Lesson 37

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

11:17 But in giving you this command, I don't praise you, that you come together not for the better but for the worse. 11:18 For first of all, when you come together in the assembly, I hear that divisions exist among you, and I partly believe it. 11:19 For there also must be factions among you, that those who are approved may be revealed among you. 11:20 When therefore you assemble yourselves together, it is not possible to eat the Lord's supper. 11:21 For in your eating each one takes his own supper before others. One is hungry, and another is drunken. 11:22 What, don't you have houses to eat and to drink in? Or do you despise God's assembly, and put them to shame who don't have? What shall I tell you? Shall I praise you? In this I don't praise you.

Today's Lesson 

Today's Scripture is the beginning of a significant section in the Letter to the Corinthians. Paul's teachings on the Lord's Supper that are contained in this section are the most direct and important instructions that we have about this expressive sacrament of the church. The Lord's Supper is an essential element in Christian worship. It is for us today and Paul emphasizes in this letter that it was for the early church as well.


Paul writes this section of the letter to address a problem that he has been told exists in Corinth. The division that exists in the church that he has written about in chapters 1 and 2 are also affecting the way that the Corinthians celebrate the Lord's Supper. He writes to them at the very beginning of this passage informing them that he has no praise for them in this matter.


For the early church, the Lord's Supper was a meal. Today Christians gather in churches and share bread and wine in ritual fashion. But this letter was written before much of the ritual that has become the Lord's Supper was established. To the men and women of the first generation, they shared a meal together just as Jesus shared a meal with His disciples in the upper room. That does not mean that their observance of the Lord's Supper was in some way superior to our own. As this passage indicates, the Corinthian church had a very poor understanding of what the observance should have been about.


Paul indicates that when the Corinthians came together they ate separately. This resulted in a disparity among the people, some getting plenty to eat and some getting none. Instead of bringing them together, their observance of the Lord's Supper was driving them further apart. The occasion had become more of a social event than anything else and as such it had taken on the faults and frailties of the people themselves.


In the next section Paul reminds the Corinthians of how the Supper should be observed, but there are important lessons we can learn from this section before we move on.


Passages such as this remind us that the first century Christian church was not an ideal place. Paul's letters are fraught with difficulties that the primitive assemblies were encountering. The Corinthians may have been one of the worst examples of the first century but they were by no means the only church of its day where heresy thrived alongside true and authentic worship. Our goal should be to worship God authentically not primitively.


Also, there is the point that Paul is wishing to make that pervades all the problems that the Corinthians had. The Spirit of God brings peace and unity to those that He indwells. That which separates us is not from God. That which unites us in the service of the Lord is from above. This is a basic standard by which all Christian activity can be gauged.


What is going on in your Christian life? Is it bringing you together in peace and unity with others? Is it separating you from other Christians? How does it measure up to the basic standard of Paul?


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