When You Come Together as a Church

In the middle of Michigan is a small town called Edmore. And in the small town of Edmore is a farm. And on that farm is a door. And holding that door open, every day for the last thirty some years, was a twenty-two pound rock. Just recently a geology professor at Central Michigan University was asked to examine this rock. She has received numerous requests like this one before and like before she accepted the request and her conclusion had always been the same: it was a rock. This time, though, it was different. This was no ordinary rock. It was 88.5% iron and 11.5% nickel. Calling this a rock would have been meteor wrong. This was meteorite! Her careful examination not only uncovered that this was a meteorite, but also its value – one hundred thousand dollars. We can assume, and in large part due to its value, that it is no longer being treated as a rock or a doorstop.

How We Treasure the Lord’s Supper

This is the first Sunday of the month and the first Sunday of the month is that Sunday that we set apart as the Sunday to observe the Lord’s Supper together. There is only one time in the Bible that this is called the Lord’s Supper. Jesus never called it the Lord’s Supper. However, it was a Thursday evening. And it was supper time. Jesus was in a room with his closest friends. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark we are told that “as they were eating,” Jesus did something (cf. Matthew 26:25-29; Mark 14:22-25). In the Gospel of Luke, on the same Thursday evening, at supper time and in the same room, it is recorded that “when the hour came,” Jesus did something (Luke 22:14-20). And this tells us two things: what Jesus was about to do was particular and intentional. And there are two things that I treasure from those three records. First, Jesus shared with these close friends, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). In a few hours, Jesus would be nailing my sins to the cross, canceling my debt there forever. And at this supper, Jesus shared that it was with great desire that he desired to eat with these disciples. And second, Jesus promised to do this again, one day, with all of his disciples in his Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25). He is talking about the Lord’s Supper!

It is only in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 that this is called the Lord’s Supper. And the big idea here regarding the Lord’s Supper is how we treasure the Lord’s Supper. And the reason is that this particular local church was getting it wrong and not just wrong, but meteor wrong.

When You Come Together as a Church

Listen to verse seventeen. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you.” Pause there and highlight the word commend. Many translations have instead the word praise. Think of standing up and applauding someone. And make note of that word because Paul uses it again in verse twenty-two (actually twice). “Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not [commend you].” And what is his reasoning? Listen further to verse seventeen. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together…” Pause there and highlight the words when you come together. Five times in these verses Paul refers to when you come together (11:17; 18; 20; 33; 34). Five times in these verses Paul is talking about when you come together as a church. He is referring to not only Sunday morning, but Sunday evening. And he is referring to not only Sunday evening, but Wednesday evening And he is referring not only to Wednesday evening, but Friday evenings and Bible studies and work days and…you get it. In these verses, Paul is talking about any time the church gets together.

Keep listening to verse seventeen. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together, it is not for the better but for the worse.” In other words, this is bad. But the word to pay attention to is instructions. These verses are about instructions for whenever we come together as a church. But the occasion that Paul focuses upon is when the church comes together to eat the Lord’s Supper. Just notice how Paul narrows in on the Lord’s Supper in verses seventeen and eighteen and twenty. “…when you come together…when you come together as a church…when you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” They were eating the Lord’s Supper, but there was no way it could be called the Lord’s Supper. Why? This particular church was getting it wrong, meteor wrong.

How to Get the Lord’s Supper Wrong

How were they getting the Lord’s Supper wrong? Better yet, how might we get the Lord’s Supper wrong? In verse eighteen, Paul pointed out that there were “divisions among you.” The word divisions is the picture of a tear in a piece of garment. And it is just interesting that the occasion out of all the occasions to point out this division was the Lord’s Supper. How was this particular church divided?

Paul said that some of them were making this meal their meal, treating it like it was dinner. Imagine, making a meal out of this unleavened bread. Somebody or somebodies were rushing ahead to this table and just devouring the bread leaving others breadless. Then there was somebody or were somebodies taking the cup and guzzling all the juice, enough juice to get drunk. So, we might say that this particular church was getting the Lord’s supper wrong in how they were treating one another. There is the division! But that would miss the point. It is not so much how they treated one another, although that it is true, but their mistreatment of one another was because they did not value one another. Listen then to verse twenty-two. “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” The church of God is people. The church of God is saved people. The church of God is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb people; these are blood bought people. The church of God is sins forgiven, debt canceled at the cross people. But on the occasion of the Lord’s Supper, Paul asks a question. Do you despise the church of God? What does that have to do with communion Sunday? The word despise is a strong word, isn’t it?

The word despise means to devalue. It is like he is asking, do you not value the church of God? Do you not value your church? Do you not value the church members? Why is he asking this on communion Sunday?! The Lord’s Supper is something that the gathered church is to do together. How can it be done together if there are present divisions among us? And what really are those divisions? How we treasure the Lord’s Supper has something to do with how we treasure one another. And the reasoning is that the church of God is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb people; these are blood bought people. The church of God is sins forgiven, debt canceled at the cross people. These are people that Jesus the Christ gave himself up for; people Jesus the Christ is sanctifying and perfecting to one day present to himself blameless and without blemish or spot or wrinkle. And this is all tied into 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 where twice Paul reminds of the command to “do this in remembrance of Me” and that when we do this in remembrance of Jesus, we are “proclaiming his death until he comes!”

So, again, how we treasure the Lord’s Supper has something to do with how treasure one another.

Let A Person Examine Himself or Herself

1 Corinthians 11:28 contains what may be the lone command in this passage. “Let a person examine himself [and herself].” This is sort of like the twenty-two pound rock being used as a doorstop. It was not until upon examination that the rock was discovered to be a meteorite and its true value uncovered! How might we examine ourselves? In the previous verse, Paul warns to not eat the bread and drink the cup in an unworthy manner. Unworthy here means to lack value or to lack a corresponding value. He then gives us the application in verse thirty-three. “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.”

So, it is something that when Paul gives instructions regarding this meal he does so focusing upon our relationship to one another and valuing one another. How might I be treasuring you in treasuring the Lord’s Supper? Is it any wonder then that in the very next chapter Paul talks about being members one of another (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)? And then in 1 Corinthians 13 he only wants to talk about the value of love?

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