Communal Fellowship 1 Corinthians 11:17-34


     

           If you are a parent or grandparent of a child under the age of 10, you have most likely memorized the lyrics to every song on the new Disney picture Frozen.  The movie has taken the country by storm.  The title track of the movie, “Let It Go”, which recently won an Oscar for Best Original Song, captures the freedom of  individualism.  In the middle of the song, Elsa, the Ice Queen, sings,

It’s time to see what I can do / To test the limits and break through / No right, no wrong, no rules for me, / I’m free!
Let it go, let it go / I am one with the wind and sky / Let it go, let it go / You’ll never see my cry / Here I stand / And here I’ll stay / Let the storm rage on

The song is sung in defiance to the world’s judgment and condemnation of her individuality.  She is going to let go of the world’s opinions and live for herself.  As she says, “No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free!” Although the song is musically excellent and deserving of an Oscar, its emphasis in highlighting individual freedom is debunked with the plot of the rest of the movie. True freedom is never living for self, in a kingdom of isolation, but living for the benefit of others.  The movie goes on to highlight that true love is where one sacrifices one’s self for the sake of others.  Elsa is not the heroine of the story, but her sister Anna, who was willing to lay down her life for her sister. One sister runs free and ends up “a prisoner of isolation” while the other sister dies to self and demonstrates true love. 
      The promise that individualism brings freedom is a lie.  Jesus Christ did not come to die so that we could be free to serve our own individual desires, but he came to die so that we could be free to serve Him.  2 Corinthians 5:14-15,
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
 Jesus came to destroy our desire to live for ourselves so that we could live for Him who for our sake died and was raised.  Jesus modeled for us the life he is calling us to live in laying down his life so we also should lay down our our lives for the sake of our brothers and sisters. As Jesus died for others, we are called to die to ourselves and live for others.  This is why the Lord’s Supper is so important.  The Lord’s Supper gives us a regular opportunity for us to reaffirm our love for one another and our willingness to put the community before self. 
      Today, we finish our series on the Church with an opportunity to recommit our lives to one another by remembering, reflecting and rejoicing in the sweet gift of communal fellowship.  We are going to look at three aspects of communion that, when rightly understand, should help to purify our community and strengthen our bond with one another.  First,

The Importance of Regular Communal Fellowship

            Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper in his celebrating the last Passover with his disciples.  He said in Luke 22:19,
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
Before he was crucified, Jesus helped his disciples understand his crucifixion with symbols of bread and wine.  The bread was a symbol of his body being broken as he would bear the sins of the world in his body on a tree.  His body was broken for the sins of the world, but Jesus says it was an act of love for he said, “This is my body, given for you.” That Jesus gave himself for us in love and regular communion should be a reminder to us to give ourselves for each other.
            Communion is important because it gives us a visible aid to help us remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Paul writes in verse 23,
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.
The mental activity that we should be embracing during Lord’s Supper is to remember Jesus Christ.  We remember what Jesus Christ has done for us in his life, death and resurrection. We remember that we were dead in our transgressions and sins.  We remember that we had no hope. We remember that were alienated from God.  And we remember that we are now reconciled by Christ’s physical body through death. We remember that we have been declared holy and without blemish and free from accusation.  We remember that we have been qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of life. We remember that we are new creations in Christ Jesus. We remember that one day God is going to transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body. Oh Beloved, we remember. How much different would our community be if we were regularly remembering how Christ gave himself for us, washing us with his blood?
            And Paul says that we should be regularly taking communion together. Listen to how often Paul references coming together: verse 17,” in your meetings”, verse 18,” I hear that when you come together as a church”, verse 20, “when you come together”, verse 33, “when you come together to eat”, verse 34, “when you meet together”.  Do you hear it? The Lord’s Supper is for when we gather as a church. It is not when we come to church, but when we gather as a church. We are the church.  The Lord’s Supper is given to us to unite us together in Christ.  This is the place where we put our differences and our selfishness aside to come together to participate in the body and blood of Christ, together as a church.  Listen to 1 Corinthians 10:14,
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
 Hear the unity.  We, who are many, are one body.
            Beloved, is there any division among us?  Are you harboring bitterness towards another member in our fellowship? Are you refusing forgiveness?  The table of our Lord is one of fellowship and unity.  Be reconciled to your brothers and sisters in Christ.  If you are going to be the kind of church that reflects our Triune God, then we must be a church that is united.  Regular communion should turn us from our individual pursuits and remind us that we, who are many, are one body.
The Influence of Real Communal Fellowship
            The regular practice of communion is important because reminds us to live differently.  Communion also practically influences our hearts to love our brothers and sisters in a real way. Deadlines serve me.  It is easy for me to put things off indefinitely unless I have a deadline.  For example, sometimes it can be difficult to complete the article for the Forerunner, but I know I must complete the article by the middle of the week so it can be folded and mailed.  I have a deadline and that deadline serves me in completing my work.  When we have deadlines, we know that we have to get things done by a specific time.  Deadlines serve us, but we usually do not set up rational deadlines.  I always attempt to give several weeks of notice before we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  I do this very intentionally because I want to give you a deadline to prepare yourself before you come to the table.  I want you to get right with God and to get right with your brothers and sisters.  Communion is opportunity for you to repent of personal and private sins as well as corporate and relational sins.  Communion helps you get out of the world of “good intentions” and actually forces you to be intentional in your repentance.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:23-24,
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Jesus wants us to make sure we are restored to our brother and sister. Lord willing, the regular practice of communion will influence us to be a real community and protect us from harboring bitterness in our hearts against our brothers and sisters in the fellowship.
            Communion also influences our hearts to look ahead to our ultimate victory. Verse 26, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” The Lord’s Supper is God’s Word made visible.  The Lord’s Supper is a proclamation.  Remember Paul is writing to the complacent church at Corinth.  They were a very spiritually gifted church, but they were complacent. They did not fully understand how important their life was as Christ’s gathered church. They were not using communion to influence their hearts towards serving one another, but serving themselves. Paul even said that when they come together it was not the Lord’s Supper they eating, because of the rampant individualism that expressed in their actions.  Paul reminds the church that, “whenever we eat this bread and drink this cup, we are proclaiming the Lord’s death”.  We literally are preaching the Lord’s death. The Lord’s death is referring not only to his death, but his sinless life, atoning death, his resurrection, ascension and return. 
            The Lord’s Supper was an ordinance that was given to the church to realign their focus on the second coming of Christ and to proclaim Jesus Christ to an unbelieving world.  When we come together to eat and drink this cup, we are announcing that we believe in Jesus as our Lord and recommit ourselves to live in light of that truth.  The Lord’s Supper is the gospel message made visible.  The Lord’s Supper also is a proclamation of the Lord’s death until he comes.  “Until he comes” tells the unbelieving world and our own hearts that there is a day coming when our Lord will judge this world.  If you are a not a follower of Jesus, see God’s love for you this day in that He gave his body for you. He died for you. He was raised for you.   In taking the Lord’s Supper, Christians are looking forward to the day when Jesus will come in glory. Jesus is going to judge the living and the dead. Jesus has promised a crown of righteousness, his righteousness, for everyone who loves his appearing on that day.  Come to Christ and receive his sacrifice and resurrection on your behalf, and you will not fear him on that day as a judge, but welcome him as your Lord. 
Believer, in taking the Lord’s Supper, let us take our eyes off of this world, think about the life to come. This world can often overwhelm us and consume our thoughts with its worries and trials, but today we look forward to the day when the Lord will make everything new.  We look forward to hearing that loud voice from the throne saying,
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Rev 21:3-5
In the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim Christ’s death, until he comes so turn from your sin, turn from your worldly earthly pursuits and set your hope fully on that grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Imperative of Responsible Communal Fellowship

The Lord’s Supper is very important.  This table helps us focus our hearts on loving God and loving our neighbor. As we have seen, it is vital for the healthy life of a church.  It is also imperative that we practice responsible communal fellowship.  As we have seen the importance of the Lord’s Supper, let us look at the
imperative of responsible fellowship in the following verses 27-34:

    27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty  of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the  Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment (emphasis added).

We need to approach the Lord’s Supper carefully and introspectively.  The Lord’s Supper is for sinners, but it is for a particular kind of sinner: Repentant Sinners.  We must examine ourselves in light of God’s Word.  Are you struggling with unrepentant sin? Are you willfully harboring anger or bitterness against another member in this church? Are you in willful disobedience to the Lord? Examine yourselves.  For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.  If you are in willful disobedience to the Lord and/or engaging in unrepentant sin, please refrain from taking communion for the sake of your own soul. If you are struggling sin, in a few moments you will have an opportunity to repent and be reconciled to God in the private confession of your sins.  Be reminded of Christ’s love in giving his body to you, broken for your sake, be humble and repent.
In light of our conversation last week, see how the Lord uses the regular participation in communion to discipline his people so that they will not experience further discipline. Again, listen to God’s grace, 29-32 again,
For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world (emphasis added).
So let us examine ourselves. Then we confess our sin to the Lord and we remember that in Christ we are forgiven.  He is faithful and just will forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  We are all in need of grace this morning and we can find it here in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus’s body was given for you.  His blood was spilled for you.  In faith, let us proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Let us proclaim that we are not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for all who believe. 
 If you are a baptized believer and a member in good standing with a church of like faith and order, you are welcome to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Baptism is the immersion of the believer upon the profession of his faith.  If you are visiting today and have never been baptized or are not a member in good standing of a church, we would ask for you to refrain from participating in the Lord’s Supper today.   We are glad that you are here and you are always welcome to fellowship with us. 


Steven Brazzell

Charlotte, NC