Exposition of 1 Corinthians 11:30-34 A supper about unity

1 Corinthians 11:30-34

30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.

33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.

It is important to understand that communion is nothing to treat lightly. We are told why in 1 Cor. 11:30-32. Paul then summarizes his advice about the Lords Supper (1 Cor. 11:33-34). Keep in mind that Paul is the apostle of Jesus Christ and, therefore, speaks for Christ. Pauls advice is more than advice just as the Lords Supper is more than just supper. The wise will listen and obey, and the others will continue to get sick or die!

Though one authority believes weak, sick and fallen asleep (1 Cor. 11:30) are figurative terms describing the spiritual condition of Corinthian Christians, most others believe physical condition is in view. Gordon Fee says that the Spirit has revealed to Paul that abuse of the have nots during the Lords Supper is the cause for the weakness, sickness and death, but he adds that this does not mean that all Christian illness and death are caused that way.[1] Note that fallen asleep is the standard way the New Testament speaks about death among Christians; showing that death is not the same for them as for others (1 Thess. 4:13-15; 1 Cor. 15:6, 18, 20, 51).

Verse 31 is what is called a contrary to fact condition or even the unreal condition. Had the Corinthians been discerning their disrespectful attitude (toward Christ) and unloving conduct (toward others) — but they were not — then they would not now be experiencing the incidents of weakness, sickness and even death, all of which are happening.

Being more discerning with regard to ourselves (verse 31) means having both a serious and repentant awareness of any sin in our lives as well as a consistent commitment to our new identity in Christ. Some of the Corinthians seem to have been more interested in what the martyred pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace. Anthony Thiselton summarizes Bonhoeffer this way: Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without repentance . . . communion without confession, grace without discipleship . . . Christianity without Christ.[2] Some Corinthians did not want to share food with their hungry brethren in the faith, did not want to worship with lower classes, and did not want to give up their pagan culture, including participation in idol banquets and sexually immoral behavior.

As members of Gods family, we can expect his discipline (1 Cor. 11:32; Heb. 12:1-13) when we stray from the way of Jesus, who suffered and died for our sins. Thiseltons remarks about this discipline reveal its purpose: It should not give rise to doubt of salvation or be endured merely with resignation. It plays a positive role in the process of being conformed to the image of Christ in suffering as well as glory.[3] The alternative to receiving the discipline that all believers get is that a person may be finally judged with the world, and no one wants that!

Pauls command in 1 Cor. 11:33 for all to eat together has an entirely theological purpose. Their Christian identity makes them one in Christ, and they cannot be divided in their common worship. Similarly, 1 Cor. 11:34 is not mainly about food. Garland explains: If they are intent only on indulging their appetites, then they should stay home. If the churchs gathering is to be meaningful, it has to be an expression of real fellowship, which includes sharing.[4]

Many of the lower classes might not be able to meet as early as the more socially advantaged. The strong must wait to share with the others. Jesus could have eaten the finest food on earth every night, but he and the twelve ate together.

Copyright 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 565.

[2] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 898.

[3] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 898.

[4] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 555.

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!