Communion: observations from 1 Cor 11:17-34

  1. The attitude of communion is one of honoring and remembering Jesus and serving each other.
    1. A wrong attitude can cause physical disease and death as punishment (11:30, cf. 11:17)
    2. One’s goal should not be to fill one’s stomach (11:20-22, 33-34)
    3. The “body”, that is the church as a whole, must be placed first by each individual (11:29)
    4. Communion should be done in unity (11:17-18)
    5. The Lord’s death for our sakes, instituting the new covenant, is remembered (11:24-26)
    6. The Lord���s imminent return is remembered (11:26)
    7. Therefore, self-examination before communion is important (11:27-28)
  2. The time and place of communion: each main church gathering in church.
    1. Paul assumes that when the Corinthians “come together” (v17, 18) they had communion
    2. When a church gathers it is to proclaim Jesus (cf. 1 Cor 1:23, 2:2), which is the purpose of communion (11:26)
  3. The way communion is observed: with a filling meal in fellowship with man and with God.
    1. As seen earlier, in communion one’s relationship with men and with God are put to the test – it cannot therefore be a meal in which all contact with fellow men is avoided.
    2. Despite the warnings against finding the purpose of communion in physical food (11:21, 33-34), communion is still to be in conjunction with a filling meal (as the first communion in 11:23-26; cf. 11:20, 33)
    3. If a man knows that he has trouble focusing on God and his brother when he is hungry and sees food, he not show up for communion famished lest he sin (11:21-22, 34)
    4. The communion is not itself the entire meal, but only a part of it (11:24-25)
    5. In order to maintain the symbolism of the bitterness of the wine, the sourness of the bread, etc., unleavened bread and wine should ideally be used.  The bread is broken as part of the meal and given thanks over, after which it is eaten by all whose heart is right with man and with God.
    6. This does not mean that other ways of practicing communion are invalid – at most that they do not attain to the full blessings of the rich Biblical purpose and symbolism.
    7. Nothing in this or any other passage puts any limitation on who can bless, break, or distribute the bread.
  4. The participants in communion: repentant believers
    1. Communion is only for those whose hearts are right with the church (11:27-33)
    2. Unbelievers and Christians living in unrepentant sin should therefore not partake

Many other points can and will be made about communion (cf. Ex 12, Jd 12, etc.), but these observations are limited to 1 Cor 11.