In the first part of this section, Paul gave the Corinthians praise, followed by instruction. Here, as the second part begins there is no praise for him to give, for the Corinthians have gone very wrong on the Lord’s Supper. It is certainly clear from the New Testament record as well as from the writings of the early church that in those days the Lord’s Supper was celebrated each Lord’s Day, but in Corinth, and quite possibly other locations as well, the large Gentile population incorporated some of their culture into the process.
In the Greco-Roman world, it was not unusual for large religious banquets and other meals to take place. First century AD philosopher and moralist Musorius Rufus noted that Greco-Roman meals offered many opportunities for sins to take place; it would appear that many in Corinth saw the Lord’s Supper as such an occasion. People appear to have seen the Lord’s Supper as a big mealtime, bringing in their own food and drink, not to be shared with everyone, but to be consumed to excess by their own party in church, often resulting in drunkenness, while others who had a better understanding the Lord’s Supper had nothing.
Paul doesn’t appear to have been amused by this. Yet his reaction to it was to provide instruction as to what the Lord’s Supper was all about to clear up any confusion…
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (11:23-26)
The Lord’s Supper is not a banquet, it is a proclamation of the Lord’s death until He returns, a recommitment to following Him… not a party.
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (11:27-29)
He continues in 11:30-32 to say that behavior such as theirs could very likely result in discipline from God and suggests that some in Corinth have died as a result. Was that hyperbole or was it literally true? I can’t say for certain, but it is clear that Paul was not messing around when he gave this corrective instruction; the Lord’s Supper, Communion, is not to be taken lightly. He added that those who have received such “discipline” have received it so that they might still be saved when the Lord returns…