Despising the Church of God
I Corinthians 11:17-34
Take your Bibles please and turn to I Corinthians chapter 11.
I want you to notice that there is a sharp contrast between verse 17 and verse 2 of this same chapter.
He says in verse 2: "Now I praise you".
But when you come down to verse 17, he says: "In the following directives I have no praise for you."
In verse 2, he was praising them for something...
But when it comes to verse 17, the mood has changed in this letter.
He says, "I have no praise for you."
>Now what was it that he was praising them for?
Well in verse 2, he praised them for two things.
#1 Ė he said, "I praise you because you remember me."
They had remembered Paul.
They remembered Paul in prayer.
They remembered Paul in financial support.
And so because of that he had a word of praise for them.
But also he said, "I praise you because you have kept the ordinances which I have instructed you"...
Or the commandments or the teachings I have shared with you.
All of the things he had taught them before he wrote this letter...
They had been seemingly faithful in carrying out those instructions.
And so Paul says, "Because youíve remembered me and because youíve obeyed my word"...
He said, "I do have a word of praise for you."
>But now when you come to verse 17, things are different...
Because heís about to deal with something that he had no reason to praise them for.
And that which heís about to deal with is the observance of the Lordís Supper.
And he has no praise for them.
Instead he has a word of rebuke for them because of the way they were doing it.
>Now there are three things I want to share with you from this passage of scripture.
And the first thing I want you to see is his rebuke of them because of their practices at the Lordís Supper.
Now let me tell you up front something that they did that we do not do when we observe the Lordís Supper.
>In the day of the New Testament, the Lordís Supper was usually in every church preceded by a common meal.
It was known as the love feast, an agape feast.
It was a feast of charity.
The book of Jude talks about how those who were in the church unofficially.
They had come in without being saved.
And he said they are "barriers" to your love feast.
They are hindrances to it.
Well, thatís what they did in the day of the New Testament.
>Now there was a reason for that.
When Jesus instituted the Lordís Supper, he did so only after they had observed Passover.
And so they thought that since Jesus observed the Lordís Supper after the eating of another meal...
They felt like you should have the Lordís Supper after eating a meal.
And so they would come together.
You and I would call it a potluck supper.
They would come together with a potluck supper and they would all eat together...
And then after the eating and the sharing of that common meal together...
That love feast, then they would celebrate and observe the Lordís Supper together as a church family.
Now thatís the way they did it in the day of the New Testament.
>But the church at Corinth had perverted that system; and hereís what they had done.
And this is what Paul rebukes them for.
Instead of coming together with a common meal in which all shared together...
And you have to understand that in the church at Corinth, just like most churches...
There were some people that had well to do means and there were some people that were very poor.
And when it came time for this potluck supper, when it came time to share this common love meal...
Obviously those who had greater wealth would bring greater amounts of food.
And those who were the poor members of the church, they looked forward to this...
Because this was one of the best meals they had.
And so here would come the rich bringing a real bounty of food...
And here would come the poor bringing just a meager bit.
But they would spread it all and share it all together in love.
Thatís why it was called a love feast.
And then after that theyíd have the Lordís Supper.
This may seem strange to us today because we simply take of a bread crumb and a little grape juice.
Thatís how we celebrate the Lordís Supper.
But there are some things that speak very directly to the churches today.
Because in Corinth something had begun to happen.
They became a divided church.
Weíve already seen some of the divisions.
They were divided over preachers.
Some said, "We like Paul".
Some said, "We like Apollos."
Some said, "We like Peter."
Some said, "We donít like preachers at all."
And then there were some, they were divided legally.
They were suing one another in courts.
And so they began to polarize themselves into factions.
And this group wanted to be over here, and this group wanted to be over there.
But not only were they divided over preachers and legal issues...
They were divided over spiritual gifts.
So they began to divide when they ate over spiritual gifts.
But primarily the thing that shocked Paul more than any was they began to divide economically.
They had "cliques".
And so the rich folks, they began to gather over here.
The poor began to gather over there.
And so what happened was, when they came together for this common meal...
Here were all the rich folks over here who had brought their bounty...
And instead of sharing it with the whole church, they just kept it over here and they were gorging themselves.
They were drinking to the point of getting drunk right there at a church supper.
And the poor over here at the same time, they were going away hungry.
They didnít have anything.
There were divisions and cliques.
And then instead of all coming together to observe the Lordís Supper...
They were observing it in these little groups.
This group had theirs over here, and this group had theirs over there, and this group had theirs.
And the end result was, Paul said in verse 20: when you come together, it is not the Lordís Supper you eat.
He said: what you have done is you have taken the Lordís Supper and done it in such a way that itís not the Lordís Supper at all.
As a matter of fact, he levies two charges against them.
Look in verse 22: What? Donít you have homes to eat and drink it, or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?
Paul says you are doing two things.
#1 Ė he said, "By the way youíre acting when you eat your meal and then try to observe the Lordís Supper"...
He said, "You are showing a despicable attitude toward the church of God."
What is the church of God?
Itís not a building...itís not pews...itís not stained glass.
The church of God is born again people.
And when I separate myself from some of them and meet with my little group and my little faction...
To the neglect of the rest, he said, "I am showing that I despise the church of God."
And thatís a serious, serious thing for a Christian to do.
You despise the church of God.
>And secondly he says, "You are bringing shame upon those who have not."
Youíre bringing shame upon the poor in the church that that should never be.
Folks should not come to church and then go away feeling bad because of what they donít have.
Folks ought to come to church and feel the warmth and love and respect...
Of other brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of wealth or rank or station in life.
There are no big Iís and little meís.
Weíre all brothers and sisters in the family of God...
And no one is more highly thought of than any other by the Lord Jesus Christ.
He loves all of his children, and thatís important.
And so Paul says, "I donít praise you at all. I donít praise you."
In other words, he says, "I have nothing good to say about you when it comes to the way you observe the Lordís Supper."
He says, "I rebuke you for it."
He rebukes them for their practices at the Lordís Supper.
>But notice the second thing he says.
Not only does he rebuke them for their practices at the supper...
He reminds them of the purposes of the Lordís Supper.
Look in verse 23. He says: For I have received from the Lord what I also passed on to you.
Now what does that mean?
Why didnít Paul just read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?
Why did he have to get a direct revelation from the Lord?
Because Matthew, Mark, Luke and John had not been written.
>You see some people think that the Bible is given to us in the order in which it was written, but itís not.
For example, you go back to the Old Testament, the first book in the Bible is the book of Genesis.
And some say, "Well that must be the first book of the Bible written." No.
The first book of the Bible that was ever written was the book of Job.
It is unquestionably the oldest book in the Bible.
Well why is it not listed first?
Because the Bible is not arranged chronologically.
The Bible is arranged topically.
And the book of Genesis deals with the beginning, and it just makes sense to God.
It makes sense to me that you put that first.
And when you come to the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not written first...
But theyíre placed first because they introduce the person of Jesus Christ.
They are the gospels.
They look at Jesus.
They look at him sometimes from the same point of view.
At times they look at him from different points of view.
But all four of the gospels are basically a presentation of the person and the life and the ministry of Jesus Christ.
But the book of I Corinthians was written probably before any of the gospels.
Unquestionably it was written before Mark was written and Luke and John were written.
The only debate is whether or not Matthew was written first.
And if it was, it was so close to the time Paul wouldnít have read it anyway.
So Paul says, "I have received direct revelation from Jesus Christ concerning how the Lordís Supper came to be."
And he says this is how it happened in verse 23....read.
>And so he fixes it to a point of history.
The Lordís Supper is not something out of mythology.
Itís not something out of Grimmís Fairy Tales or Aesopís Fables.
It is fixed to a time in history.
On the same night Jesus was betrayed by Judas, on that same night he instituted the Lordís Supper.
And the Bible says in verses 24-26...
>Now what was the purpose of the Lordís Supper?
There were two of them.
#1 Ė to magnify the cross of Jesus Christ.
You do this, he said to "proclaim the Lordís death."
Friends, you and I need to never forget that we are what we are because of the blood of Jesus.
Today before we celebrate the Lordís Supper, weíre going to think about his precious blood.
But the Bible makes it very clear that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.
You are not saved because one day you got up and decided to turn over a new leaf.
Youíre not saved because one day you walked down an aisle and filled out a card...
Shook a preacherís had and got baptized.
Youíre not saved because you decided one day you wanted to do better.
Youíre saved because of the blood of Jesus that was shed upon the cross...
And the purpose of the Lordís Supper is to make much of the cross of Jesus Christ.
It points us back to his atoning death, when he as the innocent, sinless Son of God...
Gave his life on the cross for the sin of the world.
Jesus died...we must never forget that.
Jesus died on the cross for our sin.
Thatís the heart of our faith...
A Savior that was slain from the foundation of the world...
A Savior who gave his life a ransom that we might be saved.
>But there was a second purpose of the Lordís Supper and you never hear this.
The first purpose of the Lordís Supper was to magnify the cross.
The second purpose of the Lordís Supper was to strengthen the church.
Go back to verse 17...
In other words, what is Paul saying?
Paul is saying that when you come together as a family of God and observe the Lordís Supper...
You ought to be better when you leave.
And the word "good" there has the idea of "strengthening".
Thereís something about the family of God observing the Lordís Supper together that strengthens the church.
But Paul says, "Thatís not happening in Corinth...
Youíre not strengthened after you observe the Lordís Supper."
As a matter of fact he says, "You are weaker".
You are worse off.
Rather than leaving better than you came, you leave worse than you came.
There has been harm done, and thatís not what the Lordís Supper is supposed to do.
The Lordís Supper is supposed to strengthen the church.
>Now how often do you take the Lordís Supper?
The Bible doesnít say...it never says.
Some take it every week...some every month...some once a quarter.
Some tie it to American holidays.
Some want to take it on July the 4th and Memorial Day.
It has nothing to do with that.
It is closely associated with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
Thatís why we always take it around Easter.
But we do not take it in association with earthly holidays.
We take it as a family of God remembering the death of Jesus...
And understanding that there is a strengthening that comes to the church.
>Now understand this.
The Lordís Supper can only magnify the cross and strengthen the church...
When certain criteria are met.
And thatís what the problem was in Corinth.
They were taking what they said was the Lordís Supper...
But the cross was not being magnified and the church was not being strengthened...
And he tells them why.
So we can learn from their mistakes what it takes to make the Lordís Supper magnify the cross...
And strengthen the church.
>Now letís look at it.
First of all, he says if youíre going to strengthen the church and magnify the cross when you take the Lordís Supper...
You must take it out of grateful, thankful hearts.
Look there in verse 24.
Paul says now this is what Jesus did, "And when he had given thanks".
When we gather weíre going to hear some of the sweetest music this side of heaven.
And then thankfully weíre going to take the Lordís Supper.
Weíre not thankful for that little bit of Welchís grape juice and that little bit of unleavened cracker.
Thatís not what weíre thankful for.
Weíre thankful for what it represents.
Weíre thankful for the body of Christ.
Weíre thankful for the blood of Christ.
And Paul says if youíre going to magnify the cross and if youíre going to receive strengthening as a church...
When you observe the Lordís Supper, you must observe it thankfully.
>Secondly he says you are to observe it obediently.
Look what he says there in verse 24.
And then look in verse 25...
Did you know that little expression, "do this" is a command?
In other words, when you say, "Well I just donít like to take the Lordís Supper...
So I donít go to church when they have the Lordís Supper because I donít like to do that."
You are living in disobedience to God.
It is a command not of Paul, it is a command of Jesus Christ...
That Christians observe the Lordís Supper.
Jesus said, "Do this".
And so when we take the Lordís Supper we are going to take it thankfully...
But we are also going to take it obediently.
Weíre not doing it because Bro. Joe says do it.
Weíre not doing it because Baptists say do it.
Weíre not doing it because deacons say do it.
Weíre doing it because Jesus said, "do this".
>#3 Ė if itís going to honor the cross and if itís going to strengthen the church...
Not only must it be taken thankfully and obediently, it must be taken reverently.
He said, "This do in remembrance."
Now folks, there are a lot of places where we Christians can have fun and games, amen?
I mean there are a lot of times when we just party at the house of God.
But I want to tell you, itís never at the foot of the cross.
The foot of the cross is not a party place.
Itís a reverent place.
Man, I like to go to Sunday school fellowships where they have supper.
I mean they can have catfish or barbecue or chicken or steak, whatever it is, Iíll eat it.
I like it...I love fellowship.
I love to be with Godís people.
I love to laugh...I love all that stuff.
But I tell you, when you come to the foot of the cross there is a reverence about the service.
Jesus said, "This do in remembrance."
>Iím remembering two tree trunks that were cross tied together.
Iím remembering spikes that were driven into hands and feet.
Iím remembering a spear that was thrust into a holy side.
Iím remembering a crown of thorns that was pushed down upon a holy brow.
Iím remembering the lashes of the whip on his back.
Iím remembering the chunks of beard being pulled from his face.
Iím remembering the spittle that was hurled in his face.
Iím remembering his death.
So we observe his supper reverently.
>But also, not only do we observe the Lordís Supper thankfully and obediently and reverently...
We do it in unity.
He says, "Do this" as a family.
Not one little group over here...and over there...
But "do this" as a family.
We do it in unity.
Iím not to take the Lordís Supper if I have hatred in my heart for a brother or sister in Christ.
If thereís something wrong in a relationship between me and a brother Iím not to take the supper.
Jesus said if you come to the altar bringing a gift and you recognize that your brother hath ought against you...
Leave your offering.
Go back and make things right and then come to the altar.
You see, friend, I cannot be right with God vertically if I am not right with man horizontally.
There are both dimensions in the Christian faith and one overwhelms the other in both directions.
If Iím right with God, then Iím right with man.
If Iím not right with man, then Iím not right with God.
And so for the Lordís Supper to strengthen the church and magnify the cross...
It must be done in unity.
>But one last thing.
It must be done expectantly.
Look what he says there in verse 26.
Until he comes.
Folks, one day Jesus is coming.
The last glimpse the world had of him he was on a cross.
The only people that saw him after his resurrection were saved people.
Lost people did not see the risen Lord.
The last glimpse the unbelieving world had of him was when he was nailed to a cross.
But I want to tell you, one day every eye shall behold him.
Every knee shall bow.
Every tongue shall confess he is Lord to the glory of the Father.
Oh, one day heís coming.
>And so when we observe the Lordís Supper we look back to the past and remember his death.
But when we observe the Lordís Supper weíre looking forward to the fact that Jesus is coming.
Every time I drink the juice, every time I eat the bread...
Every time we celebrate the supper is bearing witness that this Jesus who died on the cross...
He did not stay dead.
But he conquered sin, hell, death, and the grave, and he arose and ascended into glory.
But one day that same Jesus is coming again.
Thatís the purpose of the Lordís Supper.
>And then one last thing and Iím through.
Paul not only rebukes them for their practices at the supper...
And he reminds them of the purpose of the supper...
But also reveals to them the punishment for abusing the Lordís Supper.
We donít want to think about this, but we have to because itís in the Bible.
Look in verses 27-31.
>I found it very interesting Paul didnít say that about women being covered in church.
He didnít say because of this many are weak and sickly and dead.
Paul didnít even say that about suing one another in court.
He didnít even say that about being divided over preachers.
He doesnít even say that about fussing about spiritual gifts.
But he said if you abuse the Lordís table, if you abuse the Lordís table there is punishment.
And he said, "In Corinth youíve been abusing the Lordís table."
And because of that, there are some that are weak.
>Whatís the purpose of the Lordís Supper?
To make the church strong.
But if the Lordís table is abused, theyíre weak.
He said, "A lot of you are weak", and he said, "some of you are sick."
I wonder how many doctor bills are being paid by Christians who have abused the Lordís table.
Many are sick and many are dead.
God says thereís a death penalty that comes.
"Oh, then I know Iím not gonna take the Lordís supper."
Jesus said, "Do this", so if you donít take it, the same penalty comes.
"Well, Bro. Joe, I donít know what to do."
>Well, the best thing to do is to get right with God, amen?
He says examine yourself...look on the inside.
Thatís not what we like to do.
We like to examine others.
>"Boy I tell you, I know you, you sorry, low-down good for nothing."
>No, he said, "examine yourself".
He said if you donít youíll be guilty of the blood and the body of Christ.
What does that mean?
It means you treat it irreverently.
>Boy, hereís a verse that scares folks.
Look in verse 29...
>He says, "For if we would judge ourselves."
What does he mean?
He means examine ourselves.
If we would look in ourselves and when we find things that are not right...
If we would judge them and get right with God...
"If we would judge ourselves", he says in verse 31, "we would not be judged of the Lord."
If we take care of our own discipline, he doesnít have to discipline us.
Verse 32: but when we are judged by him, we are being disciplined.
>What does that mean?
It means that even the discipline of God is a measure of grace.
When you spank your children, is it not because you love them?
When God spanks his children, itís because he loves them.
Itís not because heís mean and hateful and terrible.
Itís because heís merciful and loving and gracious.
The discipline of God is a sign of his gracious love for us.
>And so God says youíre going to be taking the Lordís Supper.
Are you going to take it thankfully?
If not, become thankful.
Are you going to take it reverently?
If not, become reverent.
Are you going to take it obediently?
If not, become obedient.
Are you going to take it in unity?
If not, get together.
Are you going to take it in faith anticipating the coming of the Lord?
If not, then begin looking forward to the coming of the Lord.
He said, because if you take it flippantly, insincerely, then you bring about his judgment...
His discipline upon you.
So examine yourselves.
>The last thing he says is, take it together as a family.
That means donít think you can stay home and get you some grape juice and crackers...
And have it as a family there at your house.
Thatís not the purpose of the Lordís Supper.
Just like you canít baptize somebody at home in your swimming pool...
You canít take the Lordís Supper at your house, either.
He says there in verse 33...
In other words, wait until the family assembles and observe it.
>Magnify the cross.
Have you ever been to the cross?
Have you ever been saved by the grace of God?
Have you ever been saved?
I didnít ask you if youíd joined the church and been baptized and taken the Lordís Supper and all that...
Iím asking you, have you ever been saved?
I want to tell you folks, thereís not anything I know of any better than getting saved.
Boy it changed my life.
I gave my heart to the Lord and I was different.
Iíve never been the same.
It doesnít mean Iím perfect.
Iíve probably already done enough this morning to go to hell for.
Weíre not perfect people.
But have you ever experienced the salvation of God?
A lot of folks join churches who never experience that.
A lot of folks die going out into eternity who have never experienced salvation.
And only the saved are those that go to heaven.
Have you ever been saved?
If not, you can be saved today.