This past Sunday it was my turn to teach/preach again as we’ve been going through our series on the entire book of 1 Corinthians. I was chosen for this week on the second half of the chapter (11:17-24). In the past I’ve spent a lot of time already researching this in context of how Paul told them that some of them had fallen sick because of not discerning the Body.
The task I found in front of me was to understand what Body Paul was referring to here. The literal physical Body of Christ in that “eat my flesh and drink my blood” kind of way? Or, the way we’re all members of His Body in which He’s the head? Or both and there’s a double prophetic meaning here?
Let’s explore this.
But this time, with a fresh perspective in my weekend prepping for it, and stumbling across this Google+ post by Ben Peltz, I discovered something that was new to me. Indulge me if this is something you’ve always known.
In verse 17, Paul begins this section by stating that in what he says, he is condemning, not commending, them, because their gathering is not “for the better. Why? There are divisions among the Corinthians. In verse 19 Paul goes on to note that some division is good in order to recognize who are the mature or genuinely spiritual among them. This implied that the division in their case is not the good kind of division, at least not entirely.
Part of this line of thinking is why we eat together a lot in Oikos, but I wish to write a future blog post on that entirely so I won’t go into it too much here today. A few things should be noted here about the Lord’s Supper:
- It was a meal, not a cracker and juice (v. 20-22)
- Everybody brought something. (v. 22)
- Everybody is supposed to be on equal footing, but this wasn’t happening at Corinth.
Ben mentioned in in his original Google+ post that he noticed that at a passover there’s a massive amount of food. I’ve never been to one myself to know, but that makes sense when recollecting what the Passover was.
Also, Jesus’ initial institution was not a simple ceremony but a full-blown feast! How is it that a simple ritual would have enough food present for even a handful of people to get drunk?
Paul is pointing his readers towards Christ’s sacrifice as the solution to their divisions. Christ’s sacrifice, the very thing that is being commemorated by the Lord’s Supper, is the sole source of Christian unity.
Thanks to the Cross, every believer is counted as equal before God, and because of this, every believer is invited to partake in the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthians’ actions were undermining this basic fact, and so Paul here points them back towards the Cross, showing them that they need to remember their equality in Christ.
Eating without discerning the body
This means two things simultaneously.
- It means that you ought to be discerning the body of Christ in Lord’s supper itself.
- It also means recognizing the needs of the church – the Body of Christ,
Paul will explain further on the second meaning immediately after this in Chapter 12 as he talks of each member participating and operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit in their meetings.
In other words, the spiritual problem with the Corinthians is that they ignore their brothers and sisters while they partake of the Lord’s supper.
The Bread and Wine, Christ’s Body and Blood
The bread represents Christ’s body, while the wine represents the blood of Jesus.
For the sake of brevity we won’t dive into a study on the Passover, but I encourage the reader to explore this further in Exodus 12-13, 26-29, and Leviticus 23:5). The tenth plague God inflicted on the Egyptians was the death of the first borns. Moses instructed the Israelites to kill a lamb and place the blood above their doorposts.
Incidentally, they were to eat the meat, which naturally would have provided them sustenance and energy (health). The blood on their doorpost would signal to the angel to “pass over” that house, for the blood protected the firstborn of the inhabitants against judgement (salvation).
Paul told the Corinthians earlier in his letter that Christ was their passover lamb (1 Cor 5:7). In His body and in His blood there’s health and salvation to be received. Jesus’ body was beaten before he went to the cross, and his blood obviously spilled. But it was on the cross his blood was poured out for sins.
This sheds some light on the following passage:
28 Let a man [thoroughly] examine himself, and [only when he has done] so should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discriminating and recognizing with due appreciation that [it is Christ’s] body, eats and drinks a sentence (a verdict of judgment) upon himself.
30 That [careless and unworthy participation] is the reason many of you are weak and sickly, and quite enough of you have fallen into the sleep of death.
31 For if we searchingly examined ourselves [detecting our shortcomings and recognizing our own condition], we should not be judged and penalty decreed [by the divine judgment].
32 But when we [fall short and] are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined and chastened, so that we may not [finally] be condemned [to eternal punishment along] with the world. (1 Cor 11:28-32, Amplified version)
I don’t think this passage is saying, as I always used to, that if you have unconfessed sin in your life then you might get sick or bring the judgment of God on yourself the instant the bread touches your throat and you could die.
I think this judgment is not as immediate as some of us have worried it is. Since by His stripes we’re healed (Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24), it stands to reason that a lack of discerning of His body would result in a lack of receiving what partaking of it is meant to do. If one is not discerning or partaking of something as though commemorating Jesus’ finished worked on the cross had power to it, then yes, one won’t receive those benefits of doing so.
For example, if I do something as some glib ritual and not as though there’s life in it, I may not experience what is offered. I might die prematurely if I don’t get the healing I need which is available through Christ’s sacrifice. I could die prematurely of something from not appropriating the Lord’s provision in my life.
We’re Not an Island
Since we’re all members of one another, it also stands to reason this is talking about discerning the Body of believers, the members of Christ. People were coming together and eating until they were full and drinking until they were drunk while other less fortunate members of the community were missing out on this when they came to the meeting. The “haves” were not being very discerning of the rest of the Body, the “have nots”. There was no unity and as a result there were sicknesses and illnesses due to not discerning the Body.
We need to build one another up in love and shower honor to the “weaker members.”
How can you do that this week?