Study Sheet for I Corinthians 11:17-34 (click here for Study Notes)
In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don't you have homes 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 praise you for this? Certainly not!
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 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." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and d drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.
And when I come I will give further directions. (NIV)
In this passage Paul chastises the Corinthians again for their factions and divisions, and he segues from that problem into the problems the church was having with celebrating communion at their agape feasts.
1. What do we know about the nature of the divisions that split the Corinthian church? (I Cor. 1:1-12; 3:3)
2. What do you think Paul meant when he said, "No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval"? (I John 2:19; Acts 20:30)
3. Given these insights, what might Paul have meant when he said, "I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good" (v.17)?
When the believers met for their agape feasts, celebrating the Lord's Supper was always part of the meal.
1. What problem at these feasts did Paul expose and criticize? (see also 2 Peter 2:13; Jude 12)
2. What other elements of division among the Corinthians does Paul expose? (v. 22; see also James 2:6)
3. What did Paul mean when he said in v. 20, "it is not the Lord's Supper you eat" and why did he say that?
We don't usually celebrate communion in conjunction with a full meal, so Paul's chastisements don't sound like familiar problems. "One remains hungry," he said, "another gets drunk. Don't you have homes to eat and drink in?"
1. Using the insights from the above questions about the Corinthian's divisions and factions, what was happening and why do you think their "agape" feasts were in such shambles?
2. Paul reminds them how Jesus instituted communion and what it means. Where was blood first called the "blood of the covenant," and how was Jesus' statement, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood," a fulfillment of OT symbolism and prophecy? (Ex. 24:8; Isa.42:6; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Zechariah 9:11; 2 Cor. 3:6; Hebrews 8:6; 9:15)
3. Why do you think Jesus wanted his followers to proclaim his death "until he comes", and why is it important that we use symbols as part of that proclamation?
Paul has just criticized the disrespectful way the Corinthians' participated in communion, and then he reminded them what communion is really about.
1. What does it mean to eat the bread and drink the cup "in an unworthy manner"? (see Hebrews 10:29; Matthew 3:4; I Cor. 10:16,17)
2. In what way(s) were the Corinthians participating unworthily?
3. What does it mean to "sin against the body and blood of the Lord"? (Hebrews 6:6)
4. For what should we examine ourselves before participating in communion? (2 Cor. 13:5; Lamentations 3:40; Jon 6:6; Romans 8:10)
Many of us were taught that God's judgment is his decision as to who would be saved and who wouldn't. Paul suggests a different meaning of God's judgment of believers. He even says some of the Corinthians have fallen under God's judgment and are sick or "have fallen asleep."
1. What double meaning can be read into the phrase "the body of the Lord" in verse 29?
2. What does Paul mean when he says, "If we judge ourselves, we would not come under judgment"? (Ps. 32:5; 8 John 1:9)
3. What is God's judgment of us, and how does it keep us from being condemned? (Psalm 94:12; Ps. 118:18; Prov. 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:7-10; Rev. 3:19; John 15:18-19)
4. How does Paul suggest that the Corinthians avoid coming under God's judgment? (v. 21, 22, 34)
1. What are contemporary ways of not "recognizing the body of the Lord" and of eating and drinking communion unworthily?
2. Is there a judgment or discipline of God in your life right now?
3. What compromise or blind spot is God's discipline pointing out to you?
1. Is there someone in the body of Christ whom you "despise" or "humiliate", to use the words in v. 22, or someone whom you simply resent or dislike?
2. In what ways or areas of your life do you need to judge yourself?
3. As God to reveal to you the ways in which you "despise the church
of God" by not respecting other believers or by trivializing Jesus'
great sacrifice and gift of life and forgiveness. Ask him to help you to
know what he wants you to know about yourself and to let him change you
in the ways he wants to change you.
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised July 7, 2000.