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.
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)
The division in the assembly of the Corinthian church made it impossible for them to properly and reverently eat the Lord’s Supper. What a church does when it “come(s) together in one place” is crucial to God’s approval. To their shame, they were corrupting the Supper’s manner and purpose by bringing their own suppers (which also had the effect of shaming those who had nothing). The apostolic solution was simple, and is the model for churches today. The apostle told the church they must come together to eat the Lord’s Supper, and they must eat their “own supper” at home. That clear, divine edict puts each supper in its proper place – the Lord’s Supper in the worship assembly, and one’s own supper at home (not the gathering of the church). Yet, many churches invite you to bring your own supper to their weekly potluck, while relegating the Lord’s Supper to a monthly or quarterly event. Churches in the New Testament did not plan, promote and provide social activities for their members. The duty of the local church was to reverently worship God in unity and in truth. Men have drifted far from this Bible pattern.
17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. (1 Corinthians 11:17–19, NKJV)
The only other time in 1 Corinthians the apostle Paul is inspired to use the word translated “instructions” in verse 17 is in chapter 7:10, where it is translated “command.” The word carries the force of a message that is enjoined upon us, a charge given by the apostle. He was about to charge them with proper attitudes and conduct when they came together to worship. It had been reported to Paul that the worship assembly of the Corinthian church was marred by division. He would rebuke them, not praise them, for their factious conduct when they came together. (The simple and clear truth is that we must discard every practice that cannot be praised by an apostle.) Their divisions over class and wealth were disrupting and perverting their worship. Therefore, verse 19 does not endorse factions in a church, it explains the effect factions have on a church. Factions serve to identify genuine (true) disciples from those in error (which Paul will show in subsequent verses). Our assembled worship must be decent and orderly, characterized by unity in truth, not divisiveness and strife (1 Cor. 14:40; 1:10).
1 These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. 2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. 4 You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things. (Deuteronomy 12:1–4, NKJV)
How we worship God is critically important to being accepted by God. Israel was commanded to destroy the false gods and their places of worship in the land of Canaan. They were forbidden to worship God “with such things” (v. 4). Christians cannot borrow items of unauthorized, false worship and expect God to be pleased. The true God only accepts true worship (“in spirit and truth,” John 4:23-24). Whether it is lighting candles, ritual ceremonies, using instrumental music, or many other such things, every attempt to minimize and discard the pattern of worship in the New Testament is an affront against God. This is a primary reason to carefully approach God with worship He approves, not worship devised by the wisdom and will of humanity.
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:21–23, NKJV)
People will inevitably form lesser gods to worship when they refuse to acknowledge the power and presence of the true God. Idolatry is alive in today’s world. It thrives when we close our hearts to the clear evidence of deity’s power and majesty that is portrayed for us in the created world (Romans 1:20). Wisdom is professed in the darkness of “foolish hearts” as it fashions its own gods that will bend to its own will. We should bluntly ask ourselves this simple question: “Am I an idolater?” If I am putting anything in my heart and life before the one true God, then the answer is, “yes.” Just as ancient idolaters had to destroy their graven images in order to worship the true God, we must destroy the false gods that reside in our hearts – pleasure covetousness, fame, popularity, selfish desires, etc. – and sanctify the Lord God in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15). We cannot worship a false god in life and be with the true God in death and eternity. Think on these things, and serve the true God.
When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. (Mark 5:6, NKJV)
Quite a number of people believe every part of their daily life constitutes worship. Today’s verse (it is not the only one) shows that is not so. Worship (“to pay homage to, to prostrate oneself in homage”) is a particular action by the worshiper given to the object of worship. Please notice the man was not worshiping Jesus when he saw him from a distance. The man was not worshiping Jesus when he ran to Jesus. It is when he arrived that he “worshiped Him.” Christians are instructed to worship God “in spirit and truth” – such are true worshipers (John 4:23-24). Worship involves particular actions directed toward God (prayer, singing praises, the Lord’s supper, giving, and preaching God’s word (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 14:15-16; 11:23-26; 16:1-2). Therefore, worship is more than just going to the lake or mountains and communing with nature. God has revealed the worship He accepts. It is our obligation to offer it to Him without our subtractions or additions. Let us live holy, devoted lives every day, and let us worship God as Scripture directs, with right hearts (“spirit”) and God-approved actions (“truth”).
2 Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! 3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! 4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! 5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! (Psalm 150:2–5, NKJV)
The question is posed, “Why shouldn’t we use instrumental music to worship God today? After all, they were used by Israel in the Old Testament.” Yes, they were. Scripture says king Hezekiah “stationed Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, they were commanded “according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the Lord by His prophets” (2 Chronicles 29:25). But, we do not live under the authority of the old covenant. We hear and follow Christ for our approved worship, not Moses and the prophets (Matthew 17:1-5; Hebrews 1:1-2). We would not think of binding the Levitical rituals of worship, including animal sacrifices, today. Yet, king Hezekiah did along with the instruments he set in place (2 Chronicles 29:26-36). If Hezekiah’s trumpets and stringed instruments are allowed in worship today, then so are his animal sacrifices and associated offerings. We are content with the musical worship Christ revealed and approved in the new covenant. It repeatedly says to sing praises to God, but never to play praises (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). That’s enough.