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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome to HBS.
We began our study of 1 Corinthians chapter 11 last week. In the course of this, we found our Apostle Paul responding to the questions or reports of disruptive problems in this church, specifically speaking in this case of the custom of hair and hair coverings for both men and women (1 Corinthians 7:1). I mentioned then that these customs were relevant for that time period. They are not being imposed or practiced in the Body of Christ today. Church customs or traditions come and go, and some return again, but the Word of God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).
With the following words our Apostle Paul makes it clear God has established principles of order, authority, and accountability both in His Church and in the home: But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. Male headship existed before the fall of man and is based on the order of creation (Genesis 2). In other words, Adam’s fall from grace did not bring about the difference in the gender roles and it does not alter man or woman’s roles either in the church or in the home (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21). But men should not get the wrong impression, i.e. an inflated opinion about themselves concerning their role because Paul later adds this: However, in the Lord, neither is the woman independent of the man, nor is man independent of the woman; and all things originate from God (11:12). (Ephesians 5:21)
In this Bible lesson, Paul reproves the Corinthians for their disrespectful behavior towards God and each other when they come together for the Lord’s Supper.
Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 11:17.
The Lord’s Supper
1 Corinthians 11
17: But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse.
In the transition verse between the last section and this section Paul said: But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. There’s more going on in this verse than meets the casual eye. When the Corinthians came together weekly, these Believers weren’t being “built up” in Christ Jesus, which is one of the reasons they meet together as a body, they were in effect “tearing each other down” by their actions and attitudes or their disgraceful practices. Paul could not praise them for this.
Let’s read verses 18-22:
18: For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it.
19: For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.
20: Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper,
21: for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
22: What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.
For, in the first place (v18) – if you study the rest of this section you’ll note Paul doesn’t
Mention a “second” or “third” place. He doesn’t give an ordered list of things he wishes to discuss with these folks. He used the word first; Protos in the Greek language, (pronounced: pro’- tos) an Adjective, meaning: first in time or place; primary, Strong’s Greek #4413. We know Paul has already addressed one of the misbehaviors during their church services – that of the women going unveiled, which was contrary to the cultural practices of that day for women of good character. But now Paul is about to discuss another issue that actually takes precedence, i.e. more severe than that issue.
When you come together as a church – I stopped here because I wanted you to see and understand that Paul has chosen to use two Greek words that ensure he is speaking of regular meetings of the local church in Corinth: come together in the Greek language is Sunerchomai (pronounced: soon-er-khom-ahee), a Verb, meaning, to gather together, Strong’s Greek #4905; and church, Ekklesia (pronounced: ek-klay-see’-ah), Noun, Feminine, meaning: an assembly, Strong’s Greek #1577. The specific occasion Paul has in mind is their gathering together as an assembly (Ekklesia) of Believers on the first day of the week for the purpose of public worship, prayer, and the teaching of the Word.
I hear that divisions exist among you – Paul hasn’t only “heard,” he keeps on hearing (present continuous action) that divisions exist within their assembly. The Greek word for divisions is Schismata; there are only two occurrences in the N.T. of this word first at 1 Corinthians 1:10 and then at 1 Corinthians 11:18; from the root word schisma, (pronounced: skhis’-mah), Noun, neuter, and it means: a rent, as in a garment, a split. Paul used this same word in 1 Corinthians 1:10 where he exhorted them to have unity rather than divisions in their church. These divisions or splits became more obvious when they came together as a church for the Lord’s Supper.
Permit me to apply an illustration here for you – I can’t relate to how a high school cafeteria operates today, but when I was attending high school freshmen, sophomores, and seniors all headed to the cafeteria to eat lunch at the same time. Seniors did not sit and eat with juniors and sophomores, as a rule. Adding to this, cliques existed. There were those groups of people, solid friends, based on mutual likes and dislikes, school activities, boy-friends and/or girl-friends, social status, etc. What I’m trying to say is this – you didn’t fill your food tray and walk over to just any table in the cafeteria and sit down to eat. There was a place for you to be sure, but it was with “your kind.” I want you to picture this because this is how it was, in part, when the Corinthians showed up to participate in the “Love Feast,” or the Lord’s Supper.
And in part I believe it – Paul hadn’t witnessed the disrespectful behavior first-hand but received the report(s) from reliable Believers, so there had to be something to it.
For there must also be factions among you – The Greek word for factions is Haireseis (pronounced: hah’-ee-res-is), Noun, Feminine, meaning: an act of choice, which came to mean – a chosen way of life, i.e. belonging to a sect or specific philosophical group, Strong’s Greek #139. By the way, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Let’s note the difference in word usage here. The word “divisions” is used to describe the divisive splits that characterized the different groups in this church. When Paul said, “there must also be factions among you,” it is as if he expected this attitude of “taking sides” to occur in this situation.
So that those who are approved may become evident among you – Here Paul gives the reason for the factions. The word approved in the Greek language is Dokimos (pronounced: dok’-ee-mos), Adjective, and it means: approved, acceptable; to be proven by testing; Strong’s Greek #1384. Dokimos was used for the proving (testing) of coins in circulation in Paul’s day, i.e. confirming they were genuine (not counterfeit), validated and verified.
The ancient Greek and Roman world didn’t have a banking system like ours today.
There was no paper money. All money was made from melted precious metal, which was poured into molds and then allowed to cool. When the coins cooled off, money makers would “shave” off the uneven edges to make them smooth. Now people are human no matter what century they live in, meaning some of these folks would “shave” off too much – a practice called “clipping.” They put the excess shavings in their pocket – a practice they called “profit.” Eventually, they would have enough of these precious metal shavings saved up so they could turn them into gold bars or use them to make their own coins. People, who chose to put the correct weighted coin into circulation, without shaving “clipping” off too much, were called Dokimos – approved.
The word evident in the Greek = Phaneros and this word means: to become apparent, manifest; visible to all. God’s purpose in these factions was to make the ones who have been tested and approved become evident (or easily recognizable) by everyone in the church. I’ll illustrate: without a dark backdrop any object that is light in color will not stand out as clearly. It was necessary for there to be factions in this assembly in order for the ones who were approved (Dokimos) by God to be clearly evident, because the godliness of some would form a stark contrast to the worldliness of the rest.
Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper – the Lord’s Supper as Believers know it today may be referred to as The Communion Service. This is when y’all come together, as a family of Believers, to commemorate the last supper Jesus shared with His disciples, recognizing God’s redemptive plan for all mankind through Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). To be honest, I’ve only heard it referred to as the Lord’s Supper once in my entire life and that was long ago.
The Lord’s Supper in Paul’s day literally meant “the supper belonging to the Lord” Kuriakos (pronounced: koo-ree-ak-os’), Adjective, Strong’s Greek #2960; Supper = Deipnon (pronounced: dipe’-non), Noun, Neuter, Strong’s Greek #1173; meaning: the main meal of the day, usually held in the evening. This wasn’t the communion service. This phrase describes a sort of “church supper” or “pot luck” as we know it today that was held before the communion service. There’s little doubt the early church patterned their church supper after the Passover meal during which Jesus Christ instituted this ordinance.
From a historical perspective, the city of Corinth had many social clubs or communal events which promoted a spirit of fellowship, if you will, by hosting common festive meals, usually in gardens near a pagan altar. And don’t you know, meat was served and eaten at these gatherings… but we’ve covered this subject already. Here our Apostle Paul is saying, when they gathered together as a church, they were claiming to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, but they were actually imitating the pagan supper clubs that flourished throughout the city. In doing so, they were making a mockery of the celebration of the solemn Lord’s Supper event.
For in your eating each one takes his own supper first – Now I want you to try and picture this scene, as these believing saints arrived to their “pot-luck” supper, they took the dish or contribution (it may have only been a loaf of home-made bread) they brought with them over to the main table where all the food lay and then they started serving themselves and they began eating, one faction apart from another, and at different intervals. There was no concern for the other person at all. The verb translated take first Prolambano (pronounced: prol-am-ban’-o), a Verb, means to take before others; Strong’s Greek #4301. They had an attitude of “First come; first served, and they applied it.” They showed no regard for anyone else, meaning if the food ran out, and others were left with little or nothing to eat they had an attitude of, “Oh well… You should have been here earlier. Maybe you’ll do better next time around.”
The other thing you should know is some of these Believers were not as well off economically as others in the church. The wealthy folks would bring rich cuts of meats, cheeses, and the best wines to these church suppers while those who could not afford these things brought what they could; we’re talking fresh vegetables, and maybe fresh rolls or a loaf of bread and an urn of goat’s milk on a good day. Well, the wealthy Believers would not share the food they brought with the poor Believers telling them to go sit someone and enjoy the food they brought because they certainly weren’t going to taste any of their food…
For in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
This was the end result of their selfish and unloving behavior towards one another. I think everyone knows the meaning of the word hungry. It means deprived of food. There wasn’t much, if anything, left for him or her at the banquet table. The people who came early had plenty to eat and drink but there was precious little left for anyone who arrived after these gluttonous folks had their fill.
The Greek word for drunken is Methuo (pronounced: meth-oo’-o), a Verb, meaning – I am intoxicated with wine, am drunk; Strong’s Greek #3184. This kind of disgusting behavior was considered shameful even in pagan supper clubs, but here the Corinthian Believers were indulging their own sensual appetites in eating and drinking, rather than solemnly celebrating the Lord’s Supper itself.
Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Here Paul is saying, “If you’re going to party, do it at home!” A church gathering for the purpose of worshiping the Lord is not the place to exhibit such worldly behavior.
Or do you despise the church of God – The Greek word for despise is Kataphroneo’ (pronounced: kat-af-ron-eh’-o), Verb, meaning – I despise, scorn, and show it by active insult, disregard; Strong’s Greek #2706. Paul is saying the party atmosphere some of these Corinthians were enjoying was destructive and degrading and is disrespectful towards God and to those fellow Believers in Christ Jesus. Remember what Paul has already said concerning unity and fellowship that should result from celebrating the Lord’s Supper as a church (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
And shame those who have nothing? The Greek word for shame is Kataischuno (pronounced: kat-ahee-skhoo’-no), a Verb, meaning – I shame, disgrace, put to utter confusion, frustrate; Strong’s Greek #2617. Some of the Corinthians, by their disrespectful behavior, were dishonoring their brothers and sisters in the Lord; the ones who approached the banquet table and found little or nothing at all to eat; the have-nots at the church gatherings.
Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you. Based on the disgraceful “goings-on” at these Love Feasts, one would not call this a common supper, let alone a Lord’s Supper (Kuriakos Deipnon) in the full sense of the term. In fact, this mode of behavior brought about the complete separation of the Love Feast from the Lord’s Supper, eventually eliminating it altogether as a common practice later on in church history.
(To be continued)
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