Paul in his writing to the Corinthians attempted to bring some order in the church. Let me say as an aside, we need more than a couple of Paul’s in the church today. Paul was an apostle, and if the role of the apostle is to set in order, then the apostle is more needed today than ever before. Unfortunately many of those who call themselves apostles are causing much of the confusion. But let us look at what Paul set in order.
1 Cor 11:18-34
18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you;
and I partly believe it.
This is an interesting here that Paul talks about coming together. But the English word “church” that the KJV uses here indicates it is at a “church building.” If we look at the Greek this word is really a meeting not a building. It could be anywhere several, several dozen or several thousand members of the Body of Christ come together. This would indicate that the “closed communions” some sects practice which although they are not prohibited by scripture also do not have a scriptural base. If your part of the Body of Christ practices closed communion I challenge you to reconsider this as not scriptural.
He digresses and talks about the divisions among them. It is interesting that he says, “I hear” and “I partly believe it.”
19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest
The word heresies could also be “sects” which could be groups with common beliefs or what we would call cliques. They could be the result of private interpretations of the scripture that are decried elsewhere in scripture.
20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.
Paul is saying that some of them are not coming to eat the Lord’s supper. They are coming for other reasons and with other motives than drawing close to their brothers and sisters and Christ. What a stinging rebuke! He says to them, “You have degraded what is holy to nothing more than a social gathering.”
21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is
Apparently this was not like the “communion” we practice. They were bringing their own meals. Some were lavish while others could not afford that fare.
22 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.
In addition to the degrading the holy event these who had were embarrassing those who did not have by their lack of sensitivity. I would not have expected them to hide what God had blessed them with but I would have expected them to avoid using it to harm their brothers and sisters in the lord. I know more than a few people who are solid Christians and are what I would call rich. I knew one couple who’s net worth has to be measured in tens of millions of dollars for over six months without having any idea they “had money”. They didn’t have the trappings of it. They gave a lot away; they blessed people quietly by having someone else handle the giving the money. This is exactly the opposite of what is shown here.
23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same
night in which he was betrayed took bread:
And here Paul begins the instruction on how to properly partake of the Lord’s supper. It is interesting that he starts, “For I have received of the Lord”. Paul is one of the few major New Testament figures who did not walk with Jesus. He did not receive from Jesus as he walked this earth. For many this statement would have been more accurate if it was made by Peter, James, or John. But if we read the Epistles Paul authored we find that his revelation of Jesus is at least on a par with those who walked directly with Him. This should be an encouragement to us. We cannot turn back the clock and walk on the shores of Galilee with Him. But we can, on our knees, with our hearts raised to Him, find the revelation of who He is. Paul found that, not on the Damascus road as some would believe but in time spent with Him. The experience on the Damascus road only brought about the initial recognition of Him.
Paul says “which I delivered unto you.” Paul did not keep what had been revealed to him secret. He proclaimed it to those around him. The revelation of Christ that he had received he was passing on. He is consistent with his direction to Timothy in 2 Tim 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (KJV) Paul was passing this on to those who followed. What Paul taught, he lived.
He takes them back to the night Jesus met with the twelve in the upper room. That night, the night he was betrayed, he took the bread and gave thanks. It is interesting that he do not remind them of the Passover meal, the law Paul knew so well but he reminded them of the work of Jesus.
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
Jesus took the bread and broke it. It was symbolic of the breaking of his body on the cross. We are to partake of this to remind us that we are to partake of Him. That price he paid there was paid for us, once and for all. Heb 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (KJV) The periodic sacrifice was no more. But we are to remember the suffering of Jesus by observing this ordinance. That suffering was once and for all. His glory is eternal. And in remembering His suffering we look to His glory.
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new
testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
Hebrews 9:22 states it clearly. “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without
shedding of blood is no remission.” (KJV) Jesus paid that price for sin with his blood, that sacrifice was
made there on the cross. It was once and done.
There is something I find interesting here. The various bodies I have belonged to have had differing concepts of communion. In some the elements were passed out and we partook together and they said that was scriptural. In some we formed a line and it was passed out, in a “continuous feeding” which they thought was scriptural. In another there were tables which were filled and the elements served in small groups because this was the way to do it, where we could be a “family.” I personally find it easy to support all of these as valid but none of them as mandated by scripture. I find the only scriptural mandates to be, to do it oft, to do it in humility, do it in love for Him, and do it in love for our brothers and sisters. If it is not an awesome time of the Body of Christ coming together with each other and with Him, the head, then it is being done wrong. It is to remember Him, to remember the sacrifice He made there when He said, “It is finished.” It is to remember that the plan of salvation was complete on the cross. There is nothing we can do to improve on that plan.
There are many thoughts about the elements. I refuse to use some of the words that are applied because I believe they try to make something mystical out of something that was made obvious and plain by the Apostle Paul. This was probably started to keep the Body of Christ in the slavery He came to break. If the leaders could control who represented Christ to the body they had control. It was in a sense the reinstitution of the yearly sacrifice. His sacrifice, the shedding of his blood on the cross was made to no effect by these rituals.
9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
But Paul continues, drink it in remembrance of Him.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
What a statement! As oft as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show the Lord’s death. We demonstrate that he died on the cross for us. We recognize the body broken, the blood spilled for us. In the market for man’s souls, Jesus placed the highest bid. It was His life. We could accept or refuse the bid but it was there. There was no reason to take the lower bids from Satan. Jesus had placed the highest bid possible. He had placed the bid of His blood.
And when are we to do this? Till He comes. This line in the passage is the stark reminder that he is no longer in that grave. He is alive. He is in heaven. He is sitting at the right hand of the Father. He is waiting for the signal to come back. And he will. He will be as obedient when the father says, “It’s time son.” He was obedient 2000 years ago when the father said, “It’s time son.” He came, he died. Willingly. And how often should we do this? As often as we remember his death. I am not about to create a theology that we should observe this every day, but I will ask, what would be the wrong in it? Shouldn’t we remember His death for us daily?
Here some will say. “But how can we have a priest or pastor available every day to participate in communion?” Although it is generally accepted Christian practice, there is nothing in scripture to indicate that the elements need be partaken of under the control of a pastor. And we who are in Him are kings and Priests to God. There is nothing in scripture to say that any Child of God cannot perform the duty. And there is nothing to say that it has to be done in a “church”. This is just where we have historically gathered and how we have participated in communion.
And what about the actual elements? Jesus took the bread and the cup from the table. There was nothing special about it. The bread was not the little white wafers with the cross imprinted on them. The cup did not hold any special wine or even Welches Grape Juice. But He shared it with His disciples, not to begin some theological arguments about how to remember His death but to provide a means for them to remember that night, the night he was betrayed. It was not because the betrayal was any great event. That betrayal was the event that started the final chapter of the process that would bring redemption for mankind.
A few years ago our pastor ALLOWED the elders of the church to administer the ordinance of communion in the home groups. Notice this did not fall to the leader of the home group. The pastor wanted to keep this under His control. Think about this statement and that we are all kings and priests to God. Why not the Home Group leader? I’ll let you answer that one. Sure there is to be dignity in this but more important than any perfect method is the attitude of gratitude on those who partake. It is like worship, it is not the elegance of the event but the reverence of the participants. I had it all planned out oh so well. But it didn’t happen that way. When I minister in public settings I always have a plan that the Holy Spirit has the right to pre-empt. He does it with some level of regularity. My enticing words failed. I lost the paper with my notes. I was forced to “wing it” which means I had to let the Holy Spirit take the lead.
1 Cor 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:(KJV)
I stumbled over the words. But as I finished I saw some people in the group on their face before the Lord crying. I saw others hugging someone else. I don’t have any idea what happened there, I didn’t make it happen and I haven’t asked because God pretty well told me it wasn’t my business. I do know God met several of the people there and if that happened, all was well. I know I did not have anything to do with it except to be obedient in allowing God to do His work without my interference. That is a humbling thought. In the four years from 1997 to 2001 I have partaken of communion only twice, both within one month. At a time I could not have participated with any group of Christians in this, there was no bond of love that should exist between me and any portion of the body. But at that time it was right. One was an impromptu communion by our pastor in the early prayer. The pastor of York Christian Fellowship does not often lead communion in the services. In fact he had not in the last 4 years till that morning. It is interesting that his break in this was about the length of time mine had been. Several days later I administered communion to a group in a home. And God presented Himself there.
As oft as we do this, we remember the Lord’s death till he comes.
27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be
guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not
discerning the Lord’s body.
This scripture has bound many to not partake. It has been used as a cudgel for those who would preach condemnation. It has become a part of their staple doctrine. I believe there is no reason for a Child of God to not participate unless they are in willful sin or are at odds with their brothers or sisters. I believe there is nothing that cannot be resolved by a contrite heart.
30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
34 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.
And the rest I will set in order when I come. Paul leaves them with a note that there are other things that must be corrected in this church but this one is very important and critical. He has set it right so they will be right.