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The Scriptorium

Abuse of the Lord's Supper

No wonder he did not praise them. 1 Corinthians 11.17-22

1 Corinthians 11 (4)

Pray Psalm 97.1, 9.
The LORD reigns;
Let the earth rejoice;
Let the multitude of isles be glad!
… For You, LORD, are most high above all the earth;
You are exalted far above all gods.

Sing Psalm 97.1, 9.
(Darwall: Rejoice, the Lord is King)
Rejoice, the LORD is King! O earth, lift up your voice;
Be glad, you islands, shout and sing: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Refrain v. 9
Beyond, above
all gods and nations be exalted, God of love!

Read 1 Corinthians 11.1-22; meditate on verses 17-22.


1. What was the state of the Corinthian church when they came together?

2. How were they abusing the Lord’s Supper?

Paul believed that worship in the churches in Corinth was doing more harm than good (v. 17). Whereas worship should draw all worshipers to the Lord and, thus, closer to one another, the Corinthians brought their divisiveness to church on the Lord’s Day and used worship to vaunt their sense of superiority (v. 18). That can only lead to more problems.

Paul stung the Corinthians in verse 19. Why did the Lord allow these factions? So that the real believers—those who were not factious, who truly loved and sought to edify their brethren, and who actively pursued the fellowship of Jesus—could rise like cream to the surface. Since nothing like that was happening, the Corinthians should understand that their conduct was not “approved.”

It gets worse. Apparently, the various house churches in Corinth—which fueled factionalism—came together “in one place” to take the Lord’s Supper (v. 20). They used the Supper to express their sense of superiority. Rather than wait for all to be served the elements so they could partake together and thus express their oneness, some partook of the Supper as soon as they were served (v. 21). And, apparently, they took a bit more of the elements than they should have, so that others missed out on one or another of the elements (v. 21). In so doing they “despised the church of God” by not working to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace (Eph. 4.3).

Paul was emphatic: He did not praise them for such shameful behavior. Church—including worship and the sacraments—is not a tool for us to wield to our own advantage. Such behavior is misguided and harmful.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Incivility ruled the day in the churches in Corinth. They were rude and discourteous to one another—in general, lacking in good manners. Paul is laying the groundwork carefully for his beautiful tome on love, and pointing out their desperate need to put godly love in its proper place, so that their worship is pleasing to God. Sadly, pleasing Him was the furthest thing from their mind.

So, Paul had to write to them:
I do not praise you,
since you come together
not for the better but for the worse.
Let me count the ways that this is so:
1. There are divisions and factions among you.
2. When you come together to worship it is not to eat the Lord’s supper,
because you are all eating your own supper. Rudely.
3. A few of you are even drunk. Holy cow. At church?
4. What? Don’t you have houses of your own to do that in?
What shall I say to you?
Shall I praise you in this?
I do not praise you. (1 Cor. 11.17-22)

What a mess. The people were eating and drinking for their own satisfaction, but not “for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10.31). They were a big antithetical hodge-podge of “I did it my way.”

“Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD; for the day of the LORD is at hand.
For the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has invited His guests” (Zeph. 1.7).
All those who love the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ are invited.

“The LORD is in His holy temple…For the LORD is righteous,
He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright” (Ps. 11.4, 7).
God loves those who love His Son and worship Him.

“Give unto the LORD the glory due His name;
Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Ps. 29.2).
We give glory to God, and not another, in holy worship.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’” (Matt. 26.26-28). “…do this in remembrance of Me” (Lk. 22.19). Jesus, our precious Savior, deserves our undivided attention, our love, our appreciation, and our worship.

Let us never again take the Lord’s Supper in any way that would get up the ire of Paul or disappoint Jesus.
May we hear him say to us, “I do praise you, because you have come together, for the better and not for the worse. You have remembered and revered Jesus in the way He requested. I will praise you in this!”

For reflection
1. How do you prepare for the Lord’s Supper?

2. How can you avoid taking the Lord’s Supper in a perfunctory manner?

3. How does God intend the Lord’s Supper to benefit us as His children?

The apostle rebukes the disorders in their partaking of the Lord’s supper. The ordinances of Christ, if they do not make us better, will be apt to make us worse. If the use of them does not mend, it will harden. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11.17-22

Pray Psalm 96.1-4, 11-13.
Call on the Lord to protect you from making an idol out of anything and from being influenced against Jesus by the idols of this world. Thank Him for the fellowship of Jesus to which He has brought you.

Sing Psalm 97.7-12.
(Darwall: Rejoice, the Lord is King)
While Zion gladly sings, let all be brought to shame
who to vain idols worship bring and scorn His Name.
Refrain v. 9
Beyond, above
all gods and nations be exalted, God of love!

All you who love the LORD, despise sin’s wicked ways!
Praise Him Who guides us by His Word through all our days.

T. M. and Susie Moore

The Church in Corinth needed revival. But there was much to be done before that would happen. The Church today needs revival, and the same is true for us. Our book, Revived!, can help us to discern our need for revival and lead us in getting there. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalteravailable by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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