The first local church (5)

Bible reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

Institution of the Lord’s Supper

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

With this study we conclude our consideration of the "BREAKING OF BREAD," In our last study we were dealing with "THE APOSTLES' DOCTRINE" in relation to "BREAKING OF BREAD." We continue under this heading.


1) The Importance of the Supper (vs. 23-25)

a) A Revelation to Paul vs. 23a (Amp.) — "For I received from the Lord Himself that which I passed on to you - IT WAS GIVEN TO ME PERSONALLY..."

In verse 22 Paul rebukes the Corinthians for the manner in which they were conducting themselves at the Lord's Supper. Their conduct amounted to "despising the church of God," It was a serious offence, not only in violating the "communion" of the assembly, but in disobeying the apostolic rule. Paul had "delivered" unto them "the order and meaning of the Lord's table."

What Paul "delivered" was that which he had "received of the Lord". Paul had not been in the company of the disciples at the "Last Supper". He had not yet been converted. On becoming a Christian he undoubtedly "broke bread" with many groups of believers and understood what he was doing. However, so important was the Supper to the Lord, He gave Paul an "immediate revelation" concerning it. It was to be a part of the churches' life "till He come".

b) The Lord's Account

The accounts of the Lord's Supper found in the Gospels are reports either directly or indirectly of those who were present. These no doubt Paul had heard. However, his account given in this Corinthian letter is recorded as "received of the Lord." One tries to imagine what it must have been like to receive directly from the Lord HIS ACCOUNT of the Supper.

Notice the use of the "four words." i) "The night in which He was betrayed." Here is love in the midst of treachery.

ii) "TOOK Bread"

"When He had given THANKS." Two Greek words are used interchangeably here in the various records. One is "bless" which means "to speak well of." When the bread is "blessed" it is set apart to its special use as the emblem of our Lord's body. The other word means "to give thanks" and is the Greek word 'eucharisteo.' It is from this word we get the name "EUCHARIST" which is used by many to describe the Lord's Supper. So, in preparing to receive the emblem we set them apart to their holy use and give most grateful thanks for them.

"He BROKE it"


iii) "This is My body." Obviously the bread was not His literal body. It represented His body. Nor does it change upon being blessed. It is still bread, for Paul says, "as often as you eat THIS BREAD." Our eating the bread describes our feeding upon the life of our Lord Jesus made available to us through death and resurrection and enthronement.

iv) "This cup is the new covenant in My blood."

Amp. - "This cup is the new covenant (ratified and established) in My blood." The blood of Christ provides the legal basis upon which God can relate in covenant fellowship to believing men and women.

v) "As often as you drink it." what does love and fellowship require? The early church apparently received the Lord's Supper the first day of each week.

vi) " remembrance of Me."

Amp. - "To call Me (affectionately) to remembrance." The words may also be rendered, "for a memorial of Me, or to bring Me to your remembrance." Our desire to remember Him "affectionately" may have some bearing on "how often" we "come together to eat the Lord's Supper."

2 The Purpose of the Supper (vs 26)

Amp. - "For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are representing and signifying and proclaiming the fact of the Lord's death until He comes (again)."

The word "show" literally means "you announce, or proclaim." As the Israelites gratefully celebrated the Passover, constantly calling to mind his great deliverance from Egypt. so the Christian in the Lord's Supper is declaring and proclaiming his saving relationship to the redemptive act of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is to be a perpetual memorial "till He come."

3 The Partakers of the Supper (vs. 27-28)

Amp. - "So then whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a way that is unworthy (of Him) will be guilty of (profaning and sinning against) the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man (thoroughly) examine himself, and (only) when he has done so should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup."

a) The Irreverent (vs. 27)

This verse has alarmed many sincere Christians who felt they were not "worthy". No one who has any understanding of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man can ever "feel worthy" - There is one who "was found worthy" - "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Rev. 5:4-5).. Our worthiness is found in our being "in Him"

Those referred to here are those that partake of the Supper in "a careless irreverent, defiant spirit", or as the margin says, "in an unworthy manner." Such a participation is serious. They are said to be "guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." Their sin is in relation to such holy things as "the body and the blood".

The man who tramples on the flag of his country, insults his country; and he who insults the dignity of the representative of a sovereign, thereby offends the sovereign himself. In like manner, HE WHO TREATS THE SYMBOLS OF CHRIST'S BODY AND BLOOD IRREVERENTLY IS GUILTY OF IRREVERENCE TOWARD CHRIST." The warning is directly against the careless and profane, and not against the timid and doubting.

b) The Properly Prepared (vs. 28)

What is meant by "examine himself?" The word "examine" means to “test with a view to approval." Each Christian must come to the Lord‘s Table in a proper manner. We cannot rightly remember our Lord in His sacrificial death for us, and with joy anticipate His coming again, if we are living and acting in an unworthy way. This is a very personal matter and each honest heart will know when it is approved.

4 The Peril of Improper Participation (vs. 29-30)

Amp. - "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 judgement - upon himself. That (careless and unworthy participation) is the reason many of you are weak and sickly and quite enough of you are fallen into the sleep of death."

a) The Nature of the Impropriety - "Not discerning the Lord‘s body."

There are two possible meanings to these words, both of which relate to the context. The word "discern" means to "judge of, either in the sense of discriminating one thing from another, or in the sense of estimating correctly." The FIRST meaning would be, that the Corinthians were not making a distinction between the love feast or a regular meal and the Lord's Supper. As we have already pointed out, it became a prevalent custom for Christians to eat together a meal called the love feast. Physical appetite was first appeased and then the Lord's Supper was received. However, when love failed, the rich ate much and left the poor without. Also, by the time for Communion many were drunk and disorderly. One can imagine the "unworthy manner" in which the Lord's Supper would be received. Thus there was a failure to make a proper distinction between the meal to appease appetite and the Holy Meal to "remember the Lord."

The SECOND meaning would be, that the Corinthians were failing to estimate rightly the nature of "the Church is HIS BODY." The division among them which was manifest in the way in which they acted at the Communion was a denial of the unity of the Lord's people. The very nature of the Lord's Supper is a "Communion", a joint participation in declaring the unity and equality of all believers in Christ's redemption. Such failure to distinguish between an ordinary meal and the Lord's Supper, and to properly estimate the true meaning of the Church, the Lord's many—membered body threatened serious consequences.

b) The Impropriety Judged - "A sentence - a verdict of judgement."

God cannot permit such a state of affairs to continue. Such violation of the law of love and unity must incur judgement. We must "behave in the house of God" as "becomes God's dear children," We cannot disobey our "Head" and disrupt the life of the "family" and expect our action to pass unnoticed.

c) The Judgement Executed

"For this cause many are weak and sickly among you and many sleep." Remember, this is a direct revelation of the risen Lord to Paul. The "Head" is revealing the importance of the Communion and how God's people must relate to it. There is nothing optional here. Many have felt that it would be best to discontinue Communion and so avoid this danger. This solves nothing. To refuse to participate in Communion is as wrong as partaking improperly.

The Word of revelation tells us how God deals with His people who are "not discerning the Lord‘s body." "Many are weak and sickly...and many die prematurely."

5 The Nature of the Judgement (vs. 31-32)

JBP — "If we were closely to examine ourselves beforehand, we should avoid the judgement of God. But when God does judge us, he disciplines us as his own sons, that we may not be involved in the general condemnation of the world."

If, as obedient children, we walked uprightly before God, keeping our lives in right relationship to His revealed will, it would not be necessary to experience such specific judgements as are mentioned here. However, when as His children, we fail to maintain such a relationship, He must, as a loving and concerned Father, act to remedy our failure and delinquency.

6 Final Instructions (vs. 33,34)

JBP - "Now, my brothers, when you come together to eat this bread, wait your proper turn. If a man is really hungry let him satisfy his appetite at home. Don't let your communions be God's judgement upon you."

The Corinthians had been discourteous to one another at the love feasts, scrambling for places at the table and greedily starting to eat before others were placed (vs. 21). Christian love should correct this irregularity. Furthermore, "if anybody is only hungry, that is, if he attends the meetings of the congregation ONLY TO EAT AND TO DRINK and not to enjoy the communion of the saints, let him eat at home. Let not that which was intended to generate holy and affectionate memories, be turned into an occasion for God's displeasure and judgement."