1 Corinthians 11:22-26 (the Supper of the Lord)


(1Co 11:22 ESV) 22 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? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

One possible interpretation is that Paul considers it wrong for the church to eat a common meal together. He can’t be saying that it’s wrong to eat in the building or to have a kitchen in the building since the church met in private homes — where people ate and had kitchens.

After all, since the church was not licensed by the Roman government, it could not own property or build its own buildings. In some communities, a friendly synagogue or Grecian official might allow the church to occasionally borrow a facility to gather as a whole, but routine, weekly meetings had to be in a house.

And it’s extremely unlikely that Paul was opposed to common meals. The earliest New Testament book written is either 1 Corinthians or 1 Thessalonians, and we read of the love feast in much later books, such as Jude 12. And a common meal was a mark of hospitality, a vital mark of the church.

Therefore, Paul’s point has to be that they shouldn’t come to church so hungry that they can’t wait on others to eat.

Paul’s language, however, suggests that the physical structure of someone’s home needed to be reconceptualized as church-meeting space, “sacred space,” when it was serving as the meeting place of the local Christian community.

Christians who participate in the Lord’s Supper might eat and drink but they are not merely eating and drinking as they do so and they must not act as they might in other mundane contexts of eating and drinking. They are, as they are about to be reminded again, gathered in remembrance of their Lord and to proclaim his death until he returns.

If they want to have a drink or a meal on their own terms they must wait until they are in the privacy of their own homes or in the home of a friend. They are not free to do so when gathered as the church of God, even if that happens to take place in what serves at other times as their own home.

Of course they are to represent and incarnate the presence and attitude of Christ at home as well as in other contexts, so that the behavior Paul is criticizing would not be acceptable even at other times, but it is all the more reprehensible when done in the context of the gathered church.

Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Pillar NTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 546-547.

In the Churches of Christ, there are churches that take the position that this passage condemns eating in the church building or having a kitchen in the building. Churches dispute over the rightness of having a fellowship hall, whether a fellowship hall may be part of a church building, and so on and on and on.

The entire dispute ignores the well-established historical fact that the early church met in houses, not in church buildings. The scriptures say not a word about what is or isn’t proper in a church building because there were no such buildings — not until Emperor Constantine in the Fourth Century — 300 years later.

Paul’s point is not that it’s wrong to eat together in a particular place, but that it’s wrong to be rude to each other — especially in worship but not only in worship.

(1Co 11:23-24 ESV) 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when 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.”

Paul now changes the subject in two ways — or so it would appear to us. He begins to speak of the Lord’s Supper, but to us, he’s been speaking of the love feast. Clearly, the church had combined the two.

Second, he goes from expressing his disappointment to teaching how the Lord’s Supper is to be conducted.

“I received from the Lord” either means that he heard it indirectly from the Lord via his apostles (since he wasn’t present at the institution of the Lord’s Supper) or that he had had a special revelation. Either is possible, and the distinction isn’t all that important.

“Delivered to you” in the Greek bespeaks great seriousness. The “received … delivered” pairing is the language of rabbis quoting authoritative teaching. He is laying down the law.

He is deliberately using somber, sober terms, referring to the betrayal of Jesus and his broken body to remind his readers of the seriousness of this matter. We are not to treat this sacrament as a trifle, much less an excuse to sin against our brothers and sisters!

(1Co 11:25 ESV)  25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

This is a text filled with double meaning. The “new covenant” is a reference to the promise of Jeremiah regarding the end of the exile of the Jews:

(Jer 31:31-34 ESV)  31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,  32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.  33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

This passage permeates the New Testament. Indeed, we get “New Testament” as an archaic translation of “new covenant.” Jesus announced at the Last Supper that Jeremiah’s new covenant was coming true. The Spirit would come and write God’s laws on the hearts and minds of his people, a promise going back to Deuteronomy 30:6 and repeated by the prophets.

And the phrase “covenant in my blood” hearkens back to Exodus 24, when God entered into a blood covenant with Israel. After God gave Israel the Ten Commandments and many other commands of the Law of Moses, sacrifices were made and all of Israel promised to keep God’s law. And then —

(Exo 24:8-11 ESV)  8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

 9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up,  10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.  11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank. 

The leaders of people ate a meal with God! And the Twelve Apostles, representing the Twelve Tribe, ate a meal with Jesus at which a new covenant was sealed — with the symbolic blood and flesh of Jesus, which would soon be realized in the very real blood and flesh of Jesus.

Jesus was recalling these events and sealing the new covenant in a similar way — putting himself in the place of God and also in the place of the sacrifices made to God.

Therefore, when we take the bread and the cup, we emulate these events, not only the Last Supper, but also the swearing to God that we will obey his commands, as Israel did in Exodus 24, and eating with God in affirmation of our promises. In a very real sense, taking the Lord’s Supper is a recommitment and re-affirmation of our end of the covenant — as well as a celebration of the relationship we have in God because of the covenant and the sacrifice that sealed it 2,000 years ago.

“Remembrance of me” uses an usual word found in Lev. 24:7 and Num 10:10 regarding the showbread and sacrifices as reminders of God’s covenant — a reminder of God’s faithfulness to his covenant as well as a reminder to be faithful to God.

Hence, Jesus is saying to take these elements to remember God’s faithfulness to promises make long before his crucifixion that God does not forget or fail to honor his promises — as the crucifixion proves beyond doubt — and that we must remember that we are in covenant with God, sealed by the blood of Jesus — the most serious and consequential covenant that could be imagined.

It is also crucial for our understanding of the Lord’s Supper that the remembrance is not an act of remembering a long-lost friend, present only in the memories of the community. It is understood by all that the Lord who is being remembered and whose death is being proclaimed did not remain dead but is living and present with the community as they celebrate what he accomplished when he first came, “not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45; Matt. 20:28) and as they look forward to his return to consummate his redemptive work (cf. v. 26 — “until he comes”).

Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Pillar NTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 551.

(1Co 11:26 ESV)  26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 

We struggle with whether we are to focus on Jesus’ death or his resurrection, and, of course, the answer is both. We mourn the necessity for his death — due to our sinfulness — and we celebrate the promise of redemption and resurrection found in his own resurrection. And we so we recommit to be true to him, to live as co-crucified people — people who’ve died with Jesus and been resurrected with Jesus in baptism.

In fact, the Lord’s Supper should be, like our baptisms, at the core of our spiritual formation — our transformation to become more and more like Jesus. As we dwell on him, we become like him.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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15 Responses to 1 Corinthians 11:22-26 (the Supper of the Lord)

  1. George Guild says:

    We need to guard against reading our modern times into scripture. Jay you brought out an excellent point about the early church gathering in private homes. They also gathered at the Temple until, I assume, the stoning of Stephen. The Temple had possibly the largest BBQ pit in the world. And so people ate at the Temple and in the presence of God. Oh, and guess what, at the Temple, music was played on instruments.

    An important part of early Christianity was table fellowship, because all were equal in Christ. From the lowly widow that was possibly the easiest victim in society to the highest members of society, converts in the household of Caesar. They sat at table as REDEAMED by the blood of the Lamb! Salvation to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Making Jews and Gentiles equal in Salvation. And so they should sit at table together as Brothers.

    Christianity was born in an Honor/Shame society. For a person to leave his family & religion for Christ was Shameful. And so the church acted as a surrogate family, since blood family would reject one over the new religion that was exclusive. As God created a help mate for Adam, so that he would not be alone, so a part of the reason for God’s creation of the church was so that these newly converted to the faith would not be alone.

    These early Christians ate together and removed human social boundaries. Ask a first century Christian about a kitchen or fellowship hall, and I am sure they would have thought it was a good idea and something that was already instituted and so would never to have been mentioned.

    Jesus Christ would have had to genuinely change the hearts of the upper crust of ancient society. Because it would have been beneath them to sit a table with slaves, widows, and tax collectors etc. These upper crust were the ones selling land and distributing to those in need in the early church. This new heart change explains perfectly why they would do such. Because in secular society they would have lost all of their HONOR by doing so. By giving up their Honor, they humbled themselves before Christ. They became Shameful in the eyes of the Pagan society that surrounded them.

    Fast forward 1900 years. We no longer live in an Honor/Shame society (being in America). And so we for the most part are clueless about how important this Lord’s Supper table fellowship was (and is). Christianity, in my opinion, has over corrected the observation of the Lord’s supper by divorcing it from the “Love Feast.” Social un-equals sat as Brothers and showed Love by simply eating together. The World was watching and took notice, and at least in the West, the Honor/Shame society was turned upside down (at least in part), because of Christians broke social convention.

  2. Ray Downen says:

    George makes good comments to a good presentation by Jay. But what I feel should be noticed and NOT ignored is that Paul’s comments about eating together involved a MEAL, not a ceremony. We now call our ritual a supper when it’s no meal at all. And the purpose of sharing the MEAL is ignored by those who prefer a ritual.

    All the eating together Luke reports in early chapters of Acts was Jews eating with fellow-believing JEWS. For the first ten years it existed the church was entirely Jewish and had no fellowship with Gentiles. But by the time Paul wrote to the Corinthian church this had changed. Now it was really for all. Jew and Gentile alike and equal. Owner and slave alike and equal in Christ. All eating together. Paul urges that the meal NOT BE SERVED until late-comers were able to get there. For those who had to work usually had to work as long as there was light, while those who were not wage-earners were free to assemble earlier in the day.

    What should we learn from what Paul wrote to the Corinthians about eating together? A FIRST lesson is that his writing relates to shared FOOD which included bread and wine. He was NOT writing about a ceremony. He was writing about a meal shared by those who loved Jesus.

  3. Dwight says:

    In the conservative coC we like to laud that we are exactly like the early church, even though we admit that we don’t meet in homes and eat our Lord’s Supper around a table, but beyond that we are exactly the same. Same but different. This is also true of many other denominations that rely on human tradition insstead of what is plainly read and seen. We regard the bread and the juice as the only elements, while placing the sharing, the gathering, the unity, the meal, the family aspects on a lower level, but recognized. In fact when others are seen emulating the early Christians by meeting in homes and partaking around a table, they are seen as sinful in thier deviation from the now approved of ways. I wonder what the early saints would think of us?

  4. “What would the early saints think of us?” I remember one preacher saying they would have to backslide to be in fellowship with ‘us’.”

  5. Jay Guin says:

    JES asked, ” Is there any evidence, or reason to believe that Christ took the weekly feast during the 40 days He was equipping the disciplines before His ascension?”

    Not exactly. He ate with some of the disciples the day of the resurrection (a Sunday) in Emmaus. Otherwise, there’s no clear evidence of a ceremonial, first-day meal during that time.

    You’ll enjoy reading for much more detail these materials by John Mark Hicks in “Breaking Bread in Luke-Acts” (123456).

  6. Jay Guin says:


    You are right, of course, and I’ve pointed out in other posts, that Jesus is present with us when we eat each Sunday. He promised to be with us always. That is far from contradictory to the main post’s point regarding the meaning and history and story behind the Eucharist. Jesus was physically present at the Last Supper, literally eating and drinking with the apostles, in a re-enactment of Exodus 24, preparing to seal the covenant with literal blood, once again. This was the inauguration of the new covenant.

    We now eat and drink in remembrance — but also in the presence of Jesus. It’s not either-or. It’s both-and. Just as God came to dwell among the Israelites after the first Passover, Jesus now dwells among and in his people following the Last Supper.

    (Hab 2:20 ESV) 20 “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”

  7. R.J. says:

    Jay, you are very insightful and thought-provoking in your posts. But I honestly have to disagree here that Paul wanted the Lord’s Supper to be treated in a morose, somber fashion. I think the “received…delivered” phraseology he used merely signified cherished sacred traditions. Like something significant passed down the family tree.

    I believe some within our tribe(and others) have treated the LS too seriously and grimly to the point where it feels like a guilt-trip ceremony(rather then a joyous occasion with family because of what He’s done for us!).

    Yes, the OT feasts were solemn. But they were just as festive,/b>. Both solemnity and celebration went hand-in-hand(as one preacher nicely put it)!

  8. Jay Guin says:


    I did not intend to be understood as saying that “Paul wanted the Lord’s Supper to be treated in a morose, somber fashion.” Rather, my intended point was that Paul himself was speaking in sober terms. I wrote,

    He is deliberately using somber, sober terms, referring to the betrayal of Jesus and his broken body to remind his readers of the seriousness of this matter. We are not to treat this sacrament as a trifle, much less an excuse to sin against our brothers and sisters!

    The Lord’s Supper is a serious matter and no trifle. But I agree with you that this doesn’t require the LS to be shared grimly or as a guilt trip.

  9. R.J. says:

    I definitely agree the LS is serious and not be held disdainfully. But I disagree that the occasion should be held in a somber fashion. Google gives this definition of the term…

    “Oppressively solemn or sober in mood; grave”.

    I don’t think you had that in mind.

  10. Mark says:

    If you look at a liturgical service, first is the summary of the law or the 10 commandments. Next is the Gloria praising God. Then the bible readings followed by the homily or sermon. Next are the prayers followed by the confession and offering. The great thanksgiving and the reading of “on the night in which he was betrayed…” Followed by the Lord’s Prayer and the prayer that we aren’t worthy but by thy grace and mercy… Last is the communion which reminds us that the body was broken and blood was shed for you. This is told to everyone individually regardless of donation level, age, status, etc. Afterward there is one additional prayer and a directive to go into the world as Christ did.

    This makes sense. The communion is solemn but is a celebration and not a dirge. The only mournful time of communion is during Holy Week when the faith was in suspense as Jesus was dead.

  11. Monty says:

    In reading the gospel accounts it appears that in the celebration of the Passover(which was a meal) at some point Jesus sort of stopped or interrupted the meal(let me have your attention please) and made a pronouncement that he was the fulfilment of the Passover. It was his body fulfilled in the bread that he blessed and gave to them and it was his blood(symbolized in the cup) he blessed that they were to drink. HIs blood that would be shed for remission of sins. I see this happening sort of like someone who clings on a glass at a wedding reception to quiet the crowd in order to propose a toast and offer a blessing for the newly weds.

    It appears the Christians who gathered in Corinth had a nasty habit of “first come, first serve”, and eating without waiting for everyone to be present. They went ahead and ate up all the grub, and others would arrive late perhaps hurrying from work and therefore unable to bring food and there would be nothing or little left to eat. Perhaps at some point those who came early and had food would stop and pay tribute to Jesus. Paul says, “it’s not the Lord’s Supper you’re eating” IMO because the Supper is all about HIs sacrifice for us and here you are exhibiting a very non-sacrificial spirit towards the latecomers by not waiting on them to arrive before eating. Now possibly, the church at Corinth, was calling the love feast the Lords’ Supper but in fact they had no real concept of what they were doing. Paul’s instructions to them in verses 24-25 could be seen as corrective(they were performing the form without realizing the substance) or it could be seen as instructional, as in they understand neither the form, nor the function.

    It appears from Paul’s rebuke that they were eating bread and drinking wine(they had at least some concept of why they were to meet on the 1st day of the week, but they were clueless as to anything that it symbolized. They were being rude, unloving, and selfish. They were not thinking about Jesus and his sacrificial death, how could they when they were acting in such an uncharitable way toward their brothers? Form right and function wrong? Or, both wrong? I lean toward both. This was Paul teaching Lord Supper 101. Christians today get together frequently during the week and eat a meal together. But there is a special moment of remembrance that we share on Sunday when we come together to honor Jesus’ sacrifice. We discern his body in the bread and his blood in the juice. He took the nails for us. He’s coming back. Death could not keep his prey. And because he sacrificed for us, we should embody the spirit of sacrifice for each other. First come, first serve does neither. And neither does eating bread and drinking wine without discerning Jesus in the objects.

    I will say this as far as solemnity is concerned. It has always been our custom when thinking about the loss of life and the death of our fallen heroes to have solemnity, a moment of silence, or a prayer of heartfelt thanks. I think about funerals, weddings, inaugurations, and dedications, all of which have their moments of quiet respect for the importance of what’s taking place. Something the church at Corinth was missing.

  12. Dwight says:

    The passover and other feast were, well feast, where they gathered and ate and celebrated God and His deliverance. While it is true that the Lord’s Supper is about Jesus death, it is mainly about his sacrifice and deliverance, since He did rise again and it is with Him that we are partaking. Even the passover’s today reflect the seriousness of God’s deliverance with the joy of God’s deliverance. We have made the Lord’s Supper a worship event, instead of a sharing event of the saints and Jesus. Jesus blessed the bread and the wine to those who partook. The Lord’s Supper wasn’t directed to God, but rather directed to each other with God and Jesus in clear view.

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