What happened in Eden did more than alienate us from God—we became estranged from each other! Redemption then is not only about us coming to God, it is about us coming to one other. The church as the body of Christ is the community of the reconciled, composed of people who belong to the Lord and to each another. We see the disciples fleshing out this reality in the early chapters of Acts (2:44-47, 4:32-36, 6:1-7). We hear it proclaimed in their messages (Acts 14,17). It is basis for the Jewish-Gentile discussions of Romans (3:22ff, 4:9ff, 11:11ff), and Ephesians (2:11ff). And it is witnessed by the Supper.
The Supper was initiated by Jesus during a meal (the Passover Feast), and it continued to be observed by the early disciples during meals that were known as love feasts (Jude 12; 2 Peter 2:13). The problem Paul is addressing in 1 Corinthians 11:17ff, has to do with this meal. Those with food were not waiting and sharing with those without (v. 21-22). Thus, the Corinthians’ memorializing of the sacrificial death of Jesus for all was a travesty. They may have been eating unleavened bread and drinking the fruit of the vine, but Paul wants to make it clear— they were not taking the Lord’s Supper (v. 20)! It is not without reason that he speaks to them of Jesus taking bread “on the night He was betrayed,” (v. 23). Through their actions, they were betraying Christ as surely as any of the twelve did! Instead of proclaiming the selfless death of Christ (v. 26), their blatant disregard for one another meant they were participating in “an unworthy manner,” (v. 27).
To remedy this, they needed to examine (v. 28), recognize (v. 29), and judge (v. 31). Examine and judge are used in reference to themselves, while recognizing has to do with “the body of the Lord.” Putting it all together, they were to examine their attitudes towards the ones they were communing with. In other words, they couldn’t honor God through taking the emblems representing the body and blood of Christ if they weren’t willing to recognize and honor each other as part of Christ’s body (12:13).
Failure to do this had powerful consequences on the health of the church (v. 30). That would suggest that recognizing and honoring the community aspect of the Supper will bring blessings to a body of believers. It will ensure our meetings do more good than harm (v. 17), and be a powerful witness to our togetherness and unity (v. 18, 10:17). Paul wants us to see it’s not about me or you—it’s about us!
May God bless us to practice community in a world of individualism.