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#22 Christ's Body

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(A Series on I Corinthians)

Westgate Chapel 9/20/98 a.m.      I Corinthians 11:17-34

PROPOSITION:  Paul warns the Corinthian believers to not take lightly the body of Christ; to not separate its members, to understand the its purchase price, and to appreciate its significance.

I. introduction

-     HOW many of you can say, this morning, with certainty of faith, that your sins have been forgiven and that you are born again, and headed for eternity in the presence of God?

-     I WONDER if you and I really appreciate the significance of this saving grace of God.....of what God has done for us, to save us from our sin and certain judgment?

-     A FEW weeks ago we studied I Corinthians 6:9-11 that says,

      “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders (10) nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

-     YOU have been fundamentally changed by the saving grace of God in your life.

-     PAUL writes in Ephesians 5:8 that,

      “... you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.

-     IN 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 he writes that,

      “...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (18) All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ.”

-     NOW all of this is wonderful beyond our comprehension.

-     IT is truly the transforming work of God’s amazing grace.

-     IT is the gift of God’s undeserved love extended towards us.

-     BUT it is a gift given to be lived, not in the isolation of your private walk with the Lord, but in supernatural connection with other members of the body of Christ.

-     IN 1 Corinthians 12:27 Paul writes,

      “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

-     PAUL writes in Colossians 2:19 that Christ is the head of the body and that we as members of that body are,

      “...supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews,(and that it) grows as God causes it to grow.”

-     AS a member of the body of Christ you are not “out there” in some private orbit, free to take care of #1 and forget everyone else.

-     EVERY action and reaction of yours has immediate impact on the member of Christ’s body connected to you and ultimately also to the whole of His body.

-     THE Christian life is not a private deal.

-     AND Paul is trying to communicate this to the believers in Corinth.

-     AND he will go into more detail in chapter 12 of I Corinthians....but he addresses the subject in 11:17-34 in the strongest language (page 1136).

-     THE context of the passage is what was happening when the Corinthian believers came together for worship.

-     IN first century worship the believers would come together.....

*     To sing and make music to the Lord with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19)

*     For the teaching of the Word  (Colossians 3:16).

*     To give tithes and offerings for the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 16:2).

*     For fellowship (Acts 2:42).

*     For prayer (Acts 2:42).

*     For the Lord’s Supper, or communion (Acts 2:42)

*     For a love feast (I Corinthians 11).

-     THIS love feast did not last through the first century because of the kinds of abuses mentioned in the passage for this morning.

-     BUT it would be a fellowship meal, celebrating the love of God for all members of the church, and everyone one would bring food for the meal as they were able.

-     THE intention was that those who could afford it would bring plenty, and those who were poor in the things of this world would bring what they could...but all would share equally in the feast.

-     THAT was why it was called a “love feast.”

-     BUT in Corinth the love feast had gone wrong....quickly.

-     CHURCH is messy business. There is no way around that. If you are looking for a clean, neat, painless, cozy, effortless had better look for a dead one.

-     IN Corinth the rich brought plenty...and were the first to sit at the table to enjoy what they had brought.

-     THE poor sat quietly by and waited their turn....which was LAST. And by the time they got to the love feast there was nothing left.

-     AND that was how they were approaching the communion table....some full, some drunk, some starving.

ii. to not separate its members

-     SO, to this mess of a “love feast” Paul writes three themes of correction based on you and I being the body of Christ.

-     LET’S start with verse 17,

      “In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.”

-     WHEN we come together as the body of Christ....whether that is here or a restaurant, or a is for the purpose of doing good, never harm.

-     VERSE 18,

      “In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.”

-     NOW, Paul gets a little sarcastic with them in verse 19,

      “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval.

-     ISN’T it amazing how quickly we gravitate to externals to claim the special approval of God in our lives?

-     VERSE 20,

      “When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, (21) for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. (22) Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!” (I Corinthians 11:17-22)

-     THE body of Christ was being divided at the love feasts, of all places, based on the economic levels of God’s people.

-     THIS is similar to the caution of James to not give preferential seating to the wealthy in the worship setting, and make the poor sit on the floor in the back....based there on status of dress and jewelry worn (James 2).

-     AND Paul’s challenge to the Corinthians is that you cannot divide the body of Christ based on ANY measure.

*     Not based on socio-economic levels....or slave or free (Galatians 3:28)

*     Not based on dress (James 2).

*     Not based on giftings (I Corinthians 12).

*     Not based on ethic origin...or Jew or Greek (Galatians 3:28).

*     Not based on sex...male or female (Galatians 3:28).

*     Not based on non-essential doctrines....or matters of interpretation.

*     Not based on worship styles or other matters of practice.

-     IT is to our shame when we do.

-     THIS is the very thing that caused Paul to publicly challenge the apostle Peter in Antioch (Galatians 2:11).

-     THE body of Christ is not yours to separate or divide at yours or my will.

iii. to understand its purchase price

-     WHY?

-     WHY is the body of Christ so important as to draw Paul’s denunciation of the Corinthian believers?

-     BECAUSE it cost the very body of Christ to purchase for God His bride, the church.

-     AND in the next few verses Paul wants the believers in Corinth to understand the selfless sacrifice of God’s Son....the purchase price of the body of Christ (Westgate Chapel).

-     VERSE 23,

      “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, (24) and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’

-     LOOK at the selfless attitude, the servant heart of the Son of God!

*     He gave thanks...on the night He was betrayed.

*     He gave us the symbol  and sign of the brokenness He was about to experience on our behalf...the bread.

*     He said, “This is for you.”

*     And when we eat it we are to “put ourselves in the story” by participating in His broken body.

-     THIS is the price of the body of Christ at Westgate Chapel.

*     Not buildings.

*     Not salaries.

*     Not curriculum.

*     Not the utilities.

-     THE broken body of Christ.

-     VERSE 25,

      “In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ (26) For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (I Corinthians 11:23-26)

-     THE old covenant was conditioned on the keeping of the law....which proved to be impossible for the people and they kept being handed over to the enemy.

-     THE new covenant is based on God’s love and the sacrifice of His Son....purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ.

-     IT is through His blood that our sins have been forgiven and will be remembered no more.

-     WHENEVER you and I drink the cup we are “putting ourselves in the story” again.

-     WHENEVER you and I take the bread and cup of communion, we are speaking out, we are declaring the price of our redemption from the block and chains of our slavery.

-     IT cost the Father His Son.

-     IT cost Jesus His life.

-     HE paid so high a price!

-     AND that is the basis of our salvation....and participation in the body of Christ.

-     PAUL wants us to understand this high a price.

iv. to appreciate its significance

-     AND then, just in case the significance of the body of Christ is somehow lost in the symbolism, Paul takes this whole subject a step further.

-     VERSE 27,

      “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner...”

-     WHAT is the “unworthy manner?”

-     THE context of the passage requires that it be those who were separating the body of Christ by denying the poor their place at the table at the love feast. They...

      “...will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. (28) A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.”

-     CHECK out your own heart to see if you have been part of separating or dividing the body of Christ...if you have not properly understood the purchase price of your place in the body of Christ.

-     DO it before you take the bread and the cup....putting yourself in the story.

-     VERSE 29,

      “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. (30) That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. (31) But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. (32) When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

-     GOD’S value on the body of Christ, of which you are a member, is so high that He attaches serious judgment on those who take communion but are separating Christ’s body.

-     THIS is the judgment with repentance and salvation in view....not a final judgment.

-     VERSE 33,

      “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. (34) If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.” (I Corinthians 11:27-34)

v. conclusion

-     PAUL makes three points in this passage.

1.   To not separate the body of Christ.

2.   To understand the purchase price of your place in the body of Christ.

3.   To appreciate the significance of the body of Christ.

-     I HAVE a few questions for you and me.

1.   Are you a member of the body of Christ?

2.   Are you living that membership out in the context of some local church?

3.   Are you involved in any division of that body? Examine your heart on this serious matter.

4.   If you are involved in any division of Christ’s body, will you repent this morning and make it right?



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