1 Cor 11:17-34
Communion and eating together
Although the Corinthian seem to misunderstand quite a few things I think we can all agree that because of that we have a richness of instructions of how to do Church together. The verses we will look at today will give as a healthy perspective on the practise of communion and why we do communion in a way we do today.
For the Jews were really important and were seen as “religious,” since it was a way saying thank you to God for the food. A well known tradition for the Jews is Passover were they remember how God delivered them from Egypt since he saved them on the night of the last plague.
The Hellenistic world or the Gentiles were used to religious meals as well only for different reasons. Most were connected to idols or other cultic religious activities.
So Paul, good luck with bringing these guys to a common understanding of communion!!
Some would suggest that when Paul planted the church in Corinth, he encouraged them to have meals together as Christians. So it was not necessarily pagan worship he was correcting but probably the combination of having food together in an inappropriate way and calling that the Lord’s supper as well.
- The Corinthian way of practising communion
1 Corinthians 11:17-22
17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!
- Social class differences. Rich and poor.
- This was a practise of the world which should not be part of the Church.
- Paul emphasises the equality of Christians amongst each other.
- The Gospels (especially Luke) proclaim that Jesus came for the outcast (poor, sick, women, etc) so no exclusion!
- Don’t mix social higher standard meals with the church meals in which the poor are included as well. Keep these meals separate. (Acts 2;46)
- The behaviour of the richer people was affecting the poor – so it was affecting the body of Christ;
- The issues is drunkenness and some people were hungry;
- What we believe about communion
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Different practises of communion by contemporary Christians
- Books about communion
- Never ill;
- Experienced extraordinary revelation.
- What do you think?
- I’ve tried to do communion every day for a while because I was up for everything if it would lead me to closer relationship with Jesus.
- But tradition and methods or symbolism should never be the focus of our relationship with Jesus.
- They help but they can easily replace our focus on our simple daily walk with Him.
- Our focus should always remain on Jesus .
I believe that this claimed period without sickness or a strong sense of God’s presence is rather connected to the fact that we devote our time and energy to building our relationship with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit.
Sacrificial relationship building, when was the last time the growth of your relationship with Jesus cost you something??
Communion throughout Church history
- Luke referred to communion with Jesus’ words:
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
- Are we talking about a meal or a separate event?
Different approaches towards communion
There are a number of ways in which the representation referred to above is understood, ranging from a real change in the elements during communion, to a purely symbolic understanding. While the Roman Catholic understanding developed over centuries, the Reformation views described below developed rapidly, in opposition to the Roman view.
Roman Catholic Understanding (settled at the Council of Trent 1545-1563)
Change of elements once taken – body of Christ.
Luther (1483-1546) – 95 theses 1517 31st of October
Presence in the elements not a change of elements once taken.
Christ present when the believer believes – objective to subjective.
Elements as symbols. By taking part was a confirmation that one had received grace.
Came mostly from Zwitserland, spread to Germany / Netherlands and later to America as the mennonites.
Because Jesus had told them to do so. His presence was always real not part of elements or anything else.
No elements can represent God;
Zwingli and Anabaptists are closest to what we believe as pentecostals.
- Our attitude towards communion
27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.
- Drunkenness and overeating lead to ill health;
- But Paul seems to give the impression that it affects our spiritual wellbeing – what does that mean? – most argue that it affects others in which the body as the body of Christ is affected;
- It is not a Greek drinking party or any of that kind;
- Some would say that communion is limited to some people or a group of people;
- I like the following quote:
- “All come as sinners in need of grace, and in that shared awareness there is openness to receive needed healing. The only believer who is unworthy to receive the Holy Communion is the person who thinks that he/she is worthy to receive it.”
- I like the following quote:
- Testimony from Nairobi, African Christians:
- Many leave the service before communion;
- The sin in their life might make them sick; or in the worst case they will die, they think;
- The Lord’s table is open to all;
- A.F. Johnson says the following challenging statement:
- “The celebration should be open to all confessing believers in Jesus Christ equally, without discrimination based on age (children), sex, social class, race, political party, church affiliation, baptism, it should include the divorced, remarried, gays, and lesbians…”
- Children should not be excluded since there is no mystical reason behind us doing communion; is about the heart which kids need to be taught along the way;
- Our focus should be on the significance of the Cross but also on what it means to us today;
- We come from a place of grace;
- We share the communion – it’s about fellowship;
- A.F. Johnson says the following challenging statement:
- So one could say that an unworthy manner is not recognising these things when we take part in the communion.
20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
- We believe in the Priesthood of all believers (2 Corinthians 5:20) right?
(Verse 29 – There is no mention of Lord in the Greek – just Soma)
A Re-focus on a truth can give a sense of joy and a sense of God’s presence and I believe that’s happening when we take communion together.
Thought and prayer for the week: What is an element that spoke to you today that could be a blessing for the next time we do communion together?
Challenge for the week:
Is there a way of extending the Sunday communion to your private situation? Taking time on your own or with family and even make it part of your evening meal? (Not every day but occasionally).
1: Bailey, 324.