1 Corinthians 11:17-22
Now in this that I declare to you I praise you not, that you come together not for the better, but for the worse.…
Holy institutions may become unholy by perversion. That which is bestowed upon us as a peculiar blessing may prove a very real curse by misuse. The ordinance of the Lord's Supper is for our spiritual help and joy, but we may "come together not for the better, but for the worse." This was so with many of the Corinthians. They had conjoined to the Lord's Supper the love feast. To this feast each brought his provision, the rich bringing more, so as to supply the deficiencies of the poor. From this supply the bread and wine required for the Lord's Supper were taken. These feasts were the occasions at which the evils reprobated by the apostle occurred. The poor were despised and neglected, the congregation became divided into cliques, some communicants were hungry, and others had drunk to excess. The apostle insists that, under such circumstances, it was impossible to observe aright the sacred feast of the Lord's Supper. Note some hindrances to right observance thus suggested.
I. PRIDE. At the Lord's table all are equal. Conventional distinctions disappear. There is one Lord, and "all ye are brethren." Arrogance and conceit, always out of place and intolerable, are most strikingly so where all should be humbled and subdued. it is not for us to think there how excellent we are, but how vile, and to admire the amazing grace which rescued us from the dominion of sin. Instead of despising others there, we should rather despise ourselves for our sins which crucified Christ, and we should feel, like Paul, that we are "the chief of sinners." It is utterly impossible for a proud heart to rightly show forth the death of him who was meek and lowly. It is preposterous and absurd to attempt it.
II. SELFISHNESS. How can the selfish have communion with the infinitely unselfish One! If we have a self seeking, grasping, greedy spirit, what part can we have with him who "gave himself for us"? How alien to the spirit of Christ is the spirit of selfishness! If we sit with it at the table of the Lord, we sit there as Judas did.
III. ESTRANGEMENT. Christ calls us ever to union, and most specially and pathetically at his table, where we eat of the one bread (1 Corinthians 10:17). To cherish a spirit of disunion is to run directly counter to one of his commands at the moment when we profess to observe another. And the spectacle of estrangement at the Lord's Supper must be one of utmost offensiveness in the Divine sight, as it is one of greatest scandal in the eyes of men. If we seek to be one with Christ, we must also seek to be one with the brethren. He is the Head; we are the members of his body. How utterly incongruous to be disunited at that feast which specially sets forth our union with Christ and with one another!
IV. HATRED. This in some form generally accompanies division. But where is the place for hatred at the feast of dying love? God is love, Christ is love, and we are - hatred. How can two walk together unless they are agreed? What reason our Saviour had to hate us! "He was despised and rejected of men," crucified by men; and yet he loved men, and at his table his love is specially set forth. How can we there cherish our animosities, for which we have such little cause! "We know that we have passed from death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death" (1 John 3:14). The Lord's Supper is a song of love; hatred at it is a terrible discord.
V. GLUTTONY. Some of the Corinthians loved their meat more than they loved their brethren. They ate greedily, not even tarrying for others to arrive. A singular carnality for so spiritual a season. Men with the manners and unrestrained appetites of beasts are scarcely fit for the table of Christ. Sensuality and spirituality are at opposite poles. These who abandon themselves to gratify the lower nature sacrifice the higher. "Man shall not live by bread alone."
VI. DRUNKENNESS. It seems scarcely credible that any should have drunk to the excess of intoxication at the love feast so intimately associated with the Eucharist; but it is to be feared that this was so. And there are degrees of intoxication, so that the danger of imitating the Corinthians in this matter may not be so remote from some as they imagine. There is a great deal of semi intoxication. And if this sin be not committed immediately before the Lord's table is approached, undue indulgence at all is surely a fatal hindrance to right observance. No drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. And no drunkard, whilst he cleaves to his degrading habit, is entitled to a place at the Lord's table.
VII. IRREVERENCE. There must have been vast irreverence in the Corinthians rebuked by Paul, or such abuses could never have obtained amongst them. There may be as much irreverence in us, though we do not commit the same sins. Anyway, to approach the Lord's table irreverently is to instantly demonstrate our unfitness. There we should be filled with godly fear, and our hearts should be subdued to greatest devoutness and awe as we marvel over the justice of Jehovah, the amazing sacrifice of Christ, and the tender ministry of the Divine Spirit, whereby we who were once afar off are brought nigh. - H.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.
WEB: But in giving you this command, I don't praise you, that you come together not for the better but for the worse.