First Communion: Mocking the Body of Christ

In the previous post I gave, to the best of my knowledge, the case for why Communion was reserved for those who are able to “discern” the body of Christ.  This traditional means that they are able to understand what they are doing when they receive Communion.

I will now give a different interpretation of those verses that I believe to be more correct.

The passage of scripture (1 Corinthians 11:27-30) must be seen in the wider context of the chapter in which the pericope begins, 1 Corinthians 11:17 and goes all the way to verse 34.  The first two verses are telling about what is going on. Paul writes,

 Now in the following instruction I do not commend you, because when you come     together it is not for the better but for the worse.  For, to begin with, when you come     together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I     believe it.  Indeed, there have been faction among you, for only so will will it become     clear who among you are genuine.  When you come together, it is not really to eat the     Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own     supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk.  What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in?  Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? (1 Corinthians 11:17-22)

This is what was going on in Corinth when they were getting together to have communion.  The divisions where economic and social.   The meal that was suppose to unite them with God and bind them as a community but it was actually dividing them. The poor where not eating and the rich where. Some where getting drunk.  After Paul teaches them the words of institution and warns them about discerning the body of Christ he writes:

So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.  If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation. (1 Corinthians 11:33-34)

The real issue was about what people did when they came together for communion.  They where mocking communion by the divisions among them.  And because of that they where not taking serious what Christ had done for them in his death and resurrection. Richard Hays writes in the Interpretation Commentary:

Those who are failing to “discern the body” are those who act selfishly, focusing on their own spirituality and exercising their own social privileges while remaining heedless of those who share with them in the new covenant inaugurated by the Lord’s death. (pg. 200)

If we take serious the context around what Paul meant when he said we had to discern the body of Christ, we have to also recognize that these verses have nothing to do with children. Paul was concerned that they didn’t mock the sacrament, training our children in the way of Christ does the exact opposite. The way most people really learn something is by doing it.

What do you think?  Is there anything that you would contend with or add?

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