Call to Worship October 25 2020
Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 11:17-33
Paul, earlier in verse 2 of this chapter, encouraged the believers in the church at Corinth. “Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.” (1 Cor. 11:2 NAU) Then in verses 3-33 he proceeded to establish some points of concern, accountability and further teaching. Along with the previously mentioned issue and contentiousness of submission and authority (vs. 16), Paul continued to confront divisions inside the church (vs. 17-18). Primarily, Paul desired to hold them accountable according to the Lord’s Supper in general and specifically with how they treated the supper and those partaking of the supper.
Paul warns them that they are taking the supper in blasphemy or irreverence. They looked at the eating of the supper as just another meal. Some individuals went so far, as reported to Paul, to eat and drink to great excess, including drunkenness, while others were hungry and not being served out of discrimination (vs. 19-21) (F.F. Bruce, pg. 109). Paul chastised their immature and inconsiderate manner of taking the supper (vs. 20-22). Furthermore, he warned of the effects of their irreverence. As they were not examining themselves according to scripture their sinfulness was not being recognized and repented of where necessary. According to Paul, God had brought judgment through providential manners upon some people in the church. Some were sick and others had died due to the inattentiveness in their lives as professing disciples of Christ (vs. 28-31). So Paul decided to remind them of the foundation and proper perspective of the Lord’s Supper.
Paul taught them that the Lord Jesus instituted this supper, including its elements and its perspective regarding those elements. It was the Lord Jesus who used the symbols of the bread and the wine. He instituted the use of these two elements for His people to remember Him and His work on this earth. The bread was to remember that He was an offering of food for the soul to lost sinners and the only bread of life. His human body was the instrument of perfection that was to be broken, so that the blood of Christ may flow in sacrifice. The wine was to remember the pressing wrath of God upon Christ as He shed His blood for sinners and the need for sinners to have sustaining drink to go along with the their spiritual food. In the wine they were to remember the shedding of blood to the point of death. Christ shed His blood and died the death of a sinner to satisfy the wrath of God against sinners. Those who come to the table come in faith, repenting and believing in what Christ did during His earthly life and final death on the cross as the only complete offering in true sinless righteousness. This is the new or completed covenant offering through Christ alone (Thomas Boston, vol. 2 pg. 481-483). Therefore, when the Corinthian believers irreverently took the supper they minimized the proper recognition of worship commanded by Christ to be given to Him for who He is and all that He accomplished on this earth.
In closing, Paul reminded them of seeing the judgement in the context of the Lord’s Supper. In the end we will neither be the judge of ourselves nor others, because we would not rightly judge one another or ourselves. We must judge ourselves in the light of the gospel recognizing that we are filthy rotten sinners in need of Christ’s life and shed blood. This will aid us in not seeing the Lord’s Supper with glasses of mere formality. At the judgement the world will be adjudicated rightly and properly condemned according to God’s justice. Those who fail to recognize their initial and/or continual need of Christ will eternally know the wrath of God. Yet those who repent and believe in Christ alone to save them from the just and deadly debt of their sin will desire to examine themselves in coming to the Lord’s Supper (vs. 21). The word examine has a context of a metal worker testing to see if the metal is pure enough for value or strength of use. So the examination Paul refers to is done by testing the purity of one’s self before the word of God to see where the strengths and weaknesses lie in remaining flesh. Therefore the person at the Lord’s Supper will see their sin for what it is by the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit and continue to repent of their sin. They will not see the Lord’s Supper as formality, but as a time of remembrance of all that Christ has done to save His people. They will continue to seek forgiveness even though the debt has already been paid, for they do this in remembrance of Him.
(Read Thomas Boston, vol. 2 pg. 481-488 for more detail. Also, he has a wonderful sermon on examining oneself for the table, Of The Worthy Receiving Of The Lord’s Supper, in vol. 2 pg. 489. Thomas Watson has some helpful thoughts on examining yourself in his sermons on The Lord’s Supper, pg. 39-47 published by Banner of Truth)