2020-11-15 – 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 – When We Gather Together
2020-11-15 – 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 – When We Gather Together
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us today.
We are going through the letter-book, or sometimes called the Pauline epistles of First Corinthians. [SLIDE] This graphic shows Paul’s letters on the right side, and the dates on the left. This First Corinthians letter was written by Paul around 54 AD, which is about 20 years after Jesus was crucified.
This letter was really a letter of correction. I could imagine this was not an easy letter for Paul to write. Nobody really likes to write or deliver even loving correction. I would also bet it was difficult for the Corinth believers to read and apply as well. They probably felt sad that apostle Paul, who was their spiritual father, was effectively scolding them and telling them to correct their ways. There is a lot for us to learn and head in this letter and that is why we are going through it together. May it make a positive difference for us going forward.
Please turn now to 1 Corinthians 11:17, page 1018 in your pew Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God. Prayer..
Today’s sermon topic is entitled When We Gather Together. And the subject is, what we refer to as the Lord’s Supper or Communion. Again, this is a letter of correction, and in that the Apostle Paul has much to say about this subject.
17 Now in giving this instruction I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For to begin with, I hear that when you come together as a church there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.
19 Indeed, it is necessary that there be factions among you, so that those who are approved may be recognized among you. 20 When you come together, then it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For at the meal, each one eats his own supper. So one person is hungry while another gets drunk!
22 Don’t you have homes in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I praise you? I do not praise you in this matter!
So apparently there was some in the church who had much, and they were gathering with their cronies separately and keeping the food for themselves. And there were others, probably the poor or maybe even slaves, and they had little or nothing. There was a dividing of the church body between the haves and the have-nots, and that was right before their observance of the Lord’s Supper. So ironically and sadly that they were taking communion but not “in communion” with one another.
Now there is nothing wrong with people coming together in church as affinity groups. It is a good thing when people come together with like interests. Paul is not saying we shouldn’t do that. But we shouldn’t do that to the point that causes significant division with the others in the church body. Even in this church, although there is much love and compassion, it is also an ongoing challenge to maintain an environment that allows for people of like interests to get together and support each other without it also becoming a divisive issue.
Even when we have new Christian visitors, when they see the different gatherings of people, it shows them we are happily sharing life with each other and we love one another. However, at the same time it might make the visitors and even members sometimes feel like outsiders. The only way we can battle that is to be intentional. We need to keep our eyes and hearts open to others, to make sure they don’t feel alone in the crowd or ostracized. It should be every member’s goal instead to make folks feel welcomed and appreciated. I hope you with me in this?
In our text today, some were feeling ostracized, some were feeling humiliated and somehow Paul got wind of it and felt it needed to be corrected. Even at the end of their church supper or Pot-Luck, as they prepared to observe the Lord’s Supper, they apparently remained in their different groups, and it presented an environment that was not welcoming or caring for some of the other participants. It seems obvious that they didn’t take the Lord’s Supper seriously. Likewise, it would be easy for us too, to slip into that way of thinking. The Lord’s Supper observance could easily become a meaningless ritualistic exercise, and that is not God’s will.
The Jewish nation at that time was full of holidays and rituals and laws that lost their true meaning and purpose. Both in the old Testament Isaiah 1:12 and Revelation 2, God says that rituals don’t mean anything if your heart isn’t in it. He says, “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place”. God wants your heart people, I hope you realize that. When we observe the Lord’s Supper it isn’t intended to be just a religious obligation or exercise. It is supposed to mean something to you.
This reminds me of a time while I was a young soldier at an Army Leadership School during the morning flag raising ceremony. My buddy and I were at the other end of the parade field when somebody accidently played Taps when they should have played Revelry as the flag was going up. I looked at my buddy and kind of snickered. Just then an old Sergeant Major seemed to leap out of one of the adjacent buildings and he ran right up to us and gave us a virtual whiplashing. He said how dare we desecrate the patriotic event by laughing. He was right, and I was wrong. I never again took that ceremony for granted again, even today. And that is what the Apostle Paul is trying to convey here in our text. God is watching, and He cares that you care. So God, and now Paul wants us to take the observance of the Lord’s Supper to heart. Paul continues at verse 23:
[SLIDE] 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
As you might know, Paul was chosen to be an apostle by Jesus after He ascended into heaven. At the time Paul was actually overtly going after Christians to persecute them for going against the authority of the Jewish Synagogue leaders. Then one day as Paul was on the road to Damascus to arrest Christians, Jesus appeared to him personally and made him realize the error of his ways. Paul who was called Saul at the time was chosen to be an Apostle of Jesus. As it says in our verse 23 here, that Paul “received from the Lord” these instructions.
And these are the same instructions Jesus gave to His Disciples during that Last Supper event. In my Bible they are red-lettered, meaning they were the words spoken to Paul by Jesus. And these are the same words we use now in our own observance of the Lord’s Supper every first Sunday of the month.
In this text, Paul takes us back to the beginning. The first “Lord’s Supper” took place while Jesus was being betrayed by Judas Iscariot. They had just finished celebrating the traditional Passover meal, when Jesus officially changed the meaning of that celebration that the Israelites had been observing for a thousand years. Before it was in recognition of when Lamb’s blood was painted over the doors of the Israelites homes in Egypt, which allowed for their first-born sons to escape the final tenth plague of death as they were preparing to leave Egypt. Now Jesus was preparing to become that Lamb. And the Lambs blood will come from the Lamb of God himself, and in doing so we are now spared from an eternal death. That Passover is what they were observing that day, but now it has a whole new meaning for them and for us.
In verse 25 Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood”. The word covenant is akin to the word contract in our day. This event marked the day when the Mosaic covenant (or contract) was put away, and now we as Christians have a new covenant in Christ. And it was certified with blood, just like most all contracts previously had to be certified. It was also exactly the way that Jesus said before hand that it had to be. [SLIDE] In written in John 6, early in His ministry, Jesus told His disciples, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
So this Lord’s supper construct was foretold by Jesus exactly how it was eventually executed at that Passover Last Supper Lord’s Supper service. I love how God’s word is so true and faithful. We can trust God’s holy word, Amen?
Even the idea of a “new covenant” was foretold hundreds of years before by the profit Jeremiah. [SLIDE] In Jeremiah 31:31 it says, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah– not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people…For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
So Jeremiah, a profit in the Old Testament, foretold about a new covenant that was instituted at that first Lord’s Supper table by Jesus. I hope you realize that all throughout the New and Old testament you will find Jesus mentioned. Even as far back as the Genesis 2 & 3 at the fall of man. Satan had convinced Eve and Adam to eat from the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Afterwards they hid from God in the Garden. God pointed out their sin, but then because of His compassion, mercy and love, He clothed them with the skin of an animal. God sacrificed that animal for man’s sin. That too was the image of the coming Savior and Messiah Jesus. He is the Sacrificial Lamb that covered our sin, we are clothed now in His righteousness. You can trust God’s word brothers and sisters. It was right and true then, and it is right and true for us now. Amen? Paul continues:
27 So, then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself; in this way let him eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep. 31 If we were properly judging ourselves, we would not be judged, 32 but when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined, so that we may not be condemned with the world.
[SLIDE] 33 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, welcome one another. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you gather together you will not come under judgment. I will give instructions about the other matters whenever I come.
Paul says, whoever participates in an unworthy manner will be found guilty. He is not saying though that we need to be sinless or worthy in our own person, because we will never be worthy at our own accord. That’s where God’s wonderful grace and mercy comes in. The only way we can be found worthy is by being clothed in Christ’s righteousness. God looks now upon us as worthy because of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. So in this text, Paul is saying that you must first be saved by Christ, and then as we partake in the Lord’s Supper we need to have a grateful and humble heart. We need recognize again God’s Great Commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.. and you shall love your neighbor as yourself”.
In our text this morning we see that Paul felt the need to write to these Corinthian believers, telling them that the way they observed the Lord’s Supper was not appropriate. The way they were celebrating was contrary to the intent of what the Lord’s supper was supposed to be all about. Instead of it being a selfless and sacrificial observance, they made a mockery of it by demonstrating instead their one-upmanship and divisions within the church. We must protect our church so as we don’t fall into that that same trap. We need to make sure our observance here is heartfelt and humble, Amen?
Paul and Jesus asks of us, that when we participate in the Lord’s Supper observance, we are to remember again Christ’s death and resurrection. Additionally, this event is also designed to be a reminder about what is yet to come.. “to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”, that is still in our future. As Christians we have been observing this for more than 2000 years now and that is a good thing indeed. We look forward to Christ’s return, and we look forward to meeting Him in the clouds one day, being raptured or taken away to be with Him in heaven. This is the Good News Gospel brothers and sisters. This is God’s gift of truth that we can bank on. Jesus said “I am THE truth, I am THE life”. No one comes to the Father except through Him. I believe that and I hope you do too.
Going forward, as we partake in Communion. Paul wrote in verse 28, “Let a person examine himself”. We need to examine what is in our hearts? What is God convicting us of. What is He bringing into the light. What we are doing that is against God’s word and will. As a believer you are expected to know what the Bible says about sin. When we observe the Lord’s Supper we should be asking for His forgiveness, and asking God to help us repent of our sins. When we do this, then we are cleansing our hearts in preparation for receiving the Lord’s Supper.
That’s why David prayed that prayer in Psalm 139 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the way everlasting.” We each must allow God to turn His light on our character and reveal the sin in our lives, so that we might have the opportunity to repent and ask Him for forgiveness. Ask God to help you live a life that you can be happy with. Like David, we should allow God to point out our sin and then provide a way for you to escape your sin.
Also, as Paul points out in these verses, we need to be in communion as we take communion. This is our church family that God has blessed us with. In this world today, it would be very easy for us to keep our blinders on as we live out our Christian life. However, when we come together in this church, God especially wants us to make this relationship we have with each other and with Him to be real, and not superficial. Be mindful of each other and be an encourager. That is God’s will.
In closing today, I pray you realize that the Lord’s Supper is intended to be an observation of what we know as the most selfless act of love in all history. So When We Gather Together each Sunday going forward with our beautiful church family, let us examine our self, ask for forgiveness, remember what Jesus Christ did for us on the Cross at Calvary, and reflect upon the reality that God loves you so brothers and sisters, and He always will. May you believe it, May you live it, and may you show it. Amen?
“A FRIENDLY CHURCH IN A FRIENDLY TOWN”