The Supper of the Lord
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
August 8, 2015
First Corinthians Chapter 11, beginning in verse 17 this morning.
The title is The Supper of the Lord.
All right, getting back to our study in First Corinthians--remember now? It is the letter of correction because there's a lot of immaturities in the church. Now, why are there so many immaturities in that church in particular? The reason for that is because they came to Christ out of the city of Corinth, and that's very important to understand because Corinth was the center of immorality in the Roman Empire. You can imagine what a huge challenge it would be for Paul to take a church like that and to draw it into maturity. Now, I think the point could be applied to us as well.
See, when a person comes to faith in Christ, they come out of the world. It's very common to bring some of the world with them in their faith in Christ. They bring some of their worldly perspective. They bring some of their worldly attitudes, some of their worldly thoughts and those are the very thing that God wants to transform in us so that we move from worldly perspective to Godly perspective. So that we move from worldly character and attitude to Godly character. But it's a bigger challenge for some than others. You see, the process of transformation, the process of growing into maturity is that God, by his holy spirit, takes his word, and verse by verse, chapter by chapter, presses that root, presses that tree into our heart and soul, so that we are renewed in our mind, renewed in our heart, renewed in our thinking. That is a bigger challenge for some than for others.
Imagine a person who's raised in a Christian home. His parents are Christian. At one point he comes to the realization that this faith needs to be his own faith, and so he asks Christ into his heart, receiving the forgiveness of his sin, but his parents are Christian, so he just needs to continue walking on that road toward maturity.
Let's take another guy who was raised in a Jewish home. He has Jewish parents, and one day his eyes are opened and he begins to understand and realize that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, and He is the fulfillment of everything he's read in the Old Testament. So what happens is that there’s this wonderful transition as his perspective changes in this beautiful discovery of seeing Christ Jesus in all of the Jewish feasts and the Law of Moses, but it's a beautiful transition.
Imagine another person who comes to faith out of the city of Corinth, the Amsterdam of the ancient world. Immorality was part of the everyday culture. His parents weren't Christian. His parents weren't Jewish. His parents were immoral, and everything around him was immoral. Can you imagine coming to faith in Christ out of that environment? Now the reason I say that is because I think we live in a time and a culture very much like Corinth. It's all around us. We live in the culture of it, and I say that because it helps us to understand how much transformation is required. How much that God wants to do to bring us from immaturity to maturity. There's so much.
I. Remember what God has Done
Now, he addresses many of the issues within these almost 11 chapters. But here, he gets to one of the issues to change their perspective on the Lord's Supper, what we would call Communion. Is this important? Yes, it is, because the Lord wanted the church to regularly partake of the bread and the cup of the Lord to remember his death. Always remember, always remember. Never take it for granted. Always appreciate afresh and anew. Don't let your faith grow old. Don't become religious. Don't let just your heart be far from it. Honor the Lord. Remember all that he's done for us through the body and the blood of the Son of the Living God.
Now, the very first Lord's Supper was the Passover meal that Jesus had with his disciples on the night on which he was betrayed. It was an actual supper. It was a real dinner. It was an actual meal they shared together. So when the early church took communion, they combined it with the meal. They actually had a full meal when they came to taking communion. They called it later the Agape Feast or Love Feast, which I think is a way better name than pot luck. You know, because it was like a pot luck. What does the word "pot luck" mean? Look in the pot and hope you have enough luck there’s something good in there. Now a Love Feast is the idea that everybody come together out of love for one another. A beautiful picture, but this is where the problems begin. See, unfortunately, in the city of Corinth, their community Love Feasts deteriorated into just an occasion for eating and drinking and ostentatious displays by some of the wealthier members of the church community.
Now here's something shocking. But you can believe this. Imagine this. Some of the wealthier people would bring expensive wines and get drunk at a church pot luck during communion! You say, well, there's something wrong with this picture. Exactly. Where's the honor? Where's the respect? See, there's a lot for us to take hold of personally.
Let's read these verses, Chapter 11, beginning with verse 17. Now, in giving this instruction, I don't praise you because you come together not for the better, for the worse. For in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you and I partly believe it. For there must also be factions among you in order that those who are approved may become recognized; therefore, when you meet together, it's not to eat the Lord's Supper, for in your eating, each one takes his own supper first and one is hungry and another one is drunk. Why? I just love Paul? He's just as straight forward. He just calls it straight out. Why?
Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Do you despise the church of God? Do you shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? In this I will not praise you, and then he brings those famous words that we read every time we take communion. You see, I think it's very important for us to see the context. He's bringing a correction to their heart. In verse 23, he says, "For I received from the Lord that which I delivered to you." In other words, because he was there for a year and a half, I told you these things, that the Lord Jesus, on the night in which He was betrayed, he took bread. Now when he had given thanks, He broke it, and He said, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." Now in the same way, He took the cup also after supper saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me, for as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." You do this--you proclaim the Lord's death. You remember what He's done and you do it until He comes; therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
Now, I'm glad this verse is here. It's so commonly misunderstood, however, and we need to see it. But let a man examine himself and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup, for he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason, many among you are weak and sick and a number asleep, but if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged. When we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world.
So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him at home so that you may not come together for judgement. Now the remaining matters I will arrange when I come. These are important and very practical for us to understand. One of the things he wants to stress and for us to take hold of is this "remember what God has done." It's about remembering. That's the whole point of taking the Lord's Supper together. Remember. Never take it for granted. Do not let your faith grow old. Do not let your heart fall away from God. Honor. Don't take it for granted. Remember, in the taking of the bread and the cup, what it represents.
Now see today unfortunately, this has become just a religious thing, and no one’s hearts are in it, he says, when it's religious like that. Now you remember Jesus confronting the Pharisees? What was the main thrust of the confrontation that Jesus had with the Pharisees? Their religion had no meaning. Just religious things--they would just do religious things simply for the appearance of the thing, and their heart wasn't in it. It's about the heart. It's always been about the heart. See, the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. It's important to see what he's stressing. In fact, in Matthew 23, verses 5, 14 and 16, we put these phrases together to see the point. They do all of their deeds for show; and for pretense, they make long prayers. They are blind guys.
There's one out of Isaiah 29:13. Then the Lord said "This people, they draw near with their rules and honor me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from me and their reverence for me consists of tradition, learned by rote." They didn’t mean a word of it; they're just repeating words. Where's the Heart?
Now, the Corinthian church had the opposite problem. Their heart wasn't right. Their heart wasn't in it either, but theirs was irreverence, disrespect, didn't bring honor to it, some even getting drunk. So he brings the point to correct them, and he lays his foundation. One of the things he presses in is this: honor one another. Some are wealthy, some are poor. Honor one another. Verses 21 and 22. In your eating, each one takes his own supper first. One is hungry and another is drunk. Do you despise the church of God? Do you shame those who have nothing? See, what was happening is this. The wealthy would bring better food. They had more money. They might bring New York steak. Maybe they would bring prime rib, and meanwhile the poor would bring mashed potatoes and maybe some rolls. It was a treat to have meat in those days. The wealthy could afford it.
You know, it wasn't that long ago in our own country that to have a meal with meat was a really special thing. If you could have meat on Sundays, it might be the only meat you have all week long. That's why the pot roast on Sunday afternoon is always the big deal. So it helps us to understand what was happening. So, therefore, because the wealthy brought the New York steak or the prime rib, they would insist on going first. "Hey, we brought it. We're going first." Then when the poor got through the line, there's only mashed potatoes and rolls left.
A. Honor one another
Can you imagine—just imagine Jesus watching people go through the line with that attitude and perspective. Don't you kind of think that maybe Jesus would have something to say? It reminds me of when Jesus was watching as people were putting money into the treasury. And if you can believe this, some of the wealthier people, when they were getting ready to give money to the treasury, they would bring a trumpeter with them. So-and-so's going to bring their gift to the treasury. Da-Da-Da-Da. Everyone pay attention. So-and-so, Mr. so-and-so is giving money now. Can you imagine what Jesus had to say? He saw a widow put two mites in. “This widow has given more than all of them.” It was with the heart of which she gave. Honor one another.
In fact, would you turn to James, Chapter 2, just turn in your Bibles there, it's right after the Book of Hebrews. We read this a couple of weeks ago. I wanted us to see it again because it makes this point so powerfully. James 2:1. My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. So if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, but there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, then you pay special attention to the one who's wearing the fine clothes and you say, “Sit here in this good place," but you say to the poor man "Stand over there, or sit here at my footstool." Have you not made distinctions among yourselves? Have you not become judges with evil motives? Listen, listen my beloved brethren, did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith? I love that verse. So encouraging, that's what the heart of the Lord is. Listen my beloved brethren, did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who loved Him? You have dishonored this poor man. Go to verse 8. If you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.
Go back to First Corinthians. Honor one another. Some are wealthy, some are poor. But if you love God, you’ll have God's heart, and God's heart is to honor those who are lost and broken and poor and humble and the meek. You know, it's an interesting thing, when the Roman Empire was breaking down, you know your history. The Roman Empire was breaking down, and during those years it was breaking down, the church was growing exponentially. Why is that? Because the people they saw in the church, they saw in the church the qualities that resonated in their heart. Look at the honor they give to Paul. There's something right about that. Look at their families. Look at the way they honor one another. Look at the love they have. Look at the joy. You see something in that church. There's rightness, there's character there. There's honor there. And they joined it.
I think that's a powerful picture because that should be what’s happening today. People in this society that we’re in are living in a very broken society. Very broken, many lost. It's breaking down. They should look at the church and say, "You know what? I see something that resonates in me. Look at the character of these people. Look at the honor. Look at what happens inside the church. Look at what happens in their heart and their character. I want to be part of that."
You know, here in our own church we love eating together, been around very long, you know our nickname is calorie chapel. But one of the things we make a special point of is to make sure that everything is within reach. You know, we have a really excellent steak dinner for the guys every year. I mean, New York steak. It the quality New York steak. But we want to make sure that every single guy is going to be able to enjoy a great New York steak. Whether you're rich or whether you're poor, it does not matter. We say--we make a point of it, "Hey, if anyone needs a scholarship, you just say, 'I'd like a scholarship to go to the church.'" because we want every single guy to come and have a great New York steak dinner, whether you can afford a steak dinner or not.
By the way, side note. My wife who is in charge of the Women's Ministries, told me that this fall the women are going to have a steak dinner. Yeah. I couldn't help but tease her. You're copying us. You know, I remember when I was in Bible College and I visited this church, and after the service, they had donuts. Now I thought, that’s cool. I'd like to have a donut. So I go up to the table and they're charging for it. Well, I'm just a poor college student, I couldn't afford the donut. Right on the spot, because I was going into the ministry—Right on the spot I decided, you know what? When I get a church, we are not charging for donuts! Amen. Thank you. Although some of you could give a little more. Okay.
B. Eat of the Bread of Life
You know, the youth group every year, they have this dinner, they call it Friendsgiving. I think it's so cool. Everyone is at this big long table, and anything on your plate you cannot serve to yourself. Anything that you've got, someone else had to serve for you. Yeah, this is excellent. Teach the youth this. This is great. Can I have some mashed potatoes, please? Yes, you may. And someone serves it. Friendsgiving, I think it's just right. Honor one another, rich or poor, we are all one family together, and he says, "Can you not honor one another?" See, he brings that as a point of correction, and then he brings honor to the Lord. Eat of the bread of life. That's the point. The Passover meal was what he was referring to, the very first Lord's Supper was the Passover meal, and every aspect of that meal--it was an actual dinner. It was always the same elements in the meal as a commemoration. Every one of those elements was a picture, a symbol, of Jesus Christ. Now the Jews would say, "Well it's a commemoration of the very first Passover. God would say “Yes, but the very first Passover was a picture of Jesus Christ.” The very first Passover was, of course, when Israel was held captive as slaves in Egypt, and God was redeeming them, setting them free.
One plague after the other as he challenged Pharaoh—the last thing that the angel of death of condemnation would come and the death of the first born would then come, but anybody, anybody at all, whether you're Jew or Egyptian did not matter; if you would take the blood of a lamb, and then you would apply the blood of that lamb to the door post and the mantle of that house. Interestingly, by the way, it would form a cross—you put the blood, and it would drip down, and then you would enter into that house through that blood. That house is saved. It's an interesting and beautiful picture. So every part of this is a commemoration, but every part of that commemoration points at Jesus Christ, and so they remembered all parts of it. There were bitter herbs, sour bitter herbs to picture the suffering of Christ, dipped in salt water. There were four glasses of wine, each of them containing or representing a particular promise, and the third one was called the cup of redemption, which represented the blood of that lamb. Interesting.
There were three unleavened wafers of bread, pierced and stripped during baking. They were held in a square white bag with three sections. How interesting. Three sections. Three unleavened wafers contained in one bag. Three in one. Interesting. Then the middle one would be taken out, broken, wrapped in a cloth and hidden, and then after the meal, someone would go and find it. A child would often go and try to find it and bring it back. A lot of fun. But what a beautiful picture of the suffering and the death, and then the burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and then they would all break it and share it together. “This is my body,” He said. Then there was the lamb. You see, they would partake of the lamb and the blood of it would be applied, but then they would eat of that lamb, and every aspect of it--it must entirely eaten. Anything left over must be burned with fire by morning. They partake of the lamb. It gives great significant to the word of John the Baptist. Notice in John 1:29. He, John, saw Jesus coming toward him, and he said, "Behold, lift up your eyes and see. It's the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
You know, an interesting part of the Passover and the Passover lamb was that they were to select an unblemished lamb on the 10th of that month, and it would be sacrificed on the 14th, but they would select the lamb on the 10th, and they would bring it into their house. They would actually live with that lamb for four days. Now if you bring a little lamb into the house, what do you think is going to happen? Their kids are going to fall in love with that lamb. They're going to draw near to that lamb because you know how kids are with animals. When we were raising our first set of kids, you might say, we had something like 17 animals. Now, by the way, it's good for kids to be around animals. It's good for their immune system. I used to tell that to myself many times.
We had cats, we had dogs, we had rabbits, we had turtles, we had parakeets, we had rats, which I can’t understand, but we had all these animals, and they would all be drawn close like family. When we had to put down a dog, everyone was crying. Our daughter Chelsie, she had these two parakeets. One of them was green and yellow and it died. "Oh, how are we going to tell Chelsie?" So I said, “Go down to the pet store and get another one.” They had more green and yellow ones. Bad idea. She came home right away, and that's not mine [imitating sound of crying] One time we got these two beef cattle. Don’t worry, we didn't put them in the house, but we got these beef cattle, and we had this friend in the church that had a farm. He said, "Yeah, put him on the farm and I'll raise him." So we paid for the hay, the oats and stuff. We’d go out there and the kids would feed them, and I said, "Oh, boy, the kids are going to be all close to these animals and they wanted to name them, and so I said, "I've made an executive decision. One is going to be called barbeque and the other one is going to be called beef." We're not going to have this problem.
See, the point is this. That lamb is brought into the home. You're going to get close to that lamb which makes that lamb's sacrifice mean all the more. They loved that lamb, for that lamb gave its life that they might understand something about God a bit more.
C. Drink of the cup in His blood
See, and the point is, the same way we are to grow close to the Lamb of God. Come into your house. Come into your home. What's it mean to you? What's it mean to you? Isn't that the point? Religion has no heart at all. What does it mean to you? So he’s talking about honor to it. Bring your heart to it, bring honor to it, and then he brings up the cup. Drink of the cup in his blood—the third cup, called the cup of redemption. They knew, the Jews from all that time would say it represented the blood of the Lamb. Jesus said, "This cup is the cup of the new covenant in my blood. Drink it. Drink it. Drink it in remembrance of me." Now when you step back and you understand what he just said, it is a huge statement." This is the cup of the new covenant. It's a symbol of my blood. Drink it."
Now this is a powerful picture because when you drink of it, you bring it into yourself and it becomes part of who you are. This is [Inaudible 00:27:07], because it's not enough to acknowledge--I acknowledge. I acknowledge he died on the cross. I acknowledge his blood that was shed. I acknowledge that he died that day. I acknowledge that he was buried. I acknowledge he was raised from the dead. Fine, but have you applied it to yourself? It's one thing to just mentally acknowledge. It's a very different thing to make it personal to yourself. Drink of it. Drink of it. Bring it into yourself. You receive the Lord into yourself, your heart. See, it reminds me very much of that very first Passover. Imagine, imagine that the prophet Moses proclaimed the word of the Lord. You've got to get the blood of the lamb and apply it to the door post and mantle.
And then someone says, "You know what? I don't like that idea. I don't agree with it. I don't like it. I just don't agree with it. I like my lamb. I think this whole thing is a dumb idea. I'm not into it. You know what I'm going to do instead? I'm going to post on the door post, I'm going to post a list of all the good things I've done. Maybe when the angel of death comes over and he sees what I've done, he'll pass over my house. Maybe I'll put on the other post a list of all the contributions I've ever given to charity, and he'll see how generous I am, and he'll pass over my house." Someone else might say, "Well, I'm going to put some very nice jewelry. Perhaps when the angel of death comes over and sees how wealthy I am, perhaps he'll pass over." No. It's the blood of the Lamb, or it's nothing. Nothing else will do. It's the blood of the Lamb, or it's nothing.
In Acts 4:12, there is salvation in no one else. There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. First John 1:7. If you walk in the light, as He himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. How beautiful is this. It's the tradition of fact that for the forgiveness of our sin—no matter what you have done, no matter what you have gotten yourself involved in, no matter how bad you have messed up your life, God loves you so much he's provided for you through no work of your own, for no good that you've ever done, he's provided a way for every last sin you've ever committed to be forgiven and washed pure and clean. How beautiful is that? That's the point, it's so beautiful.
Remember it. Never take it for granted. It must be applied to your life. You must partake of it. Bring it in so that you remember and freshly appreciate it. Don't let your faith grow old. Don't let religion cover your heart, he’s saying. It's personal. See, when you drink of it, you bring it in. It's personal now.
It reminds me of Revelations 3:20. Jesus says, "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and will dine with him and he with me." A beautiful picture. He persists, he knocks. “Let me in. I want to come in. I want to have a relationship with you,” but there's a part for us. You open the door. Open the door. Invite him in. See, when you're partaking, you're saying “I want you into my life. I want to just have that relationship personally with you. Come in, Lord, I'm opening the door”. Then he says, “Then we're going to eat, we're going to dine, we're going to fellowship." What a beautiful picture.
See, you can't just watch someone else's faith. A husband cannot really live through the faith of his wife. A child cannot live through the faith of their parent. It's personal. It's like you can't watch the Lord knock on someone else's door, and they open the door and let him in and then you're watching through the window as they have dinner. Oh, look, now they're having tea, or they’re having the pie. Well, what about you? What about you? He wants to have dinner with you? It's personal. Each one personal.
II. The Lamb of God is Worthy of Honor
This is why He draws all of this so that we would understand. The Lamb of God is worthy of honor. He's worthy of honor. Raise your heart to him. He changes their perspective so they're going to bring honor when they eat the bread and drink of the cup. It's a matter of the heart. When you consider what this symbol represents, when you consider what it represents, oh, it certainly deserves respect and honor.
Here's an illustration. It's like this. The flag of the United States of America. What is the flag? It’s cloth with some color? Oh, no. It represents something. That's why you give the flag honor and respect, because of what it represents. When you do the pledge of allegiance, you stand on your feet. That's a demonstration of honor. You place your hand on your heart and there's something that rises up inside of you, when you say, "I pledge allegiance to the flag." You're pledging allegiance to the symbol. Oh, what it represents. You're recognizing that your forefathers went before you and paid a great price for the freedom that you enjoy. So it represents something powerful. The Star Spangled Banner--isn't it just a song? It's not just a song. It's what it represents.
My granddaughter learned the Star Spangled Banner. She wants to sing it next year at the school talent show. Great. But doesn't that song have great meaning because of what it represents? I don't know about you, but when I go to a football game and someone comes out and sings so beautifully. Everyone stands on their feet. "Oh, say can you see." Some of the words are so stirring. "And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave o're the land of the free and the home of the brave." And then the jets fly over. What it represents.
A. Eat and drink in a worthy manner
This is why he's bringing the point. Eat and drink in a worthy manner. Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner," he said, "Is guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord." Many people misunderstand and they misapply these words. If you misunderstand and misapply words, it's going to lead to tragic error. Here's an example. You know, in these verses that we've been reading, Jesus says in regards to the bread, "This is my body." Now he didn't literally mean this is my body, because his body was right there and the bread was in his hand. See, the Catholic Church, and perhaps you're from the Catholic Church and might know this, they believe it is actually and really and literally his body. But that's not what Jesus meant, and it leads to error and great cost has come through history on it. The Lutheran church believes that the body and the blood of Christ are truly and substantially in with the bread and the wine so that it is at the same time his body and bread, in his blood and wine at the same time. But this is not what he meant.
What does it mean to eat and drink in an unworthy manner? It means to eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord and to not recognize the value of the sacrifice of his body and the pouring out of his blood. It's not giving honor to the symbol because of what it represents. If you just go through the motions, your heart is far from God. He is worth more than that.
B. Let a man examine himself
If you come to God for forgiveness but refuse to partake of that forgiveness, then sin is added to the cross on which he died. If you do not partake of God's forgiveness, you are dishonoring the blood that paid the price for that forgiveness. Then he says, verse 28, "Let a man examine himself." This has also been misunderstood. Some take it to mean that a person must examine himself so that he can certify that he himself is worthy enough to take communion. Worthy enough? Worthy enough? Who among us is worthy enough? Isn't this the point? A sinner is the very one who needs the Lord's Supper. A sinner is the very one who needs to come to this place, but do you bring honor. Let a man examine himself to be certain that your heart is right, that you’re bringing honor, that you're bringing your heart to him, that you're bringing honor and glory and recognizing what He's done and you appreciate it afresh and anew. Paul said that he disciplines those and brings correction to those whose hearts are not right. As well as it should be.
Imagine a youth living in the house and with his parents, and he's got contempt and disrespect, not showing appreciation for all that his parents have done for him, and he's got the attitude of “whatever.” Shouldn't discipline be what follows? It’s about the heart. It's always been about the heart. Can you bring your heart into this relationship? What does it mean to you? You know, Keith Green a song. This song captures the heart of it beautifully. A reminder again that that we need to have that love ignited again, and the words go like this: "My eyes are dry. My faith is old. My heart is hard. My prayers are cold. Though I know how I ought to be, alive to you and dead to me."
Oh, what can be done for an old heart like mine? He softens it up with oil and wine. The oil is you, your spirit of love. He’s washed me anew in the wine of your blood.
[Ended at 00:40:59]