Last week, I shared how some in Corinth had their own little private meal before the gathering of the church in someone else’s home, rather than eat with everyone else at that gathering.
In I Corinthians 11:22 Paul asked if they despised the church of God because their act of eating privately shunned the rest of the people with whom they fellowshipped by refusing to eat with them.
He then went right into quoting Jesus at the Last Supper, and told the Corinthians that before they partook of the Lord’s Supper they needed to examine themselves. He even said “For this reason many are weak and sickly among you, and many have died early.” (v30)
Weak and Sickly Because…?
I first heard of receiving healing during the Lord’s Supper back in about 1980, and it was taught that we should ‘discern the Lord’s body’, which meant that we should remember ‘by His stripes we were healed’ and receive healing during the Lord’s Supper – that was properly discerning the Lord’s body – and I’ve taught it since as well and have seen many healed over the years in this same way.
But that is not the context Paul is writing from. Why would some disciples in Corinth be ‘weak and sickly’ and many died early because their pride caused divisions and cliques? Can that be a root of illness?
A clue is given when we look closely at Paul’s use of the word ‘despise‘. In the Greek it is ‘kata-phroneo’. The word ‘kata’ means down or bad, and can be associated with evil. The word ‘phren’, the second half of this word, means ‘the mind’. So it means to ‘have a bad mind’ or ‘evil mind’ towards other disciples, and that Paul said, is why many were weak and sickly and some had died prematurely.
In the prayer line after a service was a woman who said she had pain in her hands and joints, including a stiff back. I was about to lay hands on her when I heard the Father say ‘Tell her to forgive her sister’.
I obeyed, and prayed that when she had obeyed she would be healed. Back then I ministered at that church every 6 months or so, and sure enough when I returned a few months later, she told me she had been healed that day, upon reconciling with her sister, though admittedly, she had to humble herself to go to her.
She came forward for healing, but had what Paul said was a ‘bad mind’ towards the body of the Lord, another believer – her sister. This is how she had not discerned the Lord’s body – both His body and the body of Christ – and was ‘weak and sickly’ for that very reason.
Paul immediately said after that: “For if we judge ourselves we won’t be judged.” (v31) This lady judged herself and was reconciled to her sister, so she is clean before the Lord in that matter.
That is but one example of how someone can be ‘weak and sickly’ by not discerning the Lord’s body (which is other believers).
What Jesus said
After Paul asked if they despised, or had a ‘bad mind’ towards those they fellowshipped with, he quoted Jesus who said at the Last Supper: “Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me.” And of the wine similarly: “…in remembrance of me.” (I Corinthians 11:24-25)
When we hear those words today we remember our gospel stories of the cross, or we remember that Jesus shed His blood for us, or we remember His sacrifice for us all as we receive the elements.
But in the Greek Jesus never said to remember the gospel story, nor the cross, nor His sacrifice. To quote Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words: “Not ‘in memory of’ but an affectionate calling of the Person Himself to mind”.
A “wow” moment…
What Paul is trying to bring out in this passage is NOT about remembering the life and sacrifice of Jesus, but rather the Person of Jesus and what He means to us personally today, right now, and by extension therefore, what His body – those believers sitting around that house with you right at that moment - means to you!
He was telling those arrogant Corinthians to repent of their ‘bad minds’ towards those they fellowship with, by remembering the Person of Jesus as they looked around the room, and realize when they looked at those other believers of all walks of life, of all races and backgrounds, they were looking at the body of Jesus. By “affectionately calling the Person Himself to mind“, they were awakening their minds to the living truth of the body of Christ sitting before them.
Now Contrast This
Consider what Paul taught here – do you sense the sacredness of the gathering of the saints? Do you sense the majesty of Jesus and how He has touched each one of us, so that we collectively are the body of Christ? Can you see how we are to esteem the gathering together of the church as holy, and do all we can to protect the sacredness of that gathering?
Now consider how the things I mentioned last week totally despise (have a bad mind towards) that holiness: Not only the making of the body of Christ a prey through business dealings, but (for instance) have you ever wondered why your spirit is grieved when the visiting teacher tosses CD series and books into the crowd, who acts like silly bridesmaids trying to catch the bouquet from the bride?
The Holy Spirit is grieved by the fact we don’t esteem the gathering together of ourselves as sacred and holy and to be cherished and guarded.
In Paul’s day it was a simple case of rich arrogant Corinthians looking down their noses in a ‘bad mind’ towards the lower classes, yet he still told them to judge themselves lest the Lord judge them. His simple admonishment in v33 was; “Therefore brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.” A slight heart adjustment, a willingness to be patient, and problem solved was all it took.
So if they were needing to judge themselves lest the Lord judge them for THAT, where do we stand? And that’s the subject of next week…until then, when you next receive the Lord’s Supper, affectionately call the Person Himself to mind, and as you do so scan the living room (or auditorium): BEHOLD – the body of the Lord!