August 14, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 11)

Submitted by Cathy P. of Gracepoint Berkeley Church

1 Corinthians 11:17-19

  • Economic levels can separate people into distinct social categories dividing people with strong emotional and relational barriers.  Reflect on the fact that the Corinthians allowed these distinctions to come into the church unaltered.  Picture the scene of the wealthy taking liberty to feast, and “humiliat[ing] those who have nothing.”  

The Corinthians brought the same world system into the church by allowing economic levels to separate people into different social categories even while they gathered to fellowship together– namely the Lord’s Supper.  I imagine that the church would gather together at one of the homes and eat early evening.  Probably all the rich people, who didn’t have to work, would start eating and feasting, eventually drinking, then having started for a great deal earlier than other people, eventually become drunk.  Meanwhile, the church members who were slaves or laborers would arrive later in the evening after a long day of labor, and come to the gathering only to see that all the food had already been eaten and those who had a feast nearly drunk.  How the poor must have been humiliated to come to such a time of “fellowship,” as it is abundantly clear that those who were rich were still acting rich and showing their economic status in this way, while the poor were left out in the cold, and remained hungry after the fellowship.  How it would be such a mockery to say, then, that they were “brothers and sisters,” “one body,” that were partaking in the fellowship of the Lord’s Supper.  The Lord’s Supper was where they were to commemorate how Christ had died for all of them, and where they had a new covenant in His blood.

  • What are some worldly criteria for valuing people that the modern day church must take care to not allow into its fellowship?  How has the gospel demolished my social prejudices and worldly criteria of evaluating people?

Worldly criteria for valuing people have no place in the church and should not be allowed into fellowship.  Some of these that the modern day church must take care not to allow them to come into our fellowship are things like money, wealth, status, title, education, income, occupation, and physical attractiveness.  Otherwise, where could people go to and turn to find God and people of God who genuinely care for them regardless of income or title?  If people do not feel welcomed into the church because they do not have these criteria, then how are we any different from this world?

I grew up in the Philippines, where there was a very clear social class distinction between the rich and the poor.  Therefore my view of the world and social prejudices that I carried was that if you were in the upper echelon in society, you made sure everyone in your social circle know where you are at, and that they respect you for it.  I was always striving to climb into the social ladder through academic performance and competence, and I judged people also based on all the external worldly criteria even though I confessed to be a Christian.

However, as I experienced more of my own failures and sins, but also experienced grace from the Body of Christ, I was able to see how my view of evaluating people (including myself) using worldly criteria was wrong.  As God continues to teach me regarding his values, I am able to see things more and more from His perspective.  I have come to see that although everyone in this world, despite how they appear on the outside, are deeply broken and needy in the inside.  I have also come to see that what is highly valued among men like wealth and power (Luke 16:15) is despised in God’s eyes, while God is moved by the lives of those who are humble and poor in Spirit and who fears God.  (Isaiah 66:2)

1 Corinthians 11:20-26

  • What constitutes a true “Lord’s Supper” given that Apostle Paul makes the point that what they were gathering to do was not the “Lord’s Supper?” 

True “Lord’s Supper” was a time for the believers to gather and remember the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross – his body broken and blood poured out – and remember together how all of them became the people of the New Covenant, salvation through the blood of Jesus.   By remembering that they were all sinners who had to be saved through the blood of Jesus Christ, they would remember that they had the most important thing in common above any outward differences.  Also, knowing that they share this incredible bond of the blood of Jesus, their love for each other needed to be affirmed when they gathered together.  As Jesus also said on that same night of the first Lord’s Supper, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:  just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:34-35)

However, how these believers were gathering and doing was doing what was exactly opposite of the intent of the Lord’s Supper, by creating a sense of division and alienation through their actions which highlighted people’s economic and social standings.

  • How were the Corinthians despising the church of God?
    • The Lord’s Supper was supposed to be done in remembrance of Jesus, specifically His death on the cross.  Why was the division based on social distinctions inappropriate in light of this?   How do I treat others within the body of Christ?  Does it properly reflect what Jesus did on the Cross?

The Corinthians were despising the church of God by using the most solemn and meaningful event that Jesus had commanded them to commemorate, the Lord’s Supper, which in turn is to remember His death on the cross, to bolster their own ego and standing before one another.  Their social posturing was completely undermined the message of the cross in two ways:

1.      The cross proclaims that all men have sinned and had no distinction before God based on their social standing (Romans 3:23).  However, by highlighting their social standing to bolster their ego, they were mocking the message of the cross saying that their own identity based on human criteria was more important than God’s ultimate declaration of who they are.

2.      The cross highlighted Jesus’ humility and willingness to forgo his ultimate sacrifice of letting go of his “distinction,” being the Son of God, to die for our sins a common criminal’s death.  Given that our Lord had died in such a way, such human boasting was so inappropriate as believers gathered for the purpose of commemorating Jesus.

However, in my sinful self, I have seen how it is so natural and automatic to judge others and myself based on human criteria within the body of Christ.  I falsely think that I am more valuable in the eyes of God or for the church if I can do this or that.  In the same way, I am apt to judge people who can’t do as much or have a lot of problem or issues.  However, when I really think about what the church should be, which is a place where people proclaim that their greatest identity comes from what Jesus did on the cross for every single one of us, I see how this is so inappropriate and directly oppose what Jesus did for me on the cross.

Submitted by Hyunjung Y. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

1 Corinthians 11:17-19

  • What are some worldly criteria for valuing people that the modern day church must take care to not allow into its fellowship?  How has the gospel demolished my social prejudices and worldly criteria of evaluating people?

Worldly criteria for valuing people in the modern day church can be things such as wealth, social status, education level, age, competence or attractiveness. However, the Gospel tells me that Christ died for everyone not just the rich, the able, the useful or the ones who have better track records. No matter what their human criteria may be, everyone is a sinner in front of God and is in need of the Cross of Jesus. The Gospel is the clearest evidence that each person has a value that transcends his or her worldly criteria or even morality. The extent to which God values me is shown in how He was willing to sacrifice His own son on my behalf.

Recently, I have experienced a lot of my own social and worldly prejudices being demolished through visiting convalescent homes and ministering to elderly as a part of the Elderly Care Ministry at our church. Most residents at the convalescent homes that we visit have some kind of physical or mental disability that hinders them from taking care of themselves. Some have more serious issues such dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease that keeps them from thinking or speaking clearly or even recognizing their loved ones.  Most of them need to be fed, bathed and taken care of and are totally dependent on the care of others. From the world’s perspective, these elderly are no longer contributing and have little or no productivity and therefore, they are forgotten and sometimes even abandoned.

When I sit down one on one with them to talk or pray, many times, it’s just me talking without knowing whether the person I am talking to understands me. However, what becomes more and more clear to me is how precious still each person is. When youth, beauty, wealth, success and many other things fade away, there’s still something that God values which is that person’s soul. That’s why each bedridden, speechless person is as precious and worthy as any young productive person who can do a lot and has much potential. As I see many other brothers and sisters in ECM ministry who are faithfully serving through preparing messages, praying for the elderly and visiting them, I see the heart of the loving God who is seeking to find and save those people that the world easily forgets. He has called even people like me who is so used to evaluating people based on the capability and contribution and I am grateful that I get to see the how much God values me no matter what state that I am in.

1 Corinthians 11:20-26

  • What constitutes a true “Lord’s Supper” given that Apostle Paul makes the point that what they were gathering to do was not the “Lord’s Supper?” 

The Lord’s Supper is an important tradition where Christians come together to remember Jesus and His death for others. It is an opportunity to remember Jesus and also the community to come together through the sharing of the meal. Through this, the church is to remember that their relationship in Christ is a covenantal one. None of these things were happening through the Lord’s Supper at the Corinthians church and that’s why Paul points out that what they were doing is not the Lord’s Supper.

  • How were the Corinthians despising the church of God?

They were despising the church by going ahead with the Lord’s Supper and eating without waiting for others. Some ate and drank so much that they got drunk while others went hungry because there was no food left (v.20).

The Corinthians were despising the church of God because they had no regard for the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, and they were insulting the sacrifice and death of Jesus. They were using the Lord’s Supper as an opportunity to fill their hunger when, as Paul says, they could have just eaten at home. Through this kind of selfish act, they were also insulting others whom they were to share the communion with. While the rich were the ones who generally got banquet seating and better food, they were also clueless to the needs of the lower class people or slaves who generally came later or were seated outside. Paul sharply rebukes these people for “humiliating those who have nothing” (v.22), and this shows how people in the Corinthian church had little regard for fellow brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. It shows how much they were unfamiliar with limiting their freedom to love others.

  • The Lord’s Supper was supposed to be done in remembrance of Jesus, specifically His death on the cross.  Why was the division based on social distinctions inappropriate in light of this?   How do I treat others within the body of Christ?  Does it properly reflect what Jesus did on the Cross?

Jesus’ death brought salvation to all sinners who came to the Cross. The Lord’s Supper was an opportunity for people to remember the basic truth that rich and poor, masters and slaves, women and men were all saved by the blood of Jesus and that no matter what their social background is all people were deemed precious and valuable in God’s sight. They were to form a new relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ. The division based on social distinctions was inappropriate because it showed how the Corinthians had not bonded through their common identity as sinners and they were still holding onto the old ways of viewing people and judging human worth.

The precious blood of Christ has brought my brothers and sisters together with me and we are all sinners who have received unmerited grace from God. We are God’s children whom God values as treasured possessions and His beloved. Despite this amazing truth, I still see the grime in my heart that judges and evaluates people in worldly ways and treats them differently according to my natural preferences. Through my relationships, I find myself in need to keep going back to the Cross, which is the only righteousness or good thing anyone can have.

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