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.
Yesterday we saw that the Corinthian Christians were approaching the Lord’s Supper selfishly instead of reverently. The other problem was that the Corinthians were actually producing divisions among themselves in the very midst of the observance that was meant to indicate their unity in Christ. You only have to go back one chapter to 1 Corinthians 10 where Paul was speaking of the Lord’s Supper, and you find him stressing the idea of unity. Paul says there, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body for we all partake of the one loaf.” He said the very way in which they were in the habit of observing the Lord’s Supper, that is, taking one loaf of bread, breaking it, and distributing it among the many who were there, indicates that the Church of Jesus Christ is one.
And yet, here they were in their particular observance of this, denying the unity of the body by creating the very kind of schisms that he had been deploring earlier in this letter. Apparently the church had divided into sects at Corinth. There was a sect that centered around the name of Apollos and other members who centered on the name of Peter. Then there were the people who were of Paul, and people who thought that they were more spiritual than anybody else because they considered themselves to be of Christ’s party. In addition to all of that, there were the wealthy, and there were those who were not wealthy.
As Paul begins to write about this, he does not disguise his displeasure. Earlier in this chapter he had begun to talk about worship, and whether women should worship with their heads covered. Then, after beginning with a word of praise he comes to this point where he has no praise for them at all. And he begins to talk about all the things that they have done. Paul counters by going back to remind them of that which they certainly knew, the words that first began the Lord’s Supper. Paul reminds them about those words by pointing out that those words that he had delivered to them are exactly the words that had been delivered to him, words that came from the Lord himself. He then goes on to explain how before the Lord was betrayed that night, he gathered together with his disciples. He took bread, and he broke it. As he broke it, he said, “This is my body, which is for you.” He told them to do that in remembrance of him. Then he took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Then, at the end of his summation, Paul said, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
These verses contain three time aspects. First there is a reference to the past because Paul says, quoting the Lord Jesus Christ, that we are to do this in remembrance of Christ. Then there is the future element because, as Paul says, as often as you do this, “you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (v. 26). So, we are looking for Christ’s second coming, which is future. And because we are here in the middle between that which Jesus did at his first coming, and what he is going to do at his second coming, we are to live for him. And that means there is a present element to the Communion service chiefly in the fact that we are to examine our hearts in order that we might not eat or drink unworthily, but might begin to grow in grace, which is the reason the Lord Jesus Christ instituted the sacrament.
When we look to the past, we look to Christ’s death. And we look to that death not simply as a tragedy, but rather, as the sacrifice that Jesus made for our sins – the sacrifice that had been planned from before the foundation of the world. As far back as we can think, and farther than that in the mind of God, before this world began, God set Jesus Christ aside to be our Savior by his death on the cross. It was necessary that he die, the innocent for the guilty. If we look to that, we are looking then to that which is the focal point of all history, namely, the cross of Jesus Christ.
How did the Corinthians cause disunity in the way they approached the Lord’s Supper?
What three time aspects are contained in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26?
Read the following accounts of the Last Supper: Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-38; John 13:1-38. How do these accounts differ from what was occurring in the Corinthian church?