A Table of Thanksgiving or a Table of Judgment? – 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

By John Bellingham on November 12, 2017
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A Table of Thanksgiving or a Table of Judgment?

1 Corinthians 11:17-34


I.  The Corinthian Supper – vv. 17-22

1)     The ‘Love Feast’

  1. In the Early Church, the Lord’s Supper was often celebrated as part of a full dinner known as the ‘Agape’ or ‘Love Feast’
    1. It was normally held in the evening, and was distinct from the main preaching service
    2. It was ‘potluck’ style – everyone who was able brought something to eat and to share
    3. It was a form of charity for the poor
    4. The symbolic bread would be distributed at the beginning of the meal and the symbolic wine would be shared at the end of the meal
  2. Abuses surrounding the ‘Agape’ eventually led the Early Church to discourage and discontinue it
    1. Abuses were already evident in the New Testament period – cf. 1 Cor 11,  Jude 12
    2. Church Councils in the 4th and 5th century ruled against the ‘Agape’ and ended the practice

2)     The Corinthian Abuse

  1. Instead of fostering Christian unity, the ‘Agape’ was creating division between the rich & the poor
    1. The wealthy members had started eating before the poor members got home from work
    2. The wealthy members were not willing to share their food with the poor, and the poor were thereby being humiliated and deprived
    3. The satisfaction of physical hunger and thirst had become more important to the Corinthians than the true spiritual meaning of the Supper
    4. Alcohol was being consumed in excess
  2. Paul is extremely disturbed by what is happening
    1. They are worse off for coming to Church – v. 17
    2. They are not actually observing the Lord’s Supper, but are rather profaning it – v. 20
    3. They are despising the Church of God – v. 22
    4. They are humiliating the poor – v. 22
    5. They are subjecting themselves to severe discipline – sickness and death!  vv. 29-3


II.  The Lord’s Supper – vv. 23-34

1)     It was instituted by Jesus Christ Himself

2)     It has taken the place of the Passover meal

  1. The Passover represented the redemption of God’s Old Covenant people from Egyptian slavery
  2. The Lord’s Supper represents the redemption of God’s New Covenant people from our slavery to sin

3)     It contains symbolic elements

  1. The bread symbolizes the body of Christ
    • The fact that Jesus was holding bread in his hand demonstrates that the communion bread does not actually turn into the physical body of Christ
  2. The wine symbolizes the blood of Christ
    • The connection of blood with God’s Covenant goes all the way back to Exodus 24:8
    • Under the Old Covenant of Law disobedience would result in the death of the sinner or the death of a substitutionary animal, but under the New Covenant God Himself pays the death penalty for the believer as his sin- substitute

4)     It is a memorial of Christ’s death

5)     It is a participation in Christ’s body and blood (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16)

  1. Roman Catholic/ Lutheran – there is a physical partaking of Christ’s body/ blood in the Supper
  2. Zwinglian/ Anabaptist – the Lord’s Supper is a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice and nothing more
  3. Reformed – there is a spiritual partaking of the body and blood of Christ in the Supper that strengthens and nourishes our faith

6)     It is a symbol of Christian unity – 1 Cor 10:17


–  The Lord’s Supper is not an ordinary meal and it must therefore be treated with seriousness and reverence

–  Before coming to the Lord’s Table we should examine ourselves to make sure that there is no unrepentant sin in our lives that we are refusing to deal with

–  When we come to the Lord’s Table and the symbolic elements of bread and wine we must ‘discern the body’.  This implies two things:  1) Recognition of the true spiritual meaning of the Supper;  2) Maintenance of a right relationship with/ attitude toward other believers

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