Paul has just discussed rituals and traditions. As he moves forward, he addresses The Lord’s Supper. It is very easy for us to look at this passage in a physical sense, especially in light of verse 21. But, I implore you to read this with your spiritual eyes.
1 Corinthians 11:17-23
17 But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. 20 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you. 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread;
Yes, the Lord’s Supper has physical elements that are taken as a symbol. Previously in chapter 11, Paul was talking about covering women’s heads and if it is something they should do or not. Here, the Lord’s Supper is not an option per se as it relates to culture; rather it is the “new culture” of the Christian. It is one of the things Jesus taught the disciples to do to remember Christ’s sacrifice for us. However, it seems the Corinthians have lost the meaning of it as they are handling it as merely a physical ritual.
Does your church have divisions in it? Do you secretly talk about others with a few “close friends”. Cliques will happen in any social setting, however we must not lose sight that as the Body of Christ, we are one. How often do you purposely stab your own leg? Do you enjoy kicking yourself in the head (for those of you who are flexible enough)? Why would you punch yourself repeatedly in the stomach? It sound silly but this is exactly what we do when as the congregation of a church we conspire against one another. It is selfish behavior. It happens because we want to be approved. We want to be told we are right and sometimes, even when we know we are wrong, we seek out “counsel” which is really just looking for someone to take your side. This does nothing good for you nor the Body of Christ.
The Lord’s Supper is not a time to have a meal, rather it is a spiritual moment where we pause to recognize what Christ did for us and be united because of what He did for us. In verse 21, we read what seems like merely a physical implication. Let me first say that Paul isn’t saying here that it is bad to seek after and desire more and more spiritual bread. Rather, he is pointing out that we are missing the point if we continually fight to get the front of the line when others are going without. As we grow spiritually, we should be learning about humility, selflessness, and self-control (against these things there is no law) and it should be evident in how we help others grow spiritually as well. So if one desperately needs to go first, let them go. If someone needs to ask a question or participate in a spiritual group discussion, shut up and give them a turn; it might be the only one they dare to take. In John 13, Jesus exemplifies how we should treat each other, “12 So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” His example was to serve each other, not just physically but spiritually as well.
The enemy continues to distort scripture to tempt us so that our relationship with God weakens. He is afraid because he knows what happens when just one person has a solid relationship with God. We must not let our humanness get in the way of this relationship. We cannot let worship, spiritual healing, or any other experience become our god more than God Himself, just like any other idol. These things are also God’s creation and we must make sure we continue to worship the Creator instead of the creation. It isn’t bad to desire these things, to look forward to them, but even they can get in the way. If you worship worship, then you are no longer in relationship with God, rather you are in relationship with activities. You are no longer communing with God in the Lord’s Supper, you are just making yourself fat and stupid.