Monday, November 05, 2007

Is Christ Divided? session 14

Catching up on these. 1 Corinthians 11.17-end

Is Christ Divided?
Notes for the house groups on 1 Corinthians.
Week fourteen, beginning Sunday 5 October: 1 Corinthians 11.17-end

Main theme: How to share communion

Questions to prompt discussion

1.What sort of meal is Paul describing in this passage? What resemblance does it have to our 'Holy Communion' service? Are any differences a spiritual problem? Or is our present practice a logical consequence of Paul's argument (ponder especially v34)?
2.What is Paul criticising the Corinthians for? What are the ways in which people do similar things today?
3.What does it mean to eat or drink 'in an unworthy manner'? What does it mean not to recognise the body of the Lord in the bread and wine?

Supplementary thoughts:
Corinthian society, as already discussed in previous weeks, was highly stratified. What appears to be happening is that, in line with social customs at the time, some of the wealthier members of the church were 'hosting' a Lord's supper which was reinforcing the existing social divisions (possibly by having a separate room in which to eat, as well as higher quality food and drink). For Paul this is wholly opposed to the nature of koinonia.

This passage is the earliest account of the Lord's supper that we possess. It might be worthwhile comparing the accounts here with those in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke - John doesn't relate the episode in the same way). There are various ways in which Paul emphasises the importance of the rite - doing it wrongly causes more harm than good (v17), leading to physical sickness and death (v30) and placing the eternal destiny of the soul in jeopardy (v27-32) by becoming guilty of Christ's execution (v27).

Notes on verses
v19 - this may be an ironic or sarcastic statement on Paul's part
v 20 - 'the meal relating to the Lord'
v28 - may be specific to the faults being described (ie not a call for general confession)
v29 - "the body of Christ" can refer to both the consecrated elements of bread and wine and to the gathering of believers; in this context it is likely to be more the latter which Paul has in mind
v33 - 'wait for each other' may be better translated in terms of looking after each other as honoured guests rather than specifically being time-centred, ie treat each other well.

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