If you would like to send your offering through the mail, our mailing address is:
CrossPointe Community Church
P O Box 126
Chippewa Lake, OH 44215
On what we refer to as Paul’s second missionary journey, as detailed in the Book of Acts, the great apostle is traveling south through Greece. He stops first for just a few days in Philippi where the famous Philippian jail episode occurs. From there he spent three weeks preaching in Thessalonica before being run out of town. Next up was a short stint in Berea and then on to Athens, where he spent perhaps a few days to a week before arriving in the cosmopolitan City of Corinth in the year 50AD. At Corinth, Paul finds fertile ground for the gospel and ends up staying there for 18 months to get the fledgling church up and running.
Four years later, while ministering in Ephesus, Paul receives word of various problems occurring in the Church at Corinth. In response, Paul writes what we refer to as First Corinthians. In chapters one through four, Paul addresses the problem of “divisions” in the church. It seems that some in the church prefer to follow Paul, some Apollos, some Peter, and some, and rightly so, Jesus. In chapter five, Paul addresses the problem of sexual immorality. Chapter six focuses on settling disputes, chapter seven misunderstandings about marriage, and chapter eight, eating food offered to idols. In chapter nine, Paul is defending his right to be recognized as an apostle. Chapter ten returns to and finishes his direction on eating food offered to idols. And then we come to chapter eleven where through the end of chapter fourteen, Paul addresses problems associated with Christian worship.
With that, let’s begin to read in I Corinthians 11, starting at verse 17.
But in the following instructions, I cannot praise you. For it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together. First, I hear that there are divisions among you when you meet as a church, and to some extent I believe it. But, of course, there must be divisions among you so that you who have God’s approval will be recognized! (17-19)
When you meet together, you are not really interested in the Lord’s Supper. For some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others. As a result, some go hungry while others get drunk. What? Don’t you have your own homes for eating and drinking? Or do you really want to disgrace God’s church and shame the poor? What am I supposed to say? -Do you want me to praise you? Well, I certainly will not praise you for this! (20-22)
For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself.” (23a)
Allow me to pause and read from Craig Bloomberg: “’Receive’ and ‘pass on’ in verse 23 reflect standard terminology for transmission of oral tradition. So when Paul says he received this information from the Lord we must not think of some kind of direct revelation. Rather he is referring to what which Jesus spoke while He was alive, words remembered by the disciples and widely repeated and perhaps even memorized in the early Christian community.” 1
On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then He broke it in pieces and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, He took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and His people—an agreement confirmed with My blood. Do this in remembrance of Me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until He comes again.” (23b-26).
We forget that all of Paul’s letters written to churches preceded the writing of any of the gospels. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written about 54 AD and predates the earliest gospel (Mark) by about 10 years. So this description of the Last Supper, which was circulating orally, was the very first to appear in writing.
So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died.” (27-30)
This is a troubling passage, especially for those who fear receiving communion because they might be partaking “unworthily” a subject to which we will return shortly.
But as it concerns a link between sin and sickness and even death, there are a few Old Testament passages that claim that some, not all, but some sicknesses can be due to God’s discipline. For example, Zephaniah 1:17 says, “I will bring distress on men so that they will walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord; and their blood will be poured out like dust and their flesh like dung.” I believe that Paul is referencing those verses to impress upon the Corinthians the severity of their sin against the body of Christ.
Gordon Fee gives us something to think about here: “Paul does not see the judgment as a kind of ‘one for one,’ that is, the person who has abused another is the one who gets sick. Rather, the whole community is affected by the actions of some, who are creating divisions within the body of Christ. Probably the rash of illnesses and deaths that have recently overtaken them is here being viewed as an expression of divine judgment on the whole community. In any case, Paul is not saying that sickness among Christians is to be viewed as present judgment.” 2
In regard to a possible link between sin and sickness, I think it is important to note in the gospel of John, prior to healing the man born blind, the disciples ask Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he would be born blind?” (9:2). And Jesus responds with neither him nor his parents, but rather, that God might be glorified in his healing (9:3). And when in Luke 13, Pilate deliberately murders some people and 18 people are killed when a tower in Siloam accidently falls on them, Jesus asks in both cases, “Do you think these people died because they were greater sinners than others? I tell you, ‘no.’” (Luke 13:1-5).
My own Biblically informed opinion is that all sickness ultimately results from original sin and its curse of death upon the human race.
But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world. So, my dear brothers and sisters, when you gather for the Lord’s Supper, wait for each other. If you are really hungry, eat at home so you won’t bring judgment upon yourselves when you meet together. I’ll give you instructions about the other matters after I arrive.” (31-34).
Jerry Minniear was a member of a church I pastored in North Fairfield, Ohio and his family and mine became good friends. Jerry was a real character and would love to tease the dozen or so elderly widows in that congregation, and of course, they loved him for it.
In that church, when we would have communion, the people would come about 20 at a time down to the front of the sanctuary and kneel at a wooden rail that opened up to reveal the little pieces of bread and the cups containing grape juice. After almost every Communion Sunday, Jerry would pull me aside and say, “You know Randy, I bet if you put real wine into those cups instead of grape juice, if you watched real close, you’d see most of those gals would come back for seconds.” He always said it was his idea for stirring up more business for me!
Today, my communion concerns do not revolve around whether or not we fill our cups with grape juice or wine. I do not believe whether it’s one or the other really matters.
But what probably does matter for most of us today is whether or not we are participating in the Sacrament of Holy Communion in an ‘unworthy’ manner. Now that is a matter of extreme importance for you and me. After all, are there any here among us who want to even take a chance of being “guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord”? (I Co. 11:27).
So what was going on in the church at Corinth that elicited such a strong response from Paul?
It is known from church history that early Christian communities engaged in what was known as ‘love feasts.’ Now don’t let your imaginations run too far with that term. Love feasts were where the people would come together to enjoy a sort of pot-luck dinner and they would conclude their meal by celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Ah, all well and good. These fellowship meals are alluded to three times in the Book of Acts and the technical term for love feasts appears in Jude, verse 12.
During these love feasts in the church at Corinth, some of the well-to-do folk are not only digging into their pic-i-nic baskets, and eating their Kentucky Fried Chicken, but also, guzzling from their wineskins before some of the poorer people even arrive. As a result, Paul says, that by the time they are going to conclude with the Lord’s Supper, the former is drunk and the latter are hungry, maybe even hangry. No wonder Paul begins with “I cannot praise you, for it sounds like more harm than good is done!” (I Corinthians 11:17).
Gordon Fee writes:
As they assemble together to eat the Lord’s Supper, instead of being together they are being sundered apart by the activities of some who are going ahead with their own private meals, thus despising the church by shaming those who have nothing. The rich were in effect destroying the church as the body of Christ. 3
Craig Bloomberg adds,
Those who could not afford to bring a full meal, or a very good one, did not have the opportunity to share with the rest in the way that Christian unity demanded.” 4
Now we are ready to understand what it means to eat unworthily.
So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord” (I Corinthians 11:27).
This is the verse that strikes fear into the hearts of many. Especially those who have wrongly concluded that their various sins cause them to take communion ‘unworthily.’
And the root of this fear is this pesky word, ‘unworthily.’ The ‘ly’ at the end clues us that this word is not an adjective, but rather an adverb. And we all know that whereas adjectives modify nouns, adverbs modify verbs. So why the English grammar lesson? Because that little ‘ly’ makes all the difference.
Don’t take it from me; take it from our expert, Dr. Bloomberg:
Paul does not use the adjective, ‘unworthy,’ which would have referred to a person’s character, but highlights instead, the nature of their actions. Thus his warning was not to those who live unworthy lives and longed for forgiveness but to those who were making a mockery of that which should have been most sacred and solemn by their behavior at the meal. 5
In other words, the wrongdoing here; by the way, notice I didn’t say ‘sin.’ In fact, please note that the word ‘sin’ does not appear in this entire passage. The wrongdoing concerns the way some in the church are denigrating others who are less fortunate.
This is why Gordon Fee writes, “Before they participate in the meal they should examine themselves in terms of their attitudes toward the body, how they are treating others.” 6
There are two things to be remembered from this passage.
The first is remembering the importance of Christian Unity; especially unity around the table.
Again I quote Gordon Fee’s work on this passage:
The Lord’s Supper is not just any meal; it is the meal, in which at a common table with one loaf and a common cup they proclaimed that through the death of Christ they were one body, the body of Christ! 7
Unity in the body of Christ, the Church, is so important throughout the scriptures. In our men’s group Wednesday night, Lyle Morse reminded us of Psalm 133:1; “How good and how pleasant brothers to dwell in unity.”
In Galatians 3:28, in a sentence that could have been inserted in today’s passage: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
In Philippians, 2:2 Paul implores the church in that place, “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.”
Peter gets in on this unity stuff too: “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters” (I Peter 3: 8).
So if we are to take this passage to heart, before coming to the table we need to think about how we might be disrespecting another in the body of Christ. And if we discover that we are, then we need to go to that person and make anything wrong right before coming to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
Unity was not only important to the writers of the New Testament, but it was also extremely important to Jesus who in John 17, prays:
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in Me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as You and I are one—as You are in Me, Father, and I am in You. And may they be in Us so that the world will believe You sent Me. I have given them the glory you gave Me, so they may be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that You sent me and that You love them as much as you love Me.John 17:20-23
One thing I love about CrossPointe is the unity that we share. As far as I am aware, no one here is in danger of denigrating the body of Christ and therefore defaming Christ. We are family, we are the body of Christ, the church and we remember our calling to love one another as Christ loves us.
Which leads to the second thing this passage calls us to remember; how much we are loved by God through Jesus.
“This cup is the new covenant between God and His people—an agreement confirmed with My blood” (I Corinthians 11:25b).
The greatly respected teacher of preachers, Frederick Buechner writes,
What is new about the New Covenant, therefore, is not the idea that God loves the world enough to bleed for it, but the claim that here he is actually putting his money where his mouth is. Like a father saying about his sick child, ”I’d do anything to make you well,” God finally calls his own bluff and does it. Jesus Christ is what God does, and the cross where God did it is the central symbol of New Covenant faith. 8
Someone once said, “God’s love is like a boomerang; you can throw it away, but it always comes back.”
I know, sometimes we feel like we are throwing sticks; that we can throw away God’s love. But this new covenant was confirmed with the very blood of the Son of God.
In his book Doubting, Alister McGrath shared the following story to illustrate how we can know God loves us:
An aunt of mine died some time ago, having lived to be 80 or so. She had never married. During the course of clearing out her possessions, we came across a battered old photograph of a young man. My aunt had, it turned out, fallen hopelessly in love as a young girl. It had ended tragically. She never loved anyone else and kept a photograph of the man she had loved for the remainder of her life. Why? Partly to remind herself that she had once been loved by someone. As she had grown old, she knew that she would have difficulty believing that, at one point in her life, she really had meant something to someone—that someone had once cared for her and regarded her as his everything. It could all have seemed a dream, an illusion, something she had invented in her old age to console her in her declining years—except that the photograph gave the lie to that. It reminded her that it had not been invented; she really loved someone once and was loved in return. The photograph was her sole link to a world in which she had been valued. 9
The communion bread and wine are like that photograph. They reassure us that something that seems too good to be true; something that might even be suspected of having been invented, really did happen!
For . . .
On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then He broke it in pieces and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, He took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and His people—an agreement confirmed with My blood. Do this in remembrance of Me as often as you drink it”.I Corinthians 11:23b-25
1 Craig Bloomberg, The NIV Application Commentary; I Corinthians, [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, © 1994], Page 229.
2 Gordon Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament; The First Epistle to the Corinthians, [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, © 1987], Page 565
3 Ibid, pages 234-236.
4 Bloomberg, page 228.
5 Ibid, pages 230-231.
6 Fee, page 562.
7 Ibid, page 564.
8 Frederick Buechner, Weekly Sermon Illustration: Covenant, November 12, 2018.
9 Allister McGrath, Doubting: Growing Through the Uncertainties of Faith,
[Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP, © 2006);
submitted by Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky