Three ways to live

Which is your way?

1 Corinthians 11:17-34 – summary of study

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 7:16 am on Monday, October 15, 2007

The Lord’s supper is the tradition of breaking bread and drinking wine as act of remembrance of and participation in Jesus’ sacrifice. The source of this tradition is the direct request by Jesus, made on the last night before his death. Apart from obvious passages in the gospels describing this event, the 1 Corinthians passage is the only place to go for more detail about the meaning and proper execution of this tradition.

1. What did Corinthians do wrong?

a. Divisions (v.18)
b. Not waiting for each other (v.21), as a result of which some don’t get enough food, while others get drunk
c. Despising the church of God (v. 22)
d. Humiliating those who have nothing (v. 22)
e. Eating the bread and drinking the cup in unworthy manner (v.27)
f. Eating an drinking without examining themselves (v.28)
g. Eating and drinking without recognizing the body of Christ

The results of such a behavior is that Paul says that their Lord’s supper is not real (v.20) and would lead to judgment, discipline and even death (v.30).

2. What can we learn about this situation from history?

It seems that in those time the Lord’s supper included both the meal as well as partaking of the bread and wine. The basic problem appears to have arisen out of tensions in the church between the poor and the rich. Since there were no church buildings, meals were held in the houses of church members, usually those who are richer as their houses were larger. These occasions were full meals with plenty of food and drink—at least for some members. The rich brought plentiful food for themselves (including meat), whereas the poorer members had to make do with their own scanty fare.

3. How did this behavior violate the Lord’s supper?

One of the meaning of Lord’s supper was to confirm the unity of believers. From 1 Corinthians 10:16-17,

16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

That’s why the Lord’s supper is often called the communion – to emphasize that it upholds the community and unity of believers.


1. If we are to partake in the Lord’s supper we need to understand its true meaning. Basically, the Lord’s supper is a mini gospel presentation. We can distinguish at least four implications:

a. It reminds us of the Christ’s death and the new covenant made in Jesus’ blood. By drinking the wine which symbolizes his blood we are reminded of the new covenant.
b. It proclaims Jesus’ death (v.26). Participation in the Lord’s supper is a public proclamation of our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice.
c. Participation in the benefit of Christ’s death. As we individually reach out and take the cup for ourselves, each one of us is by that action proclaiming, “I am taking the benefits of Christ’s death to myself.”
d. The Unity of Believers. When Christians participate in the Lord’s Supper together they also give a clear sign of their unity with one another, see 1 Cor. 10:17.

2. Do the bread and wine have the power in themselves to purify and cleanse us? Or do they serve as a reminder only?

Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe that the bread is literally becoming the body of Christ and hence has the power to heal and purify us. Lutherans follow the teaching of Martin Luther, who taught that Christ spirit permeates the bread and wine without becoming them (very complicated!). Yet the reformers starting with John Calvin treat bread and wine purely symbolically, as a reminder.

While I agree with the Reformer’s view, it is a mistake to think of the Lord’s supper just a token of remembrance. As discussed in Application #1, it also symbolizes unity, participating in the benefits of Christ’s death, and as a public proclamation of the faith in Jesus’ sacrifice.

Note that v.29 (not recognizing the body) does not support Catholic or Orthodox point of view, as the body here is likely to stand for the body of believers, as in 1 Cor. 10:17, rather than Christ’s body.

3. It is commonly taught that one need to make sure that he/she has no unrepentant sin before taking the Lord’s supper. If one feels guilty of something, he should abstain. I can’t find the support for this in Bible. While v.28 does seem to talk about examining yourself, judging from context it probably means examining your attitude toward other people. The same is true for v.27 – partaking of Lord’s supper in unworthy manner probably means doing it without consideration for other people.



Comment by Teodoro

October 15, 2007 @ 9:30 am

see André Benjamim


Comment by Simon

September 21, 2012 @ 6:28 am

I wanted to get the analysis of 27 and 28 as to why does it seems to discriminate against certain sector of people.

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