The Lord’s Supper: 1 Corinthians

Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians assume communion to be normative for that congregation.

(1 Cor 10:16-17)  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.

(1 Cor 11:20-34)  When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.

The 1 Cor 11 passage plainly indicates that the church was combining the Lord’s Supper with a common meal. However, it’s arguable that Paul condemned this practice in v. 22. Then again, v. 33 speaks of coming together “to eat,” using a word that Paul routinely uses for eating a meal of any kind.

More importantly, Jude 12 was written long after 1 Corinthians, and speaks of love feasts with approval –

(Jude 1:12)  These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm–shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted–twice dead.

Compare 2 Pet 2:13, which speaks of Christians participating in “feasts.” Obviously, the church was still celebrating the love feast long after Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, and so we must take Paul’s instructions to eat at home as a temporary measure to prevent further harm until Paul could deal with the situation personally (v. 34).

In 1 Cor 16:2, Paul writes,

(1 Cor 16:2)  On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.

This certainly consistent with the notion that the church met weekly on Sundays, but falls far short of a command to do so. Moreover, we can hardly conclude from 1 Corinthians that the church met on Sundays and only Sundays to take communion. For all we know, they may have taken communion as often as they met.

Paul teaches that the Lord’s Supper is symbolic of our unity in c. 10. The lesson is inherent in the practice of eating together in the culture of the day — especially in churches that met in homes. Common meals evidenced a fellowship, community, acceptance, and even protection. This is one reason the Pharisees so objected to Jesus eating with “sinners.” To eat with sinners was to form a communal bond with them.

Thus, the Lord’s Supper had the practical effect in that culture of forcing those at the table to consider one another as honored guests and equals. The modern crumb-and-sip-sitting-in-a-pew practice completely misses this central ingredient of the meal.

Some preliminary conclusions

There are some critically important observations we need to make regarding what we read in the New Testament–

* There is no command to assemble weekly, much less on a Sunday. However, there is solid evidence that the church sometimes met daily, although it seems unlikely to have been the universal practice.

* There is evidence that the early church met weekly on a Sunday but also that they didn’t met only on Sundays.

* There’s no evidence that they only took communion on Sundays.

* The early church appears to have combined a love feast with the communion. 1 Cor 11 tells us that this was not essential, but it’s clear that this was the typical pattern. Other than to prevent abuses, every communion we find seems to have been part of a meal, beginning with the Last Supper.

* Luke makes a point to give a Eucharistic significance to meals that were not part of a formal assembly, even meals that included non-believers. In Acts 27, for example, Paul breaks bread with unbelievers as part of giving a word of encouragement and thanking God in advance for his protection.

* The love-feast/communion not only symbolized unity, it created unity. And there’s a big difference.

Now, all that being said, it’s a clear fact of history that at some point after Pentecost, the church shifted from daily assemblies to weekly assemblies on a Sunday. That happened. And the scriptures reflect this shift, but never is it taught as a required pattern.

Nonetheless, the Christian church has met at least weekly going back to Pentecost. And I know of no effort to change that. Rather, the issue that people fight over today is whether a church can take communion on Saturday night or conduct their weekly assembly on Saturday night rather than Sunday.

Some want to argue the question in terms of the Jewish versus the Roman calendar (does the “first day” start Saturday night and exclude Sunday night, as the Jews practiced, or does it go from midnight to midnight, as the Romans thought?) I don’t think that’s even an interesting argument, because I haven’t found a command to take communion on Sunday.

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40 Responses to The Lord’s Supper: 1 Corinthians

  1. Bob Harry says:

    Great Jay

    Why not take communion at home with your family with the evening meal?

    You are opening up a myriad of questions,

    Why do we use 1 Cor 16:3 as a command to give weekly? That was not the purpose of the collection at that time. It was a one time deal to help Christians in Jerusalem.

    Why can't we take communion every time we meet?

    I wish we could have services throughout the week for those whose weekends are not Sat-Sun.

    We are bound by traditions. Could say more but will wait.

    Bob

  2. Bob:

    I agree with you. I have believed for a long time that we do a disservice to our brethren who are unable to make the one or two times we choose to meet for communion. When I lead a small group years ago I always made sure we took communion as part of our time together. In fact, I went so far as to ask my wife to make unleavened bread so we could share from one loaf and one "cup" (container).

    I'm glad to see that, at least in the Christian Churches, they have no problem taking communion at other times. We always take communion with our Christmas Eve service and I was even at a wedding a few weeks ago where the bride and groom wanted to take communion together for the first time and invited the audience to partake with them.

  3. Bob Harry says:

    Joe

    we are attending a Christian Church and have been since we have moved. They are neat God fearing people.

    We need to help yhose who's weekend could be any two days of the week. That is if they even have any time off at all.

    Bob

  4. John says:

    I am in favor of leaving the Lord's Supper separate, as we now do it.

    If you were to do it as part of a fellowship meal, what would it look like in practice? How would you do it?

  5. Jay Guin says:

    John,

    That's an excellent question, but I have to cover a few more points before we get there.

  6. John says:

    I will do my comment on my 100% grace/0% human merit statement here, if you like. If you want to move it, switch it to private email, or delete it – feel free. I'm pretty easy to get along with. I hope someone will say that at my funeral.

    If I commit one sin only, and am forgiven, my salvation is 100% grace. I do not deserve salvation. I do not deserve forgiveness. I do not deserve an offer of forgiveness. I have sinned and the "game" is over. I lost.

    Whatever I do after that one sin, earns me nothing, thus 0% human merit. I could become an ascetic and fast every day and I still would not earn anything. I contribute no merit. Jesus supplies it all. Thus 100/0 grace/human merit.

    There are two ways I could contribute merit. In each case it would be 100% human merit, and I wouldn't need Jesus. Here they are:

    I could live a perfect life. This is unattainable in practice. This way fails.

    I could find a Delorean like Michael J. Fox had in 'Back to the Future.' If I have committed, say, 10 sins, I get in the Delorean and go back in time to each of those ten events. This time, I do the event over, getting it right on my second effort. Unfortunately, I think they are sold out of Deloreans. So, this is unattainable in practice. This way fails.

    What's left is what we started with in the gospel – 100% grace/0% human merit. The only way to get to heaven is through the blood of the Lord, and I didn't earn a drop of that.

    When we discuss gospel obedience or Christian works of righteousness – none of the above changes.

  7. johnny says:

    Why have communion at all? like we're really going to forget Jesus if we don't eat a cracker. Doesn't John 6 say we eat Jesus' flesh and blood by believing in him? "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." Isn't it significant that John, the writer of the last gospel, rather than narrating the institution of the Lord's Supper gives us a discourse on eating Jesus' flesh and blood by belief alone? Isn't he saying that physically eating and drinking something should be discontinued? And doesn't Simon Peter in John 6 get the message when he says "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." Thou hast the words of eternal life, not a ritual of eternal life. Am I wrong?

  8. johnny says:

    "I was even at a wedding a few weeks ago where the bride and groom wanted to take communion together for the first time and invited the audience to partake with them."

    Did John perhaps live long enough to see Catholicism develop? Is this why he leaves off the narrative of the institution of the Lord's Supper when he narratives Jesus eating his last passover with the disciples? Is this way the institution of a physical supper is replaced in John by the interpretation that we eat Jesus' flesh and blood in a purely spiritual way by believing in him?

    Comments like the quote above would make me think that is exactly why!!! Looks like we're sliding towards Catholicism. John would be rolling over in his grave.

  9. Why do you have such a problem with Catholics? They're Christians just like the rest of us. I mean, if God lets Calvinists in . . . ;-)

  10. JMF says:

    Hey John ("john" from 2:18PM),

    I read your post with great interest. I am not one of the well-studied theology guys on here…thus my thoughts may seem quite simple.

    But my initial thought upon reading your post is that you would basically be making a case for Universalism, would you not? That being said, I was reading some posts on Tentpegs about Universalism, and there are some interesting points to be made.

    So I'm stuck wondering what you mean by "100% grace." If you mean that we absolutely do not/cannot DESERVE our salvation–and that it is a total gift from God–then we agree.

    But when you say "0% human effort", I wonder about things like baptism, faith, neighbor loving, etc. To me, it seems we MUST make effort on some of these fronts. Otherwise one would say that God just happens into our lives, and we have no ability to resist it, so you basically either get lucky or you don't (which is what my basic understanding of Calvinism is…some of us are fortunate, some others aren't, human free choice means nothing).

    I am anxious to get a clearer picture as to what you are saying.

    ***For the Calvinists, I imagine I did a superior job of botching your belief system. Don't feel any need to prove me wrong on that front…I know little of Calvinism. What I do know comes from Jay's post and your responses…and frankly, it is out of my league/over my head. I say this just so that you don't spend a lot of time "proving me wrong" about my Calvinist' beliefs.

  11. johnny says:

    @Joe Hegyi III

    If worshiping Mary rather than Jesus makes you a Christian, then I suppose the Catholics could be called Christians. But if the Catholics are Christians, shouldn't we all just call it quits and become Catholics?????? Why have our own churches if they're Christian? Its stupid. So either they aren't Christian, or we aren't. Either the Catholic church is the church that Jesus built and we ought to be in it and are going to hell for not being in it, or it isn't the church and they aren't Christians.

  12. John says:

    Johnny,

    Note I said "merit", not "effort." We must give 100% human effort/obedience. But it is still 100% grace and 0% human merit. My obedience doesn't earn me anything, as if I deserved it.

  13. @johnny

    First, Catholics do not worship Mary. Clearly you've not known many Catholics.

    Second, if Catholics are not Christians, how long do you believe the gates of hell prevailed against the Church? In the west, Catholics were the only game in town. When do you think the "real church" was re-established? With Luther and Zwingli? Calvin? Barton Stone and the Campbells? Though the church was deeply flawed it was still the church. We are not Catholics because of historical circumstance and for conscience sake.

    So to make sure I understand this correctly, you believe we're saved by grace and the fact we don't agree with the Pope being Peter's successor? So we're not saved by grace through faith but only if we're not Catholic? If God can save Protestants of all stripes he can certainly save the Catholic and Orthodox. Probably the Coptics as well come to think of it.

    It's that kind of bigotry that keeps the Church broken into thousands of pieces.

  14. Sorry, that should have read "We're saved by grace through faith, but only if we're not Catholic?"

  15. Bob Harry says:

    To All

    I hope we are all Christians (on this web page). It is unfortunate that we have differences other than the purity of the Gospel and a desire to obey the golden rule.

    I would be honored to worship with any of you from Catholic, Baptist, COC or whatever and whoever would accept us. We have moved to a new location in Texas and have visited most groups, some two and three times. My earnest prayer is for the unity of Spirit and that we all cooperate to bring the lost to Christ regardless of where the redeemed person chooses to
    attend.

    These discussions are great and I believe Jay is showing the only way we can survive as the united body of Christ. By uniting on what is essential to salvation, that is the Gospel and a love for each other as dear brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray that we talk all this over and go out and bring the lost to our master. If we love each other the lost will not be confused.

    The Nicean Creed of 325 AD states that there is one Holy Apostolic Church. Even though we worship with somewhat different names and in different buildings we are still Christians. Lets fill our buildings and pray for each others success. I do daily that all the Churches in my area are successful in bringing the lost to Jesus.

    God Guide us with your Holy Spirit. I pray that you had a wonderfull worship today.

    Bob.

  16. johnny says:

    "So we’re not saved by grace through faith but only if we’re not Catholic?"

    If you are Catholic your faith isn't in Jesus nor the gospel but in the pope and the magesterium.

  17. johnny says:

    Anyway, my point is that when you start having the communion at weddings you've turned it into a pagan feast. It loses all association with Christianity and becomes a party favor. I think that John would rather have abandoned the communion altogether, and I believe that's what he did in John 6. In fact I think John 6 even implies that the institution of the physical supper in the other gospels is Catholic corruption. John lived long enough to respond to the Catholic corruption in the other gospels covertly in his. I.e. he has Jesus reject Mary "woman, what have I to do with thee?" and deny the institution of the physical supper.

  18. @Johnny

    You again show your ignorance about Catholics. Perhaps you should try to learn what they actually teach before you start attacking them.

    So far as what you're suggesting about John it sounds like you've already given up on the Bible being inspired so why bother? John didn't write anything he wasn't directed to write about by the Holy Spirit and certainly would have no need to be covert. If what you are suggesting had a shred of evidence where did tge Holy Spirit in clear, direct language say so? In fact, the Holy Spirit directed the writers of the synoptic gospels to tell us that Mary was the most blessed of all women since she had the honor of being the Theotokos.

  19. johnny says:

    "John didn’t write anything he wasn’t directed to write about by the Holy Spirit and certainly would have no need to be covert."

    You assume that God didn't preserve the Biblical text for all these centuries by tricking the devil. But he tricked the devil with the cross for had the princes of the world known who Jesus was they wouldn't have crucified him. In like manner, had they known what John meant then John would have never lasted to today.

  20. @Johnny

    So now God is so weak he needs to hide his plans from Satan? God is certainly powerful enough to preserve his word regardless Satan's plans. He's not left secret knowlege that we have to uncover to really understand his plan. That smacks of Gnosticism.

  21. johnny says:

    And I think one who calls Mary "Theotokos" has certainly "given up on the Bible being inspired." Jesus is "without father and without mother" in Hebrews 7, without father in his manhood and without mother in his godhood so that there is no Scriptural possibility of speaking of Mary as theotokos or 'mother of God' for as God he has no mother. Nestorius was right to argue that Christotokos should be used instead of Theotokos, but your good friends branded him a heretics. I hope you'll do the same for all to see, so that it can be seen that you reject the Scriptures in favor of Catholic tradition.

    If I say certain things in Scripture are Catholic corruption, I have done nothing beyond what Paul says of the Old Testament or Stephen in Acts 7 when saying that the Law was given by angels (Acts 7:53 "Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it") even though the Old Testament clearly makes it as though God himself appeared and gave the Law. As they pointed out the Phariseeic corruption that turned angels into God, so I point out how the Catholics have corrupted the text so that Paul's "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom 14:17) has been eclipsed with a ritual borrowed from Mithraism of consuming our God in a canabalistic or symbolically canabalistic meal. I do the same work here that Stephen did with the Torah. But you just simply deny Scripture and accept Catholic tradition and worship Mary as a mother goddess who gives birth to God.

  22. johnny says:

    "So now God is so weak he needs to hide his plans from Satan?"

    I didn't say he was weak or had to, but that he did. Did Paul mean that God was weak when he spoke of "the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints" (Col 1:26) and "the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God" (Eph 3:9) ??

    God hid this not out of weakness, but "to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God," (Eph 3:10)

    But in that God knew the church would be wholly absorbed by Paganism for a season he hid a trojan truth in the Johanine gospel that was saved for revelation in our time.

  23. Bob Harry says:

    Jonhny

    We have turned marriage into a pagan ritual. why even go through a ceremony when most will end up in divorce. Why would you limit communion to a church meeting?

    We would take it when ever two or three and together.

    Bob

  24. @johnny

    So, according to you, the whole church apostasized, despite Christ saying the the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church.

    God felt no need to mention that fact because he knew you would figure it out and "restore" the "real Church."

    I hope you've compiled your own Bible from available source documents since the "pagan Church" compiled the one we currently use.

    And Theotokos means "God bearer" and, unless you believe Jesus and the Word are two different people, Mary bore God in her womb for nine months.

  25. Jay Guin says:

    Johnny,

    In fact, the Pope's most recent publication on grace is very much line with mainline evangelical thinking. The Catholic Church has changed dramatically — especially since the Vatican II Council.

    That's not to say I agree with all of Catholic theology. I certainly don't, but I find there's a big difference between what they teach and what others say they teach.

  26. Jay Guin says:

    Johnny,

    There is no biblical basis on which to object to taking communion at any gathering of the saints in the name of Jesus. If a newly wedded couple want to celebrate their marriage at a meal that honors Jesus, well, it's awfully hard to find sin in that.

    John was written in the First Century — long before any possible Catholic corruption. And no early Christians read John as opposing taking communion.

    Commentators uniformly find no disrespect toward Mary in Jesus' calling her "woman." Compare John 4:21, 19:26; 20:13, 15. He referred to other women and Mary the same way in contexts that clearly show no disrespect.

  27. johnny says:

    "John was written in the First Century — long before any possible Catholic corruption. "

    How do you know that Catholics didn't exist in the first century? or that John didn't live into the second and write his gospel then?

    You don't. The fact is that the letter of 3rd John was most clearly written during the controversy where Gaius of Rome rejecting the gospel of John as a Gnostic forgery. Unless John was still alive close to 150, how did he write 3rd John to Gaius?

  28. Jay Guin says:

    Johnny,

    Do you have some basis for your claim that 3 John was written in 150 AD?

  29. Bob Harry says:

    Jay

    I have a good friend who is a Catholic priest. You are right, they have changed. He considers Donna and I good Christians and would gladly serve us communion.

    He is a lawyer of cannon law. Father Kennedy told me if you like legalism you would really fall in love with us.

    He is one of the most tolerant and intelligent student of scripture that I have seen in a while. The best scholar is my good friend, Buddy Miller, a retired Methodist minister. Buddy has three degrees in sacred theology and would spellbind anyone in the old testament. We studied under him for two years. Buddy sees almost every event in the OT as pointing to Jesus.

    In our wanderings we have made many friends in the so called denominational world. If these folks are losrt god help us because the faith I have seen outside the COC does not compare to these scholars.

    Bob

  30. Bob Harry says:

    oops inside the COC.

    Sorry

    Bob

  31. Jay Guin says:

    Bob,

    Some years ago, our then preacher was in the local Bible bookstore, where he ran into a Catholic priest shopping. Our preacher struck up a conversation, and commented that he was surprised to see a Catholic priest pouring over evangelical literature.

    The priest said that he was part of an order that rejects the adoration of Mary and is otherwise very close to mainstream evangelicalism. He smiled and commented that Catholicism is a "big tent" religion.

    And it is.

  32. johnny says:

    Yes, at that time (as Eusebius informs us) Gaius of Rome was rejecting the gospel of John and casting out of the church those who accepted it. 3rd John is writing to Gaius with sarcastic praise of his hospitality and how he houses the preachers sent his way, yet it urges him to get a handle on Diotrophes who is rejecting and casting out of the church those that John sends. What's going on is John is sending men to Rome and Diotrophes is casting them out of the church on Gaius' orders. John is trying to get Gaius to rescend those orders. Note that although Gaius is supposedly a great hospitalitarian and receives the brethren, John says in verse 18 "We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth" which is clearly a rebuke for him not receiving those John sends, for John knows that Diotrophes does not act without Gaius' approval.

  33. Donald Newton says:

    Jay,

    All I can say is: "I love you man!" Keep it up!

  34. heavenbound says:

    I am going to throw a wrench into the gears, when I say that at our church we don't take part in communion. having looked at the last supper and who were in attendance, it was a closed party. A meal of significance when it comes to fulfilling prophecy. Yes Paul the apostle to the Gentiles, took communion but with the idea that the kingdom announced by John the Baptist and what Jesus preached during his earthly ministry, was coming quickly. What does "at hand" mean to you? "Do this in remembrance till I come." His pronouncement in Revelation, I come quickly, it says what it means and means what it says. What happened?
    2000 years since and we are still waiting.

  35. John Grant says:

    Heavenbound

    Many of ours is a closed party too. Just observe the looks a person visiting gets for taking the bread or grape juice that all know is not a member.

    Usually will be told by someone not to after worship.

    Seems it would be better to anounce that before.

  36. That is one of refreshing things in the Christian Churches. They encourage anyone who is a believer to partake after examining himself/herself.

  37. Jay Guin says:

    Heavenbound,

    The kingdom came at Pentecost. It is still coming. It hasn't yet come. The scriptures say all three things, because the kingdom has been inaugurated but hasn't come in its fullness.

  38. johnny says:

    Was he really instituting a supper for all Christians to last forever, or just a new way for Jewish Christians to view the Passover food stuffs when they observed it once a year until the destruction of Jersualem in 70 AD?

    Is that sort of your reasoning, heavenbound?

  39. heavenbound says:

    Interesting point Johnny. I have said all along that the destruction of the temple changed everything as far as God's relationship with Israel, prophecy and the announcement of the Kingdom was concerned. All through the old testament and the gospels, Gentiles were referred to as dogs. The middle wall of partition that separates Gentiles and Jews in the temple no longer existed with the blood and the cross finally eliminating the separation between the two. As Paul puts it there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and freeman. Broken body, shed blood for remembrance is no longer needed. We keep forgetting that we were aliens of the promises made to Israel Eph 2:11-13 KJV

  40. chosen says:

    Many years ago, as the Lord was at work to draw and lead me, I was attending a fellowship of believers and learning the scriptures. I hadn't yet surrendered my life to the Lord. I was simply learning of Him and from Him. I was present on a Sunday and the communion trays were passed around. I took it because I believed in God having only known what I knew growing up Lutheran. No one said anything to me. No one condemned me. I continued learning and growing. Then, I realized Jesus was inviting me to surrender my life to Him. I considered the cost and made the decision to live for Him. I was baptized into HIs Body. The following Sunday I was present and the communion tray was passed around. It was as though a light came on…I realized that taking the Lord's supper before benefited me nothing for I had not yet accepted His substitutional death for mine.

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