The first local church (4)

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:16-22; 11:17-22

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.

Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?

Conduct at the Lord’s Supper

Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.

The first church "continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in BREAKING OF BREAD." In our last study we dealt with the "BREAKING OF BREAD." We will now pursue this theme a little further.


1) "Breaking of Bread" is "Communion"

1 Cor. 1O:16-17 (Amp.) - "The cup of blessing (of wine at the Lord's Supper) upon which we ask [God's] blessing, does it not mean (that in drinking it) we participate in and share a FELLOWSHIP (A COMMUNION) in the blood of Christ, the Messiah? The bread which we break, does it not mean (that in eating it) we participate in and share A FELLOWSHIP (A COMMUNION) in the body of Christ? For we (no matter how) numerous we are, are one body, because we ALL PARTAKE OF THE ONE BREAD (the One Whom the communion bread represents)."

In this section of his letter, Paul is warning the Corinthians against idolatry. Apparently some Christians were attending heathen feasts held in honour of idols. Paul says that the idol is nothing nor that which is offered to it in sacrifice. However, the idol is just a "front" for a demon, and the "things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice TO DEMONS." Such sacrificial feasts were for the purpose of "fellowship with demons." They drank "the cup of demons" and sat at the "table of demons" (vs. 19-22). When we as Christians "break bread" together, we are declaring our vital relationship and fellowship with Jesus Christ. That which is constantly true of a real Christian, is specifically expressed in the divinely ordained "Lord's Supper." The heathen sacrificial feast expressed the idolator's fellowship with demons. The blessed "Memorial Feast" of the "Lord's Supper" expresses the Christian's fellowship with our Lord Jesus.

When we partake of the Lord's Supper we are declaring our love for, and loyalty to, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are giving literal and visible expression to our living and saving faith in Jesus Christ. We are gratefully rejoicing in our "share" of all that He accomplished for us by the giving of His body and blood. After feeding the 5,000 Jesus has declared, "I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE. He who COMES TO ME will NEVER BE HUNGRY and he who BELIEVES ON ME WILL NEVER THIRST ANY MORE" (John 6:35 Amp.). However, although they saw and heard Him, and many of them professed to be His disciples, there was not much REAL FAITH, Knowing this, He said, "Although you have seen Me, STILL YOU DO NOT BELIEVE AND TRUST AND HAVE FAITH" (vs. 35,36). How could He break through this RELIGIOUS UNBELIEF and make them to know that they MUST HAVE A VITAL AND PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM? It was at this point that Jesus said, "I AM THIS LIVING BREAD which came down from Heaven. If anyone EATS OF THIS BREAD, he will LIVE FOREVER" (vs. 51). This made the Jews angry, but Jesus continued, "I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, you cannot have any life in yourselves unless you EAT THE FLESH OF THE SON OF MAN AND DRINK HIS BLOOD ... He who FEEDS ON MY FLESH AND DRINKS MY BLOOD has eternal life" (vs. 53,54).

Jesus was not speaking of literally eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Had the people been "mixing the Word with faith," they would have understood that He was graphically expressing their need of a vital relationship with Himself through saving faith. It was another way of presenting what He had already said, and what incidentally, they had failed to "hear". He had said, "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; " (vs. 40). It is obvious that He was speaking of SAVING FAITH and not of a literal eating of His physical body. This ultimatum produced results. "After this many of His disciples WENT BACK - returned to their old associations - and WALKED WITH HIM NO MORE" (vs. 66).

Where there is genuine faith, the Lord's Supper will be received with understanding and joy. There will be no ritualistic superstition or formalistic death. We know what it is to "eat His flesh and drink His blood." Having received Christ by believing and obeying the Gospel, we gladly express our continuing faith by eating the "blessed bread" and drinking the "blessed cup". We are declaring our undivided trust in Jesus Christ. This we do "together". Our "partaking of the ONE bread" indicates that "no matter how numerous we are, we ARE ONE BODY."

2) "The Lord's Supper" Violated (1 Cor. 11:17—22)

From the beginning, the Lord's Supper seems to have been taken in conjunction with a meal known as a "love feast." In fact, it seems also to have been received in connection with a regular meal as in Acts 2:46. This could be a most blessed arrangement, and undoubtedly was. However, in Corinth it became the occasion when division was most deliberately manifest. The contradiction between purpose and practice is seen in verse 18 — "When YOU COME TOGETHER as a church, I hear that there are DIVISIONS among you." "TOGETHER" and "DIVISIONS" do not belong in the same verse! There was a VIOLATION of the whole spirit and purpose of THE LORD'S SUPPER, Paul says, whatever you are doing when you come together on these occasions, one thing is sure, you are NOT eating the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is for the Lord's undivided people. The very meaning of the Supper is "communion" — joint participation and sharing.

How was division manifest in Corinth at these gatherings? One division was apparently between the rich and the poor. The rich brought much food and drink while the poor brought little or none. The rich then proceeded to eat and drink to the point of excess, while the poor were excluded from participating. The Lord's Supper is always violated when such carnal divisions are tolerated. As we will disclose later, such conduct deserves the judgement of God.