Not long ago I posted that one cannot know the goodness of the grace of Christ without going though the conviction of the law of Moses. Let me add that one cannot understand the deliverance from sin without being in bondage to it. For that matter, a Christian cannot know peace without a war, and in the Christian realm, there are many wars all designed to bring more and greater peace in Christ.
It's not yet 5 a.m. and the sun is coming up here in Perry, Maine. I've been awake about an hour, thinking about yesterday. On Mondays, I am usually contemplating our Sunday worship service. Oftentimes, I'm thinking about what I should have done or said, or what I shouldn't have done or said. However, this morning I still have my sermon on my mind.
Yesterday, the church here in Perry observed the Lord's Supper. When I think of this ordinance which is to be practiced until the Lord returns, I think back to people whom I have spoken with in the past who have observed this beautiful memorial in fear and trepidation. Often, this picture of the body and blood of Jesus, His redemption and forgiveness, and our brotherhood and unity, is misunderstood. As a result, something that should be practiced with joy and gladness is often practiced in fear, or avoided.
My text was I Corinthian 11:17-34. I attempted to show the Corinthian abuse of this memorial. Paul would even go so far as to tell them in verse 20 that they weren't gathering for this memorial at all, but rather to consume food indiscriminately, even to the point of not caring for people in the church who had no food at all (vs.21). This lack of care and compassion toward their blood bought brethren was a result of divisions or schisms, which in turn led to heresies, which can be defined as a party spirit (vs.18, 19). In a nutshell, their assembling together was counter productive (vs.17).
In verses 23-26, Paul the apostle describes the correct practice and the theology behind the Lord's Supper. Today, these verses are usually quoted during our observance of this memorial. They are the words and practice of Christ Himself to His disciples the night He was betrayed (vs.23).
Now for the part that puts some folk on edge. There is a warning in this observance in verses 27-32. We are told of the possibility of participating "unworthily", and we are to "examine ourselves" in order to avoid chastisement which could come in the form of sickness, or even death. Considering this warning, one could understand the fear that some people have when they walk into church and see the elements on the table in front of the pulpit.
However, we need to ask ourselves, What is it that I'm to look for in my self-examination prior to partaking the Lord's Supper? The best way to answer this is to see why it was that Paul told the Corinthians to examine themselves. What were these Corinthians doing that made them unworthy to participate in this church ordinance? I believe verse 22 holds our answer. There were some in the church that held such a disdain for their brethren that Paul said that they "despised the church of God" to the point of shame. In verse 29, Paul tells these unworthy Christians that chastisement is a result of "not discerning the Lord's body."
So, some despised the church of God. What is the church of God? These same people didn't, or maybe even refused to, discern the Lord's body. What is the Lord's body? For both of these questions, it is not "what", but "who". Who is the church of God? Who is the body of Christ? The answer is the same to both questions. We who have been saved by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ are the body of Christ, and the church of God. Paul's advice to these offenders was to "wait" or tarry for those brothers or sisters in Christ that had little or nothing, those whom they neglected (vs.33). The thought here is exercise care and to consideration to those whom they previously ignored. It is a call to love and unity in the church.
The next time that you meet on Sunday, and you happen to find yourself confronted with the bread and wine of communion, don't panic hoping that you can think of every sin that you could have possibly committed since the last observance. Rather consider your attitude toward your brothers and sisters in Christ who you are about to partake with. Unity among believers is so important, and not only unity, but loving care for the needs of those who may not have what they need in life.
Thoughts to Ponder
Tom Genovese, Sr.
What you read in these pages comes from my contemplation, meditation, or just plain thought about for no specific reason. I am the author of these pages unless otherwise specified.