1Corinthians 11:17-32 – Communion Questions

This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on May 6, 2012.  To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – 1Cor 11.

This communion sunday, I want to look at Paul’s words to the Corinthian church about communion.   I want to look at this passage and ask three questions about the way we take communion.  My hope is that these questions will become the questions we ask time and again as we take part in the Lord’s Supper.

 QUESTION #1 – HOW DO YOU FIND GOD’S APPROVAL?  (Vs.17-22)

The Corinthian Answer:  In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.  No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of yo have God’s approval (vs.18-19).

The Corinthians found God’s approval in competition with one another.  The wealthy assumed God was pleased with them because they were wealthy. The poor assumed God was pleased with them because they were more earnest in faith.  The more conservative, educated believers assumed God was pleased with them because they were respectable.  The wilder charismatic women prophetesses assumed God was pleased with them because they were gifted.  Most or all of the Corinthians assumed that God was pleased with them based on whose teachings they followed (Peter or Apollos or Paul or Christ).  They believed that God was pleased with people who were talented – good speakers.

Why Should God Approve of Us?  People have many answers to that question – things which they believe earnestly…

~ Because they have been good people and lived pretty good lives.

~ Because we have done, or do, noble things.

~ Because we have avoided bad sins, for the most part.

~ Because we have a likable personality.

~ Because we have suffered enough.

~ Because we have a better theology than other people.

~ Because we have a particular good practice (eg. coming to church).

… Sometimes people will claim these things outright as the reason why God should approve of them – sometimes we only become aware of the fact that we have trusted in these things over time.   But none of these things are enough to cover our rebellion against a holy God.  Our good deeds are the concessions of rebels.  And despite our deeds, our hearts are full of pride and hatred and lust and foolishness.

God Approves of Us Because of Jesus:   God approves of his Son, Jesus, the Christ.  The Father has set his seal of approval on Jesus.  And we are approved of by God, through faith in Jesus.  Specifically, by believing that…

~ Jesus is the risen and living Son of God:  Whoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God and receives him as the Son of God, also receives the Father.   This is a spiritually revealed and  understood truth – more than just intellectual assent.  it involves trusting and living in the hope that …

~ God will reward those who put their trust in Jesus:  in the following ways…

A) By forgiving them for their sins and offenses and no longer condemning them.

B) By creating a new, living, spiritual life in them – through the presence of his Holy Spirit – mysteriously living in us – convicting us of sin and of truth and assuring us of God’s goodness and love – and moving us to honor God in various ways.

C) By raising their mortal bodies at the resurrection, from death to immortality, and freeing them from death’s curse.

D) By justifying them on the day of judgment.

QUESTION #2 – WHAT AM I DOING WHEN I TAKE COMMUNION?  (Vs.23-26)

I Am Proclaiming the Death of Jesus Until He Returns (vs.26):   So what does it mean to, “Proclaim” the death of Jesus?   Before we can answer this, we need to see what the death of Jesus meant.  Jesus set up a new covenant/ agreement between us and God.  And Jesus sealed that agreement with his blood.

The Old Agreement:  There used to be an old agreement between us and God – an agreement which was summed up by Jesus when he spoke to the Rich Young Ruler (Lk.18:18-25), when he said, “Do this and you will live”.   In other words, Please God by keeping his commands and you will live.  Of course, when the young man claimed to have kept God’s commands, Jesus told him to sell all he had  and give his money to the poor, and to follow him.  When Jesus spelled out what “Do this and you will live” meant, the young man went away sad, because he trusted too much in his wealth.

The New Agreement: Now there is a new covenant/ agreement between us and God, which works like this…

~ The Blood of Jesus, the Son of God, spilled out for my sin –  grants me  forgiveness and stains me with the DNA of Jesus’ holiness.

~ The Body of Jesus, the Son of God, put to death for my rebellion – grants me  the position of being a favored child/ Son of God.

In other words, the position of a son and the holiness of Jesus given as a gift to me, so that now I am a Son to God and I am pleasing to God.  Now I am a part of the community of God’s favored children.

Proclaiming the Death of Jesus:  So, when I take communion, I am proclaiming that Jesus – by his death  and resurrection – has given me the position of a son  – and has made me part of the community of those who have entered into this new agreement and have become pleasing to God through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus.

QUESTION #3 – HOW SHOULD I EXAMINE MYSELF WHEN I TAKE COMMUNION? (Vs.27-32)

I should Ask Myself if I am Recognizing the Bread and Cup as the Body of Jesus:  A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord, eats and drinks judgment on himself (vs.28-29).  I should ask myself if I am recognizing the bread and the cup as the body of Jesus – the gift of God’s righteousness for me.

Do Recognize the Gift I am Being Given?  Or do I think communion is a way to be better than other people (the Corinthian view).   Or do I think communion is a test of how good I have been (the American view).  Communion is a celebration of the gift God has given us through Jesus.  We have been told to remember this sacrificial gift whenever we celebrate it.

Have I Judged Myself as a Needy Sinner?  If I do not come to communion as a needy sinner, I will  take communion in an unworthy manner.  I will take communion in pride and self assurance – or I will take communion without the appreciation of the gift of righteousness.

Do I Recognize the Body of the Redeemed (vs.29):   Paul’s comment about recognizing the body of the Lord is also a play on words.  The Corinthians did not recognize one another as believers – because they did not recognize the gift of grace or their own neediness.  They separated themselves from one another in pride and lived divisively.   But communion is a community celebration of the body of believers.   Our willingness to come and receive the grace meal together marks us as the forgiven and favored and humbled community.

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