In our last post on Traditions, we suggested that the apostle Paul referred to “traditions” in the beginning of the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians, and to the
Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. – 1 Corinthians 11:2
Fifteen verses later, the apostle writes
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. – 1Co 11:17 ESV
Paul commended the church for “maintaining the traditions”, yet needed to correct the Corinthians in the understanding of the head covering practice (tradition), and with regards to the Lord’s supper, he does not commend them (I do not commend you).
So Paul, when you say the church is maintaining the traditions in verse 2, I am beginning to wonder if you are referring to other traditions beyond the two you speak of in this chapter. Both the head coverings and the Lord Supper is requiring correction.
Is “to maintain” a polite way of saying the Christian church is keeping all the traditions alive with some correction needed in two of them? Is Paul speaking with grace towards this church, seeking to find something good to speak of prior to correcting them?
Nevertheless, we enter into the second tradition that many churches classify as an ordinance. The Lord’s Supper will be the subject of this post.
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. – 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 ESV
Divisions in the church. Paul’s first concerns in dealing with the Lord’s Supper is unity in the Body. Paul does not address what may be a fevered discussion in you church, whether you have wine of grape juice, leavened or unleavened bread, one cup or many cups, once a week or quarterly, beginning of the service or end of the service. The arguments go on ad nauseum, and prove the very point of the apostle. He called this church immature, and detailed numerous problems throughout this letter, exposing their childishness.
Of course this immaturity is what causes divisions, and Paul understands this better than most, but again, he is looking for something amongst the mess to speak well of. Check out verse 19, where the factions in the church actually expose the mature members, the genuine followers.
there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized
He finds some glimmer of reality in this debauched church, but immediately corrects the body, staing the divisions they live in expose the churches intentions, for in their actions they expose what they want, what they are looking to enjoy during the Lord’s Supper. Satisfying their gluttony. Serving their self. I have wondered in the past that the ones who are genuine, who are recognized, are the same group who Paul later on speaks of going hungry, and are humiliated during the Lord’s supper in having nothing.
Might this teaching of division have more to do with class structure as opposed to a doctrinal difference?
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 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.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ESV
Paul gives a history lesson, providing what the apostles must have supplied him, as the Lord established this tradition amongst His followers. So many things to consider in this passage, but I need to focus on the tradition topic within the church for this blog. Notice this practice/tradition/ordinance is to be practiced until He comes. No mention of scheduled rules or cycles to practice this tradition. This eating and drinking had a purpose, that is to proclaim the Lord’s death. The eating and drinking was not to provide an opportunity to gorge my appetite.
In every church I have ever attended, the opportunity to gorge my appetite has been completely removed. Usually a portion of a cracker and a few drops of grape juice are provided in a structured environment, controlled by sober men with deliberate actions in front of the group. This is not what I seem to read in this passage. It seems the Corinthians, in exercising this tradition, were coming together for what appears to be more like a pot luck with the body, as opposed to a structured ceremony.
Could this tradition be more about sharing of our goods, of providing a meal, of breaking bread with those we have fellowship with and recognizing the Lord’s death as opposed to a ceremony?
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another– if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home–so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come. – 1 Corinthians 11:27-34
When the Corinthians came together to remember the Lord’s death, was it with an attitude of self serving gluttony, or with a proper reflection of the self giving sacrifice of the Lord in His death?
Jesus gave. We consume.
When Paul speaks verse 29, I am torn as to whether he speaks of the Lord’s body (Jesus physical body in the heavens) or the Lord’s body (Jesus mystical body, the church)
For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
But Carl – read the passage. Paul speaks of “the body”. Not necessarily the Lord’s body, i.e. as some may have thought of earlier, thinking Paul is speaking of the Lord’s physical body in the heavens, the body that was broken and torn for our salvation.
I sense that Paul’s primary concern in this tradition is the unity of the group, unity of the body of believers. The body he speaks of is the church itself.
Love the body, in practical ways. Be harsh on yourself in your self judgement, and gracious to those who also trust in the living God. Wait for your brother. Satisfy your cravings in private in order to serve your brother in public. Don’t bring judgement to the church.
Give – don’t consume.
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