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Study No. 6     Public  Worship (2)


Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Cor 13:4-7 NLT)


BIBLICAL FOCUS:   1 Corinthians 11:17-34  


INTRODUCTION:   The early church often met for a meal call the AGAPE - the love feast. At the conclusion of this meal, the Lord's Supper was celebrated. This was but one way in which the believers could express something of the heart communion created by the Holy Spirit.  But at Corinth it had degenerated into something that highlighted strife.


The Christian common meal or agape feast apparently followed the pattern of public sacred feasting among the Jews and Greeks. Following Greek custom, the food was brought together for all to share (cf. the modern church's "potluck" or "bring a plate" supper), with the rich bringing more and the poor less. As Paul described it, however, cliques were established and the food was divided inequitably. The rich took their "lion's" share and became gluttons and the poor remained empty. So they were despising or bringing contempt on the church of God and humiliating the poor.  


1.  THE DIFFICULTY  (vs. 17-22)


The major ingredient that was missing from the love feast was...LOVE!  On the other hand, there was an abundance of evidence for things like division, strife, selfishness, cliques, drunkenness, distinction between rich and poor, carelessness...but no evidence of love.   This meal provided a regular opportunity for the well-to-do Christians to share some of their material benefits with the poor.  For some of the poorer families this may well have been the one good meal they had during the week. 


Actually, the difficulty here is exactly the same as in every other case we have examined in these studies - the absence of LOVE.  Perhaps we are beginning to see the centrality and significance of the 13th chapter in a new way.  It touches every other chapter with great impact. The whole message of the Lord's Supper was invalidated and denied by the selfish attitudes expressed in the meal preceding it. The setting that was meant to highlight unity only served to sharpen division.  In v. 20 Paul exposes the folly of calling such a sham the 'Lord's Supper'.  


2.  THE DOCTRINE  (vs. 23-26)  


Paul directs their attention to the real meaning of the Lord's Supper as it was originally given to him.  Here is the most eloquent expression of loving, selfless giving the world has ever seen.  Jesus, who was rich, became poor so that we who were so desperately poor might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).  He graciously served us with new life. 


The Lord's Supper represents all the things the Corinthians were failing to feel and show, care, thoughtfulness, service, unity, sensitivity, fellowship, worship, remembrance.  Here is the reminder of the New Covenant that brings us into a new relationship with God...and with every other Christian of all classes and backgrounds.


3.  THE DECISION  (vs. 27-33)  


This can be summed up as follows:-  

1.  Still continue the feast;abuse does not make the concept wrong.

2.  Wait for one another. Consider others first.   Paul deals positively with the agape meal. In eating it, the Corinthians should show respect for their brothers' physical as well as spiritual needs by waiting for each other and eating together. If they come only to satisfy their physical craving and not for communion with the Lord and his people, then they should eat their meal at home, for otherwise God will judge them in some way.

3.  Examine yourselves and your motives in light of the meaning of Communion.   The purpose of self-examination is to come to the table prepared in heart.  Paul's teaching justifies the wholesome practice of some churches in having a communion preparatory service that affords opportunity for such self-examination. Here he quickly adds that even when a Christian is judged by the Lord, this judgment is not punitive to destruction, but a form of fatherly discipline (Heb 12:5) to bring God's child to repentance, so that he will not be finally and totally judged with the unsaved world (Rev 20:12-15).  

4.  Partake worthily.  

5.  Let love prevail.    



a)  How can one partake of the Lord's Supper 'unworthily'?  

b)  What does it mean in v. 27 to be 'guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord?'  

c)  In what ways could the communion service (the Lord's Supper) be made more meaningful for you?      



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