(ii) The Lord's Table(11:17-34)

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This section is based on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. Read this passage first....


1 Cor 11:17-34

17Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse.

18For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.

19For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.

20Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper.

21For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk.

22What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.

23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;

24and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me."

25In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me."

26For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.

27Therefore 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.

28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

29For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

30For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

31For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.

32But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

33Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.

34But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.


This is about a particular problem in the Corinthian Church to do with the communal taking of the Lord's Supper which they were abusing. Even though the situation was not very similar to that of today, there are some very important principles that we can glean from this.

(a) The Lord's Supper as a Christian Feast.

From all that Paul says we can see that the Communion was being eaten in conjunction with a community meal. If Paul was around today I doubt very much if he would recognize our modern day Communion!!

The Communion was a continuation of the Passover feast which was what the disciples were celebrating in the Last Supper (Read Matthew 26:17 onwards).

As part of their hope in the coming Messiah the Jews celebrated the Passover as a great banquet in the presence of God. The Communion is also a CELEBRATION looking forward to the Second Coming of the Messiah - Jesus.

Another name for this Christian feast where the Lord's supper was celebrated is found in Jude 12... what is it ? Click here for the answer.

Literally, the "Lord's Supper" means "a supper in honour to the Lord". Does this remind you of other "suppers" that there were at that time ? This was THE meal because it was fellowship with the living God. However, the things that the Corinthians were doing in the Supper were making no longer "in honour of the Lord". We need to look at what they were doing wrong .....

(b) The Problem - abuse of the Lord's Supper.

From reading the passage of Scripture what seems to be the problem ?

The problem here is an abuse of the Lord's Supper which was to be a supper in honour of the Lord. In the early Church the Communion was held in conjunction with a feast commonly called an 'agape' (or 'love') feast. The problem in Corinth was TOO MUCH 'FEASTING' and TOO LITTLE 'LOVING' !

Not only were they not honouring the Lord by getting DRUNK but there was also DIVISION in the Church because of the meal. The RICH were going ahead with their own meal when the POOR could not be present.

We see that the problem was not just concerning the VERTICAL relationship (that with God) but also the HORIZONTAL (to other people). Communion should be CELEBRATED and not SOLEMNIZED and it should be honouring the Lord by proclaiming His death til He comes and a demonstration of love to His Body .... the Church. Reading 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 again shows us the correct way of taking the Lord's Supper (vertically and horizontally). See the diagram on the right that pictorially shows this.

(c) Paul's Answer.

(i) THE APPEAL (11:17-22): Basically Paul's appeal is to' stop abusing the Lord's Table'. The problem was that they were physically together "at the same place", but they were not really together as a community. For, instead of eating the Lord's Supper as a community, each one was going ahead with their OWN meal!

Read verse 19 - what does it mean in this context ? Click here for a possible interpretation.

(ii) THE INSTRUCTION (11:23-26): By their actions the Corinthians had apparently shown that they had lost the meaning of the Lord's Table and Paul is reminding them of the words of institution so that the words and acts of Jesus at the Last Supper would serve to control the supper that they ate.

Paul did not simply add these words to be repeated 'parrot fashion' but for them to truly understand the nature of the Lord's Supper. Paul's point is found in verse 26...what does this verse mean ? Click here for the probable meaning.

The two elements of a really good meal are GOOD FOOD and GOOD FELLOWSHIP. The Communion must combine these two elements....

(1) GOOD FOOD: The food in the Communion consists of BREAD and THE CUP.

The Cup = The new covenant which is forgiveness through the blood of Jesus (see 1 Cor 10:16 and 11:25).

The Bread = The body of Christ broken for us. We also are one bread.

(see 1 Cor 10:16-17 and 11:24)

(2) GOOD FELLOWSHIP: At the supper the participants not only have fellowship with the Lord but also it is a special time for the community to experience oneness in Christ. It is a time of 'recognizing the body'.

Many Christians take Communion in a world of their own , concentrating on their own walk with God alone. This is not entering into the real meaning of communion as it should be taken with an awareness that we are part of the greater body of Christ, the Church universal. It is even a time for reconciling with others and remembering hurting members of the Body.

(iii) THE APPLICATION (11:27-34): Because they have failed to honour the Lord in the Supper or demonstrate love to one another Paul says that there has to be judgement.

Read verse 27. How can you eat communion in an unworthy manner ? Here, Paul is NOT talking about eating and drinking in a sinful condition ... rather he is referring to the WAY they were abusing the meal by having divisions, despising other members of the Church. Indeed Communion should be a proclamation of His forgiveness of our sins and our acceptance by a loving God. Therefore, to not take Communion because of our sinful condition would actually be missing out on entering into His forgiveness!!!

Read verse 28 and notice what we must do before taking Communion. We must 'examine ourselves' - this does not refer to the examining ourselves for 'secret sins' that must be confessed, but examining our attitude towards others in the Church. The main reason for letting the bread and cup pass us by is if we are harbouring any grudges or hatred towards others in the Church and we must later seek reconciliation with them. Thus, our 'examining ourselves' concerns examining our real attitudes towards others in the Church.

In verse 29 we see that if we are 'not discerning the body' and unworthy to take Communion it is because we don't have right relationship with one or more Church members. Partaking the Communion in such a state is actually bringing judgement upon us!

In verses 30-32 we see that, because of the abuse of the Communion, there is judgement on the Church .... some have actually died because of this abuse! Paul says in verse 31 that if they were to exercise correct self-judgement (v28) then they would not come under the present judgement. Despite all the abuse we see, they are still God's people and their present judgement is God's discipline (chastening as sons - from the Greek 'paideuo').

Verses 33-34 summarize all that Paul has been saying here. Paul calls the Corinthians back to a proper assembling with a proper celebration of the Lord's Supper. We too are to keep the Communion properly both individually and corporately ... not just at the times we eat the bread and drink the cup, but all the time. If we are to proclaim the Lord's death until He comes then we must keep the Communion properly by recognizing the body ... both Christ's and His people!

Notice here that what is at stake is the proclamation of the Lord's death! Again, missionary Paul is bringing the Church back to focus on its main earthly function - MISSIONS! The abuse of the Lord's table has revealed a lack of missions heart in the people - if they could not love each other how could they extend Christ's love into the world ?

You are now ready to tackle the third and last problem Paul looks at concerning Christian assembly. (iii) The Use Of The Gifts Of The Spirit.

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