The Lord's Supper. When you read those words, what thoughts come to mind? More importantly, what feelings do you have when you think about "the Lord's Supper"? As the Passover was to the Israelites, the Lord's Supper is to Christians. When you observe this supper, isn't it a time of reflection? A time of remembering all that the Lord has done for you. A solemn, thought provoking, spiritual observance. Can you imagine turning this occasion into one of thoughtlessness, of division among brethren, of gluttony and even
drunkenness? "It will never be!" one might proclaim. But it already has been this very way. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul severely rebukes some of our own brethren for this very reason. In his rebuke to them, we can be reminded of some very valuable teachings about our own faith as we observe the Lord's Supper.
In 1Corinthians 11:2 Paul commends them for remembering him and for keeping the traditions "just as I delivered them to you." He then goes on to talk to them about the proper order of headship and about head coverings while praying or prophesying. When he is finished with these teachings, he says in verse 17, "Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you." And he repeats this thought in verse 22, "...Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you." What could they have been doing to bring about such a change of attitude in Paul?
First, he tells them that their coming together was "not for the better but for the worse." He was referring to their assemblies, their times of worship as a congregation. He gives the rule that should guide all of our assemblies in 1Corinthians 14:26, "...When ever you come together...Let all things be done for edification." When we assemble let everything we do have the intended purpose of building up, never one of tearing down. But what were these brethren doing that was for "the worse?"
"There are divisions among you." (1Corinthians 11:18) Paul had already discussed division in the first three chapters but now there is yet another "type" of division. This time it seems to be between the "have's" and the "have not's". The Lord's Supper had been somehow turned into a common meal. Apparently similar to our "covered dish" suppers where everybody brings something. Not even counting the fact that this was a perversion of the Lord's Supper, they were showing a lack of love for their own "family" members by not allowing all to partake of the meal. What was intended to be a time for the family of God to remember the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ had been turned into a time of selfishness and the indulging of the fleshly appetites. It is no wonder that Paul would say, "Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper." (1Corinthians 11:20) What are the lessons here for you and I to learn? No, I don't know of any congregation of the Lord's people that has gone to these extremes in their partaking of the Lord's Supper. But there are trends and habits among the Lord's people that I believe fit what Paul is rebuking these brethren for doing.
Have we ever been guilty of "shaming those who have nothing"? (vs 22)? May our assemblies never turn into a fashion show. Who has the newest style of dress or suit. Or who drives the nicest vehicle to services. Yes, I believe we should give our best to the Lord. But may our efforts in this never cause us to look down on those who "have not." You see, we are a family and God's family has always made sure that the needs of all are satisfied and that no one is made to feel like a "second class citizen."
The partaking of the Lord's Supper was designed by the Lord to be a family occasion. 1Corinthians 10:16,17 tells us that it is a communion of the body and blood of Christ. That we all partake of that one bread. Paul said in 1Corinthians 11:20 that the partaking of the Lord's Supper is a time when we have "come together in one place." In addition, we are to examine ourselves to make sure that we do not "eat and drink in an unworthy manner." (1Corinthians 11:27-29) In the context of this passage, it is the manner in which we "eat and drink" that is under consideration. The focus is not so much on our own worthiness (who is worthy of the sacrifice of Christ?) but in observing the Lord's Supper in the proper manner. Paul describes this in 1Corinthians 11:23-26 in very simple and direct terms. It is not a common meal. It is not a time for divisions among brethren. Nor is it a time for some brethren to be left out because they had nothing to contribute to the meal. This is a family affair. A time when the Lord's people make a great statement of their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And we tell the world that He will be back! So, when we partake of this memorial feast, we must be aware of why we are doing this. We must "discern the Lord's body." Otherwise we are eating and drinking judgment to ourselves (vs 29).
Let me ask this question as we conclude this article, Why is it that many Christians, on a fairly regular basis, partake of the Lord's Supper at a time other than when the rest of their family partakes of it? It may be at night at a time when little or no thought is taken up in the "observance" of His Supper. I am not saying that it is wrong to offer the Lord's Supper again at night, but is it a "family affair?" What about taking the "elements" with you while traveling on the Lord's Day? Something seems to be missing, don't you think? Are their times when this is appropriate? I think so. But the Lord's Supper by design, is meant to be a congregational observance. Every example bears this out. It truly is meant to be a family affair! Let me encourage us all to be with our brethren when it is time to "show forth His death until He comes again."