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Communion in Corinth (Part 1)


The relating of the last supper of the lord Jesus with his disciples in the eleventh chapter of I Corinthians is probably the first written account of this event, recorded years before any of the gospel records could be read. It gives a glimpse of what was practiced among Christians during the first century, and it emphasizes important truths to be considered.

Understanding Paul’s Christ-centered heart for the Corinthian believers and the situations of concern at Corinth can help one to perceive the solemn warnings regarding the partaking of the bread and the cup in I Corinthians, chapter 11.

Corinth was one of the places where Paul stayed longest, for eighteen months. While there (as related in Acts 18: 9, 10 NLT), he had responded to a vision in which the Lord said, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will harm you because many people in this city belong to me.” The intense, loving care between Paul and these believers with whom he had spent a considerable length of time is evident throughout the letters to the Corinthians.

I Corinthians 4: 14 NASB
I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.

Paul was like a father to these people whom he had tenderly raised in the nurture of the gospel, despite his extreme sufferings before, during, and after his initial stay at Corinth.

II Corinthians 2: 4 NASB
For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears, not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.

Paul addressed quite a few issues with this Christian congregation among which he had spent so much time. The church at Corinth was torn with divisions and carnal pride regarding the leadership of men. Paul reminded them that he had not, in their presence, tried to impress them with the type of earthly wisdom that would be regarded as impressive in Greek culture. The gospel had been presented to them in a forthright way, accompanied with powerful, spiritual evidence. As long as people were combative and worldly, striving about a twisted exaltation over the status of men, they could not enjoy the freedom of living as spiritual people. Paul carefully reminded them of certain priorities: Christ being the only foundation, servants being stewards in their roles of ‘sowing seeds” or “watering” (not being “foundations” for human bragging, etc.), and the importance of staying humble with a non-judgmental attitude.

Paul addressed several practical matters that stemmed from spiritual blindness rooted in the divisive, arrogant attitudes that had cropped up at Corinth: the church’s failure to deal properly with a case of extreme sexual immorality, the practice among believers of having lawsuits before unrighteous, unbelieving judges, the zealous misuse of spiritual manifestations, confusing assertions about the future resurrection of believers, and other points, including customs about veil wearing and hair length. Paul also answered their questions about marriage and discussed at length the issue of eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols.

In the middle of such reproofs, instructions, and exhortations, Paul expressed a strong rebuke for what occurred when the Corinthian believers ate together. The “love feasts” or agapes (Jude 12) at Corinth were far from the demonstration of loving Christian unity that should have been practiced. Paul could not commend the lack of reverence toward God and disregard for others that was being carelessly displayed. …to be continued.

5 Responses to “Communion in Corinth (Part 1)”

  1. on 24 Mar 2007 at 6:27 pmJohnO

    I find it interesting that Paul said to be mindful of those whom you eat the Lord’s supper with. I find it to be in stark contrast to contemporary christianity’s blaise attitude.

  2. on 25 Mar 2007 at 12:22 amWolfgang

    Does anyone know why *agape* is even translated “love feasts [feasts of charity]” in Jude 12? how can it be established that these are a reference to the “lord’s supper”? I know that many commentaries and preachers link the two as if one term was a synonym for the other … BUT is what is propounded by the majority of theologians and commentators true? why is the word *agape* in Jude 12 not simply translated “love” as in basically all other places, seeing that there is apparently no term for “feasts” in the text?

  3. on 25 Mar 2007 at 5:06 pmMary Ann

    I found a note in Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament pg 4, that states (about the 3 words translated ‘your love feasts’) “feasts expressing and fostering mutual love which used to be held by Christians before the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and at which the poorer Christians mingled with the wealthier and partook in common with the rest of food provided at the expense of the wealthy.”

    In 2 Peter 2: 13 “love feasts” is mentioned also, but it is not the same Greek words as in Jude 12. What I Cor 11:17ff may be referring to could be these feasts before the communion or community suppers that were out of order.

    Paul specifically states that they do not come together to eat the Lord’s Supper. Then he goes on to establish in writing what Christ said at his last supper with the disciples. This distinguishing may be to set in contrast the lustful and selfish feedbag and drinking fest they were having with the heart of love and respect we are to have for what Christ accomplished.

    John, I am not sure what you are referring to, what verses?

  4. on 25 Mar 2007 at 10:43 pmJohnO

    v29 – For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.

    In a previous reading, I had associated “body” with the church. But the immediate context might not support that understanding.

  5. on 26 Mar 2007 at 1:41 pmKen

    This “body” of v.29 does refer to the church. How this relates to truths in chapters 10 and 11 is something further “parts” of this article will address.
    Mary Ann
    Great sharing about the feasts and their possible relation to celebrating the Lord’s supper.


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