Paul usually starts his criticism and correction of the congregation at Corinth by first highlighting what they had been doing correctly. But not when it came to the Corinthians violating the very meaning of the Lord’s Supper which was established on the night before His crucifixion. That night Jesus shared the bread and the wine with His disciples and urged them to continue to meet and break bread together in remembrance of Him. That moment was not only special because it would be the last time they all shared a meal together but also because it happened on the eve of the Jewish passover.
The New Passover
The passover was a remembrance of another act of generosity by God, when He freed the nation of Israel from their life of slavery in Egypt. The blood of the passover lamb on the door-frames of the Israelites, symbolised their faith on God and the destroyer passed over their houses. It was no coincidence that Jesus was crucified on passover day as the blood of the lamb that saved God’s people, was replaced by the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. Jesus’s body that was broken for our sins and His blood on the door-frames of our hearts is the reason that the deceiver passed over our souls freeing us from his bondage. God through this new passover has given us the ultimate freedom, the eternal life.
This is what we should remember when we eat from the Lord’s table. That night, none of the disciples had any idea about what Jesus was instituting, but after receiving His Spirit, they understood the significance of the bread and the wine. The early church fervently practised eating their meals together in remembrance of the One who unites them. But over the years, the Lord’s Supper has taken a more ritualistic role and our fellowship dinners are a remembrance of each other rather than Jesus.
Divisions at the Table
The treatment by the Corinthians of perhaps the most sacred covenant between us and God was abhorrent. The Lord’s Supper was being practised with divisions, with some of the members getting drunk and some left starving. The purpose of our Lord instituting the covenant of Remembrance was reduced to a ritual, with the church misusing their freedom and abusing the covenant.
…your meetings do more harm than good.1 Corinthians 11:17
The same line should be applied to our gatherings and we must examine our fellowships. Are they doing more harm to us than good? If the answer is yes, then we must separate ourselves from such fellowships that eventually become a barrier for us to reach God as the purpose of fellowship is to get together and praise God and not to glorify ourselves.
The Grecian culture of those days was built on a class system and Paul was trying to break that glass ceiling so that they could have a true fellowship. The class system that prevailed in those days was making its way into the Church, causing problems and divisions that were distracting everyone from God. Divisions based on caste, colour, race and languages exist even today in our fellowships. The Greeks did not know any better and allowed their class divisions to come into their Church but what is our excuse for allowing these divisions to prevail in our fellowships over the unity in Christ. If we have such divisions that means we have not understood the sacrifice that Christ made for us and then there is no need to take part in any rituals in remembrance of that sacrifice.
The early Church did not have a symbolic supper but actually treated their regular meal which they had after their gathering as the Lord’s Supper. Ideally, the meal after our meetings and fellowships should be regarded as the Lord’s Supper and we should be eating it with our fellow believers while remembering that it is the blood of Christ that unites us.
But that is not that case as our gatherings are completely transformed during the meal part of our fellowships. The people who are conservative with their words during the meeting, suddenly are transformed into a more boisterous persona while eating the supper. Our gatherings have two halves that look completely different. We have entrusted a chosen few to handle the scriptural part of our meetings and when that is done, our true self appears when we mingle with our friends.
If we forget that we are in the presence of God during the meal part of our meetings that means we never thought that God is attending our meetings in the first place. Why does our attitude change during our fellowships? When does our attitude change between church on Sundays to Monday morning conference calls? Why are we not living our lives like we are always in the presence of God? Do we think that God is only observing us when we are standing in the queue for communion? It must be so because that is when we put on the most sober version of ourselves.
If we are putting on a show for God, then we should be the same everywhere but we are putting on a show for our fellow believers so that we have a righteous image in our church. If we truly have Christ in our hearts and follow His ways, we would be the same person during the service, after the service, at the table and especially in other secular parts of our lives.
Our Remembrance of Jesus’s sacrifice should not be only on Sundays when we are standing in the communion line but throughout the week and should be reflected in everything we do. When we stop putting on a show for our fellow ‘believers’ that is when we will start living for Jesus. The Corinthians were living for the world and not for Christ. They said they had invited Jesus into their hearts but did not extend the same courtesy to their countrymen from a different class.
Let us examine our fellowships and our acts of remembrance. Are we living for others or only for Christ? Do we really acknowledge His sacrifice or are blindly following a tradition taught to us by our parents? If we really want to follow Jesus’s example, we should not be inculcating any divisions within us rather we must include everyone of God’s creation in our fellowships.
What is the Lord’s supper?
How were the congregation at Corinth sinning against the body and blood of Jesus?
Does our fellowship do more harm than good?
What does the Lord’s Supper mean to us?