For all who eat and drink without discerning the body of the Lord, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. (1 Cor 11:29-30)
What’s wrong in Corinth? What sin caused the sharing of the Lord’s Supper, intended to heal and give life, to result in such sickness, even death? Was it the sexual sin discussed in chapter 5? Or some other sin of that magnitude?
So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another….(1 Cor 11:33)
In the early church in Corinth, each weekly meeting began with a meal at which the bread and wine were sanctified to the name and remembrance of Yeshua. After sharing this meal, the believers continued in worship, prayer, teaching and the practice of spiritual gifts. We know from previous chapters that there were factions in the congregation. Some claimed allegiance to Paul; others preferred the teaching style of Apollos; still others claimed to have no teacher but Yeshua Himself.
Some members arrived earlier than others to the weekly meeting; with other friends in their “clique,” they would say their blessings, invoke the Name of the Lord over their bread and wine, and have their dinner. Later, others would arrive, some with food, some without.
Paul severely chastises these early arrivals for more than a simple discourtesy: they have failed to “discern the Body of the Lord.” This is not a failure to correctly apprehend the mystical transformation of a morsel of bread to the literal Body of Christ; from the context it is clear that he is speaking of a failure to apprehend the power, sanctity, and authority that God intends to be present in the weekly meeting of the saints.
Every believer is a living stone, and together we are being built into a holy temple for God Himself to dwell in (1 Pet 2:5; 1 Cor 3:16-17). According to the Scriptures, the primary expression of this mystical sounding Body/Temple of Messiah is simply what we call the “local” congregation—whether it meets in a house, a public building, or in the middle of a forest. There is something special, something very holy, about this weekly meeting of the whole congregation.
If we disparage this holiness by being insensitive to the presence (or absence) of others; or we find our fellowship in one “clique” without relating properly to the rest of the congregation, then we are in danger of failing to discern the “Body of the Lord.” And for this failure, especially when we celebrate Communion, there can be grave consequences. Let each man, and each fellowship, check themselves (11:28) so that we may enjoy the fullness of His healing presence among us!!
Ariel grew up in a Reform Jewish home. He was searching for meaning in life in Zen Buddhism after college, when he was born again at a church in downtown Tokyo. He made Aliyah in 1998 and co-leads Ahavat Yeshua Congregation in Jerusalem.
He is the author of ‘One New Man—Reconciling Jew & Gentile in One Body of Christ’, and teaches the Bible in English, Hebrew, Japanese and Chinese.
Ariel and his wife Vered have 4 children, and live in downtown Jerusalem.