The members of the church at Corinth abounded in gifts, and therefore they thought it meet for each one to speak to edification. They had no pastoral oversight whatever; acting, in this respect, like certain brethren whom we know nowadays. The result, however, was very deplorable. They do not appear to have been able even to conduct the Lord’s supper without the most disorderly proceedings. Church discipline was utterly forgotten or neglected; and it seems as if the two Epistles to the Corinthians are given to us as beacons to warn us against that form of worship, seeing that it produces such mischievous and sad results.
1Co_11:17. Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.
It is a very bad state of things when we meet for worship, and separate without any improvement, or, like these Corinthians, “come together, not for the better, but for the worse.”
1Co_11:18. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
It was very gracious and kind on the apostle’s part to put it so mildly, and he sets us the example of not believing anything against our brethren too quickly: “I partly believe it.”
1Co_11:19-21. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
They seem to have regarded it as a common feast, to which they brought their own provisions; and, without waiting for each other, they disgraced the table of the Lord by their scandalous proceedings.
1Co_11:22. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in these? I praise you not.
No doubt they hoped to be praised, and expected that they had done everything in the right way; perhaps, they even believed that they were acting under the inspiration of the Spirit, and therefore could not do anything wrong; but the apostle deals very faithfully with them, and tells them how the supper is to be celebrated. How much we have gained by the mistakes of others! As the inspired apostle is guided to inform us as to the right mode of observing this ordinance, we may almost be thankful that the Corinthians fell into error concerning it, much as we may regret their faults on their own account.
1Co_11:23-24. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
These are the words of the Lord Jesus himself, and therefore they come to us with all the weight of his infallible authority. Then Paul continues:
1Co_11:25-26. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
“Show” or “proclaim.” The latter is the better word: “Ye do proclaim the Lord’s death till he come.” That last phrase ought finally to settle the question of the perpetuity of the Lord’s supper, which is to be observed “till he come.”
1Co_11:27. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
“Unworthily,” that is, in a thoughtless, careless way; or with a view to worldly gain, as some used to take it in order to obtain office under government; and as some, doubtless, do take it, to obtain the alms of the church. Such an unworthy participation is a sin against the very body and blood of the Lord.
1Co_11:28. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
Paul does not say, “Let a man examine himself, and then not eat or drink at the communion.” The examination should lead him to repentance, and to faith, and should then bring him to the table of fellowship in the right state of mind and heart. The examination is not a door to shut him out from the ordinance, but a door at which he may pause awhile, to see whether he is in a right condition to enter; and if he is not, he should seek to be made so, and then enter.
1Co_11:29. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, earth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
“Eateth and drinketh judgment to himself,” for “judgment” is the word here used by the apostle.
1Co_11:30. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
It appears that God visited this church at Corinth with sickness, and took away many of the members by death, because they had profaned the Lord’s table, and had walked in a disorderly manner before him. Paul did not mean to say that these persons were lost; but he intended to remind their fellow-members, and all who might read his Epistle, that God visits churches after this fashion with discipline and chastening because of the unseemly conduct which is always so offensive to him.
1Co_11:31-32. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
So, you see, that chastening process, which is going on in the church, is all in love: “that we should not be condemned with the world;” just as a father exercises discipline in his household, and uses chastisement that his children may never disobey the laws of the realm. They will never come before the police court, for they are kept under proper control at home, and are tutored and trained by their father’s wise government. So we come not under the judgment of the law, as the world itself comes; we come under the disciplinary treatment of the great Head of the Church, even the Lord Jesus Christ.
1Co_11:33-34. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.
Now let us read Luke’s account of the institution of this supper; as we do so, it will be well for us to remember that Luke was a friend and intimate companion of Paul.
This exposition consisted of readings from 1Co_11:17-34; and Luk_22:14-24.