ďThe Fifth Benefit of Being A Church Member: In The Place of CommunionĒ

First Corinthians 11.17-34  

EXPOSITION:

1.   It was the night before His crucifixion that the Lord Jesus Christ instituted the communion of the Lordís Supper in the upper room with His twelve apostles.  But it is in First Corinthians chapter 11 that we see a church congregation being dealt with by the apostle Paul concerning the manner in which they observed this church ordinance.  Please turn to First Corinthians chapter 11.

2.   There are two practices in Christianity that are referred to by Baptists as church ordinances.  Church ordinances because they are properly observed by the authority of church congregations and not by individual Christians acting on their own authority.  Church ordinances and not sacraments because these two practices have no saving efficacy whatsoever, but were instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ to be of benefit to those who are already reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ.

3.   First Corinthians 11.17-34 records the apostle Paulís dealings with a church congregation that did not observe the communion of the Lordís Supper correctly, and had to be corrected.  Please read that passage with me and then I will make some comments before this morningís sermon:

17     Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.

18     For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

19     For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

20     When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lordís supper.

21     For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

22     What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God , and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

23     For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

24     And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

25     After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

26     For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lordís death till he come.

27     Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

28     But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

29     For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lordís body.

30     For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

31     For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

32     But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

33     Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.

34     And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation.  And the rest will I set in order when I come.  

4.   Churches are not repositories of perfect Christians.  The church at Corinth was not perfect and this church is not perfect.  But churches are congregations of blood bought and blood washed people who have been scripturally baptized and incorporated into the body of Christ, which is the church congregation.  Such people, and such congregations, are fully capable of committing sin.  When they do they need rebuking.

5.   Paul rebuked the Corinthian congregation for a number of sins.  This morning we will look at one cause for rebuke.  Their communion was wrong, resulting in them celebrating the communion of the Lord Supper incorrectly.

6.   Notice verse 17:  ďNow in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.Ē  Paul is, in essence, saying ďYou are doing it wrong.Ē  He was rebuking their celebration of the communion of the Lordís Supper, pointing out that their error in that matter reflected a more general problem.

7.   Read verses 18 through 22 again:

18     For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

19     For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

20     When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lordís supper.

21     For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

22     What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God , and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.  

8.   The short version explanation of these five verses is that their observance of the communion of the Lordís Supper was wrong because they had divisions and heresies that had not been properly dealt with.  Their divisions among each other led to their improper celebration of the communion of the Lordís Supper.  It was not their improper celebration of the communion of the Lordís Supper that caused their divisions.

9.   The Corinthians combined what was called an agape feast, a potluck celebration of Godís blessings, with their communion service.  Such a thing is perfectly acceptable if it includes all members.  But the Corinthians allowed things to degenerate in the way Paul describes, and they ended up eating in little cliques.  They would then observe communion without waiting for the others in the church who were not in their clique to arrive at their meeting place.  Thus, they took communion in the same divided manner that they conducted their church life.

10. In verses 23-26, Paul rehearses the revelation he received:

23     For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

24     And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

25     After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

26     For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lordís death till he come.  

11. No apostle related to Paul how the Lord Jesus Christ instituted the communion of the Lordís Supper in the upper room.  He very clearly points out that He had ďreceived of the LordĒ that which he delivered to the Corinthians.  In other words, he had received this information by direct revelation.  Thus, he had an authoritative record, independent of the gospel accounts, of that last supper.

12. After telling them that they were wrong, and then telling them how they ought to celebrate the Lordís Supper, Paul then explains to them why certain things had been happening in their midst, in verse 27-34:

27     Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

28     But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

29     For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lordís body.

30     For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

31     For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

32     But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

33     Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.

34     And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation.  And the rest will I set in order when I come.  

13. If you do not show proper respect you will be guilty of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, verse 27.  If you do not show proper respect you will be eating and drinking damnation to yourself, not discerning the Lordís body, verse 29.  And this was precisely why some church memberís health was failing, some church members were sick, and some church members had even died, verse 30.

14. Is there some correlation between the way you take the communion of the Lordís Supper (if you take the communion of the Lordís Supper) and your general health, and your present ailments, and the death of some people?  The Word of God indicates that such a correlation does exist.  Whether such is true with your particular situation, I do not pretend to know.

15. Now that we have a general familiarity with this passage, Gary Isenberger comes to lead us in a song before this morningís sermon.  

INTRODUCTION:

1.   Loneliness.  It is one of the most important issues that any person will ever have to deal with.  Loneliness is one of the driving forces that motivates high school and college students to party.  Loneliness is one of the driving forces that motivates ghetto and barrio kids to participate in gang activity.  Loneliness is one of the driving forces that motivates promiscuity in young people.  Loneliness is one of the driving forces that moves many people to marriage.

2.   Some people attempt to counteract their feelings of loneliness by resorting to reclusive behavior, convincing themselves that they like to be alone so that they do not have to admit to the pain and fruitlessness of their failed attempts at finding the companionships that they hoped would cure their feelings of loneliness.

3.   Loneliness is a feeling, a strong feeling, a desolate feeling, a gnawing feeling, a discouraging feeling.  But loneliness is also an appropriate feeling.  You see, the sinful condition of your soul results in not only you being separated from God, but also you being isolated from other people.  Sinful people sin against other people, and are sinned against by other people.  This causes people to withdraw from those who have done them wrong, to become more isolated from those who might do them wrong, and to feel lonely because they are insulated and emotionally distant from those who they think may harm them if they let them get too close.

4.   Perhaps you are lonely.  If you are an unsaved person, I guarantee that you are lonely.  I am persuaded that a lost personís feelings of loneliness can be used to bring him to Christ.  Even if you are a Christian person you still might be lonely, but you donít have to be lonely. 

5.   Consider.  We make an effort to invite people to church services, activities and parties where they think they can overcome feelings of loneliness.  And, to a degree, they can . . . for a while.  But even when a lonely and isolated person comes to church and is warmly received there will still be a sense of loneliness.  This is because loneliness is more than an emotional issue.  It is also a spiritual issue.  And a person will never be able to really and truly deal with loneliness so long as he is unsaved.

6.   I mentioned a few moments ago that even Christians can be lonely, profoundly lonely.  But Christians do not have to be lonely, because God has provided the means whereby a believer in Jesus Christ can have emotional and spiritual needs met in such a way that he typically no longer feels lonely.

7.   A lost person, you see, is truly alone and isolated from others.  Boys in a youth gang, girls with doting boyfriends, sorority sisters and fraternity brothers, even married people, come to realize that they can be lonely even when they are in the company of those they like and love.  How so?  Estranged from God because of sin, there can be no spiritual resolution to the loneliness problem apart from the salvation that comes only through faith in Christ.[1]

8.   But what about the person who comes to faith in Christ and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God?  Though such a person is never again truly alone in a spiritual sense, God does make use of a Christianís feelings of loneliness to accomplish His ends.  This morning I want to show you one way God makes use of a Christianís loneliness, and how He remedies that feeling of loneliness, to accomplish a great thing.

9.   Three things for you to consider:  

1A.   First, THE COMMUNION OF THE LORDíS SUPPER IS A CHURCH ORDINANCE

1B.    When I say that the communion of the Lordís Supper is a church ordinance, I am stating that it is an ordinance that only a church congregation has the Scriptural authority to administer.  One of the big distinctions between Baptists and most other denominations has to do with our view of the church congregation as the custodian of and administrator of church ordinances.

2B.    We Baptists have a high view of the role of a church congregation in Godís plan for this dispensation because we recognize that sinners get saved as individuals, but that it is Godís plan for saved people to band together as saved and scripturally baptized individuals to serve God together.  Further, we are persuaded that the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ is properly understood to have been given to churches and not isolated individuals.  Finally, we are convinced that only church congregations are properly authorized to administer the two church ordinances of believerís baptism and the communion of the Lordís Supper.

3B.    But observe that while baptism is an ordinance that is administered by the authority of a church congregation only once to a saved individual, thereby fulfilling that portion of the Great Commission which commands it, and incorporates the baptized believer into the body of Christ, which is the church congregation, communion is an ordinance that is repeatedly observed by the congregation as a whole until Jesus comes again.

4B.    Thus, while baptism is experienced alone and cannot thereby directly address feelings of loneliness, communion is always a corporate activity and is experienced in the company of others.  But keep in mind that communion is a congregational activity, not to be engaged in according to whim and fancy.  Therefore, it is not ever appropriate for communion to be observed by isolated individuals or small groups, say in a hospital room, or during sentimental moments out in the woods, or at the beach some summer evening.  Nowhere in Godís Word is there the slightest hint that the communion of the Lordís Supper is ever observed except in the assembly of a church.  

2A.   Next, THE COMMUNION OF THE LORDíS SUPPER IS ONLY FOR CHURCH MEMBERS

1B.    Since communion is not a sacrament, no one receives anything like saving grace by observing it or is denied anything saving grace by not observing it.  Therefore, the arguments that people use for allowing anyone who wants to participate in communion carry only the weight of sentiment, which is no weight at all.

2B.    When the Lord Jesus Christ instituted the communion of the Lordís Supper at His last supper, keep in mind that He did not invite His mother to participate.  Neither did He invite Martha, Lazarus, or their sister Mary to participate.  Thus, we do not have the Lord Jesus Christís example as any model for an inclusiveness that would allow any and all who want to observe the communion of the Lordís Supper.

3B.    On the contrary, looking at Paulís words to the Corinthians in First Corinthians chapter 11, we notice several things that powerfully persuade the eager student of Godís Word that the communion of the Lordís Supper is an activity to be observed only by church members.

4B.    First, notice verse 18:  ďFor first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.Ē  Question:  Can there be unity if Paul is here speaking of both saved and lost who might attend a church service together?  No.  Christians cannot have anything like real unity with the unsaved.  Thus, Paul cannot be considering the unsaved in verse 18, or in his consideration of the way they administered and experienced communion.  Why not?  They were not in attendance, thatís why not.

5B.    Next, in our text Paul makes use of the word translated ďyeĒ at least seven times.  But to whom does the context show us he is referring when he uses the word ďye,Ē which is the plural for ďyouĒ?  My friends, Paulís letter is to the Corinthian congregation, and does not include those unsaved people who must have visited the congregation from time to time for the preaching of Godís Word.  Thus, another proof that when Paul was addressing them on the subject of the communion of the Lordís Supper his remarks were directed to the members of that church and not anyone else.

6B.    I could go on, but for lack of time.  Communion is for church members and not for anyone else.  No one elseís testimony has been heard and judged by the congregation, so that it might be known that a real Christian is observing the communion and consuming the symbols of my Lordís body and blood.  Neither is anyone except church members subject to church discipline, so that one guilty of heinous sins might be properly excluded from the holy observation.

7B.    Thus, communion is properly a coming together of the church congregation in a way that we come together at no other time.  We do not come together on Sunday mornings, or Sunday evenings, or Wednesday nights, or Saturday nights, the way we come together for communion.  The unsaved and Christians who are not members are typically most welcome to our church services, to our preaching times, to our outreach times, and to various fellowship times. 

8B.    But there are times when we church members, and just we who are church members, gather together to intimately and socially partake of the bread and wine in remembrance of what our Savior did for us until He comes again.  Those times are very special for us.  They are times that we look forward to.  They are times when God reminds us from His Word of how we are different and why we are different from those who do not celebrate with us.  They are times of reflection and heart searching.  They are times of meditating on the Savior and contemplating what He has done for us.  They are also times when, though it is possible to be lonely, it is far more difficult to be lonely.  Communion is usually a time for serious and substantial community of feeling and purpose.  And itís wonderful.  

3A.   Third, THE COMMUNION OF THE LORDíS SUPPER IS THE PINNACLE OF CONGREGATIONAL COMMUNION EXPERIENCE

1B.    We know from various passages in First Corinthians, especially those that we have read this morning, that there was trouble in River City .  The Corinthians were a divided congregation.  They took their divisions with them to the communion of the Lordís Supper and it greatly disrupted their celebration of that ordinance.

2B.    Turn with me to Acts 2.41-47, where we see what resulted from the Holy Spiritís visitation and from Simon Peterís sermon:

41     Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

42     And they continued stedfastly in the apostlesí doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

43     And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.

44     And all that believed were together, and had all things common;

45     And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

46     And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,

47     Praising God, and having favour with all the people.  And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.  

3B.    Notice verse 46, the phrase ďone accord.Ē  Would you venture a guess as to what Greek word that is?  It is pronounced omoqumadon.  It has to do with a group of people being of one mind, of one purpose, of having one impulse.[2]  Let me ask you a question:  Do you think those Christians on the day of Pentecost were lonely?  Do you think it is possible to be lonely when you are of one mind with other people, when you have one purpose with others, and when you join together with them to fulfill one spiritual impulse?  The answer is ďNo.Ē

4B.    Now, I cannot prove this, but can you imagine the communion of the Lordís Supper being anything less than the pinnacle of any congregationís communion experience?  However good it must have been with those who enjoyed omoqumadon on the day of Pentecost, I cannot imagine their communion service not being even better.  When it is good in the congregation, it is better when that congregation comes apart from the unsaved who attend their services to celebrate the communion of the Lordís Supper.  

CONCLUSION:

1.   Loneliness is a terrible thing.  There is really nothing you can do about loneliness except get saved.  I remember being a lonely young man in the middle of a crowd of others my age at night spot on a Friday night.  I also remember thinking that the others in that room were just as lonely as I was, except they wouldnít admit it to themselves.

2.   When a person comes to church the loneliness is somewhat alleviated, but not completely.  You see, loneliness is related to spiritual issues that need to be dealt with.  You donít cure loneliness by getting married, by running with a group of people your age, or by being active.

3.   You cure loneliness by getting saved and then by getting involved and staying involved in church ministry, banding together with other Christians to serve the one true and living God.  Church by itself will not cure loneliness.  Conversion by itself will not cure loneliness.  Conversation and then church ministry is Godís plan for curing loneliness.  This is the fifth benefit of being a church member.  


[1] Isaiah 59.2

[2] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, ( Chicago , Illinois : The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 706.

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