The Lord’s Supper: Lessons from Corinth (Pt 1)

Daily Devotion | Day 330

“Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? . . .” (1 Corinthians 11:20-22, NKJV).

Paul had a busy schedule teaching the Gospel among Gentile communities. Among these communities, there was one which kept him very busy. That was Corinth. Paul played a leading role in planting the Corinthian church. He spent at least 18 months teaching the word of God in Corinth (Acts 18:11). This was a vibrant and thriving church. They had gladly received the Gospel and were endowed with abundance of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 1:4-7). Yet, despite these positive indicators, Corinth was a church in crisis. They were dealing with a wide range of moral, doctrinal and pastoral challenges.

The First Letter to the Corinthians was Paul’s attempt to rebuke the community for their lack of diligence, to re-educate them about the basics of Christianity, to address their questions and to reinforce his previous teachings. One of the hottest issues which he needed to address was the Lord’s Supper. He did so in 11:17-34. Surprisingly, about two thousand years since Paul dealt with this issue, Christians today still struggle with grasping the essence of the Lord’s Supper.

In our current teaching series, we will trace what Paul said about the Lord’s Supper. As we do so, we will address the following questions: What was the heart of the problem Paul was addressing? And why did Paul link the Lord’s Supper with the condition of our lives? Let’s begin with our opening Scripture (11:20-22).   

In 11:20, Paul lays his main charge against the community: “Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.” Jesus commanded His disciples to eat bread and drink in His remembrance (v. 23-25; Luke 22:14-20). The Lord’s Supper, as the name indicates, is meal time. What the believing community does is the Lord’s Supper if the meal time is about Jesus and for His remembrance (and glory) alone. It is not the Lord’s Supper if the meal event shifts attention away from Jesus to someone (or something) else; or, if what happens during the meal dishonors the Name of the Lord. Obviously, the Corinthians had deviated from the Lord’s instructions.

Paul explained the specific problem which called for his rebuke of the Corinthians. It had come to his attention that there were divisions when they met as a church (v. 18). These divisions were the underlying problem hurting the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Let us recall that Paul dealt with two kinds of division in this letter.

The first kind of division bordered on sectarianism. The community had broken into different camps formed around Christ, Paul, Peter and Apollos. Each camp believed they were better than the rest. Thus they gloried in the flesh instead of glorying in Christ who alone saved them. This made Paul ask, rhetorically, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1:13; for Paul’s complete response to this kind of division, see 1:10-4:7).

The second kind of division had split the community into two groups based on one’s socio-economic status. In other words, it had become a community of “the haves” versus “the have nots,” the affluent versus the poor; a situation similar to what James described in his epistle (James 2:1-7). This was the kind of division which was ruining the Lord’s Supper. And it was what prompted Paul to face the Corinthians with the question, “Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing?” (v. 22). Put differently, Paul was saying, “Regardless of their social or economic standing, you dare not look down on the redeemed of the Lord!”

We will continue tomorrow, God willing. Stay blessed and encouraged. Amen.

For further studyActs 2:40-47; 4:32-37

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s