Lesson Five – The Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper

Lesson Text:  I Cor. 10:14-22; 11:17-33.


For help in following the writer’s style in this text, please review Part IV, Lesson Two, Introduction, item 5.  Paul used an actual case of sexual immorality in the Corinthian church to introduce the Christian ethic of sexual morality.  We have learned in our previous study that the only moral sexual relationship is between one woman and one man after they are married.  That’s it – nothing more, nothing less.

In the case of the “ethic in communion,” Paul’s introduction was followed by an actual case.  It was a case of what communion is not when people are partaking of the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 11:17-33).  Our study of this story is done under the heading of “historical analysis.  Even though we are now studying in the field of hermeneutics, we still do some historical and literary analysis.  The thought or series of thoughts need to be understood in their historical setting.  In Part II we made our literary analysis.  In a broad sense we wanted to know what he said to what was happening.  The following is an excerpt from Part II, Lesson Four:

What we learned in our historical analysis of I Cor. 11:17-33 is that the church did come together to take the Lord’s Supper.  They probably had this meeting on the first day of the week.  Paul had surely preached to the church at Corinth what he practiced with the church at Troas (Acts 20:7).  So the church knew the theology of the Lord’s Supper and they performed the practice.  Paul said their ethics were deplorable.  Their meetings did more harm than good.  Paul commented that he heard “there are divisions among you.”  I Cor. 11:17.  He may have thought their division led to other problems.  They needed to get the theology, ethic and practice working together on divine principles.  His final statement was “And when I come I will give further directions.” I Cor. 11:34.  End of excerpt.

Now we will seek to fully hear and understand what the writer said to the specific situation.  We are looking for the theology revealed in what was said to them.  We need to learn how we commune with God, Christ, the Holy Spirit and other saints now.  Our aim in this lesson is to understand the spiritual communion we enjoy as we partake of the Lord’s Supper.


“Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.”  I Cor. 10:14.  “Therefore” relates to the previous lesson text.  Specifically it connects back with, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”  I Cor. 10:7.  This is precisely what some of the church members were doing in Corinth.  We need to note this connection between the two texts for this lesson.  When we make the connection we will be in step with Paul’s style or “train of thought.”

It was not enough for the church to stop eating and drinking during their assembly.  What they were doing was not the Lord’s Supper.  We must get this point about God, Christ and the Holy Spirit; when they say this is – then it is, it is not something else.  It is the Lord’s Supper if Deity agrees with what we are practicing is the Lord’s Supper.  No doubt, the Corinthians church members were advertising their feast as such, Paul said it was not.

When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each one goes ahead without waiting for anybody else.  One remains hungry, another gets drunk.  I Cor. 11:20, 21

This principle about “what is” applies to all theologies, ethics and practices we read about in the Bible.  A church is a church.  The church of God is what Paul will tell us it is in chapter twelve.  It is not something other than the body of Christ.  In common everyday life we understand this principle.  A coconut is a coconut.  We can make something round and paint it green or brown but that does not make it a coconut.  God made coconuts; Jesus built His church for God.  What He built is a church.  Mankind does not make God’s church.  Christians are His church and we function in God’s prescribed manner; otherwise, we are an organization built by, and governed by, the wisdom of mankind.  Paul began this letter by clearly delineating the wisdom of man from God’s wisdom.  Please read I Cor. 1:19-25, 31; 2:4-10; 3:11, 18-21.  Each topic he introduced in these letters has been discussed in the light of the wisdom of God versus the wisdom of man.  The question is not who is right or who is wrong in the Christian religion.  The question is what did God say it is?  “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.”  II Cor. 13:8.

Jesus set forth the Lord’s Supper.  He tells us when to eat it, what to eat and drink and what to be thinking and feeling as we partake.  This is the point Paul promoted in both texts of this lesson.  The first text, 10:14-22, describes what is happening in our hearts and minds, if, indeed, we are worshiping God in this special way – the Lord’s Supper.  The second text illustrates the point – If a communion is not happening, it is not the Lord’s Supper.  The Lord’s Supper is not a communion where one person performs for the congregation.  Each Christian is involved in what Jesus set forth.  It is certainly not a ritual to be performed on the first day of the week.  Ritualism is not communion; therefore, it is no nearer to being the Lord’s Supper than what some members were practicing in Corinth.  We are speaking about the wisdom of God versus the wisdom of man.

The story in I Cor. 11:17-34 is about the body of Christ assembled.  They were assembled on the first day of the week for a specific type of worship (Luke 22:19, 20; Acts 2:42; 20:7).  Jesus set forth this doctrine while gathering with the Twelve to eat the Jewish Passover shortly before He offered Himself as God’s sacrifice for our sins (Lev. 23:1-8).  The Passover always happened on the last day of the week, Saturday – which was the Sabbath.  Sunday was designated by our Prince and Savior as the day Christians gather to participate in the blood and body of Jesus of Nazareth.  We show the world we remember Jesus suffered on the cross for our sins (I Cor. 11:23-26; II Cor. 5:21).

I speak to sensible people; judge what I say.  Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?  And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?  (NIV)  I Cor. 10:15, 16

The King James translators used the word “communion” in place of participation.  The Greek from which both words have been translated is koinonia.  Since words mean what the writers meant them to mean in a sentence, it may help us to see how this word has been used in different contexts.  It is very important to get this word right because where there is no communion it is not the Lord’s Supper.  The following definitions are from “The Expanded Vines Expository of New Testament Words.”

  1. Koinonia has its root in the Greek word Koinos which means common.  The first church shared their physical amenities in common (Acts 2:44).  “All believers were of one in heart and mind (Gr. psuche, soul).  No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared (made all things common) everything they had.”  Acts 4:32.  From these scriptures we understand the first church in Jerusalem had all things common.  This included the physical necessities and their hearts and souls.  Paul spoke of a common faith.  “To Titus, my true son in our common faith.”  Tit. 1:4.  This principle of sharing both physical and spiritual things was still used after the Christians left Jerusalem and formed churches in different locations.  However, in the case of the physical sharing, it was practiced only in emergency situations.  In Rom. 15:27, share has been translated from the root of koinoneo (ekoinonesan – participated).
  2. Koinoneo is the Greek word for share in I Tim. 5:22 and the following scriptures.  “Do not share in the sins of others.”  See II John 11.
    a.  Heb. 2:14.  “Since the children have flesh and blood, He (Jesus) too shared in the humanity so that by death He might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil.”  The suffering of Jesus in the manner of His death is exactly what we remember and participate in while we worship God in the Lord’s Supper.  We do more than remember, we have communion with this thing that happened to Jesus.
    b.  I Pet. 4:13.  “But rejoice that you participate (koinoneo) in the sufferings of Christ, so you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.”  This is not communion in the Lord’s Supper; this is communion with the type of suffering Jesus Christ illustrated for our daily lives among unbelievers.  Comfort from God accompanies our communion in Jesus’ suffering. (II Cor. 1:3-7).
  3. The Greek word sunkoinoneo has been translated “share with” in Phil. 4:14.  Sun means with.  Gal. 6:6.  “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share (koinoneo) all good things with his instructor.”  The church’s decision to support a teacher or preacher is a communion program.
  4. Koinonia has been translated fellowship to denote Christian’s relationship with the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ and God, our Father.  I John 1:3.  “And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  II Cor. 13:14.
    a.  I Cor. 1:9.  “God, who has called you into fellowship with His son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”  This is what it means to be “in Christ.”  Now we can understand what happened when Christians die with Christ in baptism in Romans 6:1-4, 11.  “For you died (to sin), and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  Col 3:3.  Things can’t get any better while we live “in Adam” on planet earth than being “in God.”   However, it will get better, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”  Col. 3:4.  No fellowship, no glory.  The need for glory is a very strong innate need of all people.
    b.  I John 1:7.  Fellowship with believers has been translated from this same word.  Gal. 2:9.

Koinonia is the word that has been translated communion (KJV) and partakers (NIV) in I Cor. 10:16.  What can we understand from the foregoing contexts in which the word “communion” is used?

  1. Saints have a common concern in our hearts for one another’s physical welfare (II Cor. 8:8-13).
  2. Christians share common minds and thoughts with Jesus (I Cor. 1:10; 2:16).
  3. Because we have a common faith, as members of God’s church, we enjoy the present identity and fellowship of being “sons and daughters” of God in the kingdom of God (I Cor. 4:20; II Cor. 5:7, 16, 17; 6:18).
  4. We understand how the fellowship of sharing in the suffering of Christ leads to comfort from God
    (II Cor. 1:5-8).
  5. Christians’ fellowship with Deity and fellow members of the body of Christ is the “one loaf, one body” theology in I Cor. 10:17.

The worship of Christians breaking bread, or loaf, is communion with the physical body of Christ and his suffering in his body on the cross.  We remember it, we proclaim it.  We are in a state of communion with his suffering as we remember and proclaim it.  We participate in the ordeal Jesus endured.  Paul appears to switch to the spiritual side of Christians being the one body of Christ in verse 17.  The church, as the body of Christ, is like one loaf.  Then he stated, “We are all partakers of that one bread.”  It appears he is saying there was the one body of Jesus on the cross; the bread we break is one; therefore, we being one body, or church, are partakers of this one bread.  The Greek word that has been translated “partakers” is metecho.  It is made up of two words, meta – with and echo – have.  We have something with the Lord’s Supper worship.

Paul will illustrate the meaning of “partaker” in verse 18.  “Behold Israel of the flesh: are not they which eat of sacrifices partakers of the altar?”  The readers of this letter are supposed to say, “Well, yes they are.”  Now, Paul can make the point he has been driving forth.  The idol is nothing and the sacrifice is nothing.  However, when a person is participating in worship they are “one with” the altar.  If it is God’s altar, the worshiper is partaking with God.  If it is something other than God it is a demon.  Satan is moving about and his demons, or devils, are active.  People encounter a demon when they are partakers in a meal that has been arranged for a sacrifice to an idol.

The word fellowship (koinonia) is back in the text in verse 20.  People who worship idols are in fellowship with demons.  The offering of a sacrifice is a communion with demons.  They are on the antagonist side in this story.  The Greek word metecho has been utilized again in verse 21.  “You cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.”  (NIV)  “You cannot be partakers (metecho) of the Lord’s table, and the table of devils.”  (KJV).   “Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?  Are we stronger than He?”  I Cor. 10:22.  All people have been given the right to choose.  Christians have freedom to choose but it is not beneficial for our well being to challenge God’s laws of nature or His laws of life (I Cor. 9:21).

The remainder of I Corinthians chapter ten is understood by our study in chapter eight.  See Part IV, Lesson Two.  The following are some points we will want to note in the story part of this lesson.  It is a story about a church meeting under the banner of worshiping God in the Lord’s Supper.  The ethic was not a communion with what happened to His Son, Jesus Christ, the day He died on the cross; therefore, the meeting did more harm than good (I Cor. 11:17).

The problem of division was in the church (I Cor. 1:10-12).  This is a common problem today.  For instance, people may rally around a person who promotes something different than what is being promoted by the group.  They withdraw with their followers and then claim what they teach is from God and what is being taught by the original group is not from God.  In this manner they claim they have the truth.  Instead of studying God’s word with all the parties involved, they feel they must separate to show they have God’s approval.   Paul said, “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.”  I Cor. 11:19.

Two things were wrong other than completely missing the communion with Jesus’ suffering.  Paul asked, “Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?”  I Cor. 11:22.  The fellowship, or communion, of members of the church has been promoted by Paul from the beginning of this letter.  See 1:10; 2:16; 3:16; 4:7; 5:6; 6:1; 7:22.   In I Cor. 8:12 the point is clear; “When you sin against your brother in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.”  Everything in God’s church is about communion, participation or fellowship in some way.  All these words come from the same Greek word that has its root in the word “common.”

We have had much to say about the bread.  However, “In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”  I Cor. 11:25.  Now we have a new topic to think about.  It is God’s new covenant for those who are seeking the “pearl of great price.”  Indeed, the new covenant is a big study within its self.  See Heb. 8:7-13.  An understanding and an appreciation of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ on the Melchizedek order will kindle our passion in our communion with Jesus’ suffering on the cross.   The more we understand the value we receive from the sacrifice someone makes for us the more we value their sacrifice.    Children may not appreciate their parents reminding them of the sacrifice they made for them until later in life when they appreciate the value they enjoyed from their sacrifices.  The Hebrew epistle is the document we will want to study.  See my book entitled, “Hebrews.”  It has been posted on the website; https://kingdomofchrist.info

The judgment of Paul, the apostle of Christ Jesus, has been made in our text on the Corinthian church.  He had told the church “I am not writing to shame you, but to warn you as my dear children.”  I Cor. 4:14.  His letter was the same as being judged by the Lord before Judgment Day.  “When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.”  I Cor. 11:32.  We give thanks to Jesus for the scriptures.  We thank God for endowing us with the ability to examine ourselves (I Cor. 11:28).   We can examine ourselves by the scriptures and know where we stand with the Lord before Judgment Day (John 12:47, 48).

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why do we need to do a detailed historical and literary analysis at the time we are reading a block of scripture for the meaning?
  2. How did the manner in which the Corinthian church was behaving in relation to the Lord’s Supper relate to the behavior of the Israelites in the wilderness?
  3. In what sense could Paul say, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat?”
  4. What is the wisdom of God about what is the Lord’s Supper?
  5. How does the concept of “what is” relate to other entities?
  6. Does breaking the bread and drinking the fruit of the vine on the first day of the week without a feeling for Jesus’ suffering define “what is the Lord’s Supper?”
  7. Why is the “church assembled” an important factor for partaking the Lord’s Supper?
  8. Other than the Lord’s Supper, what is another way Christians participate in the suffering of Jesus?
  9. What is the word that best defines the meaning of being “In Christ?”
  10. In what sense does the funding program of the church become a communion?
  11. What was the situation Paul used to illustrate the Greek word metecho that has been translated partake?
  12. Why was it important for the readers of this letter to understand the meaning of partake?
  13. How can a person actually encounter, or make active, a demon?
  14. How might a person attempt to present himself or herself “stronger than God?”
  15. How do groups sometime attempt to show they have the approval of God?
  16. Explain how the causing of the humiliation of a brother in a church can be the same as a sin against Christ.
  17. List the new topic that Jesus introduced when He spoke about the communion with the sacrifice of His blood.
  18. What is the endowment God provided mankind that can assist us in our preparation for Judgment Day?
  19. How can we know about our Judgment Day?
  20. How did the Corinthian church know to meet on the first day of the week?

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