Communion With God
As churchgoers, we love potlucks and picnics together. The early church seemed no different. They would gather together with a ‘potluck’ style meal and worship together. Typically, they would also observe the Lord’s Supper. This was a time for the rich, poor, slave, and free to fellowship and enjoy a meal together because they are one in the body of Christ.
What they did was have Koinonia, the fellowship and communion with God and fellow Christians. They also partook of elements to remember the Lord's Supper, and today, this is our 'communion' at church.
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.
Paul heard that there was division within the church. This wasn’t addressed to him in a letter. He heard of this division and needed to ensure it did not continue. During these agape feasts, he heard that some of the poor and lower ‘status’ Christians were being discriminated against and belittled. The richer members were demonstrating selfishness by ‘cutting the line’ and taking the most food or by bringing plenty of food but not sharing it with the poor members. To some of the struggling members, this may have been the best meal that they got for the week. Additionally, the various ‘cliques’ fellowshipped within their own groups instead of with the rest of the congregation. This social discrimination caused division and did not demonstrate love. Therefore, it hindered the purpose and connection behind the remembrance of the Lord’s Supper. Paul says that if they were going to act in such a selfish way, then they should just stay and eat at home.
Therefore, we must remember to remain selfless and consider others. We must be cognizant not to enjoy ourselves at the expense of others. Christ died for everyone, no matter their status. We are all equal in God’s eyes, and so must we treat those around us.
Next, Paul addresses communion with God. The vertical relationship that we have with Him. Not only were the Corinthians abusing the poor, but they were abusing the Lord’s Supper. Paul gives us a good description of what we know as ‘communion’ at church today. When we take communion, we do it to remember the sacrifice that Christ has made for us and our sins. His body was ripped, beaten, torn, and broken for us. So we break bread to remember his act of selfless sacrifice. Then, we take a cup as a remembrance of the blood that drained from Christ’s body as he was beaten, whipped, and hung on that cross, and now that blood was the atonement for our sins and gives us the ability to live with our Lord Jesus Christ forever. This is our conscious and willing commitment to remember and reflect on this. Some churches do this weekly, some do it monthly, and some do it sparingly. There is no set guidance on how often we must do this, but when we do, the elements we take are a reminder of Christ’s selfless love for us. It doesn’t matter if it is bread, crackers, juice, water, or whatever else. What matters is the state of our hearts and remembering why and how He died for our sins.
However, we are called to self-examine our hearts and take communion seriously. None of us are worthy, but we should partake in communion in a ‘worthy manner.’ This is by humbling ourselves and our hearts before the Lord, judging our own sins, and requesting forgiveness from a submissive heart. An act of selflessness is humility and self-examining our own sin instead of judging others. We don’t know their hearts, but we know ours. We must fix what is inside of our hearts first.
Finally, we must selflessly love one another and include other believers within the body of Christ. Love others and get rid of any social discrimination that may be present. Mend any division and break out of your cliques. Secondly, when we partake in the elements of communion, examine our hearts before participating. Reflect on why and how Jesus died for our sins. Judge your own sin and repent before the Lord before taking the elements. It shouldn’t be something we do monthly just because it happens to be the first Sunday of the month. We do communion to remember but must ensure our hearts are prepared for a time between you and God.
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