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

The Lord’s Supper: Lessons from Corinth (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 331

“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).

Today we will continue our examination of what Paul said to the Corinthians about the Lord’s Supper. Basically, Paul spoke of three things. He identified a problem, stated its consequences and offered a solution to the problem. The Corinthians were treating the Lord’s Supper with contempt. They did this through division, setting ‘the haves’ against ‘the have nots.’ This division ensured that the poor were marginalized, despised and humiliated for their inability to compete with those who had abundance.

When any of Christ’s people (gathered for the Lord’s Supper) are treated with contempt, it is tantamount to treating the Lord’s Supper with contempt. Any believer who engages in such behavior at the Lord’s Supper is eating and drinking “in an unworthy manner.” This was the problem at Corinth.

Paul’s point is this: What you do to anyone at the assembly, you do to Christ Himself, because the people at the assembly make up His body. What you do to one member of that body, you do to the whole body. And what you do to the body, you do to the Head of the body, Jesus Christ. In the same letter, Paul reminded the Corinthians about this fact when he said, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (12:27). Failing to recognize that the people at the Lord’s Supper are the body of Christ leads to “not discerning the Lord’s body.” It is a failure to discern that the assembly is the body of Christ, and that this assembly has met to honor the Lord’s body. When believers assemble for the Lord’s Supper, it is no ordinary gathering. It is a holy convocation. Therefore, it matters how believers conduct themselves. 

Paul was concerned about people’s conduct during the Lord’s Supper, not their conduct before or after the Supper. This does not mean that a Christian’s conduct is irrelevant outside the Lord’s Supper. It just means that Paul, at this point, is not speaking of the overall conduct of a Christian. He is addressing a specific problem which takes place during a specific event (the Lord’s Supper). Therefore, he is focused on what people do at the Lord’s Supper, not what they do in their own homes or at their workplace. And it is important that we keep this context in mind; otherwise, we will read too much into what Paul is discussing or draw broad conclusions from a specific situation.

Consequences exist for our conduct whether we partake of the Lord’s Supper or not. In the preceding chapters of First Corinthians, Paul speaks at length about the importance of righteous conduct and the consequences for ungodly behavior (especially chapters 5, 6 and 10). When He gets to chapter 11, his intent is not to repeat what he has said before. His mind is now set solely on what goes on at the Lord’s Supper. The consequences for irreverent or disruptive conduct during the Lord’s Supper are severe. When the sacred is treated as something common, the people responsible suffer consequences.

The Lord’s Supper is so called for a reason. It is no ordinary eating and drinking. It is a supper in honor (and remembrance) of Jesus who redeemed us with His body and blood. This event also is the occasion to celebrate our fellowship with the body and blood of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). Therefore, whoever trivializes this kind of meeting dishonors the body and blood of the Lord. In Paul’s words, “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” (11: 27). 

All of heaven declares, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:11-12). At the Lord’s Supper, Christians meet to honor this Lamb who was slain. It is important, therefore, that during the Supper they conduct themselves in a manner befitting its purpose. This means treating everyone at the assembly with love and reverence, while avoiding any behavior which can hurt the assembly. Otherwise, instead of blessings people will receive judgment.

To be continued tomorrow, if God wills. Stay blessed. Amen.

For further studyMatthew 25:31-46 and Daniel 5:1-31

Your Life Is A Book: You Are the Author

Daily Devotion | Day 290

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

An important key for understanding the purpose and main point of a piece of literature is to examine its introduction and conclusion. In today’s opening Scripture, Solomon (who I believe wrote Ecclesiastes) does a good job of signaling to the reader that he is summing up the main point of his work. This summary is crucial, for it gives us a lens for reading Ecclesiastes. With this in mind, let’s look at what God wants to tell us in today’s passage. We will address two important questions, namely (a) What is the duty of man in this world? and (2) Why do our actions matter?

What is the duty of man in this world?

If you’re not sure why you’re in this world and what your duty toward God is, today’s passage is for you. Fortunately, Solomon goes straight to the point. Every man/woman has a duty toward God. The rationale behind this duty is simple. It’s based on the fact that everyone is created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). In creating us, God is revealed as the source of our existence and well-being. Our duty toward Him ensures that we remain connected to the source of life. Without God, we are lifeless.

Our duty is simple: to fear God and keep His commandments. What Solomon said here is consistent with the rest of the Scriptures. When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them a commandment to keep (Genesis 2:15-16) for their own good. It is important to understand that God gives us commandments because He loves us. Obeying His commandments come with many blessings: spiritual, emotional and physical (see, for example, Proverbs 3:1-23 and John 15:1-14).

To fear God means to behave in a manner which shows your acknowledgement of His sovereignty and your total dependence on Him. Fear of God and love of God go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. The prophet Micah expressed the duty of man toward God as follows: “He [God] hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (6:8).

 Why do our actions matter?

Today’s passage says that God shall bring every work to judgment, including every secret thing, good or evil. We can hide our thoughts, actions and motives from people, but not from God (see Hebrews 4:12-13).

God wants us to remember that we are moral agents. This means our actions are based on choices, and our choices have consequences. Because our actions have consequences, God must judge those actions and their worth (good or bad) and determine corresponding rewards. The ‘reward’ can be beneficial (as in the case of the righteous. Here, the extent of the benefit (or lack thereof) depends on the ‘rated quality’ of the work. See 1 Corinthians 3:9-15). Or, the ‘reward’ can mean punishment in the form of an outright forfeiture of God’s kingdom (as in the case of the unrighteous; see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-21). 

To sum up, your life is like a book project. Your choices are like a pen. Everything you do or refuse to do, you’re writing the chapters of your book. God has shown you the way. He has shown you that your works matter. Guided by the Holy Spirit, write a book you will be proud of when you stand before Jesus.

Blessing: May the Lord bless you and cause you to prosper in all your endeavors. In Jesus Name. Amen.

For further studyMark 12:28-34, John 5:24-29  and Revelation 20:11-15

The Price of Indiscipline

Daily Devotional: Day 138

“In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them” (1 Samuel 3:12-13, NKJV).

Today’s Scripture is about what God told young Samuel concerning the house of Eli. Eli was a high-priest and judge over Israel. He was based in Shiloh. He had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas – who served as priests under their father. The Bible tells us that these two sons of Eli were corrupt (cf. 1 Samuel 2:12). They habitually committed acts of blasphemy regarding the holy offerings and sacrifices brought to the Lord. As they grew bolder in their sin, Hophni and Phinehas even began to sleep with the women who came to the tabernacle of meeting. Eli knew about the sins of his children, and he did rebuke them. However, Eli’s response to his children’s rebellion did not go far enough. The Lord, therefore, intervened and proclaimed judgement upon Eli and his house.

Where did Eli do wrong? It’s not about what he did; it’s about what he failed to do. Eli knew about what his sons did. But as today’s Scripture tells us, he did not restrain them. Eli warned them about the seriousness of their actions, but his sons did not change. Warning is not the same as restraining. Warning your children about evil or misconduct is not a bad idea; but at times warning or advising alone won’t fix the problem. In that case God expects something beyond warning; He expects decisive discipline which addresses the problem at the root. God expected Eli to do more than just warn his sons; after all, his sons were working under his authority, which gave him several options to deal with their rebellion once and for all. For example, the least he could have done to end the ongoing blasphemy was to permanently remove his sons from the priestly office. But he didn’t. Therefore, the Lord chided Eli for honoring his sons more than God (cf. 1 Samuel 2:29).

Being a parent is a blessing. But it a blessing that comes with the sacred responsibility to raise our children to fear God and eschew evil. What happened to Eli and his sons is recorded in the Bible to serve as an example for us (parents, teachers, and all who exercise care and authority over children). If we allow our children to grow rebellious, corrupt or ungodly on our watch, we will not escape judgment. Today, disobedience and rebellion against parents (and against authority in general) is on the rise. Part of the problem can be attributed to the failure of parents to instill discipline in children when they are little. Some parents, like Eli, honor their children more than they honor God. Many children today are spoiled because they are pampered and treated as princes and princesses who, for the most part, are untouchable. But the truth is, uncompromising discipline is one of the best things we can do for our children. A disciplined child is a blessing to the home, the church and society. Let’s save our children.

May the Lord bless parents to make a difference in today’s world. Amen.

For further study: 1 Samuel 2:12-36