Sometimes we get the idea that God’s people should never have problems, that they should always get along, and that there will always be harmony. Anyone who thinks this cannot have read Paul’s letters to God’s people at Corinth. It is hard to imagine a group of Christians who could have so many problems including not getting along!
But they were still God’s people! In the opening verses, Paul referred to them as “the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2 NET). Just because they had problems did not negate who they were in Christ.
Unity was a big problem in this group of Christians. This is introduced in the first chapter and continues throughout the letter. But this lack of unity was really seen when they came together to remember Jesus’ death through the Lord’s Supper.
It would be difficult to imagine the scene; it seems to have been rather chaotic. Our assemblies to worship God and remember all that Jesus has done for us should be a time when we are built-up and united as the family of God. Paul said when the Christians in Corinth got together, “you come together not for the better but for the worse” (1 Corinthians 11:17). Here is how Paul described it.
“Now when you come together at the same place, you are not really eating the Lord’s Supper. For when it is time to eat, everyone proceeds with his own supper. One is hungry and another becomes drunk” (1 Corinthians 11:20-21).
It would appear that everyone brought his own Lord’s Supper. Some brought a lot and ate and drank to excess. Others had nothing and were left out. They were eating, but Paul said it wasn’t the Lord’s Supper – it was their own supper! And it was making the problems in Corinth worse and not better.
The solution: get back to the basics. He reminded them of Jesus taking the unleavened bread of the Passover and the cup, the fruit of the vine, giving thanks, and giving it to each of them. They were to continue to do this to remember him. Paul stressed this point: “For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). It wasn’t to be about them. It was about Jesus. It was a weekly proclamation of Jesus’ death and resurrection “until he comes”. (The resurrection isn’t mentioned but it has to be there – we could not look forward to his coming if he had not resurrected from the dead!)
When they ate, each person needed to examine themselves. They needed to be sure that they had “careful regard for the body” (1 Corinthians 11:29). Yes, they needed to remember Jesus’ body and blood which the bread and cup represented. But isn’t there more to this? They also needed to remember the body of Christ of which they were a part. That was what the Corinthians were not doing and causing the problems!
Our eating the Lord’s Supper is to be something we do together as a group of Christians. “So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another” (1 Corinthians 11:33). By doing this together they were also proclaiming their unity in Christ.
As we come together on Sunday to remember Jesus, keep in mind all that he did for us, all he is doing for us, and also remember each other. We, together, are the body of Christ because of him. It really is all about Jesus.
Readings for next week:
11 September – 1 Corinthians 6
12 September – 1 Corinthians 7
13 September – 1 Corinthians 8-9
14 September – 1 Corinthians 10
15 September – 1 Corinthians 11