1 Corinthians 11:17-34
In 1 Corinthians 11-14 Paul addresses three areas where the Corinthians had demonstrated unruliness and selfishness as a body: gender roles in 11:1-16, the Lord’s Table (often referred to as Communion today) in 11:17-34, and spiritual gifts in chapters 12-14.
At the time Paul writes the Corinthians, the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in two stages- taking the bread and the cup after a communal meal. The worship with the bread and cup became known as the Eucharist (from the Greek word for thanksgiving) and the meal was called the Agape (a well known Greek word for love).
In the second half of chapter 11 Paul voices concern that the Corinthian celebration of the Agape meal was no longer marked by love for and unity of the body, but by self-centered indulgence and division. Specifically, some of the wealthier members of the church were excluding poorer members from the meal, choosing to greedily and excessively consume all the food before those less fortunate had arrived.
Paul proceeds to remind the Corinthians of the events at the first Lord’s Supper, where the disciples met with Jesus in the upper room the night before he was betrayed. From that moment forward the purpose of the Lord’s Supper was to remember the death of Jesus (the past), to proclaim his gospel message (the present), and to celebrate his eventual return (the future). The commonality shared by all believers in Christ around the Lord’s Supper was no longer evident within the Corinthian church, resulting in judgment. At the end of the chapter Paul provides practical steps for the Corinthian church to follow in an effort to recapture the unity that should be a mark of the body of Christ.
The Communion table is to unify the body of Christ- same bread, same cup, same Savior!
- In most modern churches the Agape meal is no longer celebrated- only the Eucharist or Communion is practiced. Why do you think this change occurred? Would you be in favor of bringing it back? Why or why not?
- How does a multigenerational church create commonality around the Communion table?
- What other ways can you/your group promote and pursue unity in the body of Christ?