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Sat, Jun 28, 2003

65 - The Lord's Table

1 Corinthians 11:17-20 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 1 mins 43 secs

The Lord's Table; 1 Cor 11:17-20

 

We have come to the central passage in the New Testament on the Lord's table.

1 Corinthians 11:17 NASB "But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. [18] For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it." Paul recognizes in v. 17 that their underlying motivation is not to learn the Word of God so that they can learn to think the thoughts of God and live their life under the power of the Spirit of God so that they can bring glory to God. They are gathering together to satisfy their own personal lusts and desires, which is consistent with everything that we have seen so far in this epistle in relationship to the Corinthians. This was the most corrupt group of believers in the early church and the reason for it was that they had committed an error that has perpetuated itself down through the centuries of Christianity, and that is that they had taken their Greek religious background, various ideas that they had picked up in the mystery religions and the human viewpoint philosophical systems of Plato and Aristotle, and later on the Stoics and the Epicureans, and they were syncretising this with Christianity. In other words, they were trying to blend the two, and you can't blend human viewpoint thinking with divine viewpoint thinking. They are juxtaposed to one another. You either have a biblical worldview or you have a non-biblical worldview, and we normally express that through the terminology of human viewpoint versus divine viewpoint: that all of the Scripture presents one unified viewpoint, and that is God's viewpoint on all of reality. God addresses something through the Scriptures to every area of reality. What they had done in the Corinthians church was to take all of these ideas that they had picked up from their culture that had basically been brainwashed into them and trying to add it to whatever  Paul had taught them about Christianity. The result is that it destroys divine viewpoint.

Everything in life flows from one's view of ultimate reality, and if your ultimate reality is the sovereign creator God of the Scriptures then that is going to change how you look at everything in life. If you want to be a consistent thinker as a Christian then you have to meditate on these things through the Scriptures, and this is one of the main things that Paul is getting at in this entire epistle. What the Corinthians have done is to take human viewpoint thought, a real hodge-podge of ideas, not unlike what we have in our society, and made them equally true and valid and trying to add it to whatever Paul had taught them about Christianity.

In our culture, as we grow up, we are bombarded with all kinds of human viewpoint ideas. We get that from the education system, from the philosophy of education of teachers. You never know when your kids go off the public school what the frame of reference is for their teachers. They're coming from one perspective or maybe many different perspectives and whatever their personal beliefs are that is going to colour what they teach. On the other hand they have certain guidelines set forth by the State that they can't say certain things and they can say certain things, and there are certain lists out there set forth by the major textbook publishing companies of words and phrases and pictures that cannot be used in the textbooks because they are considered patriarchal, sexist, religious, pro-Christian. These words are being expunged from the text books. So it is not just what is said, it is also what is not said in the classroom.

The emphasis in education theory today is what is called constructivism, and in constructivism the idea is that is trying to have some kind of values-oriented education; it is the child who is to generate his own values. The view that is opposed to constructivism is objectivism. In objectivism there is the idea that there are, external to the human race, to our experience, moral absolutes. Objectivism is the only way to go because a third-grader cannot generate his own values. Values come from some external reference point, they don't come from inside. When everyone generates their own values there is no basis for saying something is wrong. If one person says murder is okay and another person says it is not, how do you judge between them? In a postmodern culture every value has equal weight, every culture has equal weight, so who really has the right to judge. You must have an external reference point. So when the State comes along and through the omission of teaching absolutes, through the omission of teaching that there are moral absolutes, what it does is break down the conscience of children.

On the one hand the influence is education and on another there is peer pressure from which ideas are picked up. Then you have other authority figures in life as you grew up that may have had some influence on you. Then there is television, books, films, all of which communicate ideas about life, about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. So as you grow up you develop a grid, a frame of reference, and everything you learn beyond that point you filter through that grid. If this is a human viewpoint grid then what happens is it acts like a filter, and when somebody comes along and starts teaching divine viewpoint, the truth of Scripture, and it bangs into this grid, it gets retranslated. And this is the problem they had in Corinth. They were merging these ideas together and are coming up with something that is neither Greek nor truly biblical.

How this works today; a true story told by a man who was a Sunday school teacher, teaching 13 & 14-year old boys. Parents need to take note of this because years ago there was more of a residual hold-over from Christianity, so that there were certain things that were social taboos that even people who rejected Christianity still understood certain things were wrong. But kids today are growing up in an environment where those things aren't considered wrong anymore. They don't have a sense of that right and wrong. This particular teacher was having conversations frequently (and he had been teaching this class for five or six years) with young boys who would ask him: "Tell me why it is that I can't sleep with this girl. Help me understand why this hot chick that wants to go to bed with me, I can't do that. I just don't understand." Eventually, the boys says: "Well, I'm going to do it this weekend." There was a time when such a conversation would never occur with a parent or a Sunday school teacher because you understood that there was something wrong, you were going to do something that wasn't right, and there was a sense of shame that came from a conscience. That conscience had been established through the teaching of parents and through Sunday school teachers, and through a mediate culture that at least built absolutes into the soul so that even if we did the wrong thing we knew it was wrong and there was a sense of shame. What is happening today is that kids are growing up in this postmodern, relativistic society where they have had this relativism so inculcated into them by the culture, that even though these are kids that go to a doctrinal church, whose parents are regular church attenders and squared away, taught the Word, these kids still have a problem. That is because we underestimate the influence of the culture around us in shaping our thinking.

So much so that he told the second story of a situation that occurred when a young girl about 13 years of age came up after class one night. She was just standing there and when he looked up she had tears starting to come down her face. He asked what was wrong. She said: "My mother is so mad at me I just hate being at home anymore, I can't get along with my mother, she has been so mad at me for the last week I just don't know what to do." So he said" "Well, let's sit down and talk about this; why is she mad?" "Well, about a week ago after midnight there were four boys who snuck into my upstairs room. They had a ladder and climbed through the window. My mother came up later. There were four boys and a girl, and when she opened the closet door these four boys and the girl were all in her closet naked. So my mother is mad at me." This is a girl who grew up in a doctrinal church, not some liberal church where they didn't believe in values and the parents didn't care. This girl was sitting there saying she didn't understand why her mother was mad at her. She had no sense of shame for the fact that she did something wrong, she was more upset that her mother was mad at her.

Why is that? We have to ask this question. Why is it that this is a problem? What is going on here? It is a metaphysical and epistemological problem. It boils right down to what was happening in Corinth and our home and what is happening with our kids. When you have been inculcated with human viewpoint thinking it serves as a filter, and no matter how much you say this is wrong this human viewpoint filter just takes it and rationalizes it instantly, spins it around and gives it a whole new impact. It is the automatic orientation of the sin nature that does that. We live in perilous times today because of the impact of human viewpoint thinking on the church and on believers and on our children. It is not enough to teach doctrine anymore in and of itself. We have to orient it to what is going on in the culture around us and set up this juxtaposition between human viewpoint and divine viewpoint so that it becomes crystal clear to these kids what the differences are and why they are that way. This is something that can't just be done by prep-school teachers, it has to be done by parents as well on a continuous basis.

The Corinthians have lost the whole significance of what Christianity is all about and this is reflected in the way they are abusing the Lord's table.

1 Corinthians 11:19 NASB "For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you." For "factions" Paul uses the word haireseis [a(ireseij] and that doesn't mean heresies in the sense that we use it today, but it had the idea of divisions and factions set up in their midst based on different people that they were following and perhaps even some different doctrines. He says that it is necessary that there be these factions that those who are approved may be recognized among them. One of the things they are divided over is the Lord's table.

1 Corinthians 11:20 NASB "Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper." Here Paul uses an infinitive of purpose which states a purpose, that their purpose is not to eat the Lord's table. They have another purpose in mind. They are there to have a good meal, on having their basic desires met. They want to eat well. In the early church they had what they called an Agape feast. They based this on the fact that when Jesus instituted the Lord's table on he night before He went to the cross he celebrated a Passover meal with His disciples. So there was a full meal and it was all according to the regulations of Passover. But our Lord took the bread and the wine and he invested them with new meaning.

Just as the Passover bread looked at the fact that the Jews in the Old Testament didn't have time to bake bread with the introduction of yeast and to let it rise, because they were in a hurry, waiting for God's deliverance. That Passover had a different significance and that was that leaven represented sin or evil, and so there was a removal of sin from the bread and that bread, the Lord said, has a new meaning and represented His body. He was sinless; he was impeccable, without sin. He took the cup. In the Passover meal it was called the cup of redemption; it was the third cup. So He applied that to what was about to happen the next day on the cross where he would die as a substitute for the sin of mankind. The Corinthians recognized that the Lord had eaten a meal around the Lord's table so they were imitating that and would come together and have a dinner.

So once again Paul is affirming the fact that they may come to church for many reasons but it is not for the right reason. You don't come to church for fellowship, to have a place for your children to get some religious instruction, to be entertained, you come to church in order to learn the Word of God so that you can think like God wants you to think and be able to interact with the details of life in the way God has established them. He is the one who created all things and He is the one who informs us as to how we are to think and interact with life.

He goes on in verse 21 to explain why it is that their eating is out of line or wrong.

1 Corinthians 11:21 NASB "for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk." This begins with the particle gar [gar] in the Greek which indicates an explanation of something. The word for "taking their own supper" is the Greek word prolambano [prolanbanw] and it has the idea of to take or receive, and that comes from the root lambanw, but the idea of rhe preposition pro indicates taking something ahead of time. It indicates they were rushing to eat their own food before others could get there. The wealthier people had their slaves and servants who would prepare very fine meals and they would bring these down to the church. But they did not want to share with the servants, the slaves that also came, and the poor people who didn't have anything to eat. So as soon as they got the opportunity to eat all those who had brought food would all rush up in line first, and in a very inconsiderate manner, shove the poor people aside, and then they would go through and take all of their own food to eat without sharing their food with the poor and the hungry. The result is "one is hungry and another is drunk." So the poor person is leaving hungry and the wealthy person has taken his goblet, filled it up with wine, and he is sitting over there gorged on food and drunk on the wine. He has turned the Lord's table into an orgy. It is another indication of the core problem we have seen throughout Corinthians and that ,s arrogance. They are self-absorbed; the only thing that matters is me, me, me, and they are not thinking of anyone else. This runs in complete contradiction to the whole concept of the Lord's table.

The Lord's table represents the fact that we are all saved by the same death on the cross. Jesus Christ died as our substitute on the cross and whether you are rich or poor, a slave or free, you all enter into the body of Christ by faith alone ion Christ alone. The only place where there is equality in this life is in the body of Christ, so the Lord's table is to reflect that. There is a unity in the body of Christ and this is the one point where everything comes down to a common element. The way they were handling it was a perversion and blasphemy and they were treating the Lord's table in an unworthy manner. The fact that Paul says "another is drunk" is an indication that they drank wine in the Lord's table. There has been a lot of debate as to whether they drank wine. In  Greek culture as a whole they drank wine but it was the diluted wine. It was generally one part wine to three or four parts water, It wasn't as strong as the wine that we drink today. In the Old Testament the Jews drank an alcoholic beverage wine with the Lord's table.

In the Old Testament there are two different English words used. One is translated "wine," and this is the Hebrew word yayin, and then there is another phrase, "strong drink," which is the Hebrew word shakar. What will be heard from some expositors and teachers is that the wine here is a wine that they had boiled and therefore that prevented it from fermenting and it was therefore a non-fermented wine, and the difference between wine and strong drink is that the strong drink was the alcoholic version of the wine. That is not true. Etymological data that has been discovered in the last century has demonstrated that the yayin was an alcoholic wine; sakar was not a wine, it was a barley beer. The concept of a distilled beverage was unknown in the ancient world, there was just wine and beer. Once we get into the early church age known as the apostolic fathers—these were not the apostles but those who were the immediate successors to the fathers—we do have a couple of quotes that indicate that in the early church they clearly used a wine in the communion supper. Justin Martyr says: "Then when we all rise together and pray, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought." Why does he say wine and water? Because they would dilute the wine with the water. Clement of Alexandria who lived in the third century said: "Accordingly, as wine is blended with water, so is the Spirit with man, and the one the mixture of wine and water nourishes the faith while the other, the Spirit, conducts the immortality." In other words, recognizing the principle that in the early church they blended or mixed or diluted the wine with water.

Where did the practice come from of using grape juice in the communion meal? There was a conservative, legalistic Baptist preacher who could not stand the idea of using alcoholic beverage—this must have been the late 19th century because in the early 1800s the saying was that if you found a preacher with a hip flask in his saddle bag he was hard show Baptist; if he didn't he was a Methodist. The Methodists were the teetotallers and the Baptists weren't. By the end of the century the Methodists weren't the teetotallers bot the Baptists became the legalistic teetotallers—and he developed a process by which the grape juice could be prevented from fermenting. It is impossible in a warm Mediterranean climate such as Israel's to keep grape juice from fermenting for very long. So this man knew he has to develop a process and he did. His name was Welch. But in the early church and Christians throughout the church age, up until the early part of the 20th century, used wine instead of grape juice. In fact, many denomination still use wine instead of grape juice.

1 Corinthians 11:22 NASB "What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you." The tone of his exclamation here is that he is just appalled. There is true righteous indignation here. He is appalled at the level of effrontery to the cross of Christ in their actions. The word "despise" is KATAPHRONEO  [katafronew], meaning to hold in contempt, to think lightly of, to show disrespect or disregard for something. The word for "shame" means to embarrass.

1 Corinthians 11:23 NASB "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread." So here he is going to go back to Luke chapter 22:14 and what took place on the night before Christ went to the cross. On that particular night the Galileans (Jesus and the disciples were all Galileans) would celebrate the Passover meal—the night before. They went on a Calendar system that went from midnight to midnight and the Judeans went on a calendar system that went from sunset to sunset. So for the Galileans, the time that they would celebrate the Passover would be on the night before, whereas the next night would be when the Judeans would celebrate Passover. This is how Jesus could legitimately eat the Passover meal with the Galileans the night before He goes to the cross, and at the time He is on the cross the Jewish priests in Jerusalem were slaughtering the Passover lamb for the celebration of the Passover in Jerusalem that evening. Jesus and the disciples sat down (covered in details in John 13) and ate the Passover meal, and it is the "night He was betrayed." Paul uses the imperfect tense of the verb paradidomi [paradidomi], indicating an ongoing action in past time, so that he is emphasizing the fact that at the time Jesus is sitting there relaxed, eating the Lord's table with His disciples, the betrayal is already in process. Judas is still there for part of the meal but he has already made the deal with the Pharisees to betray the Lord. So Paul indicates here that this contrast between the Lord focusing in the Lord's table and what it represented in terms of His atoning sacrifice for our sins while at the same time He is in the process of being betrayed.

1 Corinthians 11:24 NASB "and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'" "Given thanks" is the Greek word eucharizo [e)uxarizw], this is the verb for thanksgiving—the noun is e)uxaristew—and this is why the Lord's table is sometimes referred to as the Eucharist. It is usually referred to as the Lord's table, the Eucharist, indicating that it is a focus on giving thanks for the Lord's table, or it is said to be the communion meal, communion emphasizing fellowship, not fellowship with one another but fellowship with God because it is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross that gives us that ability to have fellowship with God. The breaking of the bread does not have symbolic significance because we know that Jesus body was not broken on the cross. His body given for us is indicating the fact that His physical life He was sinless, and that qualified Him to go to the cross. We are to do this in remembrance of Him. This is the purpose of the Lord's table.

The early church view of the Lord's table was a memorial view. Then coming into the early part of the Middle Ages there was the influence once again of Greek philosophy. As a result of Greek philosophy merging with divine viewpoint there was picked up certain ideas and ways of trying to understand reality. This came into its full-blown significance in the later Middle Ages with the impact Aristotilianism on Medieval philosophy. So they developed an idea called transubstantiation. This is the view of the Roman Catholic church which has no support in the Scriptures whatever, and the idea here is from the word "substance" in the middle of the word. This is an Aristotilian concept that substance isn't a material thing but it is an immaterial thing and that immaterial thing has various attributes. These include colour and size and shades and weights. That is what can be seen and measured, but you can't measure substance. The "trans" indicates a transformation and so Roman Catholic theology developed the idea that every time we have the Lord's table, which they refer to as Mass, that the Lord is crucified again. That is just blasphemy because the Lord doesn't need to be crucified and the Scripture says that he died once for all. The word "for" there is the Greek preposition huper [u)per] which means as a substitute. So Paul says we are to "do this in remembrance of Me." This is the Greek noun anamimnesis [a)nanminhsij] which means to remember or to recall.

1 Corinthians 11:25 NASB "In the same way {He took} the cup also after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink {it,} in remembrance of Me.'" The red colour of the wine is a picture of blood. A sacrifice in the Old Testament was a blood sacrifice, but it wasn't the blood of the sacrifice that saved. The blood of the Old Testament sacrifice was a picture of a future sacrifice. Christ's physical death on the cross is not what paid the penalty for our sins, it is His separation from God from twelve noon and 3 pm when He cried out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" and God covered Golgotha with a dark cloud so that the onlookers could not see the pain and the misery that Jesus Christ was going through as God father poured out or imputed to Him the sins of the world. Jesus Himself did not personally become guilty of our sins, it is a legal, judicial imputation where He took on Himself our penalty. The penalty was spiritual death.

Jesus established a new covenant by His spiritual sacrifice on the cross. A covenant is a contract in our terminology and there is a new contract between God and man at this point. Any contract has stipulations. If you are going to benefit from the contract you have to fulfil certain obligation, and the only obligation on the part of man is to believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, and that believing in Christ alone is all that is necessary. Then Jesus said: "As often as you drink it." He doesn't stipulate how frequently this should be.

1 Corinthians 11:26 NASB "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." The purpose is memorial and proclamation. We are rehearsing what took place on the cross every time we celebrate the Lord's table. It is a time for us to focus our attention back on the one thing we all have in common, i.e. that we were all born sinners under condemnation of Adam's original sin, with an eternal death penalty; and that the penalty was paid on our behalf by Jesus Christ and we have all accepted that. So the Lord's table is for anyone who is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But there is a warning: 1 Corinthians 11:27 NASB "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord." This is serious, this isn't something you just do. It is not just ritual, there is a serious significance to the Lord's table, there is meaning, and if you come to the Lord's table with unconfessed sin, in an unworthy manner as they were in the literal historical situation (just to get drunk and have a good time), you are treating the Lord's table lightly and denying its real significance. By extension that means if you come to the Lord's table out of fellowship, with unconfessed sin, then you are taking the Lord's table in an unworthy manner. Being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord means blasphemy and there is divine discipline for that.

1 Corinthians 11:28 NASB "But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup." The word for examine is the present active imperative of dokimazo [dokimazw] which means to evaluate for a positive result. Here it is to look to see if you are in fellowship. If not, confess your sins: 1 John 1:9.

Another warning: 1 Corinthians 11:29 NASB "For he who eats and drinks [in an unworthy manner], eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly."

1 Corinthians 11:30 NASB "For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep." Weak is asthenes [a)sqenhj] which means in this passage spiritual weakness, you are having problems in your spiritual life. Why? One reason may be because of taking the Lord's table in an unworthy manner. Being sick had to do with physical sickness. Both weakness and sickness were both warning disciplines. Then, "many sleep." In the early church God didn't mess around. Remember Ananias and sapphire! They died instantly. God doesn't do that today, but in the early church, to make sure people became oriented correctly, God had serious discipline. Those who slept is a euphemism for those who died the sin unto death.

Conclusion: 1 Corinthians 11:31 NASB "But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged." This is through using 1 John 1:9 and in evaluating ourselves to make sure that we have confessed our sins. [32] "But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world." Hebrews 12 tells us that for whom the Lord loves He chastens. [33] "So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another." It is not only a matter of good manners but a matter of exemplifying the unity in the body of Christ and love for one another. [34] "If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come." If you are so famished that you just have to gorge yourself at the Lord's table, then go ahead and eat dinner at home before you come to church. Other issues Paul would take care of when he was there to teach them face to face.