1 Corinthians 11:17-34 - Rules for the Lord's Supper

1. In Verse 18, Paul speaks out against divisions in the church, but then in Verse 19, he allows that some divisions in church are okay. Explain.

A: As Paul stated in earlier chapters, divisions resulting from a wrong conception of the Christian message or ministry, laxity in church discipline, lawsuits among believers, marriage issues, sexual immorality, propriety in worship (head coverings), and from asserting one’s freedom as a Christian that might cause another to stumble were deplorable and should be done away with. However, in Verse 19, he points out that factions or divisions serve one good purpose in that they distinguish those who are faithful and true in God’s sight from hypocrites and non-believers.

2. Eating a meal vs. partaking of the Lord’s supper was a major issue 2,000 years ago, but is largely not an issue today. However, rich and poor factions (vs 21-22) do exist today. What would Paul say about them?

A: The early church held an agape (love) feast in connection with the Lord’s Supper. We don’t know much about this, but perhaps is was like a potluck supper in which people brought food to share, the rich bringing more and the poor bringing less, but because of their cliques, the rich ate well and the poor were left hungry. On the surface it is not a major issue today except from the standpoint of rich churches not sharing with the poor or rich factions within a church keeping to themselves and not mingling with the poor. Obviously, Paul would come down hard on not Christians sharing with the poor.

3. What do you think Paul would say about the Prosperity Christian movement today? (Deut 8:17-18, Eccl 5:18-19, Mal 3:10, Luke 6:38, John 10:10)

A: With respect to the Prosperity movement, rather than the verses above, Paul would probably be more likely to quote Psalm 49:16-20, Matt 6:19-20, Luke 12:33, James 5:1-3. (Leader: Refer to your Bible for the verses and to the Time article, "Does God Want You to be RICH?" of Sept. 18, 2006 for more on the Prosperity Movement.)

4. We discussed the Lord’s Supper two lessons ago, so let’s look specifically at Verse 25 in which Jesus says, “This cup is the new covenant...” What exactly is meant by the phrase, “new covenant?” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

A: In the old covenant with God, the people could only approach God through the priests and the system of sacrifices. Jesus’ death on the cross ushered in the new covenant (or agreement) between God and us. Now, all people can personally approach God and communicate with him. God established the old covenant with Abraham and enlarged on it after the Exodus (Ex 24). The new covenant completes rather than replaces the old covenant, fulfilling everything the old covenant looked forward to.

Jer 31:31-34 - “The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the Lord.

33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

5. Remembrance (vs 24-25), proclamation or announcement (vs 26), and participation (vs 10:16) are three realities of the Lord’s Supper. How would you explain to a non-believer how the Lord’s Supper accomplishes each of these?

6. Many churches have no restrictions on who may receive communion so you often see 9-year-old children participating. Other churches require one to be confirmed or sign a statement of belief before receiving communion. How do you feel about this?

A: Paul’s answer would be that you should examine yourself before partaking in communion and that you should understand the three aspects of the Lord’s Supper in Question 4 (remembrance, proclamation, participation). Is a 9-year-old mature enough to do this? I don’t know; after all, Mozart wrote his first symphony when he was 8. But maybe it’s not my position to judge others at the communion table.

7. There is not much support in the Bible for Paul’s view in Verses 29-30 that if you partake of communion without honoring Christ, God will judge you and punish you with sickness and death. How do you feel about this?

A: As the question says, this is a pretty isolated viewpoint. On the other hand, if you as a Christian participate in communion but dishonor Christ by thinking about how long the service is and how you don’t want to miss the kickoff, or you participate thinking about getting revenge against someone else instead of forgiving them, you definitely risk God’s judgement and punishment.

8. In Verse 32, Paul softens his view a bit in that he now speaks of being judged and disciplined (rather than punished) by the Lord. Is this a good thing? (Psalm 94:12, 118:18, Proverbs 3:11-12, Hebrews 12:7-10, Revelation 3:19)

A: Just as a father disciplines his children and looks for improvement, so the Lord disciplines us. Actually, we should be very pleased that the Lord loves us and cares enough about us to discipline us.

Psalm 94:12 - Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD,
            the man you teach from your law;
      you grant him relief from days of trouble,
            till a pit is dug for the wicked.

Psalm 118:18 - The LORD has chastened me severely,
      but he has not given me over to death.

Proverbs 3:11-12 - My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline
            and do not resent his rebuke,
      because the LORD disciplines those he loves,
            as a father the son he delights in.

Hebrews 12:7-10 - Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.

Revelation 3:19 - Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.

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