Lesson 32: "Let A Man Examine Himself. . ." (I Corinthians 11:28)
I Corinthians 11:17-34
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #32. Welcome again! In this lesson we would like to cover v.17-34, i.e., the remainder of I Cor. ch. 11. This again, I would assume, had something to do with one of the questions submitted to Paul. We'll spend most of our time in this lesson with v. 17-18-19-20-21-22, trying to set the stage for the rest of the chapter. The question submitted to Paul, undoubtedly had something to do with partaking the Lord's supper as it should be done, i.e., properly. In v.23-26, Paul reviewed the instructions for the Lord's supper that he had received through the Spirit. In the last section, v.27-34, he re-emphasized and repeated (as he usually did) that which answered their question and the practical things that must be kept in mind. Lef s begin by reading v.17-22. Please put your eyes on it - six verses. Let's read it, beginning in v.17.
"Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of ah1, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, another is drunken. What! have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not."
Alright, in the verses we have just read, Paul gave somewhat of a picture of the conditions at Corinth. I suggest you re-read this two or three times. Again try to relate this to everything you know. V.17 relates back to v.2 where Paul commended them for remembering him and keeping the ordinances, i.e., the laws and rules Paul had taught them. Here in v.17, Paul took the opposite approach, i.e., Paul condemned them for taking the Lord's supper in such a disorderly and non-spiritual way. Notice the first part of v.17. "Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not..." In short, they were not following Paul's instruction. In the last part of v.17, Paul said, in essence, you may be doing more harm than good. Then moving on to v. 18, it's interesting that Paul said, "For first of all..." Paul's "first of all" introduction here is interesting in that it says in essence, here's the first reason, here's the first practice I condemn and that you must immediately correct. Then, it's interesting to me that Paul, as I sometimes do, did not follow through with a second and third, etc. At any rate, their first and basic problem stemmed from their divisions and sectarian spirit. This, (I'm sure you make the connection), relates back to ch. 1, and several references that have been made in this book up to now concerning preacheritis (as I have called it). Notice how Paul said this (v.18); "when ye come together in the church," i.e., as an assembly of the saints. No reference is made here to the first day of the week; but, obviously that is implied when we see this in the context of Acts 20:7 and other N.T. passages. When Paul said, "I hear...": that undoubtedly relates back to Chloe's household (1:11) and any other source by which Paul had received intelligence about the Corinthian congregation, including no doubt information that came through Apollos (then at Ephesus with Paul, ch. 16:12) as well as the three Corinthian brothers then visiting with Paul, i.e., Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus mentioned in I Cor. 16:17. What did Paul hear? When the Corinthians came together as an assembly their preacheritis and partyism manifested itself in their seating arrangement, in their recognition of each other, in their trusts and misgivings of each other, in honoring each other, and apparently these things extended into every aspect of their assembly and worship. Look at v.19! Some were approved among them, i.e., some were recognized as righteous or genuine. That implies, in itself, that others were snubbed or shunned and rebuffed in an inequitable way. Now, take a minute and try to stir this into your mental concept of the Corinthian congregation. Their conduct must have been influenced by their lawsuits, their marriage problems, the sex scandals, their contentions about eating meats offered to idols as well as preacheritis, already mentioned. Are you getting the picture?
Now, stir in v.20, 21, 22. The thought in v.20 is evidently: when they assembled, their thoughts and meditations were undoubtedly so consumed by their worldly conduct and their competing party spirit; that they were hi no frame of mind to worship acceptably. Especially was this true in taking or partaking the Lord's supper. Thus, when Paul says in v.20, "this is not to eat the Lord's supper;" Paul was expressing not their stated intentions hi coming together; but rather their non-compliance hi practice. That is to say: it was impossible to eat the Lord's supper as the Lord had commanded it. hi v.21-22 Paul gave the reason, i.e., he described the manner or the incorrect circumstance in which they were supposedly taking the Lord's supper. Please make a mental note of the manner that is described here. Paul makes reference back to this down hi v.27 and v.29 hi the word "unworthily." It seems from the commentaries that there is much history hi the sectarian writings of the first century with reference to events that surrounded the Lord's supper. Some Jews evidently argued that it was appropriate to have a meal together before partaking of the Lord's supper. I would assume such thinking came about in two ways. First, because of their primitive transportation hi those days, primarily walking, attending a worship service requires more stamina, planning and effort than it does with us hi the days of automobiles and public transportation. Thus, those that came from long distances hi those days, especially the women and the elderly, were exhausted by the time they arrived and, thus, needed to be refreshed before entering the spiritual exercise of worship. In the second place, some Jews apparently argued that Jesus instituted the Lord's supper at the passover feast; thus, they concluded that it was only appropriate to feast before taking the Lord's supper as Jesus had done with the apostles. This practice in the literature is called; "the love feast," i.e., and agape meal. Apparently Paul's statements in v.21-22 made reference to their so-called "love feast" at Corinth which evidently preceded their worship service and the Lord's supper. It would appear that some were still eating when the Lord's supper was served and that the love feast and the Lord's supper were being blended together, at least to some degree. Some over-ate at the love feast and some that began early were apparently a little tipsy by the time the worship service began. Others, possibly those that arrived late, the poor or those not approved (v.19) were still hungry and had a strong edge on their appetite when the Lord's supper was served. Read v.21, 22 several times.
I would doubt that Paul's exclamation and question at the beginning of v.22 about having houses to eat and drink in; condemned their presumed practice of eating a lunch after arriving at the place where their worship service was conducted. For example, if you should come a long distance today and you planned to arrive early and you took a little brown bag to re-energize the kids and yourself; such a practice is not condemned in this passage. What's the difference hi that and stopping at McDonalds or the Cracker Barrel for breakfast? Paul was criticizing the mis-use and abuse of such practices hi mixing their eating activities with the worship service as such. The whole discussion has to do with manner, not as a prohibition of eating hi the church building as some have construed the passage to mean. Paul's statement hi I Cor. 14:40 "Let all things be done decently and hi order" must contain as least a subtle reference back to what is said here. The first century Christian concept of a church building or a meeting place was just a simple place to get hi out of the weather, simply a facility or utility; it was not a place to be adorned and revered as some do it today. Church buildings are not even discussed hi the N.T. Such things are left to our discretionary judgment. The very tenor of Paul's statements in this chapter would preclude worshipping the facility or anything else that would distract from the prescribed worship of the N.T., i.e., singing, praying, taking the Lord's supper, preaching and giving as taught hi the New Testament. Nothing said here would preclude using a meeting facility for eating, sleeping, or any other legitimate use that does not interfere with worship.
In v. 23-26, Paul reiterated the history and purpose of the Lord's supper. Let's read it - beginning hi v.23. "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night hi which he was betrayed, took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you: this do hi remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament hi my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come."
Please notice, v.23, this was not something Paul received from the other apostles or other men. In Gal. 1:11, Paul certified that the gospel he preached was not of man. He did not learn it from the apostles that were before Paul (Gal. 1:17). Paul received it "by revelation" (Gal. 1:12). So, he was saying (v.23) this message came by inspiration. V.23-26 are the inspired facts and they agree in every detail with the record of Matthew ch. 26, Mark ch. 14 and Luke ch. 22. John did not tell us about the institution of the Lord's supper. Paul had taught the Corinthians these facts when Paul was at Corinth. V.23-26 is merely a summary of what Paul had taught his brethren when he was with them. The Lord's supper was (and is) a memorial. It is in effect a funeral for Jesus. That's the sad part! It is much more than a funeral. In the Lord's supper we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from Joseph's borrowed tomb on that first day of the week Beyond that we express anticipation and our expectation of that day when "the lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout..." as we learned back in I Thes. 4:16. So, we proclaim the gospel, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord (as defined in I Cor. 15:1-4) in partaking of the Lord's supper, which is to be done every first day of the week, every Sunday, the day Jesus arose from the dead. Unfortunately, at Corinth when Paul wrote this, the Lord's supper had degenerated into a mere formality and was even being mixed with a common meal, it would appear. In v. 17-34, Paul broke into a discussion of the practical side and the importance of the Lord's supper that would encourage them (hopefully) to correct their observance of that memorial. Let's read it.
Beginning in v.27, "Wherefore whosever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come."
Please notice, that built into this is a sort of general principle that, when we find ourselves in error in partaking the Lord's supper (or anything else), what do we do? Simply correct that error as Paul here encouraged the Corinthians to do. Don't start a fuss and don't try to justify your actions. Simply recognize: Lord I have sinned. Ask the Lord to forgive you and start doing it right. The Lord does not require you to pay a fine. That's the beautiful thing about Christianity. Simply correct your error; but, do it promptly, do it sincerely, and let it be known you want to worship God and the Lord Jesus in spirit and hi truth. Like I said, no fine or no penalty; if you do it like that. If you do not correct such errors, when you discover them; you could be lost and that is a great penalty, an eternal penalty. Thus, you can see why Paul pleaded with the Corinthians not to partake of the Lord's supper "unworthily" in v.27. In doing so, Paul said they would "be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." Can you comprehend that? As Paul's style was, Paul repeated this thought in v.29. James said, "to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Can you see the gravity of this? Put your eyes back on that word "unworthily" in v.27. The word "unworthily" is an adverb. Adverbs extend or limit the meaning of verbs, i.e., the action itself. The adjective form of this word is "unworthy" - U-N-W-O-R-T-H-Y. Thus, the word in v.27 is U-N-W-O-R-T-H-I-L-Y and describes the manner (or the attitude hi the action) of doing this, partaking of the Lord's supper. It does not describe the person, that would take an adjective. You may think I've gone off on a technicality; but, I have known people, Christians, who did not partake the Lord's supper and when you confronted them with: "WHY?", they said, I am just not a worthy person. You see, they missed the point, the Lord's supper is a thing that must be done by ALL Christians. And, no Christian is worthy. So, get it straight, this is a duty. This is not optional. It does not have to do with how long you've been a Christian or how many times you have backslidden. Paul's condemnation of the Corinthian Christians had to do with the manner and attitude in which they carried out this duty (this item of worship). If they were a Christian; they were to do it, that went without saying. Nothing is said here that would imply in any sense; the Corinthians were not doing it. They were not partaking correctly, that was the problem. So, how do we do it correctly? We must examine ourself whether we are in faith
(v.28) and whether we are doing it in remembrance of Jesus as a memorial in the way Jesus commanded and we must take it "discerning the Lord's body" (end of v.29). In v.30, Paul said that: "For this cause," i.e., for this reason, "many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." To be asleep means the mind is not attuned. The sickly idea means in a half-hearted way or with an unhealthy attitude. The Lord demands the best we've got and he won't settle for anything less. Notice in v.34, we can come together unto condemnation. Thus, it is important to worship correctly. Did the Corinthians correct these things? Well we'll get to that answer in a future lesson. For right now, it's sign off time for this lesson. So, have a good day.