6 that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever (Joshua 4:6–7, NKJV).
The Lord instructed Joshua to set up twelve stones from the Jordan River as a memorial to God’s mighty deliverance and guidance of Israel across the Jordan into the promised land of Canaan (Josh. 4:1-11). Today is Memorial Day in America, a time to remember those who gave their lives in service of this country. We pause to reflect on the great moments of heroism, sacrifice, and deliverance. God wants Christians to remember even more significant moments of sacrifice and redemption. We remember the death of Jesus Christ as we eat the Lord’s Supper weekly (1 Cor. 11:23-26; Acts 20:7). We must never forget Jesus Christ, the raised Messiah, the world’s Savior (2 Tim. 2:8). Early saints remembered those who were imprisoned for the faith (Heb. 13:3). We ought always to remember the words spoken by Christ’s apostles (Jude 17). Memory is powerful. It helps us strengthen our resolve to be faithful in the present. Memories also warn us of the terrifying results of not obeying the Lord’s word; “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). It is appropriate to remember those who made great sacrifices for our country. Let us especially remember the Son of God who sacrificed Himself for us (Rom. 5:6-11). May we ever walk in His steps, thankful for His unselfish service on our behalf (Heb. 2:9-18).
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:23–26, NKJV).
The Lord’s Supper is not a rite or ritual, although many churches have turned it into one. The Scriptures do not call it the “Eucharist” or a sacrament; those descriptions are of Catholic origin. The Scriptures do not teach the substance of the bread and fruit of the vine changes into the actual body and blood of Jesus in the Mass. That is also a Catholic invention. The Scriptures do not elevate the Supper to a place superior to other acts of worship; therefore, neither should we. But they explain its value and meaning so that we will partake of it worthily instead of condemning ourselves when we eat and drink it (1 Cor. 11:27-29). The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of the death of Jesus (of His body and blood) that Christians eat on the first day of the week (v. 24, 25; Acts 20:7). The bread is emblematic of the body of Jesus sacrificed for the sins of the world (Heb. 10:5, 10). The cup (the fruit of the vine, Mark 14:23-25) is emblematic of Christ’s blood that dedicated the new covenant that provides remission of sins (Heb. 9:13-15, 18-22). The Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of the Lord’s death that Christians will eat until Jesus returns (v. 26). Always eat the Supper to remember and proclaim Christ’s death.
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23–24, NKJV)
First-century Christians regularly came together on the first day of the week to worship God (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:26; 16:2; Heb. 10:24-25). True worshipers follow the teaching of Jesus taught about worship. It is “in spirit and truth.” Worship “in spirit” calls on the heart as the source of our worship of God. For example, prayers and songs must be with the spirit and understanding; it is not rote ritualism (1 Cor. 14:15). True worshipers praise God “with understanding” when they sing (Psa. 47:7; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). A heart far from God that goes through the motions of worship is an abomination to Him (Matt. 15:7-9). True worshipers also worship God “in truth.” His word reveals what worship He accepts. Churches of Christ gather every Sunday to pray, sing, eat the Lord’s Supper, thankfully give as we have been prospered, and listen to the teaching of God’s word (Acts 2:42; 20:7; Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:26; 16:2). Souls who worship “in spirit” are careful to give God the “in truth” worship He accepts. New Testament Christians did that. We aim to do the same today. We hope you will, too.
20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? 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 do not praise you.” (1 Corinthians 11:20–22, NKJV)
Sinful attitudes and conduct were interrupting and corrupting the worship of the church at Corinth. Their misunderstanding and abuse of the Lord’s Supper exposed divisions between rich and poor brethren. The inspired remedy Paul taught was to partake of the Lord’s Supper properly and to eat their regular meals at home (1 Cor. 11:22, 23-33, 34). We see an underlying worship principle in this passage. Acceptable worship is about God; it is not about us. We are not the ones who decide what makes worship right, good, and pleasing to the Lord. Yet, that seems to be a prevailing attitude in worship gatherings around the world. The Scriptures do not support the premise that sincerity alone justifies acceptable worship. Heartfelt worship without truth guiding it is self-soothing, not Deity honoring. Truth-guided worship that does not spring from the heart is empty, even hypocritical. May we be true worshipers who worship God in spirit and truth (Jno. 4:23-24).
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23–26, NKJV)
The Lord’s supper, initiated by Christ, revealed by the Holy Spirit, and eaten by Christians, is simple, solemn, and sacred. Far from the rituals and ceremonies attached to it through the centuries, the communion of the body and blood of Christ (“breaking of bread,” Acts 2:42; 20:7) is identified in today’s passage as a memorial and a proclamation (v. 24-26). The Corinthians were corrupting it by divisively perverting its purpose (1 Cor. 11:17-22). Corruption of the supper continues still. It is not called a “sacrament” or the “Eucharist” in Scripture. These are theologian inventions of Roman Catholic tradition. Scripture does not teach the elements change in substance, becoming the actual blood and body of Jesus (another Catholic departure). Scripture shows it is a weekly memorial, not an occasional option (Acts 20:7). By what right do men tamper with it? Only by their own, misguided, unscriptural presumptions. How about we just follow the Bible? Simple. Solemn. Sacred.
33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come. (1 Corinthians 11:33–34, NKJV)
The apostle has been correcting problems in the Corinthian church that were happening when they came together to worship (namely, abuse of the Lord’s supper, and class divisions, 1 Cor. 11:17-22). Now, he summarizes the solutions he gave by exhorting them to “wait for one another.” To “wait” means “1) to receive, accept 2) to look for, expect, wait for, await” (Thayer, 193). Paul makes a unity argument here. When a church assembles, the members should receive or accept each other so that their coming together is blessed (11:17). By doing so, the assembly can “eat the Lord’s supper” decently and with order (11:20-21). To bring and eat our own suppers to satisfy hunger produces “judgment” (condemnation). The work of the church, when gathered together, is orderly worship, not disorderly, divisive conduct. It gathers for spiritual work, not for social activities. By keeping our own suppers at home (entirely separate from the assembled activities), the Holy Spirit ensures unity when the church gathers to eat the Lord’s Supper. By doing we, we avoid condemnation.
30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:30–32, NKJV)
The spiritual condition of many of the Corinthian Christians was in jeopardy. The terms “weak,” “sick,” and “sleep” have spiritual (not physical) significance. These were without spiritual strength, some were spiritually ill, and some were already dead. (See John 11:11-13, where Jesus used “sleep” to mean Lazarus was dead.) We must judge our eating of the Lord’s supper in order to avoid such spiritual demise (which, by the way, shows Christians can indeed sin and be lost). This context shows we must judge our heart and our conduct in the Lord’s supper by using the Lord’s instructions about the supper (1 Cor. 11:23-26, 27-29). Such personal examination helps us avoid divine judgment, as well as condemnation with the world (v. 31, 32). Paul’s rebuke of their sin in this matter was the Lord’s discipline, to correct their error and preserve their souls. Eating the Lord’s supper is not a mindless ceremony. It is not a liturgical sacrament by which the mere partaking of it God grants sanctifying grace to the worshiper. It is a moment of solemn, proclamation and reverential remembrance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Christians who turn it into anything else expose themselves to condemnation, not glory.
27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (1 Corinthians 11:27–29, NKJV)
Some read this verse, and upon examining their spiritual life they conclude themselves to be unworthy to eat the Lord’s supper. But look closer. The point of this verse is not one’s character, but one’s conduct while eating the supper. (If a Christian has sins preventing proper worship, then repentance and confessional prayer assures God’s forgiveness, Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jno. 1:9. When one’s sins are forgiven he or she is indeed worthy to eat the supper and to offer other worship to God.) Today’s verse requires us to examine ourselves concerning the manner in which we eat the supper. It warns us against eating it “in an unworthy manner.” This happens when we fail to eat the supper as a memorial of Christ’s body and blood (v. 23-26). The Corinthians had turned it into a selfish meal that provoked division in the church. This perverted the purpose of the Lord’s supper made their worship vain (1 Cor. 1:18-21). If we do not remember Christ’s body and blood when we eat the bread and drink the cup, we are guilty crucifying the Lord. Such a damning judgment reflects how serious it is to eat the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner.
25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:25–26, NKJV)
After the Passover meal, Jesus continued inaugurating His supper by telling His apostles to drink “this cup” which “is the new covenant in My blood.” He explained that the “fruit of the vine” (“the cup”) signifies His blood “which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). The bread, symbolizing His body, and the juice of the grape, symbolizing His blood, constitute the elements of the Lord’s supper. His supper was not an extension of the Passover meal (a feast of the old covenant). Neither did Jesus institute His supper as part of a larger “fellowship meal” or “table fellowship” as some has contrived. It is a memorial meal during which unleavened bread and the juice of the grape are eaten in memory of the Lord’s death that dedicated His new covenant (by which the remission of sins is offered to all, Heb. 9:16-22). Until Christ returns, Christians proclaim His death each time they eat His supper. This simple and solemn memorial meal calls us back to Golgotha and the sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the world. We must reverently and always partake of it as the Lord intended – as a memorial and a proclamation of His death.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23–24, NKJV)
The Lord’s supper is not a church tradition that was developed by centuries of human customs and adaptations. Neither do the Scriptures describe it as a sacrament of the church (that is, an outward sign causing grace in the soul of a person). By revelation, the apostle received the teaching he now gives concerning the eating of and the purpose of the Lord’s supper (cf. Gal. 1:11-12). While eating the Passover meal with His apostles, Jesus instituted something new and different that would be eating in the kingdom of God (Lk. 22:14-20; Matt. 26:26-29). The unleavened bread would bear new meaning, representing the body of Christ (the bread is not the actual body of Jesus). Eating this bread is a solemn remembrance of Christ’s body that He sacrificed for us. Thus, “the bread which we break” is “the communion of the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16). The bread of the Lord’s supper does not satisfy the belly – it is not a table meal. It serves to awaken our memory of the death of Christ, whose body hung suspended on a cross for our sins. Eating the bread of the Lord’s supper is designed to focus our attention on Christ’s body, reverently remembering His unselfish love toward us.