In Order To Have A Share In The Lord's Supper

July 20, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
First Corinthians 11:23-34

The Special Meal Called The Lord's Supper

1. We observe the Lord's Supper the first Sunday of each month in our church. Those who have received baptism come forward and receive a small [piece of] bread and [some] grape juice which has been poured into a small cup. There are also churches which observe the Lord's Supper every week. There are churches like us observing the Lord's Supper once a month or even some less frequently than that. At any rate, we assemble each week in the sanctuary where the communion table is. We assemble around the communion table.

2. So, in this manner then, we partake of the small [piece of] bread and we partake of the grape juice [we've] poured into the small cup, but the church did not originally observe it in that form. At the beginning it was a very normal meal. Of course, they had the meal based on Jesus' having said, "Observe this in this manner as a memorial to me," but the meaning is completely different from each one having their own meals at home. The form may be the same, but still it was a special meal. The church called this "the Lord's Supper." And it expressed the act of sharing in the Lord's Supper as "eating the Lord's bread" and "drinking the Lord's cup."

3. Even though it is a normal meal as seen by the eye, it is a special meal called "the Lord's Supper," and so you would expect there to be an appropriate way one is to share in it. Indeed, precisely because it is the same as seen by the eye, that participating in it may become an issue. In today's second passage of recitation, Paul reminds us again that "the Lord's Supper" is done based on the words of Jesus, what's more, [they are] the words of Jesus when his death on the cross was fast approaching, "the night he was betrayed." Then [Paul] continues as follows. "Therefore, anyone who eats the Lord's bread and drinks the cup in an inappropriate state will be committing a sin against the Lord's body and blood," (verse twenty-seven). The person who takes part in "the Lord's Supper" must not take part in it like a normal meal, without discerning that he or she is taking part in the body of the Lord by means of it.

4. Of course, in the Lord's Supper which we of today are having, I doubt anyone will take part in this mistaking it for a normal meal. It is plain for anyone to see that the special [elements] we are having are different from the usual food and drink. "The Lord's Supper" is based upon the words of the Lord, and [we] give affirmation to that each time by the reading of this scripture passage. Even still though, we will need to ask ourselves a question or two: "Are we truly having the Lord's Supper fully regarding it as the Lord's Supper?" Or, "Are we eating the bread of the Lord and drinking the cup in an inappropriate state?" To begin with, what does it mean to be "in an inappropriate state?" What is considered the problem?

When It Turns Out Not To Be "The Lord's Supper" But "A Personal Dinner"

5. With that then, I would like for us to turn our attention onto what happened, unbelievable as it was, in this church at Corinth. When we read the passage read today just shortly ago, we see right away the fact that there were divisions in the church membership at Corinth. "To begin with, first, I hear that whenever you gather in the church, there are divisions among you. I, too, think to a degree that there probably are," (verse eighteen).

6. Furthermore, those divisions [among church members] are loaded with problems that end up making the Lord's Supper not be the Lord's Supper. Beginning in verse twenty the scripture says the following. "Even though you assemble together, it doesn't amount to your eating the Lord's Supper. That's because at meal time each one selfishly eats his own portion, and the end result is that, as you wonder if there are some who are hungry, some are also drunk." How could that be, everybody? No doubt, this is a terrible story. We also feel that under no circumstances would this ever amount to the having of "the Lord's Supper."

7. However, we need to read accurately here what the problem turned out to be. In the first place, why are some getting full before the others and [why are they] already intoxicated even? Why are others going hungry? Why is such a thing even happening? -- Because the hours they can assemble in the church vary. Why are the times they can assemble in the church different? It is because the church included persons of different social classes. For example, some used to be slaves, others were the owners of the slaves. There were social disparities in it. There were economic disparities. In those days, meetings were held at night.The rich could get there early. The poor had to work long and hard. Yet whenever the poor finally got released from work and rushed off to the meetings, "the Lord's Supper" was almost completely eaten up by those who had already gotten there ahead of them.

8. "How 'bout that, they didn't leave any portions for us, not a scrap left over!" They probably should have protested saying something like that, right? But they didn't. Originally the materials for the meals used to be from the voluntary gifts of the church members. It was the rich who furnished most of the meals. Even though these persons had begun "the Lord's Supper" ahead [of the others], the poor could not complain. Since that was the situation, Paul says the following in verse twenty-two. "Don't you have homes in which to do your eating and drinking? Or would you rather belittle the church of God and bring shame to the poor?"

9. Yet the problem is not simply that they are lacking in concern for the poor. That's not the problem, rather it is how something like that, of all things, could even take place during "the Lord's Supper."

10. So now we ought to take notice of the words from verse twenty-one. Paul says, "because [at meal] time each one selfishly eats his own portion." The text says "his own portion," but this phrase is originally that of "his own supper." They were supposed to be assembling in order to eat "the Lord's Supper, but it was not "the Lord's Supper" but had been turning into "my own supper."

11. Of course, it's not that the people who assembled early were eating and drinking and not thinking about Jesus at all. They were intending to eat "the Lord's Supper." They weren't just eating earlier out of hunger because if they were only satisfying their hunger, then they wouldn't need to have a meal by deliberately assembling in the church. The reason they had gathered together at such an early hour must be because they were zealous in some sense. You might say that these persons' wanting to have the Lord's Supper just a bit early with the other "zealous persons" who were gathering together early is, in a certain sense, a sign of [their] zeal in seeking the Lord.

12. However, no matter how zealous and devout an action it might have been, Paul says, it was only "their own suppers" that they were eating. Since it was only "their own suppers" the poor who couldn't come early did not enter into their field of vision. The others whom the Lord was calling [to be there] did not enter into their field of vision. Indeed, the enjoyment of "their own suppers" had entered their field of vision much more. In fact, they must have enjoyed many a meeting with their own spiritual and zealous kind, along with those who looked like them either socially or economically. But then that was no longer "the Lord's Supper."

[We] Share In The Body And The Blood Of The Lord

13. Well then, don't you think this same kind of thing goes on today? Though the shape of the bread changes somewhat, or even that we may practice it so many ways ceremonially, or we may receive the bread seemingly quite piously and reverentially, or we may shed moving tears, that's not the Lord's Supper, but rather, it is possible for it to end up turning into "my own supper." Don't you think it happens? It may be a spiritually based desire or it may be a secular / worldly based desire, but in the end, it is just a worship, the kind of Lord's Supper, where one seeks only for the satisfaction of the self. Not getting annoyed by others but [having] a worship in which somehow we want to be satisfied, that kind of Lord's Supper. That is no longer "a Lord's Supper." In "the Lord's Supper" one just doesn't eat, "the eating together" has substantial significance.

14. Then, Paul shows them again the words of the Lord during that last supper [of his]. "This is my body for you. Observe it like this as a memorial to me," (verse twenty-four). "This cup is the new covenant established through my blood. Each time you drink, observe it like this as a memorial to me," (verse twenty-five). As I touched upon earlier, the Lord spoke like that "the night" Jesus "was betrayed." Upon being betrayed, the Lord was hung on a cross. He was killed. The Lord stated this in consent to it. With the premise that his body was to be nailed up on the cross and his blood was to be shed, for the redemption of sin, on behalf of them and on behalf of us, the Lord stated [before it even happened], "This is my body," "This is my blood."

15. Therefore, "the Lord's Supper" is truly none other than the eating of Jesus' flesh and the drinking of Jesus' blood. That same thing was read even in today's gospel recitation (John 6:52-59). For our salvation Christ tore apart his own body, poured his own blood and then he gave it to us. That's "the Lord's Supper."

16. In this way then, whenever one eats the flesh of Jesus and drinks the blood of Jesus, "the Lord's Supper" will lead to each person who shares in it becoming joined to one another with an unbelievably thick bond. They will be joined to one another with the bond called the life of Christ. As that bond is quite thick, it joins [people] by breaking through any of the walls of separation that tear apart human beings. Whether poor or rich. Or whichever social class one belongs to. Jew or Gentile. Male or female. A patriot of the Zealot party or a tax collector considered unpatriotic. These should not have substantial significance during "the Lord's Supper" because Christ tore apart [his] body, poured [his] blood and gave us to eat of that flesh and blood and joined us to each other with it. For that reason, in fact, the miracle of slaves and masters eating together, in the church, has taken place. That which was completely impossible to happen, like Jews and Gentiles having a meal together, has happened. "The Lord's Supper" should be that way at its most basic level. It says [to us] that by discerning the Lord's body one shares in "the Lord's Supper."

17. The believers at Corinth needed to check themselves out about whether or not they were sharing in the Lord's Supper after having truly discerned the body of the Lord. The church at Corinth needed to restore the true nature of "the Lord's Supper" by having the wealthy and the poor meeting on a pre-arranged place and time, and by eating the meal together. In addition, we will also probably need to check ourselves out and be sure. If we suppose there are walls of separation that remain and have not been broken down by "the Lord's Supper," that would be something strange. Do we share in "the Lord's Supper" truly thinking we have received Christ's flesh and Christ's blood? I think we'll need to check this out and make sure.