Monday

Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. (v. 17)

1 Corinthians 11:17-22 Monday 16 May 2022

Psalm 132:1-10

Background

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians includes a range of responses to issues taking place in the Christian community at Corinth, and in the passage we're studying today Paul responds to a report he had heard about how Christians shared the Lord’s Supper together. The section itself falls within a lengthy discussion of worship (11:2 – 14:40) and is followed by further instructions on the Lord’s Supper (11:23-34).

At this stage of the Church’s life, it seems that the Lord’s Supper was shared as part of – or as the climax of – a common meal. The problem at Corinth was that the meal expressed divisions between the wealthy and poor members of the congregation rather than displaying the unity of the Church in Christ.

Paul begins by reporting both that he had ‘heard’ about the divisions within the Church and also notes that only some ‘factions’ will be genuine (vs 18-19). This seems to be a digression rather than the main point of the passage but may echo the teachings of Jesus on divisions within the community of God’s kingdom (Matthew 13:47-50).

The key issue at hand is discussed in verses 20-22. When Christians at Corinth come together, Paul says they are not really coming to eat the Lord’s Supper (v. 20) since economic divisions show up so clearly in the different food that the rich and poor consume. Commentators differ over the nature of the situation. Some suggest that the wealthy arrive earlier and consume most of the food before the poor arrive (possibly suggested in v. 22); others argue that the wealthy members of the community ate their food separately, with the poor receiving a more meagre meal. Whichever option is correct, Paul is astonished at the contempt shown for God’s Church and the way in which the poor are humiliated (v. 22). The issue is so important, in fact, that Paul returns to it later at the summary of his discussion of the Lord’s Supper, calling for the rich to wait for the poor before they eat (vs 32-33).

To Ponder:

  • Does it make a difference if you're rich or poor in congregations today? Are divisions ever a good thing?
  • How might the Church today more deeply express its unity at the Lord’s Supper?
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