By J. Michael Shannon
In 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, Paul describes the proper attitude to exhibit around the Lord’s table. His admonition is to the church at Corinth, a congregation that desperately needs this message.
That church has many problems, more so than most any congregation we might attend today. One of the more serious problems is that it fails to take the Lord’s Supper seriously. Here is a church where the rich will not wait for the poor to arrive for the supper and eat all the food before the actual celebration of the emblems. This is a church where people get drunk before worship begins. This is a church that has divided into denominations within the congregation. This causes serious troubles in the church and also reflects serious problems. This is a church that particularly struggles with pride.
If the attitude about the table is wrong, then the whole church suffers. Paul’s words to the Corinthians tell us what our attitude should be around the table.
He says there should be a spirit of unity (vv. 17-19). The Lord’s Supper is a community meal and should reinforce and reflect our essential unity in Christ.
There should also be a spirit of humility (vv. 20-22). There is no place at the table for feelings of superiority since we are all sinners in need of a Savior.
There should also be a spirit of thanksgiving (v. 23). If Jesus’ sacrifice doesn’t deserve thanks, nothing does.
He also says there should be a spirit of reverence (vv. 24, 25). After all, the emblems tell us of the death of Christ and remind us of our own forgiveness. That should inspire worship in anyone who takes it seriously.
And, surprisingly, Paul says there should a spirit of expectation (v. 26). Remembering something is not the only reason for the Lord’s Supper. It involves the past, present, and even the future. We look forward to that time when the Lord will return to dine with us in eternity.
That is a lot to think about when we approach the table, but it should all come naturally. If we don’t adopt these attitudes, then whatever else we may call the ceremony, it is not the Lord’s Supper.
J. Michael Shannon serves as a professor at Johnson University, Knoxville, Tennessee.