1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Grace at the Table

Great Commission Church
1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Intro: When it is time for the Lord’s Supper in a church gathering, how should we approach it?
1 Cor 11:27 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.
1 Cor 11:28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
Depending on your past faith tradition, your spiritual leaders may have told the congregation to carefully prepare yourselves for the
Lord’s Table by “confessing all known sin” to God in prayer. How else could we apply the command to “let a man examine
We should be deeply concerned to honor the Lord’s Table and observe it properly. But what does it mean to observe the Lord’s
Supper the right way?
Did Apostle Paul have in mind for Christians to take inventory of our spiritual conditions and confess sin before we eat the bread
and drink the cup? Does 1 Corinthians 11 teach us to “confess all known sin?”
What does 1 Corinthians 11 instruct us to do? For that matter, what is the function of the entire letter of 1 Corinthians?
Paul wrote the letter in response to some questions the church sent to him. Additionally, he wrote the letter to correct some errors
in their ministry.
The letter addresses several problems – in some cases, the worst in the NT – that Paul became aware of among the believers in
 a man was living in a romantic relationship with his father’s wife (step-mother)
 church members were suing each other in courts of law
 they were using spiritual gifts to promote themselves
 some even questioned the truth of the Resurrection of Christ
Perhaps worst of all, and likely the foundation of all the other problems, was their violating of the unity of the body of Christ.
Chapters 1-4 especially focus on this disunity. It seems the congregation was divided into “parties” of loyalty around certain
personalities in the broader church.
Some were claiming to be “Team Paul,” others were “Team Apollos,” others were “Team Peter,” while another group even boasted
to be only loyal to Christ – they were “Team Jesus.”
Divided loyalties and disunity in the church body was also at the root of the issues of the lawsuits (ch.6), Christian liberty (chs.8-10),
and spiritual gifts (chs.12-14).
And the Lord’s Supper passage, 11:17-34, is situated right in the middle of all of it!
The unity of the church is the clue to the significance of Paul’s teaching about the Lord’s Supper.
How, then are the Lord’s Supper and the unity of the body related?
There are four paragraph breaks in this Lord’s Supper passage:
 11:17-22 no praise since there were divisions/factions – invalidating your ceremony
 11:23-26 basic reciting of the elements of the Supper
 11:27-32 warning to examine self & eat/drink in a worthy manner to avoid the chastening of the Lord
 11:33-34 exhortation to wait for one another when observing the Lord’s Table


The Corinthian believers had formed poor habits in how they observed the Lord’s Supper, and it was destroying their unity. That is
why Paul brings up the Lord’s Supper in the letter in the first place.
Their practices were invalidating the Lord’s Supper among themselves.
1 Cor 11:17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse.
1 Cor 11:18 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.
“Your meetings do more harm than good.” (NIV)
Your congregation is divided. You are not characterized by love for each other – the very opposite of what the Lord’s Supper
1 Cor 11:20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.
1 Cor 11:21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
1 Cor 11:22 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.
Can you imagine having an apostle of Christ tell you that your church meetings and your activities surrounding the Lord’s Table
were detrimental to the health of your church?
How did they feel when they read that their Lord’s Supper observances were not really the Lord’s Supper after all?
There is no consensus about the specific problem when the Lord’s Supper was observed.
 Were the wealthier members of the church arriving early, eating the meal, and leaving nothing for the poorer members (many
of whom would have been slaves)?
 Were individual families eating their own meals at the gathering, leaving the poorer believers out?
 Were the more honored members receiving a better allotment of food (like the dining customs of the Romans) while the rest
were given food of less quality in line with their social status (denying their position as brothers/sisters in the only family that
matters, the family of Jesus)?
Whatever the issues were, “one is hungry, and another is drunk.”
Paul’s point is that nothing in the gathering of the church demonstrates our unity more than the Lord’s Supper.
Two major questions:
(1) What does it mean to eat and drink in an unworthy manner?
To eat/drink in such a way that scorns the church
To eat/drink so that the poor suffer shame
To limit the Lord’s Supper to your own social group or exclude any brother/sister in any way (even innocently or thoughtlessly)
Dr. Jim Allman – “It is the family meal of the redeemed.”
(2) How does the Lord’s Supper communicate unity in the church?
In ch.10, Paul uses the Supper to explain why Christians should not participate in idolatrous feasts (pagan parties with cultic
What does he say? The bread is a symbol of church’s unity.
1 Cor 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the
communion of the body of Christ?


1 Cor 10:17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
The broken bread at the Table marks us a united group. To violate that unity is to take the Lord’s supper unworthily.
1 Cor 11:33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
The unworthy eating is not solved by confessing any/all sin. It is solved by treating every member of the body of Christ as a member
of His family.
All members of the church are welcome. All share fully in the meal. All feel included because everyone waits for them. This is how
we demonstrate our unity at the Table.
1 Cor. 11:17-34 does not address individual sin at all. Your poor Christian performance does not disqualify you from the Lord’s
Supper. It is just the opposite. We are remembering the New Covenant where God does the work on our behalf.
Get rid of “private Christianity.”
Embrace the local church as your most important community.