1 Corinthians 11:17-34
In 11:17-14:40, Paul continues to address issues that affect the unity of the church.
- Chapter 11, verses 17-34 reveal that the source of our corporate unity is our individual unity with Christ.
- Chapter 12 deals with the diversity of spiritual gifts and how this strengthens the unity of the body.
- Chapter 13 teaches that love is the power that unifies all the parts of the body together and the principle by which the spiritual gifts are to operate.
- Chapter 14 deals specifically with the gifts of prophecy and tongues.
1 Corinthians 11:17-Paul deals with unity among the members of the church by referring to the Lord’s Supper to reveal its source. The corporate unity of the church is the result of the individual unity that members have with Christ. Because each of us has a relationship with Him…we each now share in a relationship with one another. The source of unity in the church is Christ.
However, there is a problem with unity in the church in Corinth and it is vividly demonstrated when they come together to celebrate the Lord's Supper. They were doing so in such a manner that it was “not for the better but for the worse” (:17). In other words, after they leave the Lord’s Supper…they are worse off than before they arrived! The Lord’s Supper should be a constant reminder of our unity, our individual oneness with Christ. And as a result, our unity together, our communal oneness as part of His body. And yet, as Paul will show, they have allowed the Lord’s Supper itself to become a time of disregard for individuals and disunity among the body. Paul identifies this as bad behavior, reveals its source, and explains its consequences. This behavior causes believers to lose focus on what they are there for…”to eat the Lord’s Supper”. Instead, they focus on their own individual desires and self-gratification, not on the Lord. He will explain that God will hold them accountable and they will be judged for their behavior.
1 Corinthians 11:18-19-The bad behavior is identified by the fact that during the Lord’s Supper “divisions” (:18) and “factions” (:19) are apparent in the body, the members of the church. The word “division” means that people have taken sides…they have split up into groups that don’t want to be together.
(Eng., "schism"), denotes "a cleft, a rent," Mat 9:16; Mar 2:21; then, metaphorically, "a division, dissension," Jhn 7:43; 9:16; 10:19; 1Cr 1:10; 11:18; in 1Cr 12:25 it is translated "schism" (marg., "division"). The root is skid--, seen in the corresponding verb schizo, "to cleave" (Lat. scindo).
"a rent, division," is translated "schism" in 1Cr 12:25, metaphorically of the contrary condition to that which God has designed for a local church in "tempering the body together" (ver. 24), the members having "the same care one for another" ("the same" being emphatic).
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4978&t=NASB
Sometimes divisions among church members are the result of petty reasons…such as indifference, no careful consideration is given to the opinions of others, they are attributed to matters of personal likes and dislikes, or people having had their feelings injured. But, Paul suggests that there is something deeper, something much more insidious taking place in this instance. The second word that he uses to describe this situation is “faction”. At its root it means “heresy”.
(a) "a choosing, choice" (from haireomai, "to choose"); then, "that which is chosen," and hence, "an opinion," especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects, Gal 5:20 (marg., "parties"); such erroneous opinions are frequently the outcome of personal preference or the prospect of advantage; see 2Pe 2:1, where "destructive" (RV) signifies leading to ruin; some assign even this to (b); in the papyri the prevalent meaning is "choice" (Moulton and Milligan, Vocab.);
Heresy, false teaching and belief is at the root of this problem. How is this heresy? There were those among the church that felt that they were superior to others, better than others…after all, they had more money, so they were more deserving. And of all places for this attitude to become evident and on display…it was at the Lord’s Supper. Paul makes it clear that this is the problem in 12:25 …that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. There should be no attitudes of superiority among the members of the church. No distinctions based on wealth, or social standing, or vocation.
1 Corinthians 11:20-22-It had become a common practice in the early church to have a Love Feast (Ryrie, 11:20) before celebrating the Lord’s Supper. At that time they would have a meal, send and receive communication to other churches, and collect an offering for widows and orphans. However, Paul had become aware that here at Corinth, during the Love Feast, the wealthy members were not sharing their food with the poor. In fact, they were arriving early and eating together so that they would not have to share with poorer members (:21). Paul says that now, not only are the poor members still hungry…but the wealthy members have caused “shame” to come to them. To sense shame doesn’t just mean to feel dishonor, or disgrace.
But the word used here suggests that such behavior also causes a person to lose hope.
…by a Hebr. usage one is said to be put to shame who suffers a repulse, or whom some hope has deceived;
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon,
The attitude of superiority and elitism on the part of these wealthy members affected the hope, the faith, the beliefs of the poorer members. The hope that they would be accepted as equals in the body of Christ. In the world they were looked down upon, disrespected, belittled. But here, in the church, they had hoped that they would be equals before Christ. But that is not the attitude that these wealthy members were exhibiting. This is no way to treat family. Paul says that if this is the way that the wealthy members are going to behave…it would be better for them to just eat at home before they come to the Lord’s Supper rather than to treat another Christian in such a manner (:22). Indeed, that attitude of superiority is heresy…because it is in complete opposition to the Biblical understanding that we are all equal and have unity in Christ.
There was a discrepancy seen here between belief and behavior. How common this is in the church. Members come together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper…which is a vivid symbol of the unity that God intends to exist in the church…and yet, they do so fully knowing that for any number of reasons they are at odds with other members. And part of the problem is that they just casually dismiss their disunity. “It’s no problem. It’s just a little thing.” But Paul won’t allow this. He says that at its root…the cause of this disunity is heresy. An extremely strong, harsh term. This is not some mild matter of personal likes and dislikes. This is a matter of heresy…a basic failure to be willing to accept and practice the truth of the teachings concerning the church. This is a heresy concerning the unity of the body. To casually dismiss the importance of this theological truth…is to ignore the cost that Christ had to pay for the body to exist. This is heresy.
The positive aspect of divisions is that it identifies those who are "approved" (:19) among them…meaning those people who hold to the correct, or acceptable attitude, behavior, and beliefs. As opposed to those who were willing to compromise these matters for their own benefit and desire.
"In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from metal, heated until liquid, poured into moulds and allowed to cool. When the coins were cooled, it was necessary to smooth off the uneven edges. The coins were comparatively soft, and of course many people shaved them closely. In one century, more than eighty laws were passed in Athens to stop the practice of whittling down the coins then in circulation. But some money-changers were men of integrity, who would accept no counterfeit money; they were men of honour who put only genuine, full-weight money into circulation. Such men were called dokimos, and this word is used here for the Christian as he is to be seen by the world." (Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans: God's Glory, p. 18.)
1 Corinthians 11:23-26-In these verses Paul used the context of the Lord’s Supper to demonstrate unity. In many churches today the symbolism that he is referring to is lost because of how the bread and the juice are served (individual wafers of bread and individual cups of juice that are passed out in trays). When Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper it was a part of the Passover celebration. In that context, a single piece of unleavened bread would be held up for everyone to see, broken into pieces, and then served to those participating in the meal. Next, a single cup of wine would be held up, then it would be passed around, and all would drink from that same cup. This symbolic act vividly demonstrated a spiritual reality. That even as the one piece of bread and the one cup of wine physically became a part of each of them when they partook of it…so the one Christ spiritually became a part of each of them when they received Him by faith. And now, because of their unique relationship to Christ, they all share in a unique relationship to one another.
There is a key element to keep in mind, here. When Jesus used the bread and the juice as symbols of Himself…what they represented was not just the outcome of the unity that they would share…but also, the cost that He would pay to make that unity possible. His body and His blood would be given. He would die a brutal, painful, costly death. That is what makes this division, this faction…this heresy…so important. When church members show disrespect and dishonor towards one another…they are, in essence, showing the same attitude towards Christ, Who made their unity possible.
The unity of the body of Christ is not determined by whether or not we like each other, whether or not we come from the same socio-economic groups, whether or not we agree on everything. The unity of the body of Christ is determined by the fact that He gave His body, and His blood, so that we might become members of His church, the body. That is the unity of the church. Not what we want…but what He has done. Everything else is then determined by that fact. That is the unity of the church. The church does not belong to us. We belong to Him. That is the unity of the church.
1 Corinthians 11:27-34-There are individual consequences for such misbehavior, such heresy. Paul speaks of this behavior as being “unworthy”…meaning that it does not give due respect and reverence to the true meaning of the Lord’s Supper.
is used in 1Cr 11:27, of partaking of the Lord's Supper "unworthily," i.e., treating it as a common meal, the bread and cup as common things, not apprehending their solemn symbolic import. In the best texts the word is not found in ver. 29 (see RV).
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G370&t=NASB
The result is that the individual will be “guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.” This is very serious. Because of the deliberate disrespect shown for the Lord…the individual is now held responsible for the Lord’s death.
lit., "held in, contained in" (en, "in," echo, "to have, hold"), hence, "bound under obligation to, liable to, subject to," is used in the sense of being in "danger" of the penal effect of a misdeed, i.e., in a forensic sense, signifying the connection of a person with
(d) the person or thing against whom or which the offense is committed, 1Cr 11:27, "guilty," the crime being against "the body and blood of the Lord;" Jam 2:10, "guilty" of an offense against all the Law, because of a breach of one commandment.
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1777&t=NASB
What does this mean? Verse 30 tells us that they will be judged for their sin and there will be physical consequences…
For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.
If we fail to take seriously the purpose of the death of Jesus...and continue to sin, and don't repent...then the Lord will discipline us (:32) in order to bring us to repentance so that we will not face the same condemnation (consequences) of sin as the world does (:32). A clear warning is given that we should give careful consideration to our attitudes towards other believers and that we honor the Lord in our relationships.
Prayer: Lord, please convict me of my sin and don't allow me to ever take it lightly. Help me to repent...and to live in a manner worthy of the death of Jesus. Help me to express my love for You…by expressing my love to other people.