Every Christian is familiar with communion. We all sit through it as the elements are being passed around or collected in long lines. We take the stale wafer or bit of cracker and fondle it in our hands waiting for the pastor’s cue. The bit we taste feels like wood scraps. We supplement this with a lukewarm thimble of grape juice, while the pastor repeats the same couple verses. And Christians endure this every month.
Is this Biblical communion? Did God set up this horrid system?
Paul gives modern Christians a good understanding of communion as it was practiced in early Christianity. He does this through criticizing the way communion is being held in a particularly unruly church:
1Co 11:20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.
1Co 11:21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
1Co 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.
Paul here is indicating that there is an abundance of food and alcoholic drink at communion. The communion was a feast, as one would expect of people recreating the last supper. In the text Paul says what the Corinthians were doing it is “not the Lord’s Supper” and he explains why. It is not because they were eating and drinking but it was because they were doing it in a blasphemous and selfish way. Paul continues:
1Co 11:23 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:
1Co 11:24 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.
1Co 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.
1Co 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
1Co 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.
1Co 11:28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
1Co 11:29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
1Co 11:33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
1Co 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.
Paul explains that the purpose of communion was to remember Jesus and his Last Supper. The feast was a side issue. In fact, Paul still assumes that the same amount of food and drink would be available in a proper rendering of the Lord’s Supper. He reinforces this point when he states: “And if any man hunger, let him eat at home”. There would be enough food available to quench hunger.
What modern Churches do is very contrived. They limit costs of communion by making it unrecognizable as communion. Instead of a feast to remember the Last Supper, it becomes a timble and flake of bread. The feast, the brotherly communion, and a picture of Jesus’ last days are all sacrificed in the name of cost.
I did visit one Church which used Pot Luck dinners as their Communion. Perhaps this is a way for churches to remain true to the spirit of the event.
“Paul here is indicating that there is an abundance of food and alcoholic drink at communion. ”
And he is also chiding them for doing it that way. He begins with talking about what they are doing — having a big potluck where some get drink and others go thirsty, etc. — and then straightens them out by telling them what the Lord Jesus actually established on the night that he was betrayed.
“In the text Paul says what the Corinthians were doing it is ‘not the Lord’s Supper'”
In that phrase we have a traditional misinterpretation. Supper of the Lord or Lord’s Supper should be in Greek Deipnon Kuriou or Kuriou Deipnon…..while what we have in this text is Deipnon Kuriakos which properly translates to “Lordly Supper.”
Hence the proper translation is, “When you come together it is not to eat a lordly supper” or in other words, the purpose of coming together is not to eat a big meal (banquet fit for a king, i.e. lordly supper). The purpose is to eat that little piece of bread and that swig of grape juice just as the Lord actually established it on the night in which he was betrayed.
But for some reason modern people are beginning to interpret the whole context BACKWARDS. And one of the reasons, I guess, is the mistranslation of Kuriakos as “Lord’s” rather than “lordly.” It causes quite a bit of confusion.
He reinforces this point when he states: “And if any man hunger, let him eat at home”. There would be enough food available to quench hunger.
So backwards. Obviously there will NOT be enough food to quench hunger, which is why he says “if any man hunger, let him eat at home.” If the church was putting on a big meal sufficient to quench everyone’s hunger, nobody would eat at home except gluttons.
That is an interesting word used for Lord’s Supper. If it does mean “lordly” then you have a great point. But could it mean “pertaining to Christ”? The only other use is in Revelation:
Rev 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
How would you translate that verse?