The Lord’s Supper: Lessons from Corinth (Pt 4)

Daily Devotion | Day 333

“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28, NKJV).

In parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series we discussed the problem at the Lord’s Supper in Corinth as well as its consequences. Today we will look at the solution Paul proposed to end the crisis. Paul’s solution is summed up in our opening Scripture: “let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” This solution is to be applied in two ways. First, Paul is calling for a change of thinking regarding how one approaches the Lord’s Supper. Second, he is calling for a change of external behavior with respect to the Lord’s Supper. In what follows, we will discuss the specifics of what Paul is saying.

Thinking affects behavior and behavior affirms thinking. What you think of the Lord’s Supper will shape your attitude toward it. Obviously, the behavior of the Corinthians shows they were not thinking right about the Lord’s Supper. They thought of it as an ordinary meeting, and they behaved accordingly. But those who intend to participate in the Lord’s Supper must examine themselves about the nature and the purpose of this celebration. To help the Corinthians think right, Paul reminded them that the Lord’s Supper is not an ordinary supper. It is a proclamation of the Lord’s death. As he put it, “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (v. 26). 

This is what Christians must have in mind when they participate in the Lord’s Supper. When they attend this meeting, they need to keep their thoughts and motives aligned with Christ’s. The last thing they want is to treat the Lord’s death (or the church) with contempt and suffer the consequences. When they examine (judge) themselves, they would behave well at the Lord’s Supper and escape judgment (v. 31). Otherwise, the Lord Himself will intervene and judge and punish (discipline) those who trivialize His Supper. They should be thankful for this form of judgment, because it is the Lord’s way of sparing them something far worse: condemnation along with the world. (v. 32; v. 30; see Revelation 3:19).

The other part of the self-examination involves behavioral change. Paul’s appeal is, “my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment” (v. 33-34). Since the Lord’s Supper was (and still is) a fellowship meal, our attitude at the meal matters. Love is patient, we are told (1 Corinthians 13:4). From what Paul said here, we know that some in the community had neither the patience nor the inclination to wait for their brethren. They therefore went ahead and ate their own supper. This attitude defeated the purpose of the Lord’s Supper.

Patience, after all, is an essential component of love. Being patient is being loving; being impatient is being unloving. And in the absence of love, the Lord’s Supper loses its meaning. When this happens, eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper draws judgment instead of blessing. To avoid this, Paul gave the following practical advice: Wait for the brethren. But if you cannot wait because you are hungry, eat at home before you join the Lord’s Supper. It is better to eat at home than arrive at the Lord’s Supper hungry, angry and impatient.  

God willing, we will conclude the Lord’s Supper series tomorrow. Stay patient. Stay loving. Amen.

For further studyExodus 12:1-28 and Revelation 2:18-23

Ruth: An Icon of Loyalty (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 327

“But Ruth said . . . For where you go, I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17, ESV).

[Correction: In yesterday’s message, I incorrectly referred to Ruth as the grandmother of David. The fact is, Ruth was the great grandmother of David]

We began yesterday to reflect on Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi. In addition, we spoke briefly about the value of loyalty and the role it plays in love and friendship. Today we will conclude the message by taking a close look at the content of the vow Ruth made to her mother-in-law. Our words are part and parcel of who we are. Consequently, we cannot separate ourselves from our words. The integrity of your words affect the integrity of your character. The stakes are even higher when you make a vow or a promise. Ruth’s words fall into the latter category. She did not simply express a desire to follow Naomi. She vowed she would. Her vow was solemn, specific and comprehensive. She meant every word she spoke, and she made good on it.

What is interesting is that Ruth was not entering into a covenant with Naomi. A covenant usually involves two parties who both make a mutual commitment to fulfill the terms of the covenant. Naomi did not ask Ruth for any commitment. Nor did she pledge any commitment to Ruth. Therefore, this was all Ruth’s initiative and hers alone. Her vow looks similar to the marriage vows we have today. But Ruth was not getting married to Naomi. She was not taking office, either. No one had promised to give her any benefits in return for her commitment to Naomi.

When a man and a woman exchange marital vows, they anticipate mutual benefits arising from their union. These benefits include, but are not limited to, offspring, carnal intimacy, financial security, job security, tax benefits and social status. In Ruth’s case, she could not count on any of the above-mentioned benefits. She had little to no expectation of receiving any favors from Naomi in exchange for her loyalty. Her vow, therefore, was primarily a unilateral commitment of loyalty motivated by genuine love for her beloved mother-in-law. If Ruth could be this loyal to her mother-in-law, one wonders how loyal she was to her late husband. If you are a man and you get to marry a woman like Ruth, I say, blessed are you among men.

Before we sum up, let us point out something else about the things Ruth said. First, she said would go wherever Naomi went. Geographical boundaries would not make her abandon Naomi. She was not afraid to travel beside the one she loved. Second, she said she would lodge wherever Naomi lodged. In Ruth’s eyes, Naomi was family. If all Naomi could afford was a single room, she would be with her. If she even ended on the streets, she would not leave Naomi’s side. Third, Ruth embraced Naomi’s people as her own. Race, ethnicity and nationality would not come between her and her loyalty to Naomi. Because she loved Naomi, she loved her people also.

Fourth, she embraced Naomi’s God. She did not despise the LORD, but was willing to abandon her own gods and serve JEHOVAH. Keep in mind, Naomi did not ask Ruth to abandon her religion. This step of faith was Ruth’s alone. Fifth, Ruth vowed to die and be buried where Naomi would die and be buried. She determined to honor, cherish and love Naomi even in the latter’s death. And to seal her commitment, she invoked the LORD, asking Him to judge her if she failed to honor her vow to Naomi.

Ruth’s loyalty knew no bounds. It did not fluctuate. It was stable and it extended to the very end of life. By her loyalty, Ruth became the daughter Naomi never had. In this, she became a true icon of loyalty. Looking to her example, let us review how we treat the people we say we love. Amen.

For further studyRuth 2:1-23

Abundance in the Father’s House (Pt 1)

Daily Devotion | Day 322

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights” (Psalm 36:7-8).

The lifetime project of every Christian is to know the Father more and more. The Scriptures show us a picture of the Father’s heart, His mind and His ways. Paul understood that knowing the Father is crucial for a meaningful Christian spirituality. As a result, he prayed that “the Father of glory may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Ephesians 1:17, NKJV). When you understand the Father and His ways, Christianity will be a liberating experience for you.

In this teaching series, we will discuss one of the truths about our Father, that He is a God of riches and abundance. He thinks in terms of abundance, not lack. And He wants us to operate with the same mindset. Our Father’s house is a house of abundance, and His riches are ours to enjoy in Christ Jesus. We will start today’s message by returning to the beginning, in the Garden of Eden. As we do so, keep in mind what the Psalmist says in today’s opening passage.

When Adam and Eve were created, they were greeted with abundance. The Garden of Eden was already prepared for them (Genesis 2:8-15). Everything was ready and plentiful for them to enjoy. Their first impression of life was one of abundance. This was no coincidence. God wanted to impress upon them the reality of abundance.

At the same time, He did not want them to entertain the thought of lack. Abundance creates security, but lack leads to insecurity. God did not want Adam and Eve to feel insecure. He wanted them to live with full assurance of provision. Therefore, everywhere Adam and Eve looked, they were met with images of wonder, beauty, riches and abundance. They had no sense of lack.

But someone was not happy about this state of affairs. The devil is his name. He devised a plan to introduce Adam and Eve to the experience of lack. He convinced them that they were not like God, i.e. they were not deity (Genesis 3:1-6). Up to this point, Adam and Eve had no feeling of lack. But the enemy sold them the idea of lack and they bought it. What they did not realize is that the enemy was envious of their secure position and their sense of abundance and completeness.

The interesting thing is, Adam and Eve were like God already. Recall that they were created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). If you are the likeness of God, it means you are like God. But Adam and Eve did not realize this. And the enemy succeeded in making them feel insecure.

Notice what happened after they took the devil’s bait. The Bible says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked . . .” (Genesis 3:7; see also v. 8-11). For the first time in Adam and Eve’s life, they experienced a sense of lack. They experienced a sense of nakedness. This sense of nakedness represents insecurity. It represents a sense of non-provision.

But more importantly, it is a reflection on the Father because it makes Him look like a father who does not provide for his children. This state of affairs broke the Father’s heart. You can sense this in His reply to Adam’s statement that he was naked: “Who told you that you were naked?” (3:11). To restore their sense of divine provision and abundance, “for Adam and His wife the LORD God made tunics of [animal] skin, and clothed them” (3:21).

Your Father’s house is a house of abundance. Keep your mind away from lack. Focus rather on the Father’s riches and provision. He cares about you more than you care about yourself.

To be continued tomorrow, God willing.

For further studyPsalm 65:1-13

Helping the Poor, Lending to God

Daily Devotion|Day 244

“He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again” (Proverbs 19:17, KJV).

Compassion is the character of God. It is the character that He expects from all people, especially we who are the redeemed of the Lord. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus taught, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Then in Luke 6:36, Jesus had this to say to His disciples, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”

You will understand the Christian life better when you understand that your whole purpose in life is to be like your Father in heaven. This is your fundamental witness to the world. Once you get this, God’s commandments and instructions will make sense to you. Speaking to his children, the Father said, “Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). What the Father is, the children must be also.

What we’ve said so far is in relation to today’s opening passage from Proverbs 19:17. God cares for all people, but He reserves special care for the vulnerable and marginalized. Such people are dear to God. In Scripture, you will notice that God has strong words for those who oppress or ignore the poor. Likewise, He has high praise and great reward for those who take care of the poor (see, for example, Proverbs 14:31; 1 Corinthians 11:22; James 2:5-6).

Today’s Scripture says that those who have pity upon the poor lend to God. Yes, if you show compassion to the poor, God takes is personal. He takes it that He ‘owes’ you for doing that. And the Bible adds that whatever you give to the poor, the Lord shall pay you back. When you show compassion to the poor, you are behaving like your Father in heaven. It makes Him proud to have a child like you. God is pleased when His children manifest His character.

Therefore, when you get an opportunity to reach out to the poor, rejoice, because great is your reward in the Father’s presence. Every chance you get to show the Father’s character is a golden opportunity. Seize it, and make the most of it. Your good deeds do not go unnoticed. God will be in your debt. And, blessed are you if God is in your debt.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you in abundance. Amen.

For further study: Psalm 41:1-3

Offering Peace to the Peace-Loving

DAILY DEVOTIONAL: DAY 212

“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18, KJV).

God wants us to be people of peace. He wants us to be bearers of peace, spreading peace wherever we go. Peace is an essential part of love. Where true love exists, there also will be peace. In today’s world, too many people seem to be on edge, easily irritated, quickly losing their temper. Peace is one of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23.

We need peace in our hearts to function as Christians. Not only that, we need peace to be able to live with others, including our spouses, siblings, children, parents, friends, co-workers, classmates, church members, etc. Today’s Scripture passage is taken from a set of instructions Paul gave to the Christians in Rome. His message is simple: If it be possible, as much as lies in us, we should live peaceably with all people.

Paul chooses his words carefully. He does not say we must live peaceably with all people. He qualifies his statement with, “if it is possible.” This means, the ideal is for us to live in peace with all people. But at times this is not possible. You may want to live in peace with all people, but you can’t force peace in a relationship if the other party (or parties) do not want peace. The fact is, not everyone appreciates peace. Some people hate peace, whether they are aware of it or not. Such people tend to create a climate of constant strife, argument and anger. The Bible talks about the frustration of living with people who resist peace: “My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peaceI am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war” (Psalm 120:6-7).

Let’s make every effort to live peaceably with all people. But let us not stress over those who don’t want peace.

The peace of the Lord be with you today! Amen.

For further study: Matthew 10:1-14