17 April, 2024

March 24 Lesson | Communion

by | 18 March, 2024 | 0 comments

Unit: 1 Corinthians (Part 1) 
Theme: The Living Church 
Lesson Text: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 
Supplemental Texts: Matthew 26:17-30; Luke 22:14-23; 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 
Aim: Share the Lord’s Supper with greater appreciation for the body of Christ. 

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions): LOOKOUT_Mar24_2024

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By Mark Scott

A secular proverb says, “When all else fails, read the directions.” Sometimes directions can be skipped with no negative consequence, but more typically when we go it alone, we wish we had done a better job of reading the directions. The Corinthian church had trouble following directions . . . although the Greek word translated as “directives” in 1 Corinthians 11:17 is different from the one translated as “directions” in v. 34. The first word means “to pass on an announcement,” and the second word means “to command.”  

First Corinthians 11 is really an appendage to Paul’s argument about eating meat offered to the idol gods in chapters 8 to 10. Paul provided the church with principles to guide them in using their freedoms in Christ. It is not a far jump from discussing eating in idol temples to eating in the church assembly. The church was following well some of the traditions/directions (e.g., the propriety of men’s and women’s roles in the assemblies, 11:2-16). Certain cultural constraints were followed in terms of gender to ensure things were orderly. But the partaking of Communion was a disaster. Paul was not pleased at all. He told them their meetings do more harm than good.  

Bad Practice 
1 Corinthians 11:17-22 

The way the church was observing the Lord’s Supper served to spotlight the divisions (schisms) in the church. These differences (factions or heresies) were quite severe. The context for Paul’s remarks concerned what is typically referred to as an “agape feast.” When the church gathered they read the “memoirs of the apostles” (wrote Justin Martyr), prayed, and shared food in something like a basket dinner fellowship. It was in this context that the church observed the Lord’s Supper.  

But selfishness, pride, and even money seemed to drive some of the Communion dysphoria. Their lack of unity and genuine care for one another was evidenced in bad practices. People went ahead without waiting for others (some who were slaves probably had to work on the first day of the week). The poorer ones would become hungry while waiting and the rich perhaps would begin to get drunk. Paul rebuked the church by saying that these bad practices mocked the poor people in the church and caused the church to be despised. Paul said that if they needed a snack they should have eaten it at home before gathering together.  

Good Tradition 
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 

This might be the most frequently read passage in Christendom. This paragraph is read more often than even John 3:16. Paul incorporated the tradition about Communion that came straight from the Gospel record (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23). Like Paul did earlier in the Epistle when he addressed their divisions (1 Corinthians 1:10-17) by taking the Corinthians back to the message of the cross (1:18–2:5), so here he seeks to correct their bad practices by taking them back to the night Jesus was in the upper room.  

When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the eve of his crucifixion, he took bread, gave thanks, broke the bread, and then identified the bread as his body. Likewise, with the cup, he identified its contents as the new covenant in his blood. In both cases the disciples were to remember Jesus and his sacrifice. While these substances might not change into Jesus’ actual body and blood (as Catholics contend), they probably are more than just emblems. Something rather mystical occurs. This marvelous paragraph of tradition acted as a sanity check for the Corinthians’ selfish practice at the Lord’s table.  

Unworthy Manner
1 Corinthians 11:27-34 

More than one user of the King James Version understood the word unworthily about how one feels in coming to the Lord’s table. But Paul was not talking about what believers feel when they come before the Lord at his table. He was teaching that believers who fail to see the unifying power of the Supper in the church are taking Communion in an unworthy manner (i.e., having no regard for their brothers and sisters in the faith).  

Therefore, some introspection is demanded. Believers should examine themselves (test in such a way as to be approved). These Christians need to discern the body of Christ. Discern means “to critique.” As church members eat the bread and drink the cup, they should assess their relationships in the church. The untoward way some believers were acting toward other believers had caused such stress that some had become sick and others had died.  

Coming to Communion is serious business. God may just use that Supper to judge and discipline people. We should not want to hurt the Body of Christ over the body of Christ.  

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