Excessively Infrequent (1 Corinthians 11:17–34)

One of the frequent contentions concerning the Lord’s Supper is frequency. Corinth appears to have attempted the Eucharist every time she gathered (1 Corinthians 11:17–18, 20). When the early church in Jerusalem met, she broke bread (Acts 2:42, 46). Clearly the “breaking of bread,” intends more than the Supper, but I’m certain it doesn’t mean less. This is bolstered by Acts 20:7, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” Surely when the church gathered for the express purpose of breaking bread it denotes more than their being a supper club. Saying they gathered to break bread is shorthand for saying they gathered for the Supper, which is then shorthand for saying they gathered to worship.

A frequent argument for infrequency is that absence makes the heart grow fonder. “Observe it less so that it means more.” Try using this logic with your spouse. “Honey, I’m not going to kiss you as much any more, so that it will mean more when I do. Perhaps I’ll only kiss you once a quarter, when we observe the Supper, that way, it’ll be as meaningful as communion.” When we neglect the Lord’s Supper, we neglect the Lord’s physical touch. Not that the bread and wine are His literal body and blood, but they are physical things He gives to us to express spiritual truth. There is such a thing as excess, and excess destroys, but I hardly think weekly communion qualifies.

The Supper is a means of grace for the saints, but the Word is the primary means of grace. A far greater danger than the Supper becoming common to us is that of the Word becoming common. Shall we relegate the preaching of the Word to once a quarter so that it will mean more to us? Wouldn’t we be more eager listeners? No, our ears would grow dull and our hearts hard. What about corporate singing? Wouldn’t we sing with more gusto if we only did so twice a year? We wouldn’t be better singers in any way. We’d be pathetic. We’d be out of tune to the core of our chests. Our souls would grow colder than our voices grew weak. If the Lord’s Table is a means of grace, why would we want to limit the nourishment the sheep can receive from the Good Shepherd? “One’s view of the nature of the Supper plays no small part in determining frequency,” says Michael Horton. If this is just a memorial, just something we do, then less is no big deal. But, if this is a sacrament, if this is something Jesus does, then less means less.

There is freedom here. There is no explicit command from our Lord. But if I am free to come to the Lord’s Table whenever the church gathers, I want to come every time we gather. If Bethany tells me I’m free to kiss her, I had better, and if I don’t leap at that freedom, something is wrong. If the Supper means little to you because of familiarity, it’s a symptom of a much larger problem than frequency. If the Supper means little to us, it is because Jesus’ death means little to us. Regular observance is a way of knowing our hearts. Loving little cannot be solved by observing less, but observing more might be a means of loving more, because in the Supper, Jesus declares His love to us, and we love because He first loved us. Our love is born out of His, and at the table, we, by faith, have opportunity to feast on His love.

The Bugs Bunny of the New Testament (1 Corinthians 10:1–22)

“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).”

1 Corinthians 10:12 is the Bugs Bunny of the New Testament. We think we know that text, but if we could have a conversation with that passage I’m sure he’d reply, “They don’t know me very well, do they?”

When you think of this text who comes to mind? Is it the legalist who thinks he’ll stand because of all his do-goodery? Or, does the libertine who leaves the gathered worship of the church and fellowship in the Lord’s Supper to go participate in a pagan temple worship feast and sexual immorality come to mind? If not, read the chapter.

Why would such a man think he stands? Because of the spiritual privileges he enjoys, notably, the sacraments. He’s been baptized. He feasts at the Lord’s table. This isn’t the person who thinks he stands because of his self-righteousness, but his gospel freedom (1 Corinthians 10:23). He likely doesn’t look at his baptism as a good deed meriting salvation, but as a “visible word” declaring the salvation that has freed him. He doesn’t believe the Lord’s Supper earns credit, but testifies to the credit he’s received because of Christ. He rightly sees baptism and the eucharist as pictures of the gospel, the gospel that has freed him, but wrongly reasons that he is so free, he can indulge in certain practices without consequence.

Is there a sin you think yourself free to indulge in? A sin that you easily squelch your conscience by reasoning, “I’ve been baptized. I eat at the Lord’s table. I’m free. This sin can’t hurt me.” If you reason from the sacraments that you’re free to sin, you show that you don’t understand the gospel quite as fully as you think. You don’t understand the freedom you boast in. Jesus frees us not only from the penalty of sin, but also the power of sin (Romans 6:1–4; 1 Corinthians 10:13). You cannot drink of the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.

Certainly the legalist needs to hear this warning too, but not exclusively. The gospel-majoring libertine must hear it also. As Luther illustrated, humanity is like a drunken man who having fallen off one side of the horse, climbs back up only to fall off the other. We need to tell both the legalist and the libertine that they can’t ride a horse, and that all who feast at the marriage supper of the Lamb, follow the King of kings and Lord of lords riding on white horses.

1 Corinthians 15:12-28 & If I Don’t Rise, Jesus Didn’t

The Corinthians were affirming Jesus resurrection, but denying their own. Paul says you can’t do this. You would think that you could. Imagine you are about to appear before a judge for sentencing. The judge has the power to pardon at will. Just before you are sentenced the judge’s son, with whom he has no tiff, comes before the judge to be sentenced for the same crime. You reason that if the son is pardoned, there might be a chance for you, but if the son is not pardoned, you haven’t got a prayer. That is how you might expect Paul to relate Jesus’ resurrection and ours. But Paul flips it. Imagine the son is pardoned. It would take some gall to exclaim, “If I’m not pardoned, then your son wasn’t.” That is akin to what Paul is arguing. He isn’t saying, Jesus was resurrected, so there is a chance for you. He is saying that if you don’t burst some sod with a new bod, then Jesus is rotting in a grave.

You might expect Jesus’ resurrection and yours to relate to one another like a tree trunk and branches. In some ways they do. Our resurrection blooms out of His. But Paul says that our resurrection and Jesus’ relate more like a husband and wife than a trunk and branches. If the trunk falls, the branches fall, but if the branches fall you can still have a trunk. But with a marriage, if either party dies, the marriage is dissolved. If Jesus is didn’t rise we won’t. If we don’t rise, Jesus didn’t.

Why is this so? Lets go back to court. When could you say with confidence to the judge who pardoned his son, “If I’m not pardoned, then your son wasn’t?” What if you were tried as a single entity? This is what happened in Christ. Jesus rep work didn’t end on the cross. Jesus didn’t fly solo from the grave; He led a host of captives. Jesus didn’t rise independently. Jesus wasn’t a lonely acorn busting potting soil in some individual’s hobby hothouse. He rose as the firstfruits of a greater harvest of a huge field. His resurrection and yours are part of the same event. Further, Paul says, Jesus is the second Adam. He represents a new humanity. His resurrection was the beginning of new creation. The rest must necessarily follow.

How sure can you be that if your body is under dirt that God will begin cultivating the earth to make it new by ripping you out of her? As sure as you are the Jesus is risen. The degree of faith you have in the risen Christ is to be same measure of faith you are to have in your resurrection. Further, it is the very same faith.

1 Corinthians 5 & Pride and Church Membership

What you think about church membership and discipline says much about how highly you regard the church and her Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. What you think about church membership will reveal more truth about you than the church.

If you desired to be a Marine would you think it unnecessary to attend any classes or go through any training in order to understand and be shaped into a Marine? Would you think their qualifications and standards intolerant? Would you think taking their oath ridiculous?

The church is the highest institution on earth and she is the only one that will last eternally. Christ purchased her to Himself by His own blood. Her King is worthy of all and calls for complete and total allegiance.

Church discipline requires the concept of covenant church membership. Discipline says there is an in and an out, the idea of covenant forms the basis of why one is put out.

The Corinthians are tolerating someone who is in a incestuous, adulterous relationship with their stepmother. Membership is being belittled and discipline is being ignored. How can the Corinthians do this? The answer is pride vv. 2, 6. Pride mixed with spirituality is a most deadly concoction. The Corinthians boasted in their spiritual heritage (1:12, 3:21). They were especially gifted, but loved the more showy gifts. It seems a kind of pride had so grasped them that they blinded themselves to any reminder that they had not yet arrived. Here is a pride that has forgotten we are always sinners in need of grace. It’s the kind of pride that says “nothings wrong” with both eyes closed. They are like the athlete who has been told that if he plays anymore he will cause irreversible and refuses to hear it because of pride.

It is pride that hates the idea of church discipline and membership. Covenant membership means clothing yourself with a garment of humility and inviting others into your lives. It means submitting to others and doing what is best for them. It means your business is their business. Covenant membership glories not in self, but glorifies the Passover Lamb whose sacrifice made us unleavened v.7.

1 Corinthians 15:1-8 & God Speaks Therefore I Am

[Commenting on 1 Corinthians 15;1-4] Here we see that the gospel is continual, in that we must continually be reminded of it; proclamational, in that it must be preached to us often, including preaching it to ourselves; essential, in that we must continually cling to it alone for the assurance of our salvation; central, in that it is the most important truth in all the world; eternal, in that it is passed on from one generation to the next without modification by religion; Christological, in that it is about the person and work of Jesus Christ alone; penal, in that the wages for sin – death – was paid; substitutional, in that Jesus’ death on the cross was literally in our place for our sins; biblical, in that it is in agreement with and the fulfillment of all Scripture; and eschatological, in that the resurrection of Jesus reveals to us our future hope of resurrected eternal life with him. Mark Driscoll in Death by Love

When Paul seeks to remind the Corinthians of the gospel this isn’t simply an instance of remedial Christianity, for it is by this gospel that they “are being saved” and it is in this gospel alone that they “stand”. The gospel of Christ isn’t the ABC’s of Christianity but the A to Z of Christianity. You don’t graduate the gospel as a Christian to go on to other things. If you ever graduate the gospel, you graduate Jesus only to flunk.

As a church we gather not to do, but to hear and be reminded what God has done for us in Christ. In fact, it is God who gathers us by His proclamation. It is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation, making a people of those who were not His people. God’s Word gathers and sanctifies His church. Having heard God in the public assembly we then scatter to tell others what God has done, and in doing so long for Him in that act of proclamation to further act.

We begin our services with a call to worship to subtly communicate this fact. God first speaks, then we respond. We do not pull God down by our sacrifices, rather He has graciously condescended in Christ and become the sacrifice for us, and now the Spirit ministers this Christ to us as God’s Word is heralded. We sing because He has spoken. We gather not to serve, nor to be served by man, but as needy beggars we come to the table to feast on Christ. We serve because He has served. Having feasted we then serve others shouting to them that there is eternally satisfying bread available without cost.