The following article is written by Jim McGuiggan. Jim is the author of "Celebrating the Wrath of God"; "The God Who Commands the Impossible"; "Jesus: Hero of Thy Soul" and "The Dragon Slayer". His website is http://www.jimmcguiggan.com
“In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.” 1 Corinthians 11:17; do see 11:17-34.
His following remarks rise out of what was happening at the Eucharistic (Thanksgiving) meal in particular. They had the bread and the wine to eat and drink but it wasn’t the Lord’s Supper they were eating (11:20); it was an exhibition of crass selfishness and bitter resentment.
The setting seems clear enough. They were having a “love feast” at which time they engaged in what was to be Holy Communion and Thanksgiving (see 1 Corinthians 10:14-22).
If there’s a section in the NT that shows us that ordinances without heartfelt understanding and commitment to God in Jesus Christ are worse than useless it is this one. The meaning and purpose of the Lord’s Supper is obliterated in practice despite the fact that the bread is eaten and the wine drunk with the correct prayerful words if the assembly is divided against itself (11:18).
The body of Christ speaks of Christ himself! While the bread and wine always remain just that, bread and wine, they are no longer merely bread and wine when God’s assemblies eat in faith. In the refrigerator at home or in the pantry the wine and bread are merely wine and bread but when we place them as provided by the Lord before him in the Lord’s Supper they are no longer merely bread and wine. Now they are a sign of his presence by his Holy Spirit who indwells the Church, the Body of Christ. Something happens to the bread and the wine. It isn’t magic and there’s no molecular change in their structure but if shot through with truth and visioned by faith the bread is food and the wine is sustenance and the Lord by his Holy Spirit is present in the midst of his people.
At the “haves” brought plenty of food and wine and gorged on them while sitting there beside them were the “have nots” who burned with resentment at being betrayed by brothers and sisters. So when some shepherd rose to “offer thanks for the bread” it was merely bread they ate! When the prayer was offered thanking God “for the blood of Christ” it was merely wine they drank! Even the mere bread and wine was now less than mere bread and wine—the Lord had been driven from the entire proceeding.
The “haves” did not remember (for they had no heart to remember) that on the night the Lord was betrayed he said, “This is my body which is given for you.” He gave himself and they would not give so much as a decent meal to the hungry and needy. The “have nots” in their burning bitterness at betrayal forgot (for they had no wish to remember) that on the night in which Jesus was betrayed his response was not one of rage and resentment but of self-giving for the forgiveness of sins.
“Do you think I should praise you because you come together as an assembly and have the ‘correct emblems’ when you humiliate and rob the needy among you or burn in unbridled resentment at those who sin against you? You think I should praise you because you are ‘doing what the Lord has commanded’? I certainly will not praise you! You eat and drink condemnation to yourselves.” Compare 11: 22, 27-29.
The assembly missed completely the body of Christ in the bread and the wine!
The assembly missed completely the body of Christ in the people who sat around them!
The Supper became an occasion for the various factions to express the absence of the Lord Jesus from their hearts and minds. There’s something frightening about a head bowed in seeming piety while the heart chooses to enjoy the humiliation or hatred of others.
The Supper is a celebration of joyous redemption and peace for penitent sinners.
The Supper is a unity meal that says in Jesus we’re one body.
The Supper is a covenant renewal meal in which we commit to the meaning of Jesus, his mission and his method.
The Supper is a time of feeding on Jesus and all that he means to God for us and all that he means to us for God.