Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What did Paul mean when he said "Have you not houses to eat and drink in"? (1 Corinthians 11:22)

Sadly, selfishness and self-centeredness are sins that always seem to entrap the Christian and find their way into the collective activity of the church. Selfishness is a destroyer of unity! In the book of 1st Corinthians the apostle Paul uses the word “body” to describe the church numerous times. A body works together, a body is united and a body sees the value in every member. 

The collective worship of the church is to be a place of unity as well. The assembly should be a place where people from all backgrounds can come together as one group to praise God. Worship should be the one place that division is never found…yet, even in first century Corinth, selfishness in the assembly destroyed the church’s unity. This problem was specifically identified in regards to the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthians church need to restore the Communion to its proper purpose (ie. the remembrance of Christ). 

This post will first establish how the Corinthians had forgotten the purpose of the communion, and second, present Paul’s proposed solution to this problem.

Forgotten Purpose
The Communion meal is supposed to be a time of mutual fellowship between the members of a local congregation with God, and with each-other. The Corinthians had turned it into a time to selfishly fill their stomachs when they were hungry. The Lord’s Supper is supposed to be a time to remember Christ, yet they were only remembering their appetites.

By inspiration, Paul writes them in order to restore proper remembrance in the Lord’s Supper. In 1 Corinthians 11:18-21), he states:
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. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
The intention of the Lord’s Supper is not to only be fed, but to celebrate and remember Christ with one’s brethren as a unified body. The church in Corinth was the complete opposite of a unified body. They were not even waiting for everyone to arrive to the assembly! In fact, it appears that some members were eating up all the food and drinking down all the wine before everyone could commune! This was a blatant corruption of what the Lord’s Supper was supposed to be! 

Just incase the Corinthians were still confused on the purpose of the communion, verse 22 makes it very clear by proclaiming;
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.
To paraphrase, the apostle is saying, “if you are hungry, eat at home”, “if you are thirsty, be sure to get a drink beforehand”, because when it is time to take the Lord’s Supper, it is not to fill your belly, but a time to remember Jesus with your Christian family. The Corinthians were thinking “food” when they needed to be thinking “Jesus”. It was time for them to restore remembrance to the Lord’s Supper.

Proposed Solution
After, explaining that the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is “remembrance” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), the Apostle gets back to his corrective rebuke in verses (33-24). The passage reads:
So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment...
The Communion meal is different from other meals the church may eat together. The communion is a time of remembrance, sharing, celebration, praise and fellowship. The entire congregation is to participate in this observance. It is a shame there were some brethren in Corinth who turned it into an opportunity to quickly stuff their faces before everyone could participate.