Eating and Drinking in 1Corinthians 11
Thank you for your previous reply to my question about 1Corinthians 11.
It's true that we now worship God in spirit and in truth, but these believers were "physically eating and drinking" earthly substance without conducting themselves properly. That's the reason why Paul was correcting and instructing them on that matter. But why did Paul not explicitly explain to them to forsake those earthly, fleshy substance and partake in the real things of the spirit, as you explained to me?
Greetings, Brother Jerome.
Let's eat together this message from Paul to the Corinthians, one small bite at a time, and wash it down by taking a spiritual drink or two! The following is from our translation of 1Corinthians, which you can find on our web site: www.GoingtoJesus.com
¶ 17. Now, in the following instruction, I do not praise you, for you come together not for the better but for the worse.
NOTE: Their gatherings in Corinth were so out of order that it would have been better for them not to have any gatherings at all. But what was the problem? Paul explains:
18. For, first of all, when you come together as a congregation, I hear that there are divisions among you, and I partly believe it.
19. For it is necessary that there be factions among you so that those among you who are approved by God might be revealed.
NOTE: The root cause for their meetings being worse than worthless was the lack of unity that existed among them. Paul already addressed the issue of their divisions in 1:10-13, so there was no need to go into that again here. He refers to it here only as an explanation as to why it would be better to have no gatherings than to have the kind of gatherings they were having.
20. Therefore, when you meet together in the same place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.
NOTE: The word "therefore" is key. "Therefore" means that the reason they cannot partake of "the Lord's supper" is what Paul had just said to them; to wit, they are divided. It is not because of their use or misuse of natural substances, such as bread and wine. Division among the saints is what prevents the blood of the Spirit from flowing from one to another; it prevents some from receiving the testimonies of others, and vice versa. We MUST have the blood of Christ flowing among us, or we should just stay away from each other.
The reason it was not the Lord's Supper wasn’t because of what they were eating, or how they were eating, but because of what they could not eat. Because they were divided, they could not eat each other!
21. For in eating, each goes ahead and eats his own supper first, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.
22. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you show contempt for God’s congregation and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? I do not praise you.
NOTE: In these two verses, what Paul says was being done wrong was that the richer believers were bringing food to a meeting and eating it in the presence of hungry, poorer believers without sharing any of it (v. 21). That was cruel. The point of Paul bringing that subject up was to emphasize their divisions and lack of the love of God, and to command the saints in Corinth that if they wanted to eat physical food, then -- notice this! -- they are to eat it at home, not bring it to the gatherings of the saints! This is what Paul was talking about when he indignantly exclaimed, "What! Don't you have [your own] houses to eat and drink in?" In these verses, Paul is not trying to teach the saints how to eat and drink physically when they meet; rather, he is forbidding them to eat and drink physically at all when they meet.
One of the basics of building successful home meetings is to leave off physical eating and drinking. I have seen home meetings wrecked because meals and snacks became a regular part of the meetings. You may have noticed that I mention this issue in my instructions for a sound home fellowship, on the front page of the PastorJohnsHouse web site. This is what I wrote:
“I have never seen a prayer meeting succeed in becoming what it ought when eating and drinking becomes a part of it. Don't mix food with worship. The same can be said about ceremonies. Don't bring church into the home and then think it is not church. You can have church religion in a home as well as in a church building. Leave off snacks and leave off ceremonies. Just live in the Spirit together, and grow together in the light of God.”
23. For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed, took bread,
24. and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “Take and eat. This is my body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
25. Likewise, after supper, he also took the cup, saying, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood; do this, as often as you drink, in remembrance of me,”
26. for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
NOTE: Here, Paul explains that fellowship among the saints (receiving one another) is the bread we break, and that drinking of the Spirit is drinking of "the cup of the Lord". Paul has already explained in 1Corinthians 10:15-17.
27. Therefore, whoever eats this bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a manner unworthy of the Lord sins against the body and blood of the Lord.
28. Let a man examine himself; only then is he to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
29. For he who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
30. Because of this, many are feeble and sick among you, and quite a few have fallen asleep.
31. If we would judge ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.
32. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we be not condemned along with the world.
NOTE: Since eating and drinking the Lord's Supper is not a physical consumption of earthly substance but a shared spiritual experience, if we partake of that experience in an unworthy manner (that is, with secret sin), we will be judged for it. If eating and drinking natural substance were deadly for sinners, Christians would be dropping dead all the time, for they regularly partake of their fleshly ceremony, and at the same time confess that they cannot cease from sin. Besides this plain fact, Jesus himself told us that "nothing entering into a man defiles him; it is what comes out of a man that defiles him" (Mk. 7:14-23). On another occasion, when Jesus, like Paul, seemed to be speaking of natural eating and drinking (Jn. 6), he told his disciples, "The flesh is worthless! The words that I speak to you are spiritual, and they are life!" Paul was speaking the same way, spiritually.
33. So then, my brothers, when coming together to eat, wait for one another.
34. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you do not come together for condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.
NOTE: Finally, Paul exhorts the saints to love and consider one another ("tarry for one another") if and when they do meet for a meal, and as a last reminder, that they are NOT to eat natural food when they gather to worship the Lord, but to eat physically at home before they come to the meeting. Otherwise, their meetings will be harmful for them, not beneficial.
Above, you asked me, "Why did Paul not explicitly explain to them to forsake those earthly, fleshy substance and partake in the real things of the spirit just as you just explained?" I cannot imagine how Paul could have more plainly told them to avoid (in worship) the consumption of earthly, fleshly substance and to partake, in harmony, of the real things of the Spirit. By giving the commandment -- twice -- for them to eat physically at home before their meetings, was not Paul doing exactly what you say he did not do? Is that not how you see it? Please let me know.
FYI, Jerome, I have been a student of the background of Western Culture for some years now. Let me point out to you a widespread element of the Classical culture which in time was transformed into the religion of Christianity. In the Classical world, there was no sense of responsibility for the poor. If a wealthy man had an impulse to give of his wealth, he normally would give something to his city. He would sponsor the construction of a temple, public baths, or an amphitheater, or erect a statue to one of the city's gods, or sponsor some sporting event, etc. Simply giving to the poor was not done because (1) it brought no fame to one's city and, therefore, brought no fame to oneself, and (2) the poor were commonly seen as lesser creatures, even of "inferior blood", and so, not worthy of much consideration.
One erudite book that deals well with this topic, though it is thick reading, so to speak, is The Politics of Munificence in the Roman Empire: Citizens, Elites and Benefactors in Asia Minor by Arjan Zuiderhoek. Mr. Zuiderhoek convincingly shows how deeply embedded in the Classical world was the impetus and pressures to give -- but to the city or state, not simply to the poor, and that the inspiration for most munificence at that time was the desire for fame, not love for one's fellow man. The rich did not consider the poor their "fellows" at all.
In the attitude of the richer folk in Corinth, we can see this Classical quality of carelessness toward the feelings and needs of the poor, and I believe that is what Paul was indignant that the saints there were allowing the status of the wealthy in the Greco-Roman world to become a guiding influence in the congregation.