1 Corinthians 11:17-34
“Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22 What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. 23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come”.
In 1988, The Last Temptation of Jesus, was released in theaters. Because the movie was vigorously opposed by many Christians, the despicable film was discussed on major news networks. The content of the movie was disrespectful to the Lord Jesus, and a signal was sent. Christ and the Church can be openly slandered.
In 2020, many seculars humanistic, holding the political reins of government, seized the opportunity to penalize, restrict worship, or close churches, in the name of public safety. A signal was sent. Christians and the Church are not wanted.
The issue of disrespect being shown to Christians, and to the Church, is not new. We go back in history to 1917. A revolution took place and the atheistic Communistic party came to power in Russia. Beautiful churches were closed, and turned into museums, warehouses, or public latrines.
France had already experienced its own revolution, overthrowing the Monarchy in the eighteenth century. Mobs, led by men like Robespierre, erected a monument to Wisdom so that people would have something to worship. Enlightenment figures rejected Christianity. They emphasized reason over faith, exalted science over Scripture, and exposed the vices of the priests in the Church.
It is possible that a measure of the disrespect shown by the world to the Lord stems in some part from the disrespect demonstrated by those in the church towards the Lord. We see a clear example in our passage.
In the church at Corinth the saints held a Love Feast in connection with the Lord’s Supper. The initial idea was excellent, for when people eat together, there is a spirit of peace, and unity, that tends to prevail.
Unfortunately, during the Love Feast, a measure of true love was not being manifested. Instead, some of the wealthier individuals were not sharing their food, but greedily consuming it so that people were going home hungry.
Other terrible behavior was manifested producing divisions among the body, heresies, and even drunkenness. It is not a pretty picture, but Bible history records a group of believers so identified in attitude, and actions, that they were indistinguishable from the world.
Some Christians can appreciate that thought, because they have been to big business parties where the liquor flowed freely, the tongue waged incessantly, and the fellowship consisted in finding the right group to gravitate to in order to denounce other people present.
The apostle Paul wrote a rather stern letter to try and put everything and everyone back in their proper place. Paul begins with a harsh rebuke, “Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not…”
Paul loved the people of Corinth, but he was above pretending everything was alright when it was painfully obvious that the church had some deep spiritual problems. “I praise you not,” said Paul. Like any Pastor, Paul would have loved to compliment the people, and say wonderful things to them. Indeed, he does praise them for many things. But there was sin in the saints, not the least of which was divisions when the people met.
No doubt, you have seen this happen. A time is set for services and the saints begin to arrive. But it is soon obvious that there is division. The smiles on certain people’s faces are forced when they see other certain people. There is a cold stare as eyes are avoided. Hardly a controlled voice is maintained as superficial social amenities are exchanged. Little cell groups form in various parts of the building. Voices are animated until the opposition appears, and then suddenly there is silence, and an awkward moment. “I hear that there be divisions among you,” writes Paul. Paul is in Ephesus. Paul is hundreds of miles away, yet he hears that there is division.
Mark it down, when division starts news travels on the wings of an eagle. It is still true today. I could share with you about scandals and troubles in leading churches in Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, and other cities in Pennsylvania. Paul says about the division, “I partly believe it.”
When division starts in a church it breeds other sins, such as selfishness. That is what happened at Corinth. The people became selfish with their food and their drink. They became selfish with their love and kindness. They became selfish with their money, so that money collected for the ministry was less and less.
Of course, it is not right, but when Satan is successful in sowing seeds of discord among the brethren there is a withering effect on spiritual life more destructive than the drought which has plagued farmers this year across America.
First comes division, then comes selfishness with the result that everyone suffers. God’s people can do without a lot of things, but we cannot live long without a proper attitude of love, and giving, and kindness and generosity. To try and exist in that manner is to make a mockery of all the principles that Jesus Christ ever preached.
No wonder the world produces an unholy caricature of Christians.
Why should the world respect an organization that does not respect itself enough to honor the contents of its creeds, sing all the stanzas of its own songs, and plainly teach the words of the Bible?
Why should the world be attracted to a religious entity, patterned after a business enterprise, whose guiding documents are logically contrary to the Bible, and whose leadership does not even believe what their own documents proclaim, but expect others to affirm and submit to them?
Why should the world look with wonder and awe upon the Church that worships God in careless clothing? The sacred pulpit in occupied by individuals in casual clothing. Beautiful young women are allowed to stand before God’s people immodestly dressed. Some worship leaders adorn themselves in sensual clothing, including negligees, designed for a romantic evening in the bedroom. Physical immodesty is out of place when leading a holy congregation in acts of worship.
Until the day comes when Christians begin to respect themselves enough to believe, and live out their convictions, the world will continue to mock.
The world will hear of the divisions in Christendom, and determine to have nothing to do with people who profess with their lips what neither their conduct nor their character confirm.
Paul warned the church of Corinth, and by so doing he warns the Church of the twenty-first century about the diminishing value of a disrespectful religion.
Without wasting time Paul raised the first flag of warning in 1 Corinthians 11:29 by plainly asserting that to eat and to drink of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner is to invite damnation on oneself. “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
“Now wait a minute Paul. How can you say that? Do you not know the little cliches of Christendom, ‘Once saved always saved?’ Paul, you do not really mean damnation, eternal judgment? That is too harsh. What you mean Paul, is that we shall not be good Christians. We shall be carnal or fleshly Christians missing out on spiritual rewards, but we will go on to heaven. Paul, we can be divisive. We can be selfish. We can hate our brother without cause and still go to heaven.”
That is the prevailing interpretation of this passage, if not from the pulpit, certainly it is the commentary of too many people, in too many pews, in too many churches.
The gospel comes to warn the Church, “You are in danger with that commentary. There is damnation ahead if you persist down that road of division, selfishness, and greed.”
Paul was not lying. He was guided by God the Holy Spirit.
Paul has set down plain words of warning of ultimate destruction unless there is conversion, repentance, and a turning back to a path of peace, and unity, and sharing. Respect his words. Believe them.
Then second, Paul raises another flag of warning, by observing that the display of bad behavior in the church, and at the Lord’s Supper has already resulted in divine discipline in 1 Corinthians 11:30. “For this cause. many are weak, and sickly among you, and many have gone on to their death sleep of judgment.”
“Is it possible?” Not only is it possible, but it is happening. “People are dying,” says Paul, “and I will tell you why.” “For this cause.” “For what cause?” For the division and the selfishness and the unkindness. God is not playing games with His people. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
“But Paul, what about grace? This is the age of grace, Paul. People do not die the sin unto death. People do not feel God’s wrath of damnation.” While foolish individuals argue their fine points of theology, souls remain sick, dying, and damned.
There is real danger in a disrespectful religion. God knows our hearts. If we are divisive, if we are withholding love and kindness, and expressions of generosity, if we do not live out the honor of the commandments of Christ, then we show woeful disrespect to the elements to which speak of love, unity, and sacrifice. Such souls who dare to partake of the Lord’s Supper with cold hearts, bitter spirits, and hatred, are eating and drinking damnation to themselves.
It does not have to happen. Notice God’s cure for problems in the church (v. 31). “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”
In this matter, the Word does not call us to judge each other, but we must each examine our own heart in light of the warnings. It is easy to judge others. It is more enjoyable to judge others. No one can stop another person from showing disrespect, but we can stop ourselves.
Before the elements are consumed, look deep into the heart. Where there has been a spirit of divisiveness, confess it as the sin it is. Where there has been a cold attitude towards another person, condemn it, judge it as the sin it is.
Jesus is ready to fellowship with His people, but it has to be on His terms (Rev. 3:20). If we confess our sins, He will be faithful to forgive but we must as a congregation forever renounce unkindness, self-will, and greediness. God does not want to condemn us with the world, but He will, unless we change.
There is much danger in expressing disrespect to our Lord. He had that has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Finally, do individuals not show disrespect when there is resistance to the known will of God? The Lord would have His people saved, baptized, serving, and being gentle.
The questions come.
“Have I obeyed?”
“When will I obey?”
“Why not now?”
“In the world you’ve failed to find
Aught of peace for troubled mind;
Come to Christ, on Him believe,
Peace and joy you shall receive.
Why not now? Why not now?
Why not come to Jesus now?
Why not now? Why not now?
Why not come to Jesus now?”
Does not a person show disrespect to the faith professed when the elements of communion are taken, and yet husband is angry with wife, parents are angry with children, and people are angry with their pastor, or another person?
It does not have to be this way.
In grace, God has provided a means for there to be unity, harmony, and peace. Therefore, talk to God. Tell Him honestly of the problems you know are in the heart. Come Holy Spirit. Come in power to convict, convert, and cleanse.