The Lord’s Supper (part 4)

Friday, March 05, 2010

A few points about the Lord’s supper:

  1. The problem at Corinth with regard to the Lord’s supper was probably that one group ate before the other group (cf. 1 Cor. 11:21-22). However, the root problem was that of division. Moreover, Paul was not a moralist. In approaching the solution, he did not want people merely to change their behavior. He wanted the divisions to dissolve because of a deeper understanding of the work of Christ.

  2. Communing with each other is not about getting a full belly. You can do that on your own (1 Cor. 11:34).

  3. In communion, we are to serve each other as Christ has served us. (1 Cor. 11:33, cf. John 13)

  4. In communion, we remember who we are in relation to each other. (1 Cor. 11:28-29)

  5. The Lord’s supper is not about the bread and wine. The bread and wine serve as a vivid
    reminder, an object lesson, directing our affections to God and to each other because of what Christ has accomplished. Thus, the Lord’s supper is the whole meal with the bread and wine as objects of reference.

  6. In communion, we remember who we, as a gathered body, are in Christ. Christ is present in the Lord’s supper, not in the bread and wine, but in His church.

  7. In communion, we look back to what Christ has done on the cross. (1 Cor. 11:24-25)

  8. In communion, we look forward to drinking the wine new with Christ when we sit at the marriage supper of the Lamb (the church with her bridegroom). For this reason, the Lord’s supper cannot be divorced from Christ’s resurrection and ours. Nor can it be divorced from the judgment of unbelievers. (1 Cor. 11:26, Rev. 19)

  9. The Lord’s supper is a Trinitarian experience. For example: We thank the Father for his giving of the Son. We thank the Son for his obedience. We thank the Holy Spirit for applying it to our lives. Without the work of the Trinity, we would be unable to communion with God or his people.

The Lord’s Supper (part 3)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

In part 1 and part 2 of this series, we saw that the church at Corinth was divided when it came together to observe the Lord’s supper. The very nature of the Lord’s supper as a remembrance of the sacrificial work of Christ is opposed to such division. In this post, we examine Paul’s warning for the church:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another-- if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home--so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come. (1Co 11:27-34)

This warning should neither be overlooked nor misunderstood. Let’s line up some key verses in this passage:

Whoever…eats…or drinks…in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. (v. 27)

[A]nyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (v. 29)

What does it mean to eat and drink in an unworthy manner? It means to eat and drink without discerning the body. Well, what does that mean? As we saw in part 2, the Corinthian church was making a mockery of the work of Christ by being divided in their observance of the Lord’s supper. It makes sense to see that the “unworthy manner” of not “discerning the body” is coming together in a duplicitous manner, i.e. having a divided body. After all, Paul had established that Christ is not divided (1 Cor. 1:13). Indeed, he has even declared

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Cor. 10:16-17, emphasis mine)

It cannot be any clearer. Participating in the blood of Christ while being divided around the cup of blessing and participating in the body of Christ while being divided around the one bread make a mockery of the blood of Christ and the body of Christ. We can now see why Paul says that the one who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner is guilty concerning the body and the blood of the Lord, eating and drinking judgment on himself (1 Cor. 11:27, 29).

The Lord’s Supper (part 2)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

In the last post, we saw that the Corinthian church was coming together to eat the Lord’s upper with divisions among them. Because of this, they’re not actually partaking of the Lord’s supper. Their eating of the Lord’s supper is actually mocking Christ’s work. The work of Christ on the on the cross is about reconciliation. Think of it this way: How great is the divide between Jew and Gentile or a math nerd and police officer? Then how vast is the chasm between the sinner and God? If Christ cannot bring the Jew and Gentile together or the math nerd and police officer together, he cannot bridge the greater trench between the sinner and God. For there to be a division in the church of God slanders the work of Christ. He has bridged the smaller gaps and the largest chasm! Paul writes to them:

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 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.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1Co 11:23-26)

Therefore, the Corinthian church was in grievous error. We are not heralding the good news of Christ when the church is divided. We must come together to eat. The Lord’s supper is about communion with each other in Christ.