Examining Ourselves – 1 Corinthians 11:27-29

Paul told the Corinthians that “a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” There has been a lot of confusion over this examination. Many, based on some older translations of verse 27, have taken this examination to be a test of whether we personally are worthy to take part in the Lord’s Supper. This is a bit of a stretch, as no one could hope to measure up to such a standard; none of us are worthy of anything related to Jesus Christ. So what are we examining?

We are examining our manner of partaking. This gets to the issue that prompted Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians. They were not giving the memorial the reverence it deserved. They were treating the Supper as a common meal. We need to examine ourselves that we are treating the memorial with respect and holding it in a place of honor as the God-given remembrance of our Savior’s death.

We are examining our relationship to the church. Paul has previously talked about the church being the body of Christ, and has been criticizing them for the disunity of this local group of disciples. This memorial is to be a communion or a sharing in the body and blood of the Lord (the physical body and blood, given as a sacrifice for us). We must make sure that when we partake, we are united in spirit and in the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3) with those partaking.

We are examining our priority on Christ’s death. One of the things seen in a survey of this letter is the effect that confusion over the centrality of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection was having on these Christians. We see in this chapter how it is affecting their partaking of the Supper itself. In chapter 15, Paul has to deal with those who somehow thought there was no resurrection. It was affecting the unity of the group, as disciples did not feel strongly enough to unite under Christ rather than flocking to those who had taught them the gospel.

When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, let us examine ourselves, so that we will not bring judgement upon ourselves.

Proclaiming the Lord’s Death – 1 Corinthians 11:26

Paul provided his own commentary on Jesus’ last statement in 1 Corinthians 11:25 when he said, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

It is not uncommon to announce a person’s death. We have obituaries that appear on a daily basis to announce those who die. If a person is of sufficient importance or popularity, it may even make the news headlines. The funerals of significant figures are even televised, and we may even remember the anniversary of such a passing for a number of years to follow.

Inevitably, the death of individuals passes out of our collective consciousness. Even the most famous of historical figures becomes a historical detail and a date on a tombstone. Hardly does anyone “proclaim” the death of these people far into the future.

It is amazing, then, to think that 2,000 years after the event, we are still proclaiming Jesus’ death. Each first day of the week, when we gather to break bread, we are announcing to the world that Jesus died. In fact, the word, proclaim, carries the idea of declaring proudly or of praising and glorifying openly. Who proclaims a death?

We do, because we know what that death means to us. We understand its importance, that the Lord provided salvation and won the final victory over death. We will proudly announce to the world that our Savior died for us—and arose again—until He returns for us.

…In Remembrance of Me – 1 Corinthians 11:24-25

Jesus said to keep the memorial in remembrance of Him. What exactly are we remembering?

We Remember His Death. The bread is a memorial of our Savior’s body, broken for us. We remember how He was nailed to a cross for us. We remember that He was the sacrificial lamb provided by God on man’s behalf.

We Remember His Covenant. Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.” Blood was often used to seal a covenant or agreement (hence why we talk about signing our names in blood). The Law of Moses was inaugurated by blood. Similarly blood was used to bring into effect a new covenant, one superior to Moses’ law. That blood was a superior blood to the blood used then; instead of the blood of animals, the blood of the very Son of God was used.

We Remember His Resurrection. If Jesus had simply died, that being the end of things, there would be nothing special, nothing particularly memorable, about that death except perhaps the tragedy of injustice that occurred as an innocent man was put to death. However, because He arose, that death has a unique significance. Because He arose, we know that one day we will rise, too.

We Remember What He Did for Us. Why did Jesus come to earth? He came so that we could be with Him one day. He died so that we can live.

Why do we give thanks for the bread and the cup? Because we need this memorial. We need to remember Jesus. We need to remember what Jesus did. We need to remember what Jesus did for us. We need to remember what Jesus did for us that we could never hope to do for ourselves.

Do This… – 1 Corinthians 11:24-25

It is common for us to prepare for the Lord’s Supper by reading one of the accounts of Jesus’ institution of His memorial in the Upper Room. The question that arises from time to time is how binding the example of Jesus with His disciples really is. How much of that institution are we charged with keeping and how much of it was a “one-time” event?

Paul helps us out with this as he tells us what he received from the Lord regarding the memorial. The advantage of Paul’s account is that it strips away a number of the contextual details. For example, no mention is made of it being instituted in an upper room, nor do we have the binding example of singing a song and dismissing following the memorial. It also resolves some issues with Luke’s account including the sharing of a cup before the breaking of bread (Luke 22:17-18). That said, Paul does not provide all the information about what he kept in his recounting, as his audience should already be familiar with it.

What we have preserved for us in this account are the essential elements, the bread and the cup. While Paul does not say anything about unleavened bread or the cup containing the fruit of the vine (i.e., grape juice), these are necessary conclusions based on when this memorial was instituted (“the night in which He was betrayed,” which was during the Passover celebration). There would have been no leaven, nor any product from leaven, which excludes leavened bread and fermented grape juice (as the fermenting process is expedited by yeast, the leavening agent in bread).

We are also reminded that Jesus gave thanks for the bread and the cup.   This is left as an example for us in our commemoration.

Why is it important to know what makes up the Lord’s Supper? Simple. If the Lord gave us a memorial and specified how He wanted it kept, is it not our duty to keep it? Jesus said to do this in remembrance of Him. Anything other than the memorial He gave is not a memorial of Him. Let us keep His memorial the way He commanded.

The Lord’s “Supper” – 1 Corinthians 11:20-22, 34

We refer to the memorial of our Savior’s death as the “Lord’s Supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20), the “breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42), and possibly a “love feast” (Jude 12, though the reference is inconclusive). All of these terms are connected to the consumption of food. The memorial itself was instituted as part of the observance of the Passover meal. It is perhaps not a surprise that the Corinthians had a problem with treating the Lord’s Supper as a common meal, or combining it with their own dinner.

The Lord’s Supper is not just any meal. Paul uses this expression for the memorial to create a distinction between it and the consumption of food for sustenance: our own supper. One is done primarily for us. The other is done primarily for the Lord.

Paul said that when we assemble as the local church and make it about eating a meal for sustenance, we really despise the church. Rather than the breaking of bread being a uniting event, it is a dividing event. We make a distinction between those who are of meager means (the one who is hungry) and those who are of abundant means (the one who is drunk). It becomes about our personal status rather than our equal sharing in and equal need for the sacrifice of our Lord.

Paul’s concluding admonition to the Corinthians on the subject of the Lord’s Supper was this: “If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment.” When we come together as God’s people, whether for worship generally or the Lord’s Supper particularly, it needs to be for that purpose. If we are gathered for any other reason, we will have to stand before God one day and explain why we despised the church in coming together for a reason other than to glorify Him.

The Need for Unity – 1 Corinthians 11:17-18, 33

Suppose a congregation decided that in offering the Lord’s Supper on Sunday, the table would be “left prepared” and the building unlocked so that anyone who wished to partake could do so whenever it was convenient for them. Under such a system, you’d have some getting to the church building around 6 in the morning so they could “get it out of the way” and others arriving about 2 or 3 in the afternoon so that they could sleep in on their day off of work. You’d probably have some groups—close friends or family members—agreeing to meet at a certain time so they could be sure to see one another. Would all these people be partaking of the Lord’s Supper? Sure. Are they taking it together as a group of God’s people? Hardly. The interesting thing about each group is that the reason for coming (or at least, when they come) has less to do with the partaking of the Supper and more to do with how that fits into the rest of their lives, and has almost nothing to do with remembering Christ’s death as a united congregation.

Paul said that this was a problem. He told the Corinthians that their coming together was “for the worse” because there were divisions in the congregation. From what Paul said, the problem wasn’t necessarily them coming at different times (though verse 33 suggests this as a contributing factor). The key problem was that even when they were all assembled together, there was no unity. Part of the problem was that they weren’t coming together for the Lord’s Supper (at least, neither primarily nor practically). They had no concept of being a united group of believers, looking out for one another’s interests and needs.

As a congregation of God’s people, we can be united in location but divided in heart. We might all be here physically in the same place at the same time. This is good, but if we aren’t united in heart and spirit as a group of believers assembled to worship God and to remember His Son, we partake of the Supper in vain. Our coming is not for the better, but for the worse.

An Exclusive Devotion – 1 Corinthians 10:20-22

When Paul wrote to the Corinthian brethren, he had to deal with the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols. As he approached the end of that discussion, he made the point of verses 16 and 17 that when we partake of the Lord’s Supper we share in the body and blood of Christ. To apply this statement to the situation at hand, he told the Corinthians that similarly, participating in the sacrifice of an animal upon an idol’s altar is a sharing in that false god (“demon,” Paul says). The problem is that one cannot share in both the Lord and demons/idols.

While we probably won’t be tempted to participate or witness the sacrifice of an animal upon an altar to a false god, what we do with the rest of our week can cancel out what we do on the first day of it. How can we come together on the first day of the week and proclaim the Lord’s death and then on the second through seventh days live as if we had never heard of the Lord? Many of us seem to forget that we are Christians the moment

Rather, we must devote ourselves exclusively to our Lord throughout our whole lives. Not just the Lord’s Supper, but everything we do should give the message that we follow Christ and that we have placed our hope in Him.

The first day of the week should set the tone for the rest of the week. Even if we only come together to break bread on the first day of the week, our lives should reflect the sacrifice that we share in throughout the week. Otherwise, as Paul says, we will provoke the Lord to jealousy, something that none of us should ever want to do.

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