1 Corinthians Chapter 11, Part 2
by Karl Kemp
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We will finish this verse-by-verse study of 1 Corinthians chapter 11 here in Part 2.
(17) [Throughout the rest of this chapter, the apostle deals with the sinful abuse of the Lord's Supper at Corinth. The Lord's Supper, as these verses show, included, or was closely associated with, a communal meal (sometimes referred to as the agape/love feast).] But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. (18) For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. [Compare 1 Cor. 1:10-12; 3:3, 4 with 4:6.] (19) For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved [by God] may have become evident [or, manifest] among you. [To the extent that some of the Corinthian "Christians" were not for real, or were extremely fleshly (cf. 3:1-5), factions/divisions had to manifest in the church at Corinth. I am not suggesting that fleshly Christians are rejected by God, but it is a dangerous place to be, and it certainly leads to factions (divisions) in the church, which is a major problem in our day. We must make it a top priority to rise above fleshiness by walking in/by/after the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis (cf., e.g., Gal. 5:16).] (20) Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper [Many of the Corinthians undoubtedly considered it to be the Lord's Supper, but Paul says that some of them were so far out of order that he did not consider it to be a legitimate observance of the Lord's Supper. As he continued, the apostle dealt with one primary abuse of the Lord's Supper that had surfaced at Corinth. This one abuse is spelled out clearly in verses 21, 22 and 33, 34 (also see verse 29); the apostle was also concerned with this one abuse in the intervening verses (verses 23-32), but it is not nearly so obvious in those verses.], (21) for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. (22) What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing [cf. James 2:6]? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you. [[The problem was that, as 11:21, 22, 33, and 34 show, some of those in the church at Corinth that had an abundant supply were not waiting for, or sharing with, those who had very little, or nothing. (With "takes his own supper first" [verse 21], compare "wait for one another" [verse 33].) Not only were some of the Christians poor, some were slaves (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 7:21, 22; 12:13). While some did not have enough to eat and drink, if anything, some of those with an abundance were drinking too much, enough to become intoxicated, and some were undoubtedly overeating too. The apostle asks, "This is how you celebrate the Lord's Supper? This is how you remember the Lord and His atoning death (11:24, 25). This is how you proclaim His death until He comes (11:26), the very death that saved you and made you part of the family of God, the death that made you one with every other true Christian?"]] (23) For I received from the Lord [The apostle received the gospel, including his teaching on the Lord's Supper, directly from Christ (cf. Gal. 1:11, 12).] that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread [See Matt. 26:20 29; Mark 14:17 25; and Luke 22:14-23.]; (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.' [[I'll quote part of what Gordon D. Fee said here ("First Epistle to the Corinthians" [Eerdmans, 1987], page 550). "The identification of the bread with the body is semitic imagery in its heightened form. (Fee has a footnote here, "Compare 1 Cor. 10:4, 'the rock was Christ,' and Gal. 4:25, 'Hagar is Mount Sinai.' ") ...he means 'this signifies/represents my body.' (Fee has another footnote, "The presence of Jesus with them as he spoke these words would have made any other meaning impossible. Compare Moffatt ["First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians"], page 168.") ... [The view that some actual change took place in the bread] could only have arisen in the church at a much later stage when Greek modes of thinking had rather thoroughly replaced semitic ones."]] (25) In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood [cf. Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 10:16; and Ex. 24:6-8]; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' [On "remembrance," cf. Ex. 12:14; 13:3; and Deut. 16:3.] (26) For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. [See under 1 Cor. 10:16, 17 in the article on 1 Corinthians chapter 10 for a discussion on the meaning of the Lord's Supper.] (27) Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. [[When Paul spoke of eating the bread or drinking the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner in this context, he was undoubtedly thinking of the sinful abuse of the Lord's Supper spelled out in verses 21, 22, 29, 33, and 34. It is also true, however, that if we partake of the Lord's Supper, which commemorates the new covenant established on the basis of the atoning death of the Lamb of God, while violating the terms of the covenant in any way, we are partaking "in an unworthy manner." Compare Heb. 10:29. The problem would not be solved by refraining from partaking of the Lord's Supper, nor did Paul suggest that option. What we must do is ask for forgiveness and repent of any, and all, violations of our covenant with God. There is no other acceptable answer for unresolved sin.
I'll include two excerpts from what John MacArthur said under these verses ("1 Corinthians," pages 266, 269). "Jesus transformed the Passover meal into the celebration of the infinitely greater deliverance He came to bring, of which the Passover was only a foreshadow. When we eat His body and drink His blood [MacArthur does not believe that the elements actually become His body and His blood], we remember the spiritual and eternal redemption that He bought with the sacrifice of that body and the offering of that blood. The Passover celebrated the temporary, physical deliverance of the Old Covenant. [There was, of course, a very important spiritual dimension of the old covenant too.] The Lord's Supper celebrates the permanent and spiritual deliverance of the New. 'This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood' (Luke 22:20). The Lord's Supper reminds us of the cross of Jesus Christ" (page 266).
"[The Lord's Supper] was a genuine meal, where the church congregated to eat the 'love feast,' a meal followed by the Communion. The Communion was connected to this supper in the Corinthian church, but abuses were obscuring its divine purpose and destroying its sanctity. In the early church the love feast and Communion customarily were held together, but abuses such as those in Corinth eventually forced the two to be separated in order to protect the Communion. The love feast soon disappeared altogether" (page 269). "Eventually, so many problems accompanied these [agape] feasts that at the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397), they were strictly forbidden" (Daniel R. Mitchell, "1 Corinthians," "Liberty Bible Commentary, New Testament" [Old-Time Gospel Hour, 1982], page 448).]] (28) But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. [Although Paul was dealing with one particular sin in this context, these words (like the words of verse 27) fit well with the fuller sense of examining ourselves to make sure we are living in faithfulness to the new covenant in every way. We should not wait for the Lord's Supper to examine ourselves and to make things right (cf. 2 Cor. 13:5); however, just before partaking of the Lord's Supper is a very appropriate time to examine ourselves.] (29) For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly. [[Instead of "not judge [the body] rightly," we could translate "not discerning the body." (The KJV and NKJV have, "not discerning the Lord's body.") As we have discussed, Paul was zeroing in on the abuse of the Lord's Supper at Corinth. "The body" here refers to the body of Christ, the church. (First Corinthians 10:16, 17 are an important cross-reference; these verses demonstrate that those who share in the Lamb of God and His sacrificial death become/are "one body"; also see 1 Cor. 12:13; Col. 1:18.) To not judge (rightly/discern) the Lord's body is comparable with "[despising] the church of God" (1 Cor. 11:22). I'll quote a sentence from Fee here ("1 Corinthians," page 559). "The 'unworthy' eating of verse 27 that brings judgment is now described as eating 'without discerning the body,' meaning the church (as in 10:16-17; this, after all, is the point of the whole section)."
In 1 Cor. 11:30-32 Paul expanded on what he meant by "judgment" here in 11:29. A graphic illustration of taking words out of context and misunderstanding the Scriptures (there are many such interpretations around the body of Christ, very often coming from sincere Christians) is provided by those who understand this verse to teach that the sicknesses at Corinth resulted from their not recognizing that healing had been provided for them in the atoning death of the Lamb of God. I believe it is true that healing is provided in the atonement (see the chapter dealing with this topic in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ"), but that is not what they needed to hear at Corinth to solve the sickness problems mentioned in verses 30-32. THEY NEEDED TO REPENT, as this passage clearly shows. Many today are praying (standing in faith for healing) in cases where repentance is required.]] (30) For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. [[That is, because of their sin (and as I mentioned, Paul was zeroing in on their sin of abusing the Lord's Supper [not that that was the only sin, or the greatest sin, that was taking place among the Christians at Corinth]), some judgment had already fallen on the Corinthians, with some even experiencing premature death (i.e., they "sleep"). As Paul will go on to show, God's motive in sending/allowing such judgments was/is to help motivate those in sin to repent. Compare 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:20. For more on God's judging His people, see John 5:14; Luke 13:1-5; and see the chapter titled "A Study to Show that Under the Old Covenant Sickness Was Typically Considered To Be Part of the Punishment/Penalty/Chastisement for Sin" in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin.") It doesn't seem (in the context of 1 Cor. 11:27-32) that Paul considered those Christians who had died a premature death at Corinth by God's judgment to be in the category of those that had lost their salvation, though for some of them this could have been the case - God is the Judge. It is also possible that some who had died by God's judgment at Corinth had never become born-again Christians.]] (31) But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. [For us to judge ourselves rightly, which goes with examining ourselves (cf. verse 28), we must not only ask for forgiveness, we must also repent and do what is required to make things right.] (32) But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord [cf. Heb. 12:5-13] so that we will not be condemned along with the world [at the final judgment]. [The idea here (and in 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:20; and Heb. 12:5-13) is that God's discipline/judgment is designed to bring us to repentance, righteousness, and holiness (cf. Rev. 3:19). There is no guarantee, however, that those in sin will repent when disciplined/judged; some, instead of repenting, get bitter and angry with God and go deeper into sin and rebellion.] (33) So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat [at the meal associated with the Lord's Supper], wait for one another. (34) If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home [That is, if some say they are too hungry to "wait" for the others at the meal associated with the Lord's Supper (such persons would be associated with those who have plenty), let them eat at home.], so that you will not come together for judgment. [As discussed above, some Corinthian Christians had already experienced judgment because of their abuse of the Lord's Supper (and other sins). These last two verses, along with 1 Cor. 11:20-22, confirm that the sin Paul was dealing with in this passage was their sin against the body of Christ by disregarding and shaming some of the members of this body at the Lord's Supper.] And the remaining matters I shall arrange when I come."
May God's will be accomplished through this article and His people be edified!
© Copyright by Karl Kemp
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