Until He Comes
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Theme: The Lord’s Supper.
This week’s lessons remind us of the privilege and responsibility of partaking in Communion.
One of the wonderful things about the sacraments and ordinances of the Christian Church is that where they’re practiced properly, they acknowledge the equality of all men and women before God, that none of us comes with any special privilege, but rather we all come as sinners in need of the grace of God and we must come equally and be received equally on the basis of what Christ has done. That is not true in the ordinances of this world. On the contrary, most of the ceremonies of this world take great care to distinguish among people so that those who are important get the first place, and those who are less important get a somewhat lesser place, and so on down the line until you get to people who are not even welcomed. But it is not like that in the Christian Church.
There is the ceremony or ordinance of marriage, for example. Where the wedding service is properly conducted, it is a testimony to the fact that the high and the low are all united in wedlock in the same way, with the same vows, with the same opportunities in the sight of God. It is true that sometimes people do strange things to try to make their weddings unique. I read about a couple that was married while skydiving. It was a very short service. I read about another couple that was married in a burning house. The reason for that was that the woman was a fire fighter. She thought it would be appropriate to be married in a house that was burning down around her. They set it on fire and the ceremony began. They had just a few minutes to conduct it before the rest of the team came and put it out. We have all kinds of differences humanly speaking. But in a Christian church when a man and a woman are married before a minister in the sight of God, they exchange established traditional vows. The same words are spoken whether the couple is wealthy or poor, famous or utterly unknown. I suppose of all the places in the world where that is most evident is in England, where the most splendid weddings take place. There will be the wedding of a king or a queen in Westminster Abbey with all of the trappings, yet the words that are used in that service are the same words said anywhere else in the British Isles.
That is also true of the Lord’s Supper, a subject addressed in 1 Corinthians 11. What Paul has chiefly in mind are abuses of the Lord’s Supper that had taken place in Corinth. In the Corinthian church, the Lord’s Supper had degenerated into a banquet with very few spiritual overtones. This may have begun because so many of the early Christians were slaves and did not have a great deal of free time. So when they did have time, they tried to make the most of their Christian fellowship. They would bring their food together and eat it while they were observing whatever was happening in the service. Or, perhaps this happened because it had also been a custom in the Christian church in the early days to observe the Lord’s Supper in connection with what was described as a love feast, a big Christian fellowship dinner where, as part of the dinner, they would also observe the Lord’s Supper.
There was nothing wrong with that except for the fact that the Christians were coming together more for the food than for either the fellowship or the spiritual blessing. Some would come with their dinners, and because they had a lot of money, they would eat a great big meal. Others, because they had very little money would come with very little or perhaps with nothing at all. So, the whole thing became distorted in that way. Some were indulging themselves. Paul says some were even getting drunk at the Communion service. Others just sat there and really did not participate in the meal at all.
What is unique about Christian sacraments and ceremonies when they are properly practiced?
What abuses were occurring in the Corinthian church regarding the Lord’s Supper?