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The Gospel and the Lord’s Supper

June 11, 2023

Teacher: Mike Noel
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:17–34

The Gospel and The Lord’s Supper

I Corinthians 11:17-34 – June 11, 2023 – Mike Noel 


American history is full of important events that have shaped our country over the last 250 years. We could debate the importance of different events and possibly rank them in relation to one another. But above most historic events, are some that are regarded as monumental in the formation of our country. Events like the winning of the Revolutionary War, the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are considered almost sacred events to who we are as a nation. We celebrate them with a holiday, the Fourth of July. It helps us remember who we are as Americans and the freedom we have in our nation. 

Today in our text we will be discussing the most monumental event in the history of the world, in the history of the cosmos - the death of Jesus Christ upon the Cross. And communion or the Lord’s Supper is one of the main ways that helps us keep the work of Christ on the cross central in all that we do. It forever establishes his death at Calvary as the foundation upon which all else is to be built on. (Concerning the Lord’s Supper)

This meal is then the foundational and enduring symbol of the new covenant in Christ. Jonathan Griffiths

And it should get our attention that our passage tells us that it is possible to take communion in an unworthy manner and that doing so has strong consequences. (Check engine light-I need to give attention to that.) Matthew Henry, said concerning the Lord’s Supper:

We should be careful that nothing in our behaviour at the Lord's table, appears to make light of that sacred institution. Mathew Henry

So this morning we are going to discuss this sacred institution of communion and how we can avoid taking it in an unworthy manner. We also want to look at the other side of the coin, that is how we take it in a worthy manner (having been invited). And the truth that will help us do so is the gospel. Communion itself is a picture of the gospel. The bread symbolizes Christ's body which was broken for us. And the cup represents his blood that was shed for us. But the gospel message also is a great help to us in avoiding taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner and doing it in a way that pleases God. Let’s pray and ask for God’s help.

II. The Gospel Gives Us Unity:

  • (The Gospel Reminds Us of Christ; The Gospel Helps Us To Examine Ourselves Rightly) Take Communion at the end of the service. 
  • Paul begins our passage with a rebuke to the Corinthians. He writes in verse 17: But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. It sounds like a mild reproof. But as he continues to express his concerns this reproof gets stronger and stronger.
  • He writes in verses 20 to 22: 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? 
  • Paul was outraged at their “Love Feasts” which were full course meals during which the Lord’s Supper was served. We don’t know all the specifics as to what was happening there but apparently some of the Christians were being humiliated or demeaned. There may have been as one commentator remarked a certain pecking order in the church either between the rich and the poor or based on some other social status. 
  • John Stott describes Paul’s outrage as “it touched him on the raw”.
  • And he begins his reproof by addressing division or a lack of unity in the church. In verse 18 we read For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.
  • Now he had already addressed this earlier in the letter in both chapters 1 and 3.
  • In chapter 3 he writes: 

And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? I Corinthians 3:2-4

  • So there was strife and quarreling and division in the Corinthian church. This word divisions in verse 18 of our text comes from the Greek word that means to rent or tear a garment. It means divisions and dissensions that were caused by differing opinions, strong opinions.
  • In verse 19 Paul continues for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.
  • God uses factions and divisions to reveal both one’s maturity or lack of it. But what I want to focus on is this word factions. Similar to divisions its meaning is dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims: Strongs: a self-chosen opinion; "a strong, distinctive opinion".
  • As people and as Christians we are all both very much alike and very different. We are all created in the image of God and if you are a Christian you have been born again of the Spirit of God. Christ dwells in you and He gives you a genuine love for his word and for obedience.
  • But Christians have differing opinions or perspectives about lots of things. Have you ever noticed how everyone has a different way of loading the dishwasher!? Everyone has an opinion on the right way to do it. Often if I’m at someone’s house and we’re cleaning up I won’t volunteer to load the dishwasher because I know after I leave they’ll just readjust the dishes and cups in the right way! And most of us are like that - we all have our own way of doing things and we tend to think those ways are the best ways.
  • And this is not just with “trivial” things like loading our dishwasher. It also involves serious things like how we parent, or educate our children or dress or political beliefs or even diet and health issues. And most importantly we have different beliefs about certain doctrines of the Bible. 
  • This diversity of thought in regards to all manner of things is fine as long as we don’t allow it to create divisions in the church. Is this not one way that we take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner: by having divisions among ourselves? Not valuing the unity of the body of Christ. 

The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. I Corinthians 10:16-17 

  • We must strive in our thinking that as we take communion (and as we live life together) both in regards to our local church but also to the universal church that we are one body, one church. There is to be no pecking order in the church. There ought not to be any class system among Christians whether it’s in our actions or attitudes.
  • There is a great temptation for all of us to judge other Christians for their actions and beliefs. When I say Christians I mean an evangelical Christian. One who has trusted Christ both as Lord and Savior and has submitted their lives to the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. I’m not saying you can be a Christian and believe anything you want. 
  • When we sinfully judge others in our hearts we despise the church of God. This word despise in verse 22 means to think down on, think little of; esteem lightly, see as insignificant; to treat with contempt or disregard; to scorn.
  • If we’re honest we have all been tempted to think of other Christians that way. We must guard against this attitude for it can begin very subtly and then begin to fester. Often when we judge others it’s rooted in pride and self-righteousness and a lack of biblical love. And it is a great danger to the unity of the Spirit.

True unity is grounded in 

  • mutually believed primary truths about Jesus,
  • refusal to elevate secondary beliefs over primary beliefs,
  • demonstrated heartfelt love for Jesus and others
  • the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. Randy Alcorn 

Just as evangelicals will fight their own individual sin as they keep in step with the Spirit, so we must fight the collective sin of allowing anything but the gospel to be the cause of our unity. Michael Reeves

  • Scripture calls us to eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit. 

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-2

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:11 

Don’t you think that Greeks and Jews, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian and Scythians, slave and freemen had some differences in the way they had been raised, the cultures they grew up; in the way they viewed the world? And now they’re all in the same church! But in Christ they are one.

  • As people come to Jesus and get added to the Body of Christ they come in with all of them: the good the bad and the ugly. And we must learn to view others through the lens of our unity in the gospel, that there is level ground at the cross. There we are reduced to our most basic (and desperate) need - the need to be made right with God by Christ alone.
  • That doesn’t mean that we minimize doctrine or growing in godliness but we should remember that even mature Christians sometimes have very divergent views on doctrine, and practice, on political and other views. 
  • We take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy way when there is pride, or self-righteousness or unforgiveness in our hearts towards others, especially those in our local church. We must avoid the error of the Corinthian church by repenting of any action or thoughts that demean, humiliate or disrespects other Christians.
  • We take the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner when we are able to overlook any differences that we have with others by seeing them through the eyes of faith in the gospel. Whenever we see or think of another Christian (genuine) our primary orientation towards them should be to rejoice that they are a fellow believer in Christ Jesus. And we should seek to silence any sinful and divisive thoughts concerning differences we have with them.
  • In this passage it’s stated five times, “When you come together”. We come together as a family of believers. One commentator said that the Corinthians had no sense of being one family in the Lord. By God’s grace may that not be said of us.

III. The Gospel Reminds us of Christ:

  • RC Sproul taught that the Bible was full of drama and that we should read it that way. Now when he uses the word drama he was referring to the usage of the word that means “a state, situation, or series of events involving interesting or intense conflict of forces”. What he is communicating is that we can be tempted to read Scripture in a “flat” way, one dimensional way. We can be too familiar with it and miss important truths. . 
  • The Bible is full of drama, full of emotion, of stories of men and women doing both righteous and evil deeds; Scripture is full of dramatic truths - it contains the blood, sweat and tears of life and we should pray that the Spirit opens the eyes of our heart to see things more clearly as we read and study scripture.
  • When we come to the narrative of the Lord’s Supper we should look deeply into the “drama” of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. 
  • In verses 24 and 25 Jesus said we are to take communion in remembrance of me. One of the ways that we take the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner is to remember him; to think deeply about our Lord Jesus. Who he is and what he did for us. 
  • This word remembrance means a recalling, a deliberate recollection, done to better appreciate the effects of what happened; active, self-prompted recollection especially as a memorial. 
  • This past Tuesday was the 79th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of the Normandy beaches in World War II. It was the great turning point of the war. On Tuesday I remembered it by watching an hour-long video on YouTube.
  • In the Lord’s Supper there is a remembrance of Christ crucified, the central act of the Bible; of all of human history and more importantly redemptive history. All of scripture is leading up to this one great act. It’s no small thing and we should guard against the temptation of the familiarity of it.

For the Corinthians there was the additional danger of sharing in this particular meal as though it was no different from any other common meal. This a frequent occurrence for us today when we catch ourselves proceeding through the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper by rote without properly feeding on Christ by faith with thanksgiving. Pillar Commentary

  • One of the most “dramatic” passages in the Bible is found in Revelation 5 where we get a little glimpse into heaven and also into this central act of all of scripture.

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. Revelation 5:1-9 

  • The Lord’s Supper is a sacred event because it celebrates a sacred act. This is what communion is all about - remembering the great work of Christ, the lamb that was slain. And it’s interesting as we look at our text in verses 24 and 25 - that after Jesus instructs us to eat of the bread and drink of the cup - he says do this in remembrance of me. 
  • Not just remember what I did (which is very important and the center of what we are celebrating when we take the Lord’s Supper). But remember me. We are to remember him, remember his work on our behalf, remember his love, his obedience, his humility, his sacrifice, his humiliation, his glory, remember his personal touch in our own lives that - He died for us personally and then He pursued us and in his kindness brought us to himself through the new birth.
  • Communion gives us another opportunity to stir up fresh love and affection for our Savior. Like the woman in Luke 7 who wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment we should be extravagant in our love for him. We can do so when we sing of him or when we pray and commune with him or when we hear his word in scripture or being preached and when we take the Lord’s Supper. Communion as a sacrament in the church keeps forever central in the life of the church and the believer Jesus Christ and him crucified. 
  • We take communion in a worthy manner when we actively recall and remember our Lord Jesus and his death on our behalf.
  • I love the words of the modern hymn Oh To See The Dawn by Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty: It points us to remember both the person and work of Christ: 

Oh, to see the dawn of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men, torn and beaten, 

Then nailed to a cross of wood.

This, the power of the cross: Christ became sin for us.
Took the blame, bore the wrath – we stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain written on your face, bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Every bitter thought, every evil deed crowning your bloodstained brow.

Oh, to see my name written in the wounds

For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death, Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

This, the power of the cross: Son of God, slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross. Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty

  • The primary purpose of communion: to remember and proclaim the Lord and his death on our behalf. 
  • Verse 23 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. 
  • For the Christian, communion is our Fourth of July. It celebrates the birth of a new nation, a new covenant. This statement by Jesus is a declarative statement. Through the shedding of his blood he inaugurated a new covenant. He opened up a new way of relating to God. A better way. By his death he made a way that we could know him and have a new heart wherein he and the Father come to abide in us through the Spirit’s presence. 

Truly, when Christ died and was raised from death, a new day dawned, a new age began.” John Stott

  • Communion is a symbol and proclamation of the death of Christ as the central element of Christian theology. It’s a declaration of the gospel message. The gospel in five words
  • And may by the Word and the Spirit, in prayer and in praise and at the Lord’s Supper may we robustly, joyfully remember our Savior and his work on our behalf. 

The Gospel Helps Us Examine Ourselves Rightly

  • In verses 27-29 Paul has some very sobering words: 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 
  • He then speaks of the consequences of not examining oneself or discerning the body: 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
  • For the Christian who doesn’t examine themself rightly they may experience God’s loving discipline or even death but they will not face eternal judgment. The work of Christ has delivered the believer from that. The non-Christian who takes the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner may die and he/she will face eternal judgment.
  • So how do we receive this warning that is given to us by Paul? 
  • First of all we see it as a grace. As an instructive and motivating grace to us. If someone told you don’t touch that generator for you’ll get shocked and could die - you would be very grateful to them for that encouragement! You would stay far away from it.
  • Now I do think we must look at the context of Paul’s words which involve that some of the Corinthians at the Lord’s Supper weren’t treating others right and actually demeaning them. Some of them were actually drunk during these Love Feasts. They were seriously degrading a sacred and holy remembrance of Jesus. So if you come to communion struggling with an anger issue or a conflict in your marriage you should repent and receive forgiveness but I don’t think you should fear this type of extreme discipline of the Lord. 
  • Having said that, this warning teaches us as does the whole Bible that God is holy. This warning gives us a category that God is not to be trifled with. Even as Uzzah died because he touched the ark of the covenant God will sometimes discipline his children even to death if they do not heed his warnings. 
  • So what is he asking us to do? To examine ourselves and to discern the body. This word examine has the following connotations: search one’s soul; distinguish by testing, to see if something is fit.
  • There seems to be both an individual component and a corporate component to this examination. V 28 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. This is addressed to each of us individually to examine our lives for sin in thought, word and deed and to repent of any that we are aware of.
  • But in verse 29 Pauls says anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. Many commentators think he is referring to the body of Christ. We are part of the body of Christ and so also are many brothers and sisters in the Lord. John Stott asks the question: are we living in love and charity with our neighbors, with fellow church members? 
  • If we have sinful attitudes (or actions) towards them then we should be quick to repent as we examine ourselves. This includes any division or dissensions or despising in our hearts towards others. 
  • And though our main focus is on our own sins, if we are aware of a Christian who has not really repented of serious sinful actions we should consider speaking to them about not taking the Lord’s Supper. This responsibility is especially true for pastoral leaders. 
  • When we examine ourselves we must be aware of two extremes. One is to be overwhelmed by our sins and the condemnation of our falling short of God’s law. The other extreme is to not feel any conviction for sin. John in his first epistle reminds us that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 
  • A helpful way to approach examining ourselves is to be aware of three different voices or influences. 
  • The first voice is the voice of condemnation. This voice comes from the guilt of sin, from the voice of Satan and even from our own flesh and conscience. The devil loves to accuse and condemn us of guilt. In fact he is called the accuser of God’s people. He constantly accuses us of sin: including sins that we have repented of and asked forgiveness for or even of sins we haven’t done or things that are not even sin. His main tactic is to make us feel guilty, condemned and dirty all the time. 
  • You can never satisfy or win against his condemnation-it continually accuses us. Though it may be connected to specific sins, it’s often more of a vague feeling that you can’t get an handle on
  • The second voice is the voice of the Spirit. In regards to examining ourselves it comes to us in the conviction of sin. Along with the help of God’s word this is the main way we examine ourselves. We ask the Lord to search us and reveal to us where we have sinned or fallen short. The conviction of the Holy Spirit is always specific, it’s not a mystery. For example you might be convicted of being harsh with your children and need to repent and respond to them in gentleness and love. The goal of conviction is repentance of a specific sin or pattern of sin leading to forgiveness and peace with God.
  • The third voice is the voice of the gospel. This is the sweetest voice that we could ever hear. It’s the voice of our Savior saying

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

  • It’s the voice of Jesus stating: 

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. John 5:24

  • It’s the compassionate words of Jesus that he spoke to the woman who anointed his feet in Luke 7, who may have been a harlot: Your sins are forgiven.”
  • It’s the voice of our heavenly Father through the apostle John: 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:8

  • That is the great remedy for the voice of condemnation: the blood of Christ. And if you suffer regularly from condemnation I encourage you to make a habit that during the day you remind yourself through Scripture of your acceptance and forgiveness in Christ.
  • The voice of the gospel should be the primary voice in our lives - and in communion it speaks to us: confess your sins, repent of them and receive forgiveness. 

And, surely, it also means that every communicant must come most humbly, for the result of any true examination of ourselves must be deep humiliation of spirit. As for myself, I must confess that I am not what I want to be, and I am not what I ought to be. I can only come to the table declaring myself to be an unworthy one in whom the grace of God is indeed magnified. That he should ever have put me among his children, and permitted me to call him my Father, will be a wonder to me throughout eternity. See, then, the blessed result of this self-examination when it lays you low at the foot of the cross, and makes you come to the table, not boasting, “I have a right to be here,” but humbly and gratefully saying, “I do indeed adore the grace of God which has made it possible that such an one as I am should be allowed to sit down with the family of God at his banqueting table of love. Charles Spurgeon

  • Spurgeon is tapping into a sentiment that the tax collector in the parable in Luke 18 exhibited, one that we should all have: 

The tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ Luke 18:13 

  • We should be alert to repent of any specific sins that we are aware of but we also want to throw ourselves upon the great mercy of our God for all of our sins past, present and future. 


These three things we are called to do not just when we come to take the Lord’s Supper but consistently in our lives. We should live, seeking to maintain the unity of the faith. We should seek to live a Christ centered, Christ loving life. And we should seek to live an examined life. We can do so through the power of the gospel. May the Lord help us to take the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner. Amen

As we come to take communion my encouragement to all is come to Christ for forgiveness. This includes any who are not yet a Christian - hear the call of the gospel, turn from your sins, turn to Christ, entrust yourself to him to do what only he can do which is to save you and reconcile you to God the Father as you trust in him. Let’s pray.

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