Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you. (1 Corinthians 11:17-22)
Why Do We Worship
The church at Corinth is a case study of what can go wrong when the wisdom of man is the authority rather than the word of God. Paul addressed division, carnality, confusion, rebellion and unbelief as a host of challenges the church found itself battling. His second letter would show success in trying to change some of these issues. One of the problems the saints needed to change was the manner of their remembrance of the Lord’s Supper. The apostle charges them to remember the manner of partaking was a matter of judgment. Eating the bread and drinking the cup in an unworthy manner brought judgment from God. The Lord would not tolerate the abuse of His Son who died for all men. Remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was a very serious part of the worship established in the New Testament.
The manner of the partaking is often the focus of 1 Corinthians 11. While this is vital to understand of making sure the supper is taken in a proper manner, a deeper problem lay at the root of their failing to discern the supper. They had forgotten why they came together as a church. The taking of the supper had become a common thing. Their view of worship had become so ordinary they had failed to worship God in spirit and truth. Coming together was not to give praise and honor to God. Reverence had given way to their daily lives. The church had removed the sanctity of worship and replaced it for an activity of their daily lives. Paul rebukes the brethren because they had made the worship of God an extension of the common part of their daily living.
It is clear Paul is making a distinction of what should be done at home and what should be done in worship. Giving God honor in worship is not something we can approach as a common thing. Worship is reverence. Honor is ascribed to the Lord when we come to worship. The abuse of the Lord’s Supper began with the disposition of the heart that viewed coming together as a church as something ordinary. You do not have to look far to see these kind of attitudes in the lack of reverence today. Coming together on the first day of the week to remember the love of God is an option for some. There is little pressing need to assemble with the saints. Missing the Lord’s Supper is not important. The manner of clothes worn to worship reflects the mindset that worship is nothing more than a common thing. Children come dressed to play, adults arrive as if to take a holiday reflecting an attitude that lacks reverence for the time of worship. Attention during worship is limited as the mind begs the clock to move forward. Worship becomes a quick 59-minute endurance race that interrupts the bigger plans of the day. Coming together is not for the better but for the worse. Praise the Lord and let’s go home.
Coming together for the worse is what led to the abuse of the Lord’s Supper. The scriptures are given for our learning and what we see happening in the New Testament church reflects the same problems experienced by the church today. When the worship service becomes a common thing, reverence for God diminishes. Worship on the first day of the week is a sacred blessing given to us by a loving God who wants us to take the time to show Him how much we love and adore Him. If worship means little to your heart, examine the motives to why you worship. God loved us so much He gave His only begotten Son. What are you willing to give in return?
Wonder is the basis of worship. (Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, 1836)