The Lord’s Supper: Lessons from Corinth (Pt 3)

Daily Devotion | Day 332

“Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. . .. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep [have died]” (1 Corinthians 11:27, 29-30, NKJV).

Yesterday we discussed the nature of the problem at Corinth regarding the Lord’s Supper. We also briefly touched on the consequences for irreverent behavior at the Lord’s Supper. Today we will build on that by delving deeper and covering more angles of the issue.

In the beginning, believers celebrated the Lord’s Supper within the context of a full meal. This is what Jesus did also (Luke 22:14-20). During the Lord’s Supper, Christians brought plenty of food and drink. They enjoyed each other’s company. They ate, drunk and made merry as one family in Christ. Everyone has enough to eat. The climax of the meal was the sharing of the Lord’s Supper bread and wine.

What we have today (in most churches) is nothing close to a meal. We have replaced the meal with tiny wafers and few drops of drink. Our priority today seems to be efficiency and convenience. Gradually, we have separated the Lord’s Supper from its meal setting and in so doing, we have weakened the message of feast and fellowship. The Lord’s Supper was (and is) supposed to be a feast. But what is a feast without plenty to eat and drink?

Against this background, we understand why Paul said to the Corinthians, “For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk” (1 Corinthians 11:21). People brought food and drinks to share with everyone. This was an affirmation of love and brotherhood, the very thing Jesus wanted from His disciples (John 13:34-35; Acts 2:44-47). The Lord’s Supper was a special time to demonstrate this love. Unfortunately, during the celebration some ate their own supper because they could not wait for those on their way to the event. Others drunk to the point of intoxication. As a result, some had nothing to eat or drink. Those with nothing felt despised and humiliated.

What was intended to be a time of love, sharing and brotherhood, turned out to be a time of greed, selfishness, impatience and irreverence. This defeated the purpose of the Lord’s Supper. What happened was an insult against the community and an insult as well against the body and blood of Christ. Those responsible for disrupting the event were thus guilty of the body and blood of Christ, because they were eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. Consequently, they were eating and drinking judgment upon themselves (11:29).

The Lord had taken notice and His judgment fell on those responsible. Let us look at the specifics of the judgment. Paul talks about three effects of God’s judgment upon the church in Corinth: weakness, sickness and death. He writes, “For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep [have died]” (11:30). Paul says many (not few) were afflicted because of their behavior at the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus offered His body and blood to save us from our sins. Health of body, mind and spirit is one of the many blessings associated with Jesus’ sacrifice. Isaiah knew this and declared, “The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (53:5). He did not say, “perhaps we will be healed;” He said, “we are healed.” In other words, divine health is the heritage of believers. In the New Testament, Matthew spoke of Jesus’ healing ministry as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “He Himself [Jesus] took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:17). Peter, too, reminded Christians about this blessing of health (1 Peter 2:24).  

We know then that to Christians belongs the blessing of divine health based on Christ’s sacrifice. Therefore, if Christians are the healthiest people in the world, no one should be surprised. But the fact is, in terms of (ill) health, Christians are no different from the rest of the world. For the most part, Christians do not show signs of being in better health than non-Christians. What happened? Did God fail to keep His promises, or the problem perhaps is from our end? One day, if God wills, we will explore in detail these questions. For now, our attention is on what happened to the Corinthians.

Instead of blessings of health, strength and vitality, many in the Corinthian church were weak, sick or dead. And According to Paul, their condition was a consequence of their lack of reverence for one another, and for the body and blood of Jesus which they met to celebrate during the Lord’s Supper. This tells us that there is a link between the believer’s health and the Lord’s Supper (and how we honor our brethren at the Supper).

To be continued tomorrow, God willing. Until then, honor the Lord. Honor your fellow believers. And stay in health. Amen.

For further studyActs 5:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 3:1-16

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