Lesson: Thoughts on the Lord’s Supper
By Rev. Leo H. McCrary II – April 10, 2022
Taught From – 1 Corinthians 11:20-34
This week’s lesson is going to be our Palm Sunday lesson. We are still going to be focusing on the things that caused divisions within the church as we have been in recent weeks for this unit of lessons. We have seen that the church in Corinth was divided over the food they ate, sexual immorality, and even who their favorite speaker was. This week’s lesson takes a look at more divisions within this church, but this time, the division was over the Lord’s Supper. This week’s lesson is being taught from 1 Corinthians 11:20-34.
The Lord’s Supper
Now, there should be absolutely no division when it comes to the Lord’s Supper – Holy Communion. The Lord’s Supper, or communion as we call it, is truly significant and special for the church as we are going to see in our lesson this week.
Not a common supper
Our lesson this week actually opens in the midst of Paul speaking about the Corinthians’ conduct during the Lord’s Supper. You will see Paul state to the Corinthians, “in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse” (1 Cor. 11:17). As we know, we all commune together and we do so at the same time, however, this was apparently not the case for the Corinthians.
The Corinthians would not come together as a church but would be divided, which Paul had been told (1 Cor. 11:18) and as we have already seen in prior lessons. Again, these dividing lines ran along one’s bias towards their favorite preacher and other ideas one may have had during that time. Essentially, worldly thinking was corrupting (poisoning) this conjugation of believers to the point that it was corrupting how they were conducting the Lord’s Supper.
The Corinthians were calling a meal the “Lord’s Supper” yet, one would grab their plate and eat, and another would do the same, separately. They were treating the Lord’s Supper like how we would treat eating a meal at home; we all fix our own plates and in some homes you eat at different times or even in separate rooms away from each other. Paul tells us that their conduct was so terrible during what was supposed to be the Lord’s Supper that some were left hungry while others had way too much (vss.20-21)!
Paul was legitimately and rightfully appalled at the conduct of these believers at what they were calling the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper, as we will see, should be humbling and treated with a great amount of respect. Yet, the Corinthians were treating it as just another meal as if they were eating in their own homes. So, Paul essentially asks them, why not eat at home if you’re going to act that way (v.22)?
The Corinthians’ conduct at the Lord’s Supper was so appalling that Paul questioned, “Do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing?” Now, these believers may have thought to themselves that they did not despise the church but their actions were saying otherwise. They were mistreating the Lord’s Supper in many ways, but especially in how they were treating those who were poor (those who have nothing).
Years ago I preached a sermon on the Christian Passover. I said in that sermon that many so-called believers think as lightly of communion as these Corinthian believers. We should not disregard the Lord’s Supper as some would, but we should regard the Lord’s Supper with great regard because it truly is special. We will see that Paul begins to speak to us what the Lord’s Supper represents and why we should treat it with such high regard.
The Christian Passover
This next passage of scripture is what I read from every first Sunday when we commune together; it is a recounting of what Jesus did at the Feast of Passover when He institutionalized the Lord’s Supper (v.23).
Initially, the Feast of Passover was a memorial of the night when the firstborns in Egypt died while the Lord passed over the houses marked by the blood of the young lamb (Ex. 12:14). That same night would mark the children of Israel’s last night in the bondage of the Egyptians. On that night, scripture tells us that the children of Israel ate unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and roasted lamb (Ex. 12:7-9) as the Lord passed over.
For the genuine believer of Christ, the Lord’s Supper is a memorial of what the Lord did for us by giving us His only begotten Son. Through our faith in Him, the Lord’s judgment of sin will pass over us.
Jesus first took the bread and told the disciples what the bread would now represent. When the Lord commanded the children of Israel to have a feast to memorialize Passover, the bread was called the bread of affliction because they had to eat it in haste (Deut. 16:3). After breaking and blessing the bread, Jesus told the disciples bread represented His body which was broken and given for them (all of us who believe). When we eat the unleavened bread, we eat it in remembrance of Jesus giving His body for us (v.24).
After supper, Paul tells us how Jesus, again, told the disciples what the cup represented. The cup, Paul quotes Jesus saying, represented a new covenant which was made in Jesus’ blood (v.25). This new covenant, we should understand, is that promise of forgiveness and salvation unto eternity through our faith in the only begotten Son (John 3:16). I often add to this statement what Jesus is recorded saying the blood of the cup represented in Matthew and Mark’s gospel at the Feast of Passover. Jesus stated, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28).
It is often debated whether the cup was filled with wine or not. I bring this up because Paul had mentioned that some would drink so much that they had gotten drunk and in the church today, we do not use wine. So, some may wonder which is proper: juice or wine? Jesus stated, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29).
Personally, at this occasion, I do not believe the fruit of the vine had fermented (been leavened) since it was a feast geared towards not using leavened things (Ex. 13:6-10). I have actually taken part in a communion service where wine was used. However, I am of the opinion that we should use juice when we consider that Jesus was without sin and allowing the fruit to leaven (or ferment) would be representative of leavening the blood of Jesus.
Worthiness for the supper
So, we should understand that each time we take part in communion, that we are always doing it as a memorial to what the Lord did for us by giving us His only begotten Son (v.26). When we can understand that the Lord’s Supper is a memorial supper, then we should understand the kind of conduct for which we should treat it with.
As we see with the Corinthians, they were not treating the Lord’s Supper with this kind of regard. There are many who actually walk out of the church today when it is time for communion – I have never liked or understood such disregard for communion. In fact, when I was a little boy and would see my mom and grandma taking part in communion, I wanted to join! I often laugh about it today and joke about how I got baptized for the sole purpose that I could eat the bread and drink the juice!
However, there are some who treat the Lord’s supper with great disregard. Paul warns, “whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (v.27). This is a very stern warning that we as believers must take seriously. When we take part in holy communion, we must come correctly and respectfully.
Proper conduct for the Lord’s Supper
Paul says, “let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment on himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (vss.28-29). Again, we have to make sure our heart is right when it comes to taking part in communion. This is why we pray over the communion and then you should pray within yourself to be worthy to take part in communion. Again, do not think lightly or with little regard for communion – to do this could lead to one taking part in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.
Paul states that many had taken part in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner and the end results led to many being weak and sick, and many had even died (v.30). So, Paul encouraged the Corinthians to judge themselves appropriately (v.31) so that, again, they would not take part in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. Aside from the Lord, you are your own best judge because you know when you have done right and when you have done wrong.
As we have learned, the Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of all who genuinely have accepted Christ. So, we have the Holy Spirit who also lets us know when we have done wrong. Paul says that we are chastened (punished) by the Lord – He gets on us – so that we know when we have done wrong and can make the proper corrections (v.32). So, let us acknowledge that the Corinthians who were doing wrong by the Lord’s Supper had to have known that they were not doing right because the Holy Spirit would have made them keenly aware of their wrongs. In other words, they were ignoring the Lord’s rebuke (correction).
Now, with Paul writing directly to them, they could not use ignorance as an excuse to not know that they were doing wrong. Paul encourages them to stop being divided and come together to eat (v.33). Paul also encourages them not to be overly greedy and eat so much that others end up not taking part in communion. He plainly tells them that if they are that hungry, eat at home (v.34).
So, I hope you understand why communion is regarded so highly in the church today. We commune as a memorial for what the Lord did for us by giving as an offering at His mercy and salvation through His only begotten Son. Because we have such a high regard for the Lord’s Supper, we, therefore, should treat it with that high regard by doing right. Be prayerful to be worthy in your heart to take part in communion. Also, make any necessary changes to your thoughts and actions so that you come correctly in taking part in communion.