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This sermon was preached on Sunday 20/01/2002 Am, by Kevin Matthews.
Please Read 1 Corinthians 11
We have been considering 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 on the last three occasions that we have come together to observe the Lordís Supper, and this will be our final sermon on this portion of Scripture in our current series on this passage. I think we have learnt much about the Lordís Supper, and have been challenged about our own part in the Lordís Supper experience.
We have seen the importance of proper form in the observance of the Lordís Supper, with it having been handed down to us in this format from the earliest days of the Church, even from the Lord Himself. It symbolises the very work of the Lord Jesus Christ in the redemption of sinners, and not only that, but of the individual believerís place personally in that redemption. Our participation in the correct form of the Supper, tells one and all that we recognize that all of Christís work in redemption was for us personally as a believer, and that we rest in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. Nothing counts to us as He, and we will always remember Him, even until He comes again to bring us to Himself.
The practice of this proper form also declares to the unsaved world the very way of salvation, that salvation for fallen lost sinners is this way and this way only, even through the death of Jesus on the cross. It is not found in anything or anyone else, only Jesus. Come this way for salvation and you too will have the promise of sharing in the experience of celebrating the Supper in eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have also discovered Through the Corinthian passage that proper form alone is not sufficient for correct observance of the Lordís Supper, for a right attitude is also needed. The self-centred, elitist policy of the rich toward the poor in Corinth was destroying the very purpose and witness of the Supper, removing from their observance the true identity of the Lordís Supper, and in fact rendered it not the Lordís Supper at all. The salvation brought about through the life and death of Christ, which is remembered in the Supper, is in fact the very means whereby love and unity are made available to the church, and if these are not present in the observance of the Supper we in fact destroy the true meaning of the Supper, and it brings forth nothing but hypocrisy on the part of the church.
The other thing we have seen in Corinth was the lack of a right approach to the Lordís Supper, in that they ate and drank in Ďan unworthy manner (11:27),í Ďnot discerning the LordĎs Body (11:29).í The Corinthians were in fact placing themselves by their behaviour alongside the ungodly, treating the Lord with contempt and the observance of the Supper as just another meal, as having no real meaning at all to them - they might as well have been eating at Hungry Jackís or McDonaldís.
And so we have discovered that there is a great need to prepare for the Lordís Supper, so that we approach it with due care and thoughtfulness, being fully aware of what we are taking part in, and remembering what it means for us as Christianís. Therefore we need to examine ourselves, that our participation in the Lordís Supper is in a correct manner, and with a right approach.
ĎFor this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep (11:30).í
As we have seen, the Corinthians were guilty of a number of Ďspiritual crimes,í and it would seem by verse 34 that there were others, ĎAnd the rest will I set in order when I come (11:34),í though these do seem to be of a lesser concern than the ones outlined in 1 Corinthians 11.
The rich were showing no regard for the poor, gluttonising themselves in their fellowship meals, even those associated with the Lordís Supper. Secondly, their whole approach to the Supper was wrong, in that they took part in Ďan unworthy manner (11:29),í for they gave no thoughtful consideration to what they were doing.
The meaning of the Supper had been pushed aside, and it had now become just another meal, an empty shell of what it was meant to be. There was no consideration of the rich symbolism of the Supper (11:24,25), no active declaration of Ďthe Lordís death till he comes (11:26),í and no remembering the Lord and what He had done for them in His life and death (11:24,25).
What else was going on in Corinth? Well, there were weak and sick people throughout the church, and people were even dying. And the passage before us today tells us that this was because of their approach to the Lordís Supper. ĎFor this cause,í because of your behaviour, Ďmany are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep (11:30).í
Not just a few had fallen asleep, that is died, but Ďmany sleep.í Brethren, this ought to be a wake up call to you here this morning. What happened at Corinth puts you on notice this morning, for if you do not approach the Lordís Supper with the right attitude and behaviour, then the immutable Lord may very well break out among us as well.
Have you considered that? Are there manifestations of Godís wrath among us for the neglect of a right approach to the Lordís Supper? I do not know, I am not an apostle and cannot determine that sicknesses and the like are the consequences of sin, and neither can you - but you can consider your own approach before the Lord. Examine yourselves as I exhorted you in our last message on 1 Corinthians.
ĎIs my sickness or affliction a consequence of sin? Is God trying to get a message across to me by this sickness?í This is still very much a possibility, for God still uses affliction and sickness to drive messages home to His erring people.
ĎFor if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged (11:31).í
How can we be spared the judgment of God for improper approaches to the Lordís Supper - as I said in our last message on this passage, examine yourself, ĎBut let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup (11:28).í You donít want to get sick, or to die as a consequence of sin in your observance of the Lordís Supper, then examine yourself. Prepare yourself to come to the Lordís Supper correctly by examining yourself before you come.
Again, let me stress as I did last time that this is your responsibility and not mine, Ďfor if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.í We need to consider ourselves, with the aid of Godís Word and prayer, and to make a right decision on our approach to the Supper, and it there is sin to repent of it before we come to the Supper.
Donít allow yourselves to fall into complacency here brethren, for it is all to easy to just turn up without a thought given to the Lordís Supper beforehand, and to just go through the motions. Make this your regular habit before coming to the Lordís Supper, and you will not be judged or suffer the judgments of God. This of course implies dealing with anything you find in a Biblical way, through confession of sin and repentance.
Now let me also stress this very important point, that you are not to judge others, you are to judge yourself. Christians stand or fall before God, not other Christians, so if you are judging others, stop! Thatís pretty blunt, yet thatís the way it is.
How dare you take on Godís role for yourself - it is sheer arrogance and unacceptable presumption. You must judge yourself, taking the log out of your own eye, and then you might be able to recognize that the alleged fault you see in anotherís eye is a mere splinter, if it is even that.
By all means judge yourself in this matter, but leave the judging of others to others and to God. Search out your own heart before the Lord, but do not try to search out the heart of others, for you are unable to do so. That is Godís domain not yours.
ĎBut when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world (11:32).í
Now what does all this being judged by God in this passage mean? Clearly, if the person being judged is a Christian it does not mean eternal punishment, or even being reduced to the class of a non-Christian, for Christ has covered the believerís sin and will not impute iniquity again to the Christian (Ps 32:1,2).
So what does it mean? The passage is speaking of disciplinary action by God in order to bring the erring Christian back into line as it were. ĎNow no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby (Heb 12:11).í
By these various afflictions in Corinth then, the Lord was seeking to turn those who had been approaching the Lordís Supper in an unworthy manner around, that they might correct their approach in repentance, and begin to behave in a right and godly manner again.
And this is the point of such afflictions and sicknesses in your life if they have been brought to bear upon you because of a wayward walk, to turn you back to the way in which you should be living as one who is alive to God and dead to sin.
Now please, just because you are sick or afflicted in some way, donít just assume it is because of sin - it may not be so. The Lord has other reasons for bringing these things into a Christianís life, be it growth in Christian character, growth in persevering faith, or even to simply bring glory to God.
But you should always ask yourself the question, why. Why am I so afflicted with this terrible affliction - is it because of sin? Upon prayerful self-examination, with the light of Scripture as your torchlight, searching into all the inner reaches and recesses of your attitudes, motives and actions, you may discover through the providence of God that it was to prepare you for helping others through the same thing, and not as a judgment from God at all.
So donít assume, but through prayer and the searching of the Scriptures examine yourself, and do not allow your feelings and presumptions to run away with you. On the other hand, donít dismiss such a thing out of hand by neglecting the practice of self-examination.
But know this professing Christian, if you do not heed the chastening of the Lord, you may very well be judged as an unbeliever, for not heeding the rebuke of God is evident proof that you are none of the elect, and that you belong to the world. Godís people are a separate people, a people apart from the world given to holiness.
If you continue unrepentant in sin, ignoring the warnings of God that He sends through to your body, you are playing with the very fires of Hell and dangle yourself precariously above that fiery pit. What are you doing, do you not know that your soul may be required of you this very night - turn from sin, and flee to Christ before it is too late.
Why will you perish, for you know that the way of salvation is freely available to all that will go by that way, even Jesus Christ? ĎCome unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28).í Its no use sitting around waiting for some Divine flash or some feeling of being OK before God, for you will perish waiting - He says to you come, and so come you must.
You can sit there and wait, but there will be no rest, only condemnation. But come to Jesus, and there is rest enough and forgiveness of sins. That heavy burden you now carry will roll off your back, for He has carried it for you.
But if you will not heed the warning of God to you, then you will find yourself in the end cast into the pit with the Devil and his angels, and to the condemnation of eternal sufferings. Your blood is on your own head this morning, and on no others.
So I warn you again professing Christian do not ignore the warning signs, lest you find yourself in Hell on the morrow.
ĎWherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come (11:33,34).í
Paul, having warned the professing Christians at Corinth to take heed to the warnings of God, and to take seriously their own responsibilities in the area of self-examination, now gives the Corinthian believers some practical directions as to how they can correct their behaviour. These are the directions that the Corinthians needed to follow in order to demonstrate their repentance and renewed following after the Lord in the observance of the Lordís Supper.
Note that the apostle did not outlaw our practice of a fellowship meal simply because the Corinthians had abused their practice of it. What he did do was to give some correctives to reform their practice of a fellowship meal.
These things are not great and difficult tasks, just some spiritual commonsense really. To stop the practice of gluttony and self-centredness among the rich, simply wait for the poor to finish their duties as slaves, and eat with them. Exercise some other-centredness, and remove the focus from yourself. Show some care and love for others.
Brethren if you find yourselves behaving in a self-centred, non-unifying manner in the church, then when you come to the Lordís Supper, you will be guilty of this very same spiritual crime, destroying the meaning of the Supper by your hypocrisy, and you need to repent.
Such repentance will mean becoming other-centred, and no longer self-centred. Show some concern for others, and donít continue to push yourself, and what you want ahead of others in the church. Be content to play second fiddle to your brethren.
Donít hog the conversations. Recognize the needs of others and seek to meet them - donít just sit there thinking its all about you, because its about those who are around you, and what you can do for them.
Think seriously about this Christian, for pushing the self-agenda is what will destroy the church, those for whom Christ died. You donít want to be messing with Christís Church, becoming a stumbling block for His people - it would be better for you to tie a big rock to your waste and throw yourself in the lake right now. Donít fool with the church, itís the apple of Godís eye!
Then in the area of treating the Lordís Supper as just another meal, simply eat at home before you come together for the Lordís Supper meal. If hunger is causing you to focus more on food, and not on Christ, then eat a meal at home. Simple enough isnít it?
Brethren, whatever it is that causes you to loose your focus, and to turn your eyes away from the Lord Jesus Christ and what the Supper means, sort it out at home before you come together for the Lordís Supper. Whether it be simply hunger, or be it a family problem, work issue, sin issue, whatever, sort it out before you come
Such answers may not seem to profound or intellectually brilliant, but they were enough to correct the behaviour of the Corinthians when they gathered together for the Lordís Supper, and they will be enough to correct our behaviour in a multitude of similar areas.
Sometimes the answer to such problems as these are simple, just ask Naaman who needed to simply bath in the Jordan River for healing from leprosy.
Brethren, we gather soon to participate in the Lordís Supper, are you ready to come together to do so? If not, donít participate until you are ready, for you do not want Ďguilty of the body and blood of the Lord (11: 27),í Ďnot discerning the LordĎs body (11:29).í ĎBut let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup (11:28).í
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