the weblog of Alan Knox

A Spiritual Remembrance

Posted by on Jan 24, 2008 in books, community, fellowship, ordinances/sacraments | 12 comments

For “fun reading” before the start of the semester, I’ve been reading Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper, edited by John H. Armstrong. So far, I have only read Armstrong’s introduction. I have not read any of the four views yet.

On section of the introduction is called “A Spiritual Remembrance”. In this section, Armstrong discusses 1 Corinthians 11:28-32:

Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 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. (1 Corinthians 11:28-32 ESV)

Armstrong says:

The context of this counsel, often misunderstood by modern Christians who fear that they have committed a particular sin that must keep them from coming to the Lord’s Table, is about the unity of the church (see 1 Cor. 10:17; 11:21). The great sin in Corinth was the way the church humiliated the poor in their midst. Well-off Corinthians appear to have prevented the less fortunate from celebrating the various feasts. This problem carried over into the Lord’s Supper context. Their behavior was utterly selfish and a scandalous contradiction of the meaning of this meal. This action equates to what Paul calls “despising” the church of God in 1 Corinthians 11:22. What this underscores is not personal sin but actions and attitudes that would keep a person from fellowship with all the members of the congregation. This meal is a fellowship – with Christ and one another. It is a meal of peace; thus, to refuse to be at peace with our brothers and sisters is to eat and drink “judgment” on ourselves. Given the fact that schism and pride plague every congregation on earth, the Lord’s Supper is an appointed time for reconciliation and renewed fellowship. Here God’s grace is given to heal and to unite us again to our Lord and to each other.

Ben Witherington covers many of these same points in his book Making a Meal of It.

I agree with Armstrong and Witherington in this respect. The “examining” related to the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11 is an examination of our relationship with other brothers and sisters in Christ. This is not “navel gazing” to determine if there is any sin in us – there is. However, if this sin causes disruptions in fellowship between us and other believers, then we need to correct this – to restore those relationships. This is an opportunity to both ask for forgiveness and to offer grace to others – to reject pride and to demonstrate humility by preferring others above ourselves.

But, it is at this point that we need to be careful. It is easy to assume that the “relationships” that need to be restored are limited to the relationships that we have with our close friends. But, what about our neighbors and coworkers and family members? What about the people who meet together down the street or across town? What about the church that does things a little different than us? What about that group that is more organized or less organized that we are? How are our relationships with them?

Remember that we are brothers and sisters with all of those who are in Christ – not just those who believe and act like us. If we maintain relationships with only those who believe and act like us, then we are guilty of the very sectarianism that Paul rejects. If we refuse to related with or if we ignore those brothers and sisters in Christ who believe or act differently than us, then we are guilty of creating schisms – which Scripture calls heresy.

As we prepare to eat the bread and drink the cup let’s consider the relationships with all brothers and sisters in Christ whom God has brought into our lives – not just those who are sitting around the table with us at that moment. If our brother has something against us, then let’s work to restore that relationship. If we have something against our sister, then let’s work to restore that relationship. And, let’s allow the one loaf and the one cup to be a reminder of the unity that we have in Christ together with all of God’s children.


12 Comments

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  1. 1-24-2008

    Excellent post on this topic.
    I look forward when we take the Lord’s Supper. I love the book by William Willimon on communion. It is a fresh look at the meal and is excellent when guiding the congregation in moditation before the meal.
    I believe that the major focus of the service needs to be on the Supper. The Lord’s Supper draws us into a deeper relationship not only with the Almighty but with eathother.
    I want to thank you for this important topic.
    In Him,
    Kinney Mabry

  2. 1-24-2008

    Kinney,

    Thank you for the comment. It seems that the church in the NT placed much more emphasis on the Supper than we usually do. I think we’re missing something by minimizing the Supper to a wafer and sip of juice at the end of a meeting.

    -Alan

  3. 1-25-2008

    Alan:

    This doesn’t really have anything to do with this particular post, but I found something that I thought you might be interested in:
    http://livegenerously.vox.com/

    His two latest post deal with sermons. In a nutshell, he questions whether one guy getting up and preaching to the crowd is really the best way to do things. Seemed like it was right up your alley.

  4. 1-26-2008

    Rhea,

    Thank you for the link info. I’ve read Doug Pagitt’s book that is mentioned in the blog. I think Pagitt has some valid points. What do you think?

    -Alan

  5. 1-26-2008

    Alan:

    At the moment, I’m not quite sure WHAT to think. I feel as if some of the stuff that he has to say is such a 180 from what I’ve been taught regarding ministry. I’ve always been given this idea that PowerPoint is great; it’s supposed to be this great way to help people follow along. Then I read about research saying basically the opposite…it makes me start to think if there are other things that I’ve been taught that maybe aren’t true. Even though I don’t think that the issue is so much PowerPoint, as it rethinking the way we do church, just that one example gets me wondering if perhaps some of the things that we do to try to be “relevant and hip” are actually HINDERING others, instead of helping them.

    Even before I read the most recent post on the blog, I had begun to question the idea of “practical sermons.” I started to really think about how so many churches make a big deal of how they have practical sermons. Would it not simple be better to perhaps go through the Bible chapter by chapter, and verse by verse, and simply preach the word of God? I don’t mean that someone simply stands up and reads the Bible to everyone, but someone could stand up and preach straight from the Word, and then expand upon it…explain it more…the context of the verses and such. To me that makes more sense then having a sermon on “The 3 Leadership Secrets of the Bible” and pulling scripture from 20 different places in the Bible to support your viewpoint. Now, I don’t mean that ALL practical sermons are bad…I think that there is a time and place for them. For example, a practical sermon on fasting would be very helpful, IMO, b/c fasting is simply something that we don’t do (for the most part) in American culture. People would really need to be taught about it. So while the occasional practical sermon is probably good, I don’t think that 50 out of the 52 weeks in a year should be like that.

  6. 1-26-2008

    Rhea,

    I think that teaching through books of the Bible is very beneficial, especially in understanding the context. However, Pagitt’s book is not so much about that type of teaching. Its about the difference between one person having the responsibility of studying and pouring out all of his or her knowledge (what Pagitt calls “speaching”), and all believers taking responsibility to study and present what God has taught them (what Pagitt calls “progressive dialog”).

    -Alan

  7. 1-27-2008

    Alan,

    I am curious, in the context of this post, regarding your opinion on the meaning of the phrase:

    “discerning the Lord’s body” (KJV)
    “recognizing the body of the Lord” (NIV)
    “judge the body rightly” (NASB)
    “understand that you are the body of the Lord” (CEV)

    in 1 Cor. 11:29.

    Do you think it refers to the physical body of Jesus, or to the Church, the mystical body, or both?

  8. 1-27-2008

    David,

    Good question. I think that “body” in 1 Cor. 11:29 references the church.

    -Alan

  9. 1-29-2008

    Alan,

    This is food for the soul. Good post. I’m always relieved when I find out I’m not the only one who thinks this way. The fellowship meal as the culmination of the service is such a beautiful picture of the gospel. Thomas Watson put it this way; ” A sacrament is a visible sermon. And herein the sacrament excels the Word preached. The Word is a trumpet to proclaim Christ, the sacrament is a glass to represent Him……Things taken in by the eye to work upon us more than things taken in by the ear……So when we see Christ broken in the bread, and as it were crucified before us, this does more affect our hearts than the bare preaching of the cross.”

    Minimizing the Lord’s Supper to a cracker and cup of juice at the end of the meeting, and this once a month or once a quarter, shows that the church has lost the true meaning of what the Supper (feast) is truly meant to be.

    With what was said in the post, what do you think are the implications for fellowships who will not allow other believers to partake of the table with them? For instance, a Baptist fellowship that makes it a “rule” that visiting Presbyterians are excluded from the table. OR any fellowship that makes it a “rule” that only “members” of our congregation can take the table here? It seems to me that this practise stands in contradiction to the gospel and is exactly what Paul is arguing against in 1 Corinthians and in Galatians. What are your thoughts?

    Jon L

  10. 1-29-2008

    Jon,

    What are the implications for not allowing other believers to partake of the Supper with us? I think we find ourselves guilty of the very divisiveness that Paul warns against in 1 Cor 11, when we talks about the Lord’s Supper. In trying to protect the table, we refuse to accept and love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    -Alan

  11. 7-17-2012

    The word ‘remember’seems to explain the communion table.
    Jesus told us that his body was broken for us, and that by eating the symbolic bread and taking the cup together, we ‘un break’ Him, or as the word indicates, re-member Him.
    We are His body parts or members, joined in Him.
    He is not together unless we are, in the unity and love that you described Alan.
    So, remembering Him is both recalling His sacrifice for us, but equally it is also the faith act of putting Him back together again, as his many membered body.
    Ergo, we must be careful to partake of this symbol as a deliberate statement to all that there is not another member anywhere, or at any time with whom we are not fully accepting in Christ and would lay down our life for, as Jesus did for us.
    Our confession must match our life in this fundamental regard.
    That is properly discerning the body of Christ.
    Jesus holds this love and faith act as so central to the proper presentation of His gospel that he instructed Paul to warn everyone that not envisioning and embracing any and all brethren is to invite weakness, sickness and death upon ourselves.
    We put Jesus back together again by loving one another in our daily lives together. This includes not harming one another, as well as caring for one another as we would our new bride or infant child.
    The communion meal together is nothing more than an outward celebration of that reality, if in fact we live that way daily.
    If we don’t, and/or don’t strive to follow Him in living that way daily we should not make a false statement by partaking of the cup.
    Its a life changing beautiful earthly image of the communion shared by Father, Son and Holy Spirit, into which we are invited.
    Awesome, humbling love!
    blessings
    Greg

  12. 7-17-2012

    Greg,

    Yes. I think many people miss the fact that the problem with the Corinthians’ meal was not in the meal itself, but in the way they were treating one another.

    -Alan