In 1 Cor. 11.17-34 Paul continues to write to the church in Corinth regarding certain aspects of their gatherings as a church. In these verses Paul addresses the problems the church is having with the Lord’s Supper. In the first century meals were often a time for people to bolster their pride and position in society. The rich did not eat with the poor; the Jews did not eat with Gentiles. These cultural practices had carried over into the Lord’s Supper in the Corinthian church. People in the church were gorging themselves on food and drink while the poor were being humiliated and receiving nothing. While we, thankfully, do not struggle with these extreme issues today, we do easily lose sight of the significance and importance of the Lord’s Supper because it is something we do so frequently. In 1 Cor. 11.17-34 Paul reminds us about the significance of the Lord’s Supper as we see the Supper’s attributes and our required attitude.
- The Supper’s Attributes (vv. 17-26)
- The Supper Unifies (vv. 17-19). Communion is meant to be a unifying act of the church (1 Cor. 10.17). The church in Corinth was using it to bolster divisions in their ranks. In the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of the fact that we are united with each other in the Lord. As we do this together in faith it also helps to solidify our fellowship as a church.
- The Supper Humbles (vv. 20-22). The Corinthians were using the Supper to act in prideful ways and humiliate the poor. The Supper is meant to humble us by leveling us all before the cross. We are all sinners in need of Jesus’ sacrifice.
- The Supper Reminds (vv. 23-25). Paul recounts Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper as something that is to be done in remembrance of Jesus’ work for us. We remember, not just his death in history, but the salvation that is freely given to us. The Supper is a sign of the new covenant which points us to the wonderful promises God has made to us in Jesus.
- The Supper Declares (vv. 26). Paul tells us that in taking the Lord’s Supper we declare Christ’s death. As we take communion together, we proclaim the glories of our salvation to each other, thus encouraging each other in the Gospel.
- The Supper Anticipates (v. 26). We proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. The Lord’s Supper also helps us to look ahead to the great wedding supper of the Lamb that awaits all who trust in Jesus.
- Our Attitude (vv. 28-34). Paul ends this section by encouraging us to come to the Lord’s Supper with an attitude of self-examination. Some in the Corinthian church had even died because of this! Paul is not saying that if we sin during the week, and we take communion, then we might be judged. Paul is warning against taking part in communion in an unworthy manner. However, the unworthy manner Paul describes is a prideful and arrogant attitude. We are meant to come to communion as sinners who are mindful of our need for God’s grace in Christ. We are meant to come in poverty of spirit, not pride and arrogance.
May the Holy Spirit use this passage in the life of our church as we continue to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together.
Here are the discussion questions and order of service from Sunday: 1 Cor. 11.17-34 Notes.
-Pastor Nathan Hogan