I Cor. 11:17-32 - Lessons From The Lord's Table

Dr. Steve Viars June 9, 1992 1 Corinthians 11:17-32

- tonight we're going to be studying the second half of I
   Cor. 11
- we said several weeks ago that this chapter divides neatly
   into two parts by two key phrases

     - Now I praise you brethren - vs. 2
     - Now in this I praise you not - vs. 17

- now, I Cor. 11 is a very well known passage of Scripture
- INPUT - why is that true? (because it addresses the
    subject of the Lord's table--and we read from it each
    month as we observe the Lord's table.)

- the Lord's table is one of the "two ordinances" of the
- INPUT - what had to be true of a practice before it could
    be considered an ordinance?

    1. commanded by Christ

    2. perpetuated in the epistles

    3. practiced by the early church

- the Lord's Table satisfies all of these conditions

- INPUT - where was our Lord when he first gave the command
    to observe the Lord's table?  (in the upper room)
- INPUT - what feast were the disciples celebrating that
    Jesus transformed into the Lord's table? (the Passover)

- that's very important to remember
   - the Passover was the holiest of the Jewish feasts, of
      course commemorating the day God freed the Israelites of
      their 400 year bondage in Egypt.
   - on that night God's death angel "passed over" any home
      whose doorway has been sprinkled with the blood of the
   - God told his children in Exodus 12 "Now this day will be
      a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a
      permanent ordinance."

    - our Lord used that setting to teach about His own

- The Passover celebrated deliverance that was physical--
    the Lord's table celebrates deliverance that's spiritual.

- The Passover celebrated deliverance that was temporary--
   the Lord's table celebrates deliverance that's permanent.

- The Passover celebrated deliverance under the Old Covenant-
   the Lord's table celebrates the New Covenant.

- so the Lord's table was commanded by Christ.

- it was also perpetuated in the epistles.
- passages like this one here in I Cor. 11 give evidence to
   the fact that God expected the early churches, the
   recipients of the epistles, to be regularly observing
   these ordinances

- lastly, it was practiced by the early church
    - the Scripture makes it clear that the early church
      regularly partook of the Lord's table

    Acts 2:42 - And thy continued steadfastly in the apostles
     doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and
     in prayers.

    Jude 12 - These men are those who are hidden reefs in
     your love feasts when they feast with you without

    II Peter 2:13 - And shall receive the reward of
     unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to revel
     in the daytime.  Spots they are and blemishes, reveling
     with their own deceivings while they feast with you.

- so we're talking about the Lord's table, an ordinance of
   the church that was commanded by Christ, perpetuated in
   the epistles, and practiced by the early church.

- now we probably need to say here that the way the early
   church practiced the Lord's table and the way we do it
   today is different in that they also had a regular meal
   preceding the observance of the bread and cup.
- that's going to become obvious as we read these verses.

- let's read what was going on as the Corinthians observed
  the Lord's Table and think about what lessons we can learn.

- read 11:17-34

- Before we get into specifically studying what these verses
   are saying, I'd like us to think about a couple of

   1) What words can you think of that describe Jesus' desire
        for His church (from passages like His high priestly
        prayer in John 17 and other places where He talks
        about his desire for the church?)
          - unity
          - oneness
          - fellowship
          - concern, compassion

  2) How would participating in the Lord's table help develop
      those characteristics?

- what we'd like to center in on tonight is this--the
   Corinthians were doing just the opposite.
- Instead of developing a congregation that had unity,
   fellowship, care and concern for one another
      - they were being insensitive in a number of different

- let's talk first of all about how:

I. They Were Insensitive To The Church Family

    - what we want to point out here in that we make a
      mistake if we only think about I Cor. 11 for the
      instructions about the Lord's table -- without
      remembering the context in which those instructions
      were given
    - the first sin of the Corinthians was their
       insensitivity to their brothers and sisters in Christ

    - the purpose of the passage is not just to give us
      information and instruction about the Lord's table so
      we can use it when we have the Lord's table
        - this passage is intended to expose and condemn

- communion is a n ordinance that the family takes part in
    - it was given to the local church
    - you couldn't say-well, we're going to observe the
       Lord's table at home after dinner
    - no, no--this is an ordinance given to the local church,
        to the family of God gathered in that place to
        worship and fellowship

- now, Paul told us:

    A. What the Lord's table should be like

        (I'm going to be taking these ideas, not just from
         these verses, but also from chapter 10 because
         remember Paul brought this subject up in that
         chapter as well)

        1. communing with Christ - 10:16 - "communion of the
             blood of Christ..."  "communion of the body of

        2. communing with fellow brothers and sisters in
             Christ - 10:17 - "we being many are one..."

        3. worshipping in holiness - 10:20-22

        4. remembering the cross - 11:25

        5. proclaiming salvation in Christ alone - 11:24-25

        6. anticipating the Lord's return - 11:26

    - so we're saying that the Lord's table was intended to
      be a great opportunity to develop unity in the church
    - everyone came together, regardless of their race,
       social status, background, past--and rejoiced in their
       common bond in Jesus Christ.
- even in the way they ate their meal together, they were to
   seek to develop oneness with one another
    - as slaves ate with masters
    - and Jews ate with Gentiles
    - and sinners ate with those who had been self-righteous

    - it was a great opportunity to develop oneness and
       unity in their church body

- but you know from the verses we just read--anything but
   this was happening in the Corinthian church.

- let's look at:

    B. What the Lord's table was like in the Corinthian

INPUT - what do you see from verse 17?

        1. not for the better but for the worse

            - in other words, their behavior was so sinful
              that they actually went backwards spiritually
              every time they partook

INPUT - what does verse 17 tell us?

        2. there are divisions among you

            - in other words, there are cliques or obvious
              divisions even when you're eating the supposed
              "love feast."

               - now Paul does say that there's a positive
                 benefit of that.
               - What is that benefit, according to verse 19?
                  (there have to be divisions, so that those
                   who are doing right can be made manifest)

               - but that doesn't excuse those who are
                 causing the divisions.
               - they were going to face serious judgment

- INPUT - what does he say about it in verse 20?

        3. missing the purpose

            - he says - you're coming, bringing the right
              things, saying the right words
                 - but this isn't the Lord's table
                 - you're completely missing the purpose

- INPUT - what descriptions does he give in verse 21?

        4. not sharing

            - if you add verse 33 to this, it seems that the
              wealthier believers were getting there early,
              and eating their fine meals early so that when
              the poorer brothers and sisters came (perhaps
              anticipating the only good meal they were going
              to get that week), there was nothing left.

        5. getting drunk

- INPUT - what does verse 22 add to this sorted tale?

        6. despising the church
        7. shaming those who are less fortunate

- so what's the point of all this?
- the point is that before we think about the specific
    instructions for the Lord's table that we normally read
    later in the passage, we need to think about the terrible
    sin of insensitivity of the Corinthian church towards one
    another that formed the context for these verses

- now, let's think together about:

    C. How this could be true of us today

        - I'd like us to brainstorm this issue of
           "insensitivity" for a few minutes
        - let's think about how it would apply to the Lord's
          table first, and then let's broaden it out to
          include others areas of church life

        - now we don't have a full-blown love feast today,
          but, what are some ways a Christian could be
          insensitive to his brothers and sisters in Christ
          even in the way we observe the Lord's table

        (1. in our observance of the Lord's table)


          - lack of attendance
              - let's think about that one for a minute.
               - it makes a difference when we have a full
                 auditorium when we partake of the Lord's
              - Can you imagine what it would be like if
                there were three or four people here to
                observe the Lord's table and you had to get
                up and walk the trays back several rows and
                all the rest?
                  - that would be depressing
              - point is - we ought to be sensitive even to
                 the effect our presence has on the church
                   - now I realize I'm talking to the group
                     that would be least likely to not attend
                     the Sunday evening service -- and
                     therefore miss communion...
                   - but I think there's some direction here
                     in terms of the discipeling we're doing
                     with others.
         - there is a fairly significant group of people who
             would not attend on Sunday night and therefore
             would never participate in one of the two
             ordinances of the church.
         - while there are a lot of reasons to do so--here's
           another one.  We ought not to be insensitive to
           our brothers and sisters in Christ in our
           attitudes or our actions concerning the Lord's
INPUT - others?

(if time, develop the issue of other kinds of insensitivity
to the body)
- so we're saying, when we think of I Cor. 11--we ought to
   think about the insensitivity of the Corinthians to their
   church family

- let's move on now and talk about how:

II. They Were Insensitive To The Death Of Christ

    - let's concentrate now on verses 23-26, the ones we
      normally read during the actual observance of the
      Lord's Table
    - Paul gives us:

    A. The desired order of the Lord's table

        1. offer thanks

            - by the way, the phrase "given thanks" is the
              original word, "eucharista"
                - that’s why some folks refer to this
                  ordinance as the "eucharist"

- the next step, of course, is:

        2. the bread

            - symbolic of Christ's body

               INPUT - why is it important that we focus on
                 Christ's body during the Lord's table?

            (a. significance?)

            (b. broken?)

            - you might want to note also that some versions
              contain the word "broken" but most of them do
            - the reason for that is that many manuscripts of
               the Bible don't have that word

            - I don't want to make a big deal of that other
              than to say that Jesus' body was not broken in
              the sense that bones were broken.
            - John 19:33, 36 reminds us that the OT predicted
                that no bones would be broken

            - you may remember the soldier came to break
              Jesus' legs but he didn't, INPUT - Why? (our
              Lord was already dead)
            - so if He was broken, it was in a symbolic sense
              of giving his body for us, but probably the
              best translations is simply, "This is my body
              which is for you."

            c. remember--this is "for you."

                 - one of the things the Lord wants us to
                   concentrate on is that He died "for you."
                 - He came down from heaven and entered a
body, He lived a perfect life, He gave his body on the tree--
for you--because He loves you.
- the next step of course is

        3. the cup

            INPUT - why is it important that we focus on the
              Lord's blood during the Lord's table?

- now, he goes on to give two purposes of this ordinance, one
    in verse 23 and one in verse 26.

    B. The stated purposes

        1. in remembrance of me

        2. to show the Lord's death till he comes

- see, Paul says--believers in Christ ought to regularly
   review the particulars of Christ's death in their minds
     - there is great spiritual benefit in doing so.
     - we ought to do it during our observance of communion,
        and other times as well.

- now let me ask you to stop and think about that for a
- Isn't it true that normally at a memorial service, we do
   many things to take emphasis off the actual death?
     (I'm not saying that's wrong--in fact there are some
       biblical reasons why it's right to do that)

- but my point is - what our Lord wants for His memorial
   service is very different than the way we treat other
INPUT - how do we (and I'm not saying this is wrong) take
    emphasis off the actual death at a memorial service?
        - talk about all the things the person accomplished
           during their life.
        - talk about where the person is today if they were
          a believer.
- see, we don't focus on the death.
    - we never review the particulars of the car accident, or
      the illness
        - of course not

    - yet that is exactly what our Lord wants us to do in
      memory of His death.

    INPUT - why?  (why is it right and essential to focus
             specifically on the actual death of Christ)

- I wonder if our 20th century emphasis on distancing
   ourselves from death or anything that has to with death
   has made it more difficult to focus on the truths that
   Christ wants us to focus on in this passage.
- now you might say-well, but if we partake of the Lord's
    table, then aren't we safe--because then we have to focus
    on the Lord's death.
     - Not necessarily!  INPUT - how do we know that?
        (because it wasn't having the desired effect on the
           - they were saying the right things and
             participating at the appropriate times--but it
             wasn't having the desired effect on them at all
    - another question you could ask would be:

    C. How were the Corinthians insensitive to the death of

       - the answer is - His death didn't result in their

       - see, why does the Lord want us to "do this in
         remembrance of me" and to "show his death till he

       - at least two reasons:
          1)  to remind what our salvation cost.
              - we can change, we can do the things found in
                the rest of this book...
              - because the tremendous price for our
                salvation was paid by Christ's death.

        2) to remind us that we need to die.

            - isn't it true that one of the major groups of
              metaphors describing our growth as believers
              has to do with dying?
            - INPUT - Can you think of some passages or
               phrases that contain the idea of dying?

- see, the point is--the Corinthians were insensitive--you
    couldn't move them
      - they were insensitive to their church family
      - and they were insensitive to the death of Christ

- see, how could all of this sinfulness be going on at the
   Lord's table?
     - the answer is - because they were insensitive
        - they hadn't been moved by the power of Christ'
          death, and by the example of Christ's death.

        - see, "this do in remembrance of me"..."show the
                  Lord's death till He comes."

- if the Corinthians had been more sensitive to this truth,
   they would have been in a much better position to handle
   many of the issues we've studied in this book.

- in fact, let's push that a little further
- how would you complete this sentence: (using a topic that's
   already come up in the book)

    - If the Corinthians had a better appreciation of the
      power of Christ's death, and a better understanding of
      the example of Christ's death, they'd be better
      positioned to handle__________.

- of course, there's another way we could ask that question,
   isn't there?

- If I had a better appreciation of the power of Christ's
      death, and a better understanding of the example of
      Christ's death, I'd be better positioned to
- there's one other area of sensitivity we need to mention

III. They Were Insensitive To Their Responsibility of Self-

    - these verses contain some strong:

    A. Warnings

        1. (v. 27) - If partake unworthily, guilty of body
            and blood of the Lord.

        2. (v. 29) - He who does so drinks judgement to

        3. (v. 30) - Many are weak and sickly, and some have
            died as a result.

- Paul says - the issues we've been addressing tonight are
   not "Little oops’"
- these are serious issues that have serious consequences.

    B. Remedy

        INPUT? What is it?

            - Self-examination

            - self-examination first of the areas we've
              talked about tonight.
            - my sensitivity to the church family.
            - my sensitivity to the death of Christ.

            - then that needs to broaden out to any area of
              known sinfulness that I have not made right
              with the Lord or a brother/sister in Christ.

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video