t do that, sometimes the Lords sends sickness or death so that something worse may not befall us! Sometimes sickness or death is result of sin. Sometimes. Like in John 5, When Jesus says to the man that he healed, “Go and sin no more otherwise something worse may befall you.” Or Ananias and Sapphira when the lied to the Holy Spirits in Acts 5. This normally happens in times of intense revival and the revelation of the presence of God.
So remember, dear church, just because all just goes on as before in the church, it is not always sign of Gods blessing, but that he has withdrawn his presence and that is a far greater judgment! You see the fact that the Corinthians actually experienced judgement shows that they had to do with the living God. That the Holy Spirit really was active.
The problem was they were using them for themselves! Rather then for the benefit of the Community. That is why Gods judgement is real, because His blessing is real! So let’s examine ourselves that we might experience the richness of his blessing. So that we might experience the depth of communion. So that we might be confronted with our sin, and repent from them. So that we might be holy as He is holy – preparing ourselves for the return as we celebrate the Lords Supper until he comes.