- Sermon Notes
The Supper of the Lord
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Continuing now in our study through 1 Corinthians, we have to remember that this is a letter of correction. There were many immaturities in that church because, when they came to the Lord, they came out of the city of Corinth; a city that was the center of immorality in the Roman Empire.
You could only imagine what a huge challenge it was to bring maturity to a church that came out of that environment. The point could be applied to us as well. When a person comes to faith in Christ, they come out of the world and it’s very common to bring part of the world with them; worldly perspectives, worldly attitudes, and worldly habits. A person doesn’t become mature in their faith all in one day, it comes from steadfastly receiving God’s Word day by day; it comes from renewing the thoughts of your mind.
But that’s a bigger challenge for some than for others. Imagine a person coming to faith because they were raised in a Christian home and then came to the place where they realized they needed to make a personal decision to receive forgiveness of sin. But they were raised in a Christian home and they just need to keep walking on that road to maturity.
Imagine another person who comes to faith out of a Jewish home. Their eyes are opened and they begin to see that Jesus is the Messiah and the fulfillment of everything they read in the Old Testament. It’s a wonderful transition as their perspective changes in the beautiful discovery of seeing Christ in all the Jewish feasts and in the Law of Moses.
But then imagine a person coming to faith out of the city of Corinth, the “Amsterdam of the ancient world.” Immorality was part of the everyday culture. In those days, it was common to have wild, riotous banquets in honor of one of the pagan gods
The people coming to faith out of that city would be a huge challenge for Paul. Imagine how much of their perspective would need to change.
One of the issues Paul corrects is their perspective on the Lord’s Supper. The Lord wanted the church to regularly partake of the bread and the cup of the Lord in remembrance of His death and resurrection and all that He has done for us through the body and blood of God’s Son.
The first Lord’s Supper was the Passover meal Jesus had with His disciples on the night He was betrayed. It was an actual supper, it was really a dinner they shared together. When the early church took communion, it was combined with a meal, later called an ‘agape’ or love feast. It would be like a modern potluck where everyone brought something. And that’s where the problems began.
Unfortunately, in the church at Corinth, their communion ‘love-feasts’ deteriorated into merely an occasion for eating and drinking and ostentatious displays by the wealthier members of the community. And if you can believe it, some would bring expensive wines and get drunk; at a church potluck! While taking communion!
Paul brings correction. Their perspective needs to change. They need maturity in their faith.
I. Remember what God has Done
- Paul said that the point of taking the Lord’s Supper together was to remember the Lord’s death until He comes. In other words, don’t take for granted what God has done, remember by taking the bread and cup that represents His body and blood.
- Unfortunately, for many, this has become religious.
- Jesus regularly confronted the Jewish leaders because their religion had no meaning; they did religious things simply for the appearance of the thing;
their heart wasn’t in it.
Matthew 23:5, 14, 16, “They do all their deeds for show… for pretense they make long prayers… they are blind guides.”
Isaiah 29:13, Then the Lord said, “This people draw near with their words and honor Me with lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote…”
- The Corinthian church had the opposite problem, their hearts weren’t right either, but they had no reverence or respect at all and some were even getting drunk.
A. Honor one another
- Verse 21 – in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
- Verse 22 – Do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing?
- The wealthy would bring better food. Maybe they brought steak or prime rib and the poor would bring mashed potatoes or a few dinner rolls, so the wealthy insisted on going through first leaving the cheaper things for the poor.
- Can you imagine what Jesus would have a say about this?
- If you love God, then you will have love for your neighbor.
Illus - When the Roman Empire was breaking down, the church grew exponentially because the people saw in the church those qualities that they desired for themselves.
Illus - Here at our church, we love to eat together, but we make a special effort to make everything within reach. In Bible College, I visited a church that sold doughnuts, but I couldn’t afford it. Ours are by donation.
Illus- Our youth group has a dinner they call “Friends- Giving” everything you have must be served by someone else.
B. Eat of the Bread of Life
- The Passover meal was a picture of Jesus Christ. There were bitter herbs, dipped in salt water, there were four glasses of wine each representing a promise of God, the third was called the “Cup of Redemption.” It represented the blood of a lamb.
- There were three matzos, unleavened wafers of bread, pierced and striped during baking, these are held in a tash, a square white bag with three sections. The middle matzo of bread was broken, half was then hidden, then at the end of the meal, found by a child and brought back to the table, shared by everyone.
- Also, there was a lamb that must be eaten in its entirety, anything not eaten was to be burned with fire by morning. Which gives great significance to the words of John the Baptist.
John 1:29, He saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
- An interesting part of Passover was that they were to select an unblemished lamb on the 10th day of the month and bring it into their homes.
- In other words, the lamb was to become precious to the family. When you bring an animal into your home, certainly the family will grow close to it.
Illus - At one point in raising our kids, we had something like 17 various animals living in our house. One of Chelsea’s parakeets died and we tried to get another one just like it hoping she wouldn’t notice… she did. Our kids grew so close to the animals that at one point when we got two steers, we had to call them Barbecue and Beef.
- When they brought the lamb into their home and became close to it, the sacrifice of that lamb meant even more to them. What a beautiful picture.
- In the same way we are to become close to the Lamb of God so that His sacrifice means even more to us.
C. Drink of the cup in His blood
- The third cup of the Passover was called the cup of redemption and symbolized the blood of the Passover lamb. At the first Passover, the blood of the lamb was applied to the doorposts and lentil of the home and then entering through the blood, they were saved.
- Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, do this in remembrance of Me.”
- It’s not enough that the blood of Christ was poured out that day on Calvary, that blood must be applied to your life, it is God’s provision for the forgiveness of sin.
Illus - What if someone didn’t agree? Could they post a list of good works on the doorpost instead? Could someone leave a list of contributions to charity? Could someone leave money or jewelry on the doorpost of their house?
Acts 4:12, There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.
1 John 1:7, If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
- That’s beautiful, no matter what sin you have in your life, God has made a way, through the blood of Christ, for your sins to be completely forgiven.
- But you have to apply the blood of that Lamb to your life. That’s why the cup of the Lord is such an important symbol, because it says that we need more than just acknowledging that there is a God, we must receive His offer - by faith, not by feelings.
Illus - Feelings will let you down. Do you always feel saved? When you’re driving on the highway and someone cuts you off, do you feel saved?
Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
Illus - You have to open the door of your heart. He wants to come in and have a personal relationship with you. You can’t watch someone else’s relationship to God and have them experience God for you. That’s like watching Jesus knock on the door across the street and then you watch through the window as they have dinner together.
II. The Lamb of God is Worthy of Honor
- Paul wants to change their perspective so they will bring honor when they eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord. It’s a matter of the heart.
- When you consider what this represents, the bread and the cup of the Lord certainly deserve our respect and our honor.
Illus - The flag of the United States is a symbol and because of the love we have for our country, we give respect to that symbol. We stand and place our hand over our heart. The Star-Spangled Banner is moving because of what it represents.
A. Eat and drink in a worthy manner
- Paul said, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.”
- Many people have misunderstood and misapplied those words. If words are misunderstood and misapplied it leads to tragic error.
- For example, when Jesus said, “This is my body,” it wasn’t literally His body. However, the Catholic Church believes that it is literally His body and blood. Lutherans believe that the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially in, with, and under the bread and the wine so that it is at the same time His body and also bread; His blood and also wine.
- What does it mean to eat or drink in an unworthy manner? It means to eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord and not recognize the value of the sacrifice of His body and the pouring out of His blood.
- If you just go through the motions, then your heart is far from God. He’s worth more than that.
- If you come to God’s provision for forgiveness, but refuse to partake of that forgiveness, then sin is added to the cross for which He died. If we do not partake of God’s forgiveness, we are dishonoring the blood that paid the price for that forgiveness.
- This is also been misunderstood. Some take this to mean that a person must make himself worthy enough to take communion. But that misses the whole point; a sinner is the very one who needs the Lord’s Supper.
- What it means is that we should examine our heart to be certain that we are giving honor to God for what He has done for us through the body and blood of Christ.
- Paul went on to say that the Lord disciplines or brings correction to those whose hearts are far from Him.
Illus – If a youth had contempt or disrespect, not showing appreciation for all his parents had done for him, saying, “Whatever..” Wouldn’t correction come next?
- This about the heart. It’s always been about the heart.
Illus – Keith Green wrote a song that says it beautifully. “My eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold, Oh, I know how I ought to be; alive to You and dead to me. What can be done for an old heart like mine? Soften it up with oil and wine. The oil is You, Your Spirit of love, please wash me anew in the wine of your blood.
1 Corinthians 11:17-34 NASB
17 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. 19 For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. 20 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper, 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? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.