1 Corinthians 11:17-22 ~ 20140727 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
07/27 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 Coming Together for the Worse; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140727_1cor11_17-22.mp3
17 Τοῦτο δὲ παραγγέλλων οὐκ ἐπαινῶ ὅτι οὐκ εἰς τὸ κρεῖσσον ἀλλὰ εἰς τὸ ἧσσον συνέρχεσθε. 18 πρῶτον μὲν γὰρ συνερχομένων ὑμῶν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ ἀκούω σχίσματα ἐν ὑμῖν ὑπάρχειν, καὶ μέρος τι πιστεύω. 19 δεῖ γὰρ καὶ αἱρέσεις ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι, ἵνα καὶ οἱ δόκιμοι φανεροὶ γένωνται ἐν ὑμῖν. 20 συνερχομένων οὖν ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ οὐκ ἔστιν κυριακὸν δεῖπνον φαγεῖν, 21 ἕκαστος γὰρ τὸ ἴδιον δεῖπνον προλαμβάνει ἐν τῷ φαγεῖν, καὶ ὃς μὲν πεινᾷ, ὃς δὲ μεθύει. 22 μὴ γὰρ οἰκίας οὐκ ἔχετε εἰς τὸ ἐσθίειν καὶ πίνειν; ἢ τῆς ἐκκλησίας τοῦ θεοῦ καταφρονεῖτε, καὶ καταισχύνετε τοὺς μὴ ἔχοντας; τί εἴπω ὑμῖν; ἐπαινέσω ὑμᾶς; ἐν τούτῳ οὐκ ἐπαινῶ. 23 Ἐγὼ γὰρ παρέλαβον ἀπὸ τοῦ κυρίου, ὃ καὶ παρέδωκα ὑμῖν, ὅτι ὁ κύριος Ἰησοῦς ἐν τῇ νυκτὶ ᾗ παρεδίδετο ἔλαβεν ἄρτον 24 καὶ εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ εἶπεν· Τοῦτό μού ἐστιν τὸ σῶμα τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν· τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν. 25 ὡσαύτως καὶ τὸ ποτήριον μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι, λέγων· Τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐστὶν ἐν τῷ ἐμῷ αἵματι· τοῦτο ποιεῖτε, ὁσάκις ἐὰν πίνητε, εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν. 26 ὁσάκις γὰρ ἐὰν ἐσθίητε τὸν ἄρτον τοῦτον καὶ τὸ ποτήριον πίνητε, τὸν θάνατον τοῦ κυρίου καταγγέλλετε, ἄχρι οὗ ἔλθῃ. 27 Ὥστε ὃς ἂν ἐσθίῃ τὸν ἄρτον ἢ πίνῃ τὸ ποτήριον τοῦ κυρίου ἀναξίως, ἔνοχος ἔσται τοῦ σώματος καὶ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ κυρίου. 28 δοκιμαζέτω δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἑαυτόν, καὶ οὕτως ἐκ τοῦ ἄρτου ἐσθιέτω καὶ ἐκ τοῦ ποτηρίου πινέτω· 29 ὁ γὰρ ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων κρίμα ἑαυτῷ ἐσθίει καὶ πίνει μὴ διακρίνων τὸ σῶμα. 30 διὰ τοῦτο ἐν ὑμῖν πολλοὶ ἀσθενεῖς καὶ ἄρρωστοι καὶ κοιμῶνται ἱκανοί. 31 εἰ δὲ ἑαυτοὺς διεκρίνομεν, οὐκ ἂν ἐκρινόμεθα· 32 κρινόμενοι δὲ ὑπὸ κυρίου παιδευόμεθα, ἵνα μὴ σὺν τῷ κόσμῳ κατακριθῶμεν. 33 Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου, συνερχόμενοι εἰς τὸ φαγεῖν ἀλλήλους ἐκδέχεσθε. 34 εἴ τις πεινᾷ, ἐν οἴκῳ ἐσθιέτω, ἵνα μὴ εἰς κρίμα συνέρχησθε. Τὰ δὲ λοιπὰ ὡς ἂν ἔλθω διατάξομαι.
1 Corinthians 11 [ESV2011]
17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.
Paul is dealing with issues in the church in Corinth. In chapters 1-4, he addresses divisions who rally around different leaders. In chapters 5-6 he deals with sexual immorality and lawsuits among believers. In chapter 7 he answers questions related to marriage, singleness and remarriage. In chapters 8-10 he speaks to issues of idolatry. In chapter 11, he teaches about roles for men and women and proper attire in the gathering of the church, and then he deals with misuse of social and economic status in the celebration of the Lord's supper. In chapters 12-14 he addresses the misuse of spiritual gifts in the gathering of the church.
Throughout this letter, he has brought them back to the cross as the defining principle of the Christian life. Followers of Jesus must imitate his self-sacrificial service to seek the good of others and not their own good.
Coming Together for the Worse
Paul started out this chapter by saying
11:2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.
Now he says:
11:17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. ...22 ...What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
Paul started this letter addressing “the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” and he gives “thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.” Now he says 'I cannot praise your, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.' This is serious! Every church has problems, but imagine a church so dysfunctional that the verdict of the apostle is that you do more harm than good when you meet. It would be better if you all just stayed home. His goal is not to send them all home, but to correct the issues so that when they come together it will be beneficial to all. What could be so harmful as to draw this condemnation from the apostle?
The Nature of the Church
First we need to examine the nature of the church. Paul says 'when you come together'. He uses this verb 'come together' 5 times in this passage, and twice more in chapter 14 referring to the meetings of the church. In verse 18 he says 'when you come together as a church'; literally it reads 'convening in church', but the word 'church' means an assembly, so we could translate 'convening in assembly' or 'gathering in congregation' because 'church' never refers to a building or a place, but people gathered together. If we look back to Acts 18, when Paul first preached the gospel in Corinth, he went to the synagogue and reasoned with them every Sabbath until he was rejected, then he went next door to the house of Titius Justus and stayed 18 months teaching the word of God among them. When Paul wrote to the Romans from Corinth, he mentioned
Romans 16:23 Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you....
So the whole church consisted of all the believers in the city. Wherever they gathered together in assembly, that was the church. Without official buildings, the gathering of believers was often hosted in someone's home.
It will help us to understand a little bit about the architecture of a wealthy home in Roman Corinth. The typical domus or Roman home was built around an atrium or central hall that often had a shallow pool at the center to collect rainwater. This connected to a second open courtyard called the peristylum which would enclose a garden. Various rooms would open into the two courtyards, one of which would be the triclinium or dining room, where honored guests could recline and be served.
In contrast to this, the working class would live in insulae, a complex of simple one or two room rented apartments used primarily for sleeping.
It is into this divide between the few rich believers and the many who had nothing who all gathered together in a well-to-do home as the church that Paul writes.
17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
Paul started the letter in 1:10 addressing divisions. Those were divisions centered around following a favorite leader or teacher. The divisions or factions he mentions now in chapter 11 are divisions between the rich and the poor, those who go hungry and those who get drunk, those who have much and those who have nothing. These divisions surfaced at the communion table. The division had been reported to Paul, and he now writes to correct it.
Verses 17-22 criticize the problem, verses 23-26 recount the tradition of the Last Supper which should guide them, and verses 27-34 give instructions to correct the abuses of the Lord's Supper.
Acts 2:42 tells us what the early church was devoted to.
Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
They prayed together, they learned together, they enjoyed community together, they remembered Jesus in the breaking of bread together. In our passage it seems at least implied that they ate the Lord's supper whenever they came together as a church. This was not an infrequent problem that Paul addressed.
17 ...when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.
The Necessity of Divisions
There are different ways we could understand Paul's statement about the necessity of divisions. Most have understood him to be teaching the God ordained necessity of divisions in the body so that the true believers may be distinguished from the false. But there are some problems with this understanding. Paul doesn't seem to praise anybody in this passage. If there are some that are 'genuine', Paul doesn't recognize them or commend them. In chapters 1-4 he doesn't have anything positive to say about divisions. If it is inevitable, even necessary that divisions occur to purify the church, then why would it be 'for the worse' that they come together? In Jesus' parable of the weeds (Mt.13) when an enemy sowed weeds in his field, and his servants offered to pull up all the weeds, the master said:
Matthew 13:29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
Another way to look at this statement is that Paul is being somewhat sarcastic, taking up the claims of the arrogant Corinthians, as he has done before in this letter. The Corinthians themselves may have been claiming that they were genuine or tested and approved, and that the divisions were necessary so that they would be recognized for who they are. They are actually willing to promote the divisions so that the elite may be admired. If this is the case, Paul turns their word back on them later in the passage, telling them in verse 28 that each should test or examine himself for genuineness to avoid a negative judgment.
Not the Lord's Supper
Paul is very clear in his next statement.
20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal.
They claim to be celebrating the Lord's supper. Paul is decisive. Whatever it is you are doing, it is not the Lord's supper. The Lord's supper is the supper belonging to the Lord, hosted by the Lord, where the Lord Jesus is honored. Instead, each one devours his own supper. Communion was observed in the context of a community meal. There is a sharp contrast between that which belongs to the Lord, and that which belongs to each one. This is your supper, not the Lord's. There is nothing at all resembling Jesus in the way they come together. Paul is outraged.
21 ...One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
Paul is specifically rebuking the homeowners. Those who had nothing lived in the tiny rented insulae, where there was no kitchen to prepare their own food. They were forced to buy food at one of the local shops. The wealthy homeowners would have their servants prepare a sumptuous feast in their own kitchen. There is evidence of the upper class serving different qualities and quantities of food and wine to guests of different social strata. What may have been happening in Corinth is that the more wealthy guests were invited to recline in the triclinium and be served the best foods, while those who were poor were left to sit or stand in the atrium and survive on whatever meager scraps might be left over.
This situation may have been aggravated by a regional famine. This would create an even more desperate situation for the poor, and an even greater opportunity for those who had means to care for those in need.
One goes hungry. Another gets drunk. This is not the Lord's supper. This is an outrage. They may have used bread and wine, they may have given thanks, they may have said the right words, but their conduct and their attitude, their treatment of one another contradicted the very Lord whose supper it was.
Oppressing the Poor
James paints for us the picture:
James 2:2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? ...6 But you have dishonored the poor man....
Throughout the Scriptures, God says he will defend the rights of the poor. In Deuteronomy God said:
Deuteronomy 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
Proverbs tells us
Proverbs 14:21 Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor. ...31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
Proverbs 21:13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.
In Isaiah 58 God describes the kind of fast that he approves:
Isaiah 58:7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Isaiah 61 points to the good news of the coming Messiah
Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To oppress the poor is to deny the very gospel that Christ came to preach.
John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. ...48 I am the bread of life. ...51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The Lord's supper is intended to remind us that Jesus gave himself for us so that everyone who believes in him will enjoy eternal life with him. To act selfishly in the Lord's supper is to despise the church of God which he bought with his own blood. To claim to remember Jesus' sacrifice for sinners while at the same time discriminating between the haves and the have nots is to act inconsistently with the gospel. Paul said in chapter 10 that
1 Corinthians 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
Here the inconsistency is just as glaring. You cannot eat at the table of the Lord who offers himself freely to all who would humbly receive, and exclude some based on their social status. In the church of God, the church that belongs to God, each one has been purchased by God with the same infinite price. Each one is God's treasured possession. Each believer, rich or poor, can say 'Christ loved me and gave himself for me' (Gal.2:20). To treat one sinner saved by God's grace differently than another is to deny the gospel. To humiliate some as if they were second rate is to act contrary to the gospel.
Let No One Seek His Own
Repeatedly in this section Paul has laid out the maxim 'let no one seek his own, but that of the other (10:24). The Lord's supper of all places, where we are reminded of the cross, where Jesus laid down his life for the lost, should be the place where we are reminded of our own need and his generous supply, where we are knit together in unity as sinners together receiving the benefits of a gracious Savior. In the Lord's supper, of all places, we should open our hearts to one another.