Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Divisions at the Table (1 Corinthians 11:17-22)

"For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk" (1 Cor. 11:21).

The rest of chapter 11 relates to the disorders connected with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. From what Paul has written, its seems to have been the custom of the Corinthians to connect the Lord’s Supper with an ordinary meal. As this sacrament was instituted by our Lord at the end of Passover, it might have been customary in the early church for Christians to assemble for a common meal then to connect it with the commemoration of the Lord’s death. It is also evident from Paul’s writing that the persons assembled brought their own provisions, which would be placed on the table for common usage. Obviously, the rich brought plentifully, and the poor brought little or nothing. It was, however, assumed that the goods should be shared, that all the guests at the table of the Lord, be it an ordinary meal or the sacramental supper, should be treated equally. But instead there were divisions. The rich were eating by themselves and leaving the poor hungry, something that was contrary to the spirit of Christian love.

The apostle condemned the Corinthians on two grounds: their conduct was a perversion of the Lord’s Supper and it was disrespectful and mortifying to their poor brethren. “It was a perversion of the Lord’s Supper because it made it an ordinary meal designed to satisfy hunger,” Hodge wrote. “For that purpose they had their own houses. The church comes together to worship God and to celebrate His ordinances, not for the purposes of eating and drinking. It is important that the church, as the church, should confine itself to its own appropriate work, and not as such undertake to do what its members, as citizens or members of families, may appropriately do. The church does not come together to do what can better be done at home.” Not only the rich but the poor were guilty of coming to the table for the purpose of eating instead of fellowship. But the guilt of the rich was compounded by treating their poor brethren with contempt, brothers and sisters in Christ who were co-heirs of the kingdom. If God has set them upon the throne with Christ and has loved them as His own, what right do mere humans have to hold them in disdain? Yet, this is what the Corinthians were doing, to their guilt and their shame.

Read James 2:1–13. How does the teaching of James apply to the situation reported at Corinth? What principles do you find in this passage by James? How serious is it to hold your poor brother or sister in contempt? What does God think of you when you show favoritism? Pray that God will enable you to see all Christians as He sees them.