June 23, 2010 David Balzer

1 Corinthians 11:17-34: Eating Well

Who’d have thought that HOSPITAL could be a place where you came out SICKER than when you went in? That did you more HARM than GOOD?

On April 10 2001, Caroline Anderson gave birth to her third child, Digby. It was by caesarean section at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Private Hospital. (Sun Herald 13/1/02 p12)

Just like thousands of women before her. Yet three weeks later she was .

An discovered that methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or Golden Staph, had infected the area where an epidural catheter was inserted.

The catheter was left in for four days. And during that time, an epidural abscess developed and bacteria through her spinal fluid to the base of her brain. Ms Anderson developed meningitis, pneumonia, as well as high temperatures, a racing heart, and a collapsed lung. Finally she died.

Hospital is supposed to make you WELL. Not SICKER.

Does CHURCH ever seem like that to you? Doing you more HARM than GOOD? You come expecting to feel BETTER. To be encouraged, or learn more. Or be challenged to follow Jesus better. But something happens that makes you WORSE.

Perhaps someone says something that cuts you to the core. They probably didn’t even mean anything by it. But it strikes a raw nerve.

Or perhaps it’s something that people DON’T say. Ignoring you. You talk to them, and they just look right through you.

Or they miss an important event. Something that means EVERYTHING to you. But others don’t even notice.

And you go home with a heavy heart. Hurt. Angry. Embarrassed. Disappointed. Wondering why you bothered.

And church certainly seemed like that for some people at Corinth. And for Paul, that’s just not on. Look at v17

(1 Cor 11:17 NIV)  “In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.”

2. Eating your own dinner (18-22)

So what was the problem? What was it that made things so difficult? Paul’s probably got a few things in mind. And he works through them in the next few chapters. But here he starts off with the first on the list. Disunity. Clique-y groups. Look at v18.

(1 Cor 11:18 NIV)  “In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are DIVISIONS among you,

And what is it that’s CAUSING the split? What’s the problem? Well, there’s plenty of BIG things wrong with this church. Law suits. ual immorality. But, on the surface, THIS ONE doesn’t appear to be such a big problem.

In fact, there are even things that it’s WORTH disagreeing over. Serious things. Like what the gospel’s about. And how you’re saved. But this doesn’t SEEM to be one of them.

Paul’s getting hot under the collar about some people ACTING IN AN INCONSIDERATE WAY towards others. Being thoughtless. Look at v20.

(1 Cor 11:20-21 NIV)  “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, {21} for as you eat, each of you goes ahead WITHOUT WAITING FOR ANYBODY ELSE. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.”

And the context for it is the Lord’s Supper. Where everyone got together to remember what Jesus had done for them. Perhaps one night after work.

But some people were using it as an opportunity to get drunk. It’s possible they were the wealthy people in the church. The FREE men. Who didn’t have to work as hard as some others. Like the slaves. And so they got to church first. And they came complete with their David Jones picnic hampers. Pate. Leg ham. Blue vein cheese. Fine wine. And they couldn’t resist digging in.

And by the time the slaves, and the workers got there. After they’d finished serving dinner for their masters. And washing up. The wealthy were already DRUNK.

And so when it came time for the LORD’S supper. The time to eat a piece of bread. And drink a sip of wine. The rich could hardly fit it in. And the poor went hungry. Because that might have been ALL they got for dinner that night!

What a contrast. It wasn’t even that some were FULL and others went hungry. Some were DRUNK, while others went hungry.

And Paul says that’s not the LORD’S supper. All THEY were eating was their OWN supper. And you can almost feel Paul’s temperature rising as he fires off question after question. Verse 22.

(1 Cor 11:22 NIV)  “Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!”

The ultimate irony. Was that the very meal that was supposed to show their UNITY. Their ONE-NESS in what Jesus had done for them ALL. Was the setting for showing their DISUNITY.

Look how he describes what’s going on in the Lord’s Supper back in Ch 10. v17. He’s been saying that drinking the cup of thanksgiving is participating in the of Christ, and breaking the bread is a participation in the body of Christ. And then he says in v17.

1 Cor 10:17: 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.  NIV

To share the one loaf is an expression of our UNITY. We are joined to each other, because we are each, individually, joined to Christ.

Each of us DEPENDS on his sacrifice for our forgiveness and new life. None of us DESERVES it. Each is accepted ONLY BY GRACE.

To EAT the bread is a declaration of that truth. I need the of Christ for my ETERNAL life/ just like I need to eat PHYSICAL bread for my PHYSICAL life.

There should be no airs and graces when you gather around the Lord’s Table. It’s a meal for BEGGARS.

How ridiculous that some behave as if they’re better than others. As if others don’t matter!

3. Eating the Lord’s supper (23-26)

And so Paul reminds them about what they SHOULD be doing when they come together. Back over in Ch 11.

The REAL purpose for eating the Lord’s Supper. It’s the LORD’S supper because it’s HIS BODY and HIS . Look at verse 23.

(1 Cor 11:23-26 NIV)  “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, {24} 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.” {25} In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my ; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” {26} For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s until he comes.”

The Lord’s Supper is about REMEMBERING. And the whole process HELPS us to remember. Because it’s not JUST words. We HEAR the words. We SEE the bread lifted up and then broken. And see and hear the wine poured out. We smell them. We TOUCH the bread. We TASTE the wine.

All our senses are used. And they help us to remember.

And then when we eat and drink, we PROCLAIM. We DECLARE that we are part of the people who NEED the work of Jesus. Sinful people who need the forgiveness of the Father. On the basis of the work of his Son.

That’s what the Corinthians SHOULD have been doing. But they’d FORGOTTEN it. And Paul says there are CONSEQUENCES for an attitude like that. Rather than eating the Lord’s Supper, they were eating JUDGMENT on themselves. (That’s my next point)

4. Eating judgment on yourself (27-32)

To be inconsiderate to your brothers and sisters in Christ, and then to eat the bread and wine as if nothing was wrong, was to do it in an UNWORTHY way. And it was as good as throwing Jesus’ gift back in his face. Look at v27.

(1 Cor 11:27 NIV)  “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an UNWORTHY MANNER will be guilty of sinning against the body and of the Lord.”

And that means people needed to take a GOOD, HARD LOOK at themselves before they ate the Lord’s Supper. To see whether they were treating other Christians in the wrong way. Treating them as if they weren’t PART of the group. Part of the BODY that made up the church. Verse 28.

(1 Cor 11:28-29 NIV)  “A man ought to EXAMINE HIMSELF before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. {29} For anyone who eats and drinks WITHOUT RECOGNIZING THE BODY OF THE LORD eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

That’s the way I understand the phrase “recognising the body”. It’s about DISCERNING, or IDENTIFYING, or JUDGING RIGHTLY, THE GROUP OF CHRISTIANS YOU’RE PART OF. Not taking them for granted. That’s the whole context of this verse.

In Ch 10 the issue is not eating meat that’s been offered to idols. When you DON’T you’re being CONSIDERATE of the feelings of your weaker Christian brother.

And in Ch 11, WAITING before YOU eat until EVERYONE’S there/ is being CONSIDERATE. Look at Paul’s conclusion down in v33

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.  NIV

And so, if I’m right, Paul’s NOT talking, in the first instance at least, about the recognising the physical body of Jesus. Paul’s not saying that we must have a certain level of understanding of what Jesus did before we can eat the Lord’s supper. He’s NOT saying we need to understand the difference between TRANS-substantiation and CON-substantiation. Or the difference between PROPITIATION and EXPIATION. Before we can eat and drink. (Which is just as well for most of us!)

It’s more about our RELATIONSHIPS and our ATTITUDES/ than our KNOWLEDGE.

Jesus said a similar thing in Mark 11:25:

25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

That’s examining yourself! That’s recognizing the body of the Lord.

Is there someone here you’ve got unresolved issues with? Whom you haven’t forgiven. Now’s the time to do something about it. To confess YOUR part in the problem, and to FORGIVE THEM.

Or perhaps it’s not so drastic. Perhaps it’s just that there are people you just DON’T HAVE TIME FOR? People you walk to the other side of the room when you see coming? Because they rub you up the wrong way. Or because you think they’ve got nothing to offer you. You just seem to be from different planets! What sort of unity IS THAT!?

Or maybe it’s people you know you ought to catch up with, but the conversation always seems to be so strained whenever you talk. You just seem to have nothing in common. Ease of conversation becomes more important than encouraging them. And so you cut them off. It’s really the same as forming a division. A clique-y group. That’s not unity!

How did you decide what home group to join at the start of the year? Choose the people you already got on well with? It’s a temptation isn’t it?

Maybe you DIDN’T join a home group because you felt they were beneath you. Not up to your standard? You’d have to work too hard to teach them. What sort of unity IS THAT!?

And while the Corinthians showed they were inconsiderate by arriving EARLY and not waiting. Maybe for us, it’s a different problem. What time do you ARRIVE for church? Or perhaps it’s how quickly you leave.

If you arrive for church 15 minutes late, or leave as soon as the last song is finished. What message does that send to your brothers and sisters about how much you value them?

When it comes to setting up for church, my guess is it’s the same people who tend to be here week after week. The same people who pack away. What sort of unity IS THAT!?

What message do your ACTIONS send to those at church? What is your attitude to them? Are you considerate? Do you consider their feelings? How important they are?

Start your new attitude TODAY. Confess it RIGHT NOW. Begin fresh After church.

And if this is the right way of understanding “recognising the body”, then I reckon it’s got something to say about WHO TAKES the Lord’s Supper.

Normally, we say that children need to be a certain age before they can eat and drink. And that they’re FULL members of the church. And that they need to have a certain UNDERSTANDING of what Jesus’ means.

But I think that’s based on a wrong view of this verse. The view that it’s about recognising the physical body of Jesus.

But if we BAPTISE our kids to show they’re part of God’s covenant family. Then why don’t we let them join in the OTHER sign of being part of God’s covenant? The Lord’s Supper?

It seems to me that the Lord’s Supper is PERFECT for kids because it puts things into PICTURES. Things that are easier to understand. And it’s probably kids who are LESS LIKELY to have issues with other people. LESS LIKELY to be ignoring others!

Maybe it would be good to eat the Lord’s Supper when the kids are in church. And to make sure we explain things so they can understand. (That’s one for you to think about. Maybe you can push me on that AFTER.)

Let’s get back to Corinth. Paul’s heard that there have been CONSEQUENCES from this wrong attitude. Eating and drinking without recognising the body results in judgment. Look at how he describes it in v30.

(1 Cor 11:30 NIV)  “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”

People are weak and sick. And some have EVEN DIED. Because of this wrong attitude towards other Christians.

And then in v31, Paul tells them how they could have avoided all this pain.

(1 Cor 11:31 NIV)  “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.”

That “judged” word is the same word as “to recognise” back up in v29. So Paul’s saying, if people in the church had learned to judge, or recognise, or understand, or discern, who the church was, they wouldn’t have come under GOD’S judgment, or CORRECTION.

Because it’s CORRECTION, or discipline that Paul’s talking about here. Not a final guilty verdict – like the one non-Christians have got coming. That’s the difference he explains in v32.

(1 Cor 11:32 NIV)  “When WE are judged by the Lord, we are being DISCIPLINED so that we will not be CONDEMNED WITH THE WORLD.”

God wants his people to get it right. To understand the special place that church is. And that each member is valuable. And not worth writing off. And he’s prepared to CORRECT us. And DISCIPLINE us until we get it right.

And that’s a good reason to EXAMINE YOURSELF. Who do YOU need to get a new attitude towards?

5. Eating well (33-34)

Paul moves to the end of his argument. A final exhortation. Encouragement to EAT WELL. Verse 33.

(1 Cor 11:33-34 NIV)  “So then, MY BROTHERS, when you come together to eat, WAIT FOR EACH OTHER. {34} If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.”

Church isn’t the time to be satisfying your own desires. It’s OTHERS you should be considerate towards. Wait for them. Recognise them. Value them. Uplift them. Serve them.

This is your family. You are part of the body. Encourage that unity. Call each other BROTHER or SISTER. A hug if it’s appropriate. An open-ness. A generosity.

We are the BODY of Christ. And we need to recognise it.

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