Since we will be celebrating Communion this week, I thought it a good idea to look a little deeper into what Communion is and in what manner it should be observed. There were a lot of things wrong with the church in the city of Corinth when Paul wrote his first letter to them. One problem was their behavior during communion. Their “love feast” had turned into a drunken party, where the rich were eating and the poor were going hungry.
Paul reprimands them for what was going on, “17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse… 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 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” (1 Cor. 11:17–22). Clearly there were some real problems in this church! This is the context for the following verses, that might sound scary to some, for there is a serious warning included…
Paul continues, “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.” 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.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:23-26). Communion is unique remembrance. It is a visual sermon where we not only remember, but proclaim something—we are literally proclaiming the Gospel as we observe communion and as the elements are presented. The elements point to Christ’s incarnation or His coming in the flesh, His sacrificial death, resurrection, and coming kingdom. In short, “Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again.”
The content of this visual sermon is so important that Paul continues, “27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” Wow, Paul says that we are guilty! That is a serious warning, and why Paul urges repentance and self reflection, saying, “28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged” (1 Cor. 11:27-31). Paul explains that to make light of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and to take the elements in an unworthy manner, could bring judgement upon us. This is why there were people in the Corinthian church who were sick as a result and even dying!
All the more reason for us to take this time seriously. So let us reflect, and repent of any known sins that we have struggled with and committed this week.
Thankfully we know, “That if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). Let us be thankful for his great sacrifice for us, and let us proclaim and look forward to his coming again. Looking forward to celebrating Communion with you all this Sunday!