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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

1 Corinthians 11

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 17-34

The members of the church at Corinth abounded in gifts, and therefore they thought it meet for each one to speak to edification. They had no pastoral oversight whatever; acting, in this respect, like certain brethren whom we know nowadays. The result, however, was very deplorable. They do not appear to have been able even to conduct the Lord’s supper without the most disorderly proceedings. Church discipline was utterly forgotten or neglected; and it seems as if the two Epistles to the Corinthians are given to us as beacons to warn us against that form of worship, seeing that it produces such mischievous and sad results.

1 Corinthians 11:17. Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.

It is a very bad state of things when we meet for worship, and separate without any improvement, or, like these Corinthians, “come together, not for the better, but for the worse.”

1 Corinthians 11:18. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

It was very gracious and kind on the apostle’s part to put it so mildly, and he sets us the example of not believing anything against our brethren too quickly: “I partly believe it.”

1 Corinthians 11:19-21. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

They seem to have regarded it as a common feast, to which they brought their own provisions; and, without waiting for each other, they disgraced the table of the Lord by their scandalous proceedings.

1 Corinthians 11:22. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in these? I praise you not.

No doubt they hoped to be praised, and expected that they had done everything in the right way; perhaps, they even believed that they were acting under the inspiration of the Spirit, and therefore could not do anything wrong; but the apostle deals very faithfully with them, and tells them how the supper is to be celebrated. How much we have gained by the mistakes of others! As the inspired apostle is guided to inform us as to the right mode of observing this ordinance, we may almost be thankful that the Corinthians fell into error concerning it, much as we may regret their faults on their own account.

1 Corinthians 11:23-24. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

These are the words of the Lord Jesus himself, and therefore they come to us with all the weight of his infallible authority. Then Paul continues:

1 Corinthians 11:25-26. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

“Show” or “proclaim.” The latter is the better word: “Ye do proclaim the Lord’s death till he come.” That last phrase ought finally to settle the question of the perpetuity of the Lord’s supper, which is to be observed “till he come.”

1 Corinthians 11:27. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

“Unworthily,” that is, in a thoughtless, careless way; or with a view to worldly gain, as some used to take it in order to obtain office under government; and as some, doubtless, do take it, to obtain the alms of the church. Such an unworthy participation is a sin against the very body and blood of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 11:28. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

Paul does not say, “Let a man examine himself, and then not eat or drink at the communion.” The examination should lead him to repentance, and to faith, and should then bring him to the table of fellowship in the right state of mind and heart. The examination is not a door to shut him out from the ordinance, but a door at which he may pause awhile, to see whether he is in a right condition to enter; and if he is not, he should seek to be made so, and then enter.

1 Corinthians 11:29. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, earth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

“Eateth and drinketh judgment to himself,” for “judgment” is the word here used by the apostle.

1 Corinthians 11:30. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

It appears that God visited this church at Corinth with sickness, and took away many of the members by death, because they had profaned the Lord’s table, and had walked in a disorderly manner before him. Paul did not mean to say that these persons were lost; but he intended to remind their fellow-members, and all who might read his Epistle, that God visits churches after this fashion with discipline and chastening because of the unseemly conduct which is always so offensive to him.

1 Corinthians 11:31-32. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

So, you see, that chastening process, which is going on in the church, is all in love: “that we should not be condemned with the world;” just as a father exercises discipline in his household, and uses chastisement that his children may never disobey the laws of the realm. They will never come before the police court, for they are kept under proper control at home, and are tutored and trained by their father’s wise government. So we come not under the judgment of the law, as the world itself comes; we come under the disciplinary treatment of the great Head of the Church, even the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:33-34. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.

Now let us read Luke’s account of the institution of this supper; as we do so, it will be well for us to remember that Luke was a friend and intimate companion of Paul.

This exposition consisted of readings from 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; and Luke 22:14-24.


Verses 18-34

1 Corinthians 11:18-22. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

These Corinthians fell into a great many errors. Everybody was a speaker, and said whatever he pleased; and they had no proper order or rule. Among other evils, when they met together to observe the Lord’s Supper, they brought their own food with them, thinking that eating thus together was keeping the sacred feast. So the richer ones feasted to the full, and the poor went almost without anything. “One is hungry, and another is drunken,” says the apostle, and he tells them that this was not the right way of observing the Lord’s Supper. Yet it is evident that the idea which was in their mind was that of feasting together. They had exaggerated it, and carried it to a grievous excess; but that was the idea they had concerning it. Certainly, there was no altar, or priest, or anything of the sort. Now the apostle tells them how the ordinance should be observed.

1 Corinthians 11:23-25. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. How wonderfully simple it all is! There is nothing here of the paraphernalia of a “sacrament.” It is a simple memorial festival, that is all.

1 Corinthians 11:26-27. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

He shall be guilty with respect to that body, — not with respect to that bread, against which he cannot sin, — but with respect to that body which is represented by the bread, and with respect to that blood which is represented by the cup. See with what holy solemnity this humble feast is fenced and invested. There is a divinity which doth hedge the simple ordinance of Christ lest men should trifle with it to their eternal ruin.

1 Corinthians 11:28-29. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

“Judgment” or “condemnation” is the word in the original, not “damnation.” That is not a fair translation, neither does it express the truth. He that eateth and drinketh unworthily condemns himself in so doing, he comes under judgment for that act. This is the kind of judgment that falls upon Christians if they come unworthily to the Lord’s table: —

1 Corinthians 11:30-32. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

Believers, who are rendered sick, or who even die, because of their offence against the Lord’s ordinance, are not therefore condemned to hell. Far from it; it is that they may not be so condemned that God visits them. “When we” the people of God — “are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”

1 Corinthians 11:33-34. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.

By due attention to the apostle’s injunctions, they would be able rightly to observe the ordinance; and we also may learn, from what Paul wrote, how we may worthily come to the table of our Lord.

This exposition consisted of readings from Matthew 26:17-30; and 1 Corinthians 11:18-34.


Verses 20-26

1 Corinthians 11:20. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.

Merely meeting together, each person bringing his or her own portion of bread and wine, and each one eating the provided portion, was not celebrating the Lord’s supper.

1 Corinthians 11:21. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

Bad as some professing Christians are even now, they are not so bad as these Corinthians were. One was hungry, and another was drunken, because they had turned the holy feast into a kind of banquet of a most disorderly sort. There was nothing in their conduct to indicate true Christian fellowship. The very meaning of the ordinance was lost in the fact that each one was feasting himself without fear.

1 Corinthians 11:22. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

The Lord’s supper is not to be made an opportunity for eating and drinking in disorderly self-enjoyment. It is a hallowed and holy institution, setting forth the fellowship of true believers with one another, and with the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul was an apostle, yet he had not been present at the institution of the Lord’s supper, so he had a special revelation given to him concerning the way in which this ordinance is to be observed.

1 Corinthians 11:23. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you,—

That is the right kind of teaching which a man first receives from God, and then delivers to the people. Nothing is of authority in the Christian ministry unless we can say of it, “I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you,” —

1 Corinthians 11:23. That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: —

What a pathetic interest is given to the Lord’s supper by the fact that it was instituted “the same night in which he was betrayed.” Never forget that God grant that none of us may betray our Lord this night, or any other night! It would be the darkest night in our life should it ever be so: “The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:” —

1 Corinthians 11:24-25. And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament —

“The New Covenant” —

1 Corinthians 11:25-26. In my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

This exposition consisted of readings from Matthew 26:20-30; And 1 Corinthians 11:20-26.


Verses 20-34

1 Corinthians 11:20-21. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

These Corinthians had fallen into a very queer state. I do not think that any Baptist Church that I have ever known of has acted in this fashion; but when churches have no ministers, when there is an open ministry where everybody talketh and nobody listeneth, they fall into a queer condition, especially into divisions and heart-breaking strifes. It was so in the case of this church at Corinth. Here everybody brought his own provision, and some ate to the full, and others had not enough; and they thought that they were observing “the Lord’s supper.”

1 Corinthians 11:22. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?

There is your proper place if you want a meal. Go home, and eat and drink; do not come to the sanctuary for such a purpose: “Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?”

1 Corinthians 11:22. Or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which I delivered unto you,

He had received it by a special revelation, Poor Paul was brought in late, and he was like one born out of due time. He had not been present in the upper room with Christ at the first famous breaking of bread; so the Lord came and gave him a special revelation concerning this sacred feast, so that, whenever he spoke or wrote to any of the churches about the Lord’s supper, he could say, “I have received of the Lord that which I delivered unto you.”

1 Corinthians 11:23. That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

The Lord’s supper is a simple service of remembrance. Nothing is said about an altar, or a priest, or a sacrifice. Our Lord took bread, gave thanks for it, brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat: this is my body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” Mark that “this do”; it will not be right to do something else instead of this; and we must not do this for any other purpose than the one he mentions, “This do in remembrance of me.” This command raises a previous question, “Do we know him?” we cannot remember Christ if we do not know him.

1 Corinthians 11:25. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

“By Christ redeemed, in Christ restored,

We keep the memory adored,

And show the death of our dear Lord,

Until he come!

“And thus that dark betrayal-night,

With the last advent we unite;

By one blest chain of loving rite,

Until he come!”

1 Corinthians 11:27. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.

If such a man has treated “this bread” and “this cup” with contempt, he has treated “the body and blood of the Lord” with contempt; it shall be so reckoned to him. Many have been trouble by this verse. They have said, “We are unworthy.” You are, this is quite true; but the text does not say anything about your being unworthy. Paul uses an adverb, not an adjective. His words are, “Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily,” that is, in an unfit way, to gain something by it, as men used to take what they called “the sacrament” to get into certain offices, or as some come to the communion-table for the sake of the charitable gifts that are for the poor of the church; this is to eat and drink “unworthily.” To come carelessly, to come contemptuously, to say, “I do not care whether I am a Christian, or not; but I shall come to the communion,” this is to eat and drink “unworthily.” Notice the ly; we are all unworthy of this sacred feast, and if unworthiness could shut us out, who would dare to be here?

1 Corinthians 11:28. But let a man examine himself,

Let a man look himself up and down, as a lawyer cross-questions a witness, as a man examines money to see whether it has the true ring of gold about it; or not: “Let a man examine himself.”

1 Corinthians 11:28. And so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

Let him come as a true believer, as sincere; if not perfect, yet true; if not all he ought to be, yet in Christ; if not all he wants to be, yet still on the way to it, by being in Christ, who is “the way, the truth and the life.”

1 Corinthians 11:29. For he that eateth, and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

He does not see the meaning of the emblem of Christ’s death.. He degrades the symbol by making it take the place of the thing signified. He sees the bread, but not the body; and he damnifies himself, condemns himself, by such eating. He is a loser rather than a gainer by eating and drinking unworthily.

1 Corinthians 11:30. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

Persons coming to the Lord’s table in an improper spirit are very apt to come under God’s discipline; some will be taken ill; and some will die. This discipline is being carried on in every true church of God. God’s providence will work in this way if many treat the table of the Lord as the Corinthians did, acting as if it were a common place for eating and drinking. Many of them were weak and sickly, and many died.

1 Corinthians 11:31. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

If we are God’s people, we shall be judged by him here for our wrongdoing. We shall not be like the world that is left to the day of judgment; but we shall be judged now. God will visit with temporal judgments those of his children who sin against him.

1 Corinthians 11:32. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

You know that a man will see a great deal that is wrong in children in the street, and say nothing about it; but if it is his own who is up to mischief, he will give him a sweet taste of the rod. So, if you belong to God, you cannot sin deeply without having a present judgment, a present discipline; and you ought to be thankful for it, painful though it may seem to be for the time, for “when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”

1 Corinthians 11:33. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.

How gently Paul talks to these Corinthians! They deserve to be scolded; but he is very tender with them. He says, “If you must come together in this way, at least have the good manners to stop for one another; and if you do come to the communion of the Lord, treat it with that respect and reverence which it deserves.

1 Corinthians 11:34. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.

May we tonight keep this feast in due order under the power of the Holy Spirit, and may we find a blessing in it to God’s praise! Amen.

This exposition consisted of readings from Matthew 26:26-30; 1 Corinthians 11:20-34

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/1-corinthians-11.html. 2011.

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