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A Study of 1 Corinthians 11:23-28

Introduction

A young boy told his Mom he was going to church and stay for the church dinner after the service. But to her surprise he returned right after the morning service was over. "I thought you were going to stay for the church dinner," she told him. The boy replied, "Well, during the service they gave us a sample of what was to come. After seeing that tiny piece of cracker and little glass of grape juice, I figured the rest of the church dinner wouldn’t be worth staying for."

A lot of people are confused about communion. In this section in 1 Corinthians Paul explains to us the meaning behind the Lord’s Supper and how we are to celebrate this important church ordinance. Christians have been celebrating communion in one form or another for the past two thousand years ever since Christ shared the last supper with his disciples. When we participate in the Lord’s Table, we are joining believers from centuries past in communion with our Lord and Savior.

Verse 23

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread.

Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the very night that he was betrayed. After that night, he would not spend any time with his disciples until after the resurrection. So his last action with his disciples was to initiate the communion service. Even though he was being betrayed which would culminate in his crucifixion, his thoughts were toward his followers. Every time we partake of communion, we are commemorating that last Passover supper the disciples had with Jesus. We are affirming his love and mercy toward us which were fulfilled in his sacrifice for us as the Passover lamb.

Verse 24

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."

There are two important teachings about communion in this one verse. First, the bread represents Christ’s body broken for us, and second, we take communion to remember Christ. Jesus said, "this is my body which was given for you." As the Passover lamb which was sacrificed at the very time that Christ was speaking these words, so he was willing to present his body as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. The Passover lamb was symbolic of Christ’s redemption, but the sacrifice had to be renewed each year. Christ’s sacrifice was complete. Once and finally his ultimate sacrifice has freed humanity from the condemnation of their sins. We are set free in Christ because of what he has done for us. Every time you take of the bread offered during communion, think of the sacrifice Christ made for you. And realize that you have been set free from sin and judgement and condemnation.

When we take communion, we do it in remembrance of Jesus. It is easy to allow our mind to think of other things when the bread and wine are being passed out, but we need to focus on Christ. We are doing this ordinance in remembrance of him. He is the reason we can call ourselves Christians, he is the reason we can worship in a Christian church, and he is the reason our name is written on the heavenly book. So when we take communion let us remember Christ and all that he means to us.

Here’s a special communion poem:

In memory of the Saviour’s love,
We keep the sacred feast,
Where every humble, contrite heart
Is made a welcome guest.
By faith we take the Bread of Life
With which our souls are fed,
The Cup in token of His blood
That was for sinners shed.
In faith and memory thus we sing
The wonders of His love,
And thus anticipate by faith
The heavenly feast above.

Verse 25

In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."

The cup represents Christ’s shed blood and the new covenant God has made with humanity. The blood from the Passover lamb was sprinkled on the doorposts of the Hebrews in Egypt. This was symbolic of the fact that God would not bring the judgement on his people which he was bringing to others. In the same way, the blood of Christ has delivered us from judgement. The grape juice represents the new covenant God has made with humanity. When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are no longer under condemnation. We pass from death unto life. We enter into the new covenant with God – a covenant of grace and mercy. Even though we may still fail God from time to time, we are clothed in Christ’s mercy. And as 1 John 1:9 tells us, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." No matter what horrible things you may have done, God will forgive you. No matter how guilty or unworthy you may feel, you are covered by Christ’s atonement. All you have to do is believe on Christ and invite him into your heart.

MacDonald comments, "In connection with the cup, He said that it was the new covenant in His blood. ... It is an unconditional promise by which He agreed to be merciful to their unrighteousness and to remember their sins and iniquities no more."

Verse 26

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Communion is a time of proclaiming the Lord’s death and all that it means to Christians. When we take communion, we are proclaiming the death of Christ, the atonement for our sins, and the resurrection. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we who were dead to sins and trespasses are now resurrected into a new life of joy and peace. Because of his death we have life. Because of his obedience, we are set free. Because of his sacrifice we are forgiven.

Communion is also a time of looking forward to the time when Christ will return. Someday Christ will return to bring peace and prosperity to this earth. Many people are looking for his soon return and are making all kinds of predictions about the new millennium. But we don’t really know when Jesus will return. It may be in our lifetime. It may be in our grandchildren’s lifetime. It may not be for another thousand years. But every time we celebrate communion, this verse tells us to be looking forward to the return of Christ.

The Believer’s Bible Commentary remarks, "In all this instruction concerning the Lord’s Supper it is notable that there is not a word about a minister or priest officiating. It is a simple memorial service left for all the people of God. Christians gather together simply as believer-priests to thus proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes."

Verse 27

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.

Communion is a time for confessing our sins and receiving Christ’s forgiveness. We should not take a cavalier approach to communion. This is a serious, somber time of reflection before our God. Paul says we are not to partake of communion in an unworthy matter. As we enter into communion with Christ, let us not come with sin and guilt weighing heavily upon us. Rather, let us be willing to confess our sins and receive forgiveness. Let us be willing to recommit our lives to Christ every time we take the Lord’s Supper. Let us be willing to let go of all those evil desires which seem to beset us so often. Allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse you and renew you. Allow Christ to have complete control of your life.

MacDonald tells us, "As we come to the Lord’s Supper, we should do so in a judged condition. Sin should be confessed and forsaken; restitution should be made; apologies should be offered to those we have offended. In general we should make sure that we are in a proper state of soul."

Verse 28

Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

Communion is a time to examine ourselves and the work of Christ in our life. Before we take of the bread and wine we are told to examine ourselves. Communion should be a time of spiritual reflection and soul searching. Allow the Holy Spirit to take away all those hindrances and obstacles you have placed in God’s way throughout the week. Allow Jesus to minister his cleansing and healing to your spirit. Allow God to transform your thoughts, your emotions, your desires, and your actions. Let us examine ourselves and be willing to receive from God what he has for us each Sunday morning.

In John chapter 2 is the story of Jesus turning the water into wine. There were six old clay jars full of water. Have you ever thought about those six clay jars? There was nothing important about them – all they did was hold plain water. But Jesus transformed that ordinary, everyday water into new wine – so good that the banquet master said it was the best of the feast. Have you ever considered how in your life Christ has taken you and changed you from water into wine? We have a new life in Christ. The old ways are forever changed and we are renewed and transformed by his presence.

As you partake of communion, think of all the ways Christ has changed you. A time of thanking him in worship and praise from the heart is always appropriate at communion time. Jesus has done so much for us. Let us make communion a time of remembering all that he means to us.

Footnotes:

This study on Colossians 3:10-14 1999 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.

All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version 1971, A. J. Holman Company

Communion poem from The Evangel quoted in The Complete Speaker’s Sourcebook pg. 96 1996, Zondervan Publishing House

MacDonald: Believer’s Bible Commentary, New Testament volume, pg. 605 1990, Thomas Nelson Publishers

Believer’s Bible Commentary, New Testament volume, pg. 605 1990, Thomas Nelson Publishers

MacDonald: Believer’s Bible Commentary, New Testament volume, pg. 605 1990, Thomas Nelson Publishers

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