30: The Lord’s Supper

Studies in First Corinthians

Lesson 30: The Memorial in the Lord’s Supper

I Corinthians 11:23-34


The story has been told of a factory that was losing money, but the executives couldn’t figure out why. They had tried everything they could think of, and still couldn’t see what could be done. Finally, they decided that the loss must be coming from theft by the employees. So, they started a system of searching the employees’ lockers with no success. After several other failures, they decided to search the employees themselves as they came out of the factory every day. On about the 4th or 5th day an employee came out pushing a wheelbarrow full of sawdust. The guards thought, “how stupid, doesn’t he realize how easy it will be to sift through the sawdust and find whatever he is hiding? But they did search through the sawdust. This continued for several days, until finally the guards realized that the employee was stealing wheelbarrows!


That is similar to one of the things that was happening in the church in first century Corinth. As we will see, they were having a problem with the way they were observing the Lord’s Supper. Because we are so familiar with the Lord’s Supper it is easy it is for us to overlook the importance of it. And so, it is a good thing that we have come to it in the normal course of working our way through it. The verses at which we look today form the last two thirds of a whole chapter devoted to the subject.


The chapter falls into three parts:


  1. The Misuse of the Lord’s Supper – in verses 1 through 22
  2. The Memorial in the Lord’s Supper – verses 23 through 26

III  The Mental Attitudes for the Lord’s Supper – verses 27 through 34


So today we want to look at the memorial in the Lord’s Supper in verses 23 through 26. And first we want to notice the teacher of the observance in verse 23.


For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night He was betrayed, took bread . . .”


There is a sense, of course, in which Jesus was the teacher of the observance. But as far as teaching the concepts and principles of observance for the church, Paul was the teacher. And although Paul was not personally present when the Lord’s supper was instituted, the Lord revealed to him the true meaning of the observance. It is significant that the one other thing which Paul specified as having been “delivered” to him is the gospel in I Corinthians 15:3 and 4.


For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures (4) and that He was buried, and that He rose again, according to the scriptures


So that shows the significance of the Lord’s Supper. And this is especially important since we tend to think of it as a pretty routine thing. Then it is also important to notice the time at which the observance was instituted – notice verse 23 again:


For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night He was betrayed, took bread . . .”


Notice that it was instituted on the very night of His betrayal. This shows God’s grace that he would redeem this kind of creatures. Incidentally, this touches on the doctrine of eternal security – it completely blasts the argument that “God would not want to spend eternity with “faithless” and “unrepentant” people.”


Now we have seen “the teacher” of the observance,” and “the time” of it. Now a third thing we need to notice is “the technique” in the observance as it is brought out in verses 24 and 25:


And when He had given thanks He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is my body which broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me. (25) In the same manner He took the cup after supper saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.


Note that these statements were made while He was still in His body. Thus, they could have only been symbolic at that point. An illustration might be of showing someone a photograph of your family and saying “this is my family” In reality it is not your family; it is only a “picture” of your family. So this settles the theological problem of “transubstantiation” (the belief that the wine and the bread are turned into the actual body and blood of Christ in the observance). But notice something else about the “technique” of the observance: it involved eating and drinking of the elements. It is not enough to just gather around and talk about Him (good as that is.) He wanted a physical presence.


The real essence of the Lord’s Supper is the partaking of the elements – anything else is simply preparatory to, or an aid to that. (thus we can’t insist on any particular format for a service) And there is a striking symbolism in this that is easy to overlook. There is no merit involved in swallowing – it is something that every one of us do dozens(or even hundreds) of times a day without even thinking about it. Have you ever complimented anyone on their ability to swallow? Or bragged on your own ability to do so? But we all must swallow to live. But there is a further symbolism in swallowing; and that is that when we swallow we are taking in something from outside ourselves in order to live, just as in salvation we are saved by partaking of something outside of ourselves.


So there is “the teacher” of the observance, “the timing of the observance,” and “the technique” that it uses; now notice “the teaching” that is intended in the observance. – it was intended as a public proclamation of belief – it is to “show forth” His death.


For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show forth His death till He comes.


The Greek word for “proclaim” here is “katangello” – which means “to proclaim publically.”Thus whenever possible if should be a public service. And at least two things are “proclaimed” in the observance:

First, the substitutionary aspect of His death, and second, His second coming. (“till he comes”)


The third and last portion of the chapter has to do with “the mental attitudes in the observance” in verses 27 through 34. First, verse 27 points out “the need for discernment”


Therefore, whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.”


We must think carefully about what we are doing, because to do otherwise is to “make light of” His body and blood (this is the very thing that the Jews did in the crucixion.)


The term “unworthily” means “without recognizing all that is involved” – not worthy from the standpoint of sinfulness. Parents, you should be sure your children understand what it is all about before they partake.


There is “a need for discernment,” but verses 28 through 32 point out that there is also “a need for discipline”


(28) But let a man examine himself and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup (29) For he who eats in an unworthy manner, eats and drinks condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body (31)For if we would judge ourselves we would not be judged, but when we are judged we are chastened by the Lord that we may not be condemned with the world.


What does it mean to “judge ourselves?” It means to examine your life for sin, then to “judge” it by confession” (as in I John 1:9)


“If we confess our sin he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness   


If the believer fails (or refuses) to do this, the Lord must (and does) discipline, because He cannot condemn us with the world. This is explained in Romans 8:1:


There is therefore no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus


There is no condemnation for the believer because Christ has already been condemned in our place. There fore the sense of verse 32 is “because we cannot be condemned with the world”


So God has to discipline us to deal with the sin in our lives. But the discipline is not punishment, it is only to bring us to the point of confession. Finally, verses 33 and 34 tell us of “the need for dependability”


Wherefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, tarry one for another. (34) and if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that you come not together unto condemnation. And the rest I will set in order when I come.


These verses form a good conclusion to the whole passage. As we have seen, the Lord’s Supper is extremely important to Him. – can He count on us to observe it properly?



The purpose of these studies is to draw you closer to Jesus Christ. If you do not know him, it is my prayer that they will help you understand that Romans 3:23 says that you, like all of us, have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And Romans 6:23 says that the result of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. And Acts 16:32 says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. If I can be of help to you in understanding any of this information I can be reached at



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