Category Archives: 1 CORINTHIANS 11:17-34

The circumstances and behaviour that should be evident at the Lord’s Supper

1 CORINTHIANS 11:17-34

The epistle to the Corinthians was written in response to three things. First, chapters 1-4 were written in response to a communication to the apostle Paul from the household of Chloe regarding the troubling contentions in the assembly at Corinth, 1:11. Chapter 1 warns about the dangers of worldly thinking, for the cross of Christ has cancelled the wisdom of the world. It is worldly thinking that causes division. In chapter 2 the apostle explains that the Spirit of God gives insight into the wisdom of God, so there is no need to adopt the ideas of the world. In chapter 3 we learn that only what corresponds to God should be built into the assembly. In chapter 4 the apostle shows that faithfulness or otherwise to the wisdom received from God will be assessed at the judgement seat of Christ.

Second, chapters 5 and 6 were in response to a common report that immorality was being tolerated by the assembly. Chapter 5 shows how to deal with the matter, while chapter 6 shows that the way the Corinthians tended to deal with things, (by going to law before unbelievers), was completely wrong.

Third, there were certain questions that the Corinthians themselves had asked in a letter to the apostle. The answers to these questions are found from chapter 7:1 to the end of the epistle. The answers are prefaced by the expressions “now concerning”, “now touching”, and “as touching”.

So 7:1 begins an answer about marriage. This gives the apostle the opportunity to give teaching that, if followed, would prevent the disgraceful behaviour exhibited at Corinth as mentioned in chapter 5.

In chapter 8:1 to the end of chapter 11 the question is about food offered to idols, and this gives the apostle the opportunity to warn the saints about the dangers of associating with the idolatrous world around them, not only because idolatry and Christian things are totally opposed, but also because we must consider the effect of our actions on fellow-believers. In chapter 9 he shows them that he had forgone lawful rights, so they should have no difficulty in foregoing unlawful rights. In chapter 10 he approaches the subject from a different angle, basing his argument on the contrast between the Lord’s Table and the table of demons. This provides a suitable introduction to the subject of headship, and the Lord’s supper.

From 12:1 to the end of chapter 15 the question is about spiritual gifts, although the word gifts has been supplied. Really, the section is about spirit-matters, whether spirit influences, 12:1-3; spiritual gifts, 12:4-31; spiritual attitudes, chapter 13; spiritual discernment as to what is appropriate in ministry, chapter 14; or spiritual understanding regarding resurrection, (as opposed to a supposed “super-spiritual” view which said the resurrection of the body was not to be expected), in chapter 15.

Chapter 16:1 begins an answer about the collection for the saints, and verse 12 deals with the fifth and final question of the Corinthians, regarding Apollos.

So the chapter before us now is in that section where the apostle is speaking of worship of one sort or another. In chapters 8 and 10 he refers to idol worship, in chapter 10 to the worship engaged in both by Israel and by unbelievers, and in chapter 11 the remembrance of the Lord which should lead to worship. In a very real sense, therefore, the whole of the previous chapters have prepared for the eating of the Lord’s Supper, and the worship which should be prompted by it.

The Lord Jesus had to rebuke his disciples in the Upper Room, and their behaviour was being duplicated by the Corinthians. The disciples had been marked by lack of unity, striving as to who was greatest, Luke 22:24, and in verses 17-19 of our chapter the apostle deals with that amongst the Corinthians. There was also a lack of humility amongst the disciples, which the Lord dealt with by taking the servant’s place to wash their feet, John 13:4-17. The apostle deals with this as regards the Corinthians in verses 20-22. The disciples showed a lack of loyalty to Christ by running away in Gethsemane, and of course Judas went out from the Upper Room and committed the basest of treachery. Disloyalty is dealt with in verses 23-26. Finally, the disciples needed to learn that if the Lord did not wash their feet, then they would have no part with Him, for they would be prevented from enjoying fellowship with Him, John 13:8. So the Corinthians learn in verses 27-34 the need to examine oneself, and deal with any impurity of heart and life before partaking of the Lord’s Supper. So it is that the lessons the Lord Jesus taught His own whilst He was with them, are being reinforced by the apostle here. They form the basis upon which we may consider the chapter:

Section 1 Verses 17-19 The lack of unity.
Section 2 Verses 20-22 The lack of humility.
Section 3  Verses 23-26 The lack of loyalty.
Section 4 Verses 27-34
The lack of purity.



11:17 Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.

11:18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.


11:17 Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.

Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not- in verse 2 the apostle was able to praise the saints because they were keeping the ordinances delivered to them. Here, however, he is not able to praise them. When he declares things to them in this passage he is not simply stating them. He is charging or commanding them, with all the authority he had as an apostle. That ye come together not for the better, but for the worse– there are seven references to coming together in chapters 11 and 14, in 11:17,18,20,33,34, and 14:23,26. The coming together is of the church, as verse 18 makes clear. When they currently came together it was not for the better but the worse. Instead of glorifying the Lord, and building one another up in their most holy faith, as Jude 20 puts it, they were advancing self. Every time an assembly comes together there should be added glory for God, and added maturity for the believers. The psalmist could say that when brethren dwell together in unity, there the Lord commands the blessing, even life of evermore, Psalm 133:1-3. Every believer has life eternal, but that great gift is ours so that we may get to know our God and His Son better, as John 17:3 indicates. Assemblies do not meet to socialise, or to be entertained, but to acknowledge God’s rights, and to magnify His Son. The apostle Paul wrote, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God”, 1 Corinthians 10:31. Sadly, the Corinthians were not doing this, hence the censure of the apostle.

11:18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

For first of all, when ye come together in the church– the matter of disunity was of first importance, so it is dealt with first of all. The apostle has dealt with things generally in the previous chapters, but now he is concentrating on conduct when the believers are together, and lack of unity will, if it is allowed, destroy everything. The expression “first of all” occurs again in 1 Timothy 2:1, in connection with assembly prayer, so the two gatherings mentioned in Acts 2;42 are marked out as being of first importance. I hear that there be divisions among you – he has already named his source of information about their divisions in 1:11, so he does not need to repeat it. The believers of the household of Chloe were not tale-bearing, but passing on information to the apostle in order that the dishonour to the name of Christ might be dealt with. See both Leviticus 19:16 and 17. It seems that not only were the Corinthians divided in heart when apart from one another, but that division found expression in their conduct whilst they were together. How inconsistent to come “together”, yet in heart to be marked by “divisions”! They were coming together in the church. Now we know that the church is not a material building, but consists of believers. The word church means “a called out company”, and the Corinthian church consisted of those who had been called by the gospel out of the world and a life of sin, to gather together to recognise God’s claims over them, to honour the name of the Lord Jesus, and to encourage and edify one another. We must not omit the definite article here to prevent false notions about the church being a physical building. It would certainly be easier to read, as some do, “come together in church”, for then it would mean they came together in that character. If we read “in church”, and say it means meeting in that character, (“assembly capacity” is the expression some use), then we would have to admit that they did not always meet in this character, which is not the case. The Corinthians were in the church, in the sense that they were members of it, at all times. At certain times, however, they came together to express that truth, so they who were always in the church as to membership, were now in it as to expression. They are being reminded by the apostle that when gathered they were in the church in a very special way, and they needed to act accordingly. Sadly, however, there were divisions where there should have been unity. The apostle uses two different words for division in this passage. In this verse the word is translated divisions, and means schisms. In the next verse the word means sects, and is translated heresies. The difference may be illustrated by a bar of chocolate. In order to help us to divide the bar up, lines of weakness are pressed into the chocolate, so that when pressure is brought to bear upon them, the bar divides into pieces. The chocolate with its lines of weakness is in a state of schism; the broken pieces are the divisions, (“heresies”). The lack of unity amongst the saints, expressed in chapter one by their adoption of party-leaders, and expressed in this chapter by a division between rich and poor, represented lines of weakness. If they grew worse, the point would come where open division and separation would result. And I partly believe it- the apostle only partly believes this report about their divisions. It is not that he doubts the honesty of those who have given him the report. Rather, part of him is forced to believe it, and the other half of him wishes it were not true. He knows how devastating a lack of unity amongst the Lord’s people can be. How firmly the Lord Jesus dealt with James and John when they sought prominent place in the kingdom! Those in the world seek for place and position, “but it shall not be so among you”, Matthew 20:26. These two men no doubt learnt their lesson well, but it is noticeable that it is Peter and Paul who are prominent in the Book of Acts, and not James and John. Solomon’s kingdom had been divided when two tribes out of twelve had rebelled and caused division, but the greater than Solomon does not allow two of His twelve to err in that way.

11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

For there must be also heresies among you- it may seem strange that the apostle rebukes the lesser thing, division, whereas here he seems to advocate the more serious thing, heresies, or sects. But the apostle was also a prophet, and he knew that what was latent in the assembly would develop into open division. That division would not be to the glory of God, so in order to lessen the shame to Christ’s name it would bring, he indicates that those who reject the teaching of the apostles must be separated from, and the fact that they do not meet the approval of God made very clear. We are never to sanction or condone error. The clear command in 2 Timothy 2:19 is that everyone who names the name of Christ should depart from iniquity, which in that place means “that which is not right”. It is because believers have not had the courage of their convictions that dishonouring situations have been allowed to continue, and the name of Christ disparaged in the world as a consequence. That they which are approved may be made manifest among you– note that those who are approved are to be made manifest among the Corinthians. It is those who are not in conformity with apostolic doctrine that should leave, not those who are faithful. Too often when trouble has disturbed the peace of the assembly, those who are not guilty are forced to leave. This should not happen. Those who reject assembly principles should either reconsider their position in the light of the Scriptures, or go off and leave the saints in peace.


11:20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.

11:21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

11:22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.


11:20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.

When ye come together therefore inpperto one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper- the apostle now deals with the way their lack of heart-unity expresses itself. They may appear to be “together”, and they were certainly “in one place” physically, but they were certainly not together in heart, and in one place spiritually. This is made all the more serious by the object they had in coming together. They professed to be coming to recognise the Lordship of Christ and to obey His command, but in their hearts were far from Him. And because they were far from Him, they were far from one another.

11:21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken- it seems they had adopted the practice of holding a love-feast, (see Jude 12), ostensibly to show their love to one another, but the reverse was the case. Those who were rich were flaunting their abundance, not ashamed to eat their sumptuous meal in full view of those who were poor and had little. The result was that on one side of the room there were those who were starving, whilst on the other side were those who had so much that they were drunk. If they could not even show unity in the matter of sharing their food, how could they be expected to share the things of God together?

11:22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? In horrified response to this situation, the apostle asks a series of questions. First question: Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? They were looking on the gatherings as opportunities to enjoy themselves, in this case by the eating of plenty of food. But the assembly gatherings are not for man’s benefit. It is of the Lord’s Supper that the apostle is writing, not man’s. Although the word “Lord’s” does not mean “belonging to the Lord”, but rather, “befitting one who is Lord”. Or despise ye the church of God- the second question is about despising the church of God. By their attitude and conduct towards the poor, they were showing that far from loving them, they were despising them. God has chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, James 2:5, and He passes by the majority of the rich so that He alone is glorified, see 1 Corinthians 1:27-29; Jeremiah 9:23,24. The rich believers should have been humbled to think that God had granted them opportunity to believe, and expressed that humility in a right attitude to those less well off than they were. And shame them that have not? The third question asks whether they were in fact shaming or embarrassing those who had nothing to bring to the feast. They should have welcomed the privilege of sharing what they had with those who had nothing. Instead of remembering the poor, Galatians 2:10, they were forgetting them, and also embarrassing them. What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not- this fourth question almost leads us to think that the apostle was lost for words. How can professed believers act in such a despicable way? Only because they have within them still the old sin-principle, and had allowed it to mislead them. He can praise them for keeping the ordinances, verse 2, but certainly cannot praise them for the way they kept them. How easy it is to go through the motions of keeping the Lord’s Supper, whilst our hearts are not true to Him and to one another.


11:23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

11:24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

11:25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.


11:23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread:

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you– as he begins his reminder to the Corinthians of the true way of eating the Lord’s Supper, (as opposed to their current false way), he is careful to say that he was in receipt of his information from the Lord Himself. Luke was often a companion of the apostle on his journeys, and Luke’s gospel gives an account of the institution of the Supper, but if Luke had already written his gospel, the apostle does not borrow from this. The fact that he received the information about the Lord’s Supper from the Lord, should caution the Corinthians against treating it so lightly that it had become their supper instead of His. The title Lord on its own emphasises authority, whereas the title Lord with the personal name Jesus added, reminds us that He who is Lord in heaven, instructing His apostle, was also Lord when He was down here, instructing His own in the upper room.

The Corinthians were mainly Gentile in origin, and might think that the Supper was not for them when they considered the following facts:

All those present in the Upper Room were Jews. Does the Supper therefore only apply to the nation of Israel?

All the disciples in the Room were men. Are women to eat the Supper? Some of the sacrifices in the Old Testament were limited to males. (This, of course, is not to suggest that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice. That idea is very far from the truth).

 The Supper was instituted in Jerusalem, which in the Old Testament was “the place of the Name”, and to worship God anywhere else was a sin. Is the Supper only to be kept in that city?

The Supper was instituted before the Assembly was formed at Pentecost. Is it individual therefore, to be eaten without reference to assembly gatherings?

 The Supper was instituted using bread and wine from the Passover Supper. Is it only to be kept in connection with the Passover?

 The Lord spoke of the cup as the cup of the New Covenant, and Jeremiah makes clear that the New Covenant is with Israel. Can Gentiles drink of that cup?

The answer to these questions is found in the fact that the teaching given here is for believers in the assembly at Corinth, whether Jews or Gentiles, male or female, long after Pentecost, and totally separate from the Jewish festivals.

 The Lord said that He would not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom was set up, so is it only for that Kingdom Age?

That this is not so is found in the words “till He come”, that is, awaiting the coming of the Lord for His church, and so prior to the setting up of the kingdom.

The Supper was instituted on a Thursday, (probably), so is that the day on which it should be eaten?

The precedent of Acts 20:6-11 has established that it was on the first day of the week that the believers assembled to break bread. The apostle was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem, verse 16, and arrived at Troas on a Monday. He had authority as an apostle, but did not disturb the arrangement of the assembly. He did not suggest they bring forward the supper, so that he could resume his journey; nor did he go away without breaking bread with them, and eat the Supper elsewhere, perhaps on board ship. He deliberately tarried with them until the first day of the week, even though this would mean he would be with them all through the night. Note that the things Paul had received from the Lord he had faithfully delivered to the Corinthians. He had not modified the instructions at all, (perhaps to accommodate local culture), but had transmitted without addition, modification, or subtraction the matters revealed to him. It would have been much better for Christian testimony if brethren in positions of responsibility amongst the saints had treated these things likewise. As it is, in Christendom multiple ideas have been adopted, so that Christians come together for the worse, rather than the better. The only course is to refer to the original instructions, and then assess whether our current practice conforms to these. That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread- the night of Christ’s betrayal is the night of the institution of the Supper. This is the particular event that is singled out as marking the institution. The betrayal was the basest act of disloyalty that has ever been committed, yet in such circumstances the Lord Jesus was not thinking of His own welfare, but the spiritual welfare of His own. For it is in the best interests of the Lord’s people that they take time to remember Him as a matter of priority at the beginning of each week. The Corinthians would do well to consider whether their behaviour was not, in fact, to some degree a betrayal of the Lord Jesus. All the disciples questioned the Lord as to whether they were the betrayer, Matthew 26:21,22. How solemn to remember that in the heart of each believer is the potential to be disloyal! The sense of the words “He was betrayed” is, “while He was being betrayed”. Judas had already covenanted with the chief priests to betray the whereabouts of Christ to them, and he left the Upper Room to give the signal for the arrest. It was while he was doing this that the Supper was introduced. This tells us that Judas was not present. It might at first reading seem from Luke’s account that Judas was present, but Luke is careful to tell us that the cup of the Lord’s Supper was taken “after supper”, that is, after the Passover supper. He in fact is informing us that the interval between the betrayal, Luke 22:21,22, and the kingdom, verse 18, is to be bridged by the Lord’s Supper, verses 19 and 20. Luke does tend to group things together in a way that suits his purpose, and not necessarily in chronological order. See, for instance, the way in which he rearranges the temptations in the wilderness in 4:1-13, for we know from Matthew’s use of the word “then”, in Matthew 4:5, that the temptation on the pinnacle of the temple was the second temptation. Luke does not use words that denote sequence in his account, and puts the temple incident third. The upper room was not the only room Judas left. He had murmured about the anointing of the Lord Jesus by Mary, John 12:4-6. She had poured out her lavish offering, but Judas’s response was to murmur at what he called waste, and to go out and say to the chief priests, “What will ye give me?”, Matthew 26:15. Such is the marked difference between Mary and Judas. The mention of the betrayal here does serve to highlight the fact that the Lord Jesus deserves our loyalty and our worship. It is said that the English word worship was originally “worthship”, and Mary puts a high worth upon Christ, whereas Judas was prepared to betray Him for 30 pieces of silver, the value of a wounded (and therefore useless) slave, Exodus 21:32. Zechariah had prophesied of this, and had caustically called it “the goodly price”, Zechariah 11:13. So it was that the Lord Jesus took His place as the head of the company as they reclined to eat the Passover meal. During that meal, half of the loaf of unleavened bread was put aside. After AD 70, this portion of loaf took the place of the roast lamb as far as Israel were concerned. As far as believers were concerned, however, Christ had already taken the place of the Passover lamb, for “Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us”, 1 Corinthians 5:7. By taking bread into His hands, the Lord was illustrating what He had done when He came into the world. He took part of the flesh and blood which we partake of, the difference in expression in Hebrews 2:14 serving to remind us that His conception was by the agency of the Spirit of God, and not through Joseph. Hence He, coming from outside, took part by a spiritual process in what we partake of by natural processes. But He did it “likewise”, for the processes after conception were the same as for us. His conception was supernatural, but His development and birth were normal. If this were not the case, His manhood would not be real, but artificial.

11:24 And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me.

And when He had given thanks– again we are presented with a highly significant action. Not now one that symbolised His incarnation, but one that reminds us of His life of consecration. The Lord Jesus was ever thankful, and never ungrateful. Any other man might have been disgruntled or bitter over the treatment he had received at the hands of men. Not the Son of God, however, for He was in perfect harmony with His Father. He accepted meekly every circumstance that came His way. That meekness was not a negative resignation, but a positive and spiritual reaction. Meekness involves the acceptance of every situation as one ordered of the Father, and therefore to be accepted as His will, whether pleasant or otherwise. He brake it, and said, Take, eat- so the next action on the part of the Lord is the actual breaking of the bread. In eastern countries, to break bread with a person was to have fellowship and friendship with him, the sharing of the same loaf signifying the sharing of things in common. Bread is the staff or mainstay of life, Ezekiel 4:16, and hence represents life. The Lord Jesus transforms that simple custom into an act of remembrance of Himself during His absence. What would go through the minds of the disciples as they watched this happen? Would they think of the way the bullock and lamb of the burnt offering were cut into pieces and laid on the altar, Leviticus 1:6? Or the way the birds were parted, but not divided asunder completely, indicating that God reserved some of the preciousness of Christ for Himself alone, verse 17? Or the parting of the pieces of the meal offering cakes, so that oil could be poured upon them, Leviticus 2:6? Or did they think of the way a covenant was established, with the covenant victim divided into two, and the parties to the covenant moving between them as they pledged loyalty to its terms, Genesis 15:10,17? Whatever their thoughts were, we know from the next words of the Lord that He broke the bread so that they all might have a share in it. This is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me- by taking the bread from the hands of the Lord Jesus, the disciples, and we, signify our personal involvement in what He did at Calvary. We say in effect that we are in the good of what He did there, and wish to have it in remembrance. We are bidden by His word “take”, to signal that we regard Him as Lord, and accept afresh what He did at Calvary as our own, for it is broken bread that the disciples were given. It is true that from another standpoint they broke the bread for themselves according to 10:16, all feeding upon the same loaf as they took of it, and by so doing signifying their unity with one another. But here the loaf is already broken, for it is as One who has given His body up in sacrifice on the cross that we know Him.

IMPORTANT NOTE It is noticeable that John does not give to us the institution of the Lord’s Supper, but does give to us the discourse by the Lord Jesus on the subject of the living bread, in John 6. The two are not to be confused. The Catholic System does confuse them, and makes that error the centre of their blasphemous doctrine of the Mass.

Their belief is that “Through the priestly act of consecration, the substance of the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ, so that what lies upon the altar is no longer bread and wine but Christ, and what the priest offers to God is nothing less than Christ Himself”.

Or as Pope Pius x said, “The sacrifice of the Mass is substantially that of the Cross, in so far as the same Jesus Christ who offered Himself on the Cross is He who offers Himself by the hands of the priests His ministers on our altars”. These words are totally opposed to New Testament teaching, being in direct and flagrant conflict with the Epistle to the Hebrews, especially chapters 9 and 10, which insist that the sacrifice of Christ is once-for-all in character. Is it significant that these chapters are missing from the Codex Vaticanus, the New Testament manuscript found in the Vatican library?

This use of the words priest and altar betrays a failure to appreciate that when the Lord Jesus died He rendered obsolete the Old Testament rituals, together with their sacrificing priests and literal altars. Those who have not grasped this simple and important truth forfeit their right to instruct others on the matter.

The claim that “The sacrifice of the Mass is substantially that of the Cross”, comes perilously close to the “crucifying to themselves the Son of God afresh”, which Hebrews 6:6 speaks of.

The words “this is My body” should be interpreted in accordance with sound grammatical practice. The relevant law of grammar is the one that distinguishes between a literal statement and a metaphorical one. The rule is as follows: “When a pronoun is used instead of one of the nouns in a passage, and the two nouns are of different genders, when a metaphorical statement is being made the pronoun is always made to agree with that noun to which the meaning is carried across, and not with the noun from which it is carried, and to which it properly belongs”. So in the case of “This is My body”, the Greek pronoun for “this” is neuter. If this were a literal statement and not a metaphor, “this” would be masculine in agreement with its noun, “bread”, which is masculine. As it is, the pronoun “this” agrees with “body”, which is neuter, thus indicating a metaphorical statement. This peculiar variation in the gender of pronouns is common both in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, and in the Greek of the New Testament.

The application of the teaching of John 6 to the Lord’s Supper is wrong. The “bread which is His flesh” is not the bread with which the multitudes were fed the previous day, but rather the Bread which came down from heaven, even Himself. The whole passage is to be interpreted in the light of the Lord’s words in verse 63- “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life”. In other words, He definitely warns against taking His words literally. In confirmation of this, verse 57 says, “As the Living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, shall live by Me”. If we say that eating Christ means eating a piece of literal bread, then we shall have to say also that Christ literally ate his Father. Quite clearly, what He in fact did was nourish His soul on His Father’s will. When He was physically hungry in the wilderness, He was spiritually full, as He fed upon God as revealed in His Word, Luke 4:4. So does the true believer.

By saying “this is My body”, as He handed the loaf to the disciples, He was distinguishing once and for all between the loaf and the body that held the loaf. As already noted, the grammatical construction of the sentence forbids taking the words literally; they are definitely metaphorical. This, however, should not lessen the importance of His words and their impact upon us. We shall see when considering verse 29 that we are to discern in the loaf the Lord’s body. Not in any physical sense, but spiritual. The loaf is not expendable, as if it is meaningless. In fact it is full of meaning, but it must be rightly apprehended.

“Which is broken for you” is how the Lord describes the loaf. The loaf is broken by Christ, signifying His surrender of Himself in death; the loaf is then broken by us, as we take for ourselves that which has already been broken. Both of these physical acts are symbolic, therefore. The one symbolises Christ’s death, the other our vital interest in it, and our unity with one another.

There are some who object to the word “broken” on the ground that “a bone of Him shall not be broken”, John 19:31-36. Originally those words were spoken of the Passover lamb, but John by the Spirit quotes them in the consciousness that the lamb is Christ, as John the Baptist had indicated twice over in John 1:29,36. It was important that the Passover lamb should be whole and unblemished. Any breaking of its bones would render it divided and bruised. Physical things are not in view in this passage, however, for the Lord is speaking in metaphorical language, with each action having spiritual significance, as we have sought to see. So it is with this expression. It is not a question of whether His body was literally broken or not, but the meaning of the actual breaking of the bread. This signified that He was going to make the results of what He did at Calvary, where His body was yielded in devoted sacrifice to God, available to His people.

So the breaking of His body would refer to its division into its constituent parts of spirit, soul and body at death. His spirit returned to the Father, Luke 23:46; His soul went to Paradise, Luke 23:43; His body was laid in the sepulchre. To speak of “the breaking of His body”, therefore, is equivalent to saying “His death”, with the added thought that through His death He is made available to us.

To “do this in remembrance of Me” means “do this for a calling of Me to mind”. It is not simply a commemoration of a long-past event, which might be done out of a sense of duty; rather, it is the active and loving concentration of heart and mind on Him to whom we owe our all. If done with this attitude, the Supper will never be tedious or trying, but will be fresh delight each time we come together.

11:25 After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, “This cup is the new testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me”.

After the same manner also He took the cup- this would refer to the act of giving of thanks, as He had given thanks for the loaf. If the loaf speaks of the body of Christ, wholly surrendered to the will of God whatever that might involve, then the cup would speak of His precious blood, the evidence that His surrender was absolute, that He went as far as He could, even to the extent of His life-blood being shed. He gave thanks for this cup even though it would remind Him of the cup of suffering His Father would give Him in Gethsemane, and which He would drink at Calvary, Matthew 26:39-42; John 18:11. So He took the loaf, as He had taken a body in the past; He took the cup, as He would die in the future. When He had supped– we are assured by these words that the Lord’s Supper was instituted after the Passover Supper was over. The Lord Jesus did not eat of the loaf He instituted the Lord’s Supper with, nor did He drink of the cup. His statement that He would not henceforth drink of the fruit of the vine was in reference to the cups of wine of the Passover feast, Luke 22:15-18. The Supper would fill the interval between the fulfilment of the Passover and the setting up of the kingdom. Matthew and Mark record this statement after the cup of the Lord’s Supper had been drunk, so that these words were spoken by the Lord in answer to the unspoken question of the disciples as to why He had not drunk from the cup that He used for the institution. Luke, however, quotes them in the place where they were actually spoken, at the finish of the Passover meal, 22:14-18. For he tells us that the Lord said He would not eat the Passover (including the bread of the Passover meal), until it was fulfilled in the kingdom of God; nor would He drink the fruit of the vine until that time. At this point Luke records the institution, but then seems to imply that Judas was still present, for verse 21 speaks of the hand of the betrayer at the table. John, however, records that Judas went out from the upper room as soon as he had been given the sop, which was part of the Passover meal, John 13:26-30. Saying, “This cup is the new testament in My blood- Israel’s first Passover led to them being brought into covenant relationship with God at Sinai. Here the Lord indicates that those who know the deliverance His redeeming blood brings about, (for He is our Passover lamb), will also be brought into relationship with God through that same blood.

The principle features of the new covenant as stated in Hebrews 8:7-13, are:

 Unconditional grace, verse 9, (for the new covenant is not like the old, which depended on the Israelites obeying; this one has to do with the obedience of Christ, 1 Peter 1:2).

 God’s word in the heart and mind, verse 10, (the old covenant was written on tables of stone, see 2 Corinthians 3:3).

The promise that God would undertake for them in every way, and own them as His people, verse 9, (Israel through disobedience have become “not a people” through failure to keep the old covenant, Hosea 1:9).

 The knowledge of God, verse 11, the sure sign that those in the covenant have eternal life, John 17:3.

The mercy of God known, through the work of propitiation, verse 12.

 The complete and final forgiveness of sins, verse 12.

These things, and more besides, are brought to our minds as we drink the cup.

There are those who do not believe that the church is under the terms of the new covenant at all, arguing that it is expressly said to be made with Israel, Jeremiah 31:31. The following matters should be borne in mind, however:

The apostle Paul called himself a minister of the new covenant, 2 Corinthians 3:6.

The apostle was instructed to inform Corinthian believers, (who were no doubt largely from a Gentile background), that the cup they drank from each first day of the week was in fact the cup of the new covenant. He was led to miss out some parts of the institution statement, (“drink ye all of it”, “shed for many”, “for the remission of sins”, “which is shed for you”), but not this one.

When He instituted the supper, the Lord Jesus did not specifically mention anything about Israel, but spoke of “many”. He did not even speak of “the many”, which might have meant a large part of Israel.

The apostle Peter wrote to believers who had been of the dispersion of Israel. He declared to them that the grace which the prophets said would come to them as a nation when they were re-gathered was already theirs in principle now that they were believers, 1 Peter 1:8-10. So it is that Jeremiah speaks of the re-gathering of Israel, and then announces the new covenant terms, Jeremiah 31:7-14; 31-34. The grace expressed in the promises of the new covenant were already theirs individually; the promises will come to them as a nation when Christ comes to earth.

We learn from Hebrews 9:15-17 that Christ is the mediator of the new covenant. But the argument of the writer is that if a covenant is to effective, a death must take place. But in that passage the death of the testator is in view, not so much the death of a covenant victim, as was the case in Old Testament times. The Gentile idea of a will and testament, and the terms of the will becoming operative upon the death of the one making it, is in view. This allows the idea that Gentiles are in receipt of new covenant blessings.

The writer to the Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah 31 twice over. In Hebrews 8:8-12, he quotes the whole of the passage about the new covenant, including that it is with the House of Israel. The second time, however, he omits these words, Hebrews 10:15-18.

This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me”–  this reminds us that as with the loaf, the prime object is to remember Him, not the blessings that come from Him.. As soon as we begin to talk about blessings, we have begun to talk about ourselves, and this is not what the Lord has commanded should be done. The wonder of the blessings should make us immediately wish to worship the one who blessed. If it is said of those who were before God at the giving of the old covenant, that they “ate and drank, and saw God, Exodus 24:11, how much more should it be true of us, who eat and drink at His command.

11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come.

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup- these are the comments of Paul in connection with what the Lord commanded. Note that the Lord envisages that we keep the supper often. We are not left to speculate as to how frequent that should be. We have already noticed that the precedent has been established in Acts 20. So it is that on the day the Lord was raised from the dead, the life and death which is the ground of that resurrection is celebrated. So this is how often it is to be eaten. Ye do shew the Lord’s death- to shew the Lord’s death does not mean to re-enact the Lord’s death, for that, in fact, cannot be done, being once-for-all in character. It means to proclaim the Lord’s death. The word for “shew” is translated 17 times in the New Testament as “preach”. There is no sense in these words of reproducing the events, as if we are to act out a passion play. By obeying the Lord’s command, we proclaim to all who care to notice, that He has in fact been crucified, and His death is vividly announced by the separate bread and wine we partake of. We proclaim it not only to men, but demons looking on, who see in the loaf and the cup the sure signs of their utter defeat, and also to holy angels, for they take a great interest in the affairs of the assembly, 1 Corinthians 11:10; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:21. In olden times, trumpets were to be blown over the altar, so that the attention of all was directed to what happened at the place of sacrifice, Numbers 10:10. Till He come- the supper is to be kept “till He come”, so there is a time limit. The Passover was to be kept as a memorial continually, for even in the Kingdom Age it will be celebrated, Ezekiel 45:21. Not so the Lord’s Supper, which will cease when He comes at the rapture. Each time we come to eat, we do it once more, but also once less. When He comes for His own, the One we remember in love will be personally present with us, and the need for symbols will disappear. While it is true that John does not record the institution of the Lord’s Supper, he does give the surrounding circumstances, and he also records the Lord’s words about His coming again. The Supper spans the time between Calvary and the Coming. Note, however, that it is not “until His coming”, as if we wait for an event, but rather, “until He come”, for we wait for a person.


11:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

11:28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

11:29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

11:30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

11:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

11:32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

11:33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.

11:34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.


11:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily- on the basis of the preceding serious considerations, the apostle now appeals to the Corinthians, and us, to be very careful as to our attitude and state when we come together to remember the Lord. We should remember it is the Lord’s supper, (it has the impress of His Lordship upon it), and the cup is the cup of the Lord, for as we drink from that cup we not only call Him to mind, but we also renounce afresh the world which crucified Him. To eat and drink with no intention of renouncing the world, is to eat and drink unworthily. And this is what the Corinthians were doing, for their feasting was an expression of worldliness. And their heartless indifference to the poor amongst them who were going hungry is the sort of behaviour that is seen in the world- it should be far from every child of God. To transgress in the matter of their own bread was bad enough, but to transgress in regard to the bread which is His body is much worse. The apostle exhorts these same believers to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, 2 Corinthians 7:1. So it is not just sins of the body that render a person unworthy to partake, for sins of spirit, such as attitude and motive, are also defiling. Shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord- the apostle is not suggesting that they were guilty of the same sin as Judas in relation to Christ, but he is saying that they are guilty in some way in relation to the body and blood of the Lord. Note that he has taken to heart the Lord’s words about the loaf being His body, so there is a dimension to those words we must take account of. This will become more clear when we consider verse 29. Note also that he now speaks of the blood of Christ, whereas before he simply spoke of the cup. And this despite the fact that when He instituted the supper the Lord spoke of His blood.

It might be helpful if the various words for judgement used in the remaining verses of the chapter were set out in order as follows:

In verse 29    Damnation is KRIMA. In verse 29    Discerning is  DIAKRINO. In verse 31     Judge ourselves  is DIAKRINO. In verse 31     Be judged is  KRINO. In verse 32    We are judged is KRINO. In verse 32    Condemned is KATAKRINO. In verse 34    Condemnation is KRIMA.

 So the basic word is krino, to judge, to decide. The result of that judgement and deciding, is the krima, the judgement after a process of investigation. Then there are compounds of krino. Diakrino is krino plus dia, a preposition meaning through. When judgement (krino) is done with dia (through), it is done thoroughly, or through and through. Katakrino is krino plus kata, a preposition meaning down, or against. When judgement (krino) is done with kata, (against), it is judgement against, a verdict of guilty.

11:28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

But let a man examine himself- this verse tells us how to avoid eating and drinking unworthily. An unworthy eating and drinking is an unexamined eating and drinking. To examine means to put oneself to the test. This is where John’s account of the feet-washing is so helpful. At conversion, the believer is washed thoroughly with the washing of regeneration, Titus 3:5. This is what the Lord referred to in the words, “he that is washed”, John 13:10, where the word used means to bathe all over. Then He said, “needeth not save wash his feet”, and this time He used the word which means to wash part of the body, in this case the feet. The priests in tabernacle days were bathed in the water of the laver when they were first consecrated to the office, Leviticus 8:6, but each time they entered the tabernacle they were required to wash their hands and their feet, Exodus 30:18-20. So we as believers, having been initially and comprehensively washed, need to constantly avail ourselves of the purifying word of God. The psalmist asked, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?” He answered his own question with the words “by taking heed thereto according to Thy word”, Psalm 119:9. This is the means the Lord uses to wash our feet, namely the “washing of water by the word”, Ephesians 5:25. He cautioned Peter that if he did not allow Him to wash his feet, then he would have no part with Him, John 13:8. Fellowship in practical terms is dependent on a cleansed way and an examined heart. And so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup- note it is “examine himself” and then “so let him eat”, not “so let him stay away. There are those who feel that they are not worthy to partake of the Supper. But then, who is? The Lord’s requirement is that we eat with examined hearts, not refrain from eating because of a feeling of unworthiness. The apostle is not setting out here the principles of reception to an assembly, as if all that is required is self-examination by the one applying for fellowship. The apostle is addressing those who are already in fellowship.

11:29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself- those who partake of the loaf and the cup in an unexamined state, accumulate to themselves damnation. Not the damnation that unrepentant sinners shall experience, as mentioned in verse 32, (for the true believer is eternally secure), but the condemnation represented by the chastening of the Lord, as mentioned in verse 30. Not discerning the Lord’s body- the reason why this damnation or verdict of condemnation is passed on the believer, is because he has not discerned the seriousness of what he is doing. He has not discerned the Lord’s body. In other words, he has not had thorough and discerning thoughts about the meaning of the loaf. According to the Lord Himself, (speaking in metaphorical language, as we have seen), the loaf is His body. Not in the sense that the bread becomes something or someone else, but becomes to our minds, as we discern its meaning, it is as if it were the Lord’s body. To eat such a loaf in an unexamined state is to invite Divine condemnation, and this is what had been happening at Corinth, as the next verse shows.

11:30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep- for the cause or sake of judging the Corinthians, the Lord had inflicted them with physical ills. Some were weak, and this was a warning to them, so that they would ask themselves why it was so. Some were sickly, and thus prevented, for their own good, from partaking of the supper. (The practice of taking the bread and wine to those unable to attend the gatherings is contrary to the nature of the supper, for it is an assembly action, when believers are gathered together. Furthermore, it would have to be decided whether the sickness was sent by the Lord to prevent the person from eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper, and this mere mortals cannot do, especially now the gift of discerning of spirits has been withdrawn). There were some at Corinth who had not responded to the lesser judgements of weakness and sickliness by repenting of their evil ways. These had been removed by the Lord in judgement, lest further shame should come upon His name, and further blame would rest upon them if they continued to eat unworthily. Note that the apostle says “for this cause”. Excepting those alive when the Lord comes, every believer will sleep in death, as to the body. Death is not a judgement for all the saints, but only for those in question is this passage. The believer’s body is his last link with a fallen creation, and is subject to the same afflictions as everyone else. We should not therefore conclude that every believer who is weak, or sick, or who dies, must necessarily be under the judgement of the Lord.

11:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged– here the apostle gives to us the perfect remedy for avoiding the disciplining hand of the Lord upon us. We simply have to judge ourselves. The word is to thoroughly judge; we are to examine our lives, attitudes and ways closely, and deal with any fault in the presence of the Lord. Just as we are to thoroughly judge the meaning of the loaf, so we are to thoroughly judge ourselves in the light of that meaning. In this way we shall be totally clear of His disapproving dealings.

11:32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord- should we be the subject of His judgement, the apostle assures us here that this does not mean we are not saved. Those who respond to His discipline thereby show themselves to be genuine believers, and therefore will certainly not be condemned at the great white throne when final judgement is pronounced upon sinners. That we should not be condemned with the world- it is important to notice that the apostle expects that we will respond to the chastening; he is so confident that we will respond, that he does not refer to our response, but goes straight from being chastened of the Lord to not being condemned. Response to the word of God is one of the marks of a true believer.

11:33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.

Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another- as he brings the subject to a close, Paul reverts back to the initial cause of the unworthy eating, the lack of grace and humility they were manifesting as they came together. They were to tarry one for another, give place to one another, defer to one another. The disciples had sought place and prominence and were rebuked by the Lord. The Corinthians were doing the same.

11:34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.

And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation- the simple answer was to eat at home, for which they had houses, so that the opportunity to transgress was not available. If there were those in the assembly so poor as to be hungry, then those who were better off should invite them to their homes to eat. They ought not to do this, however, in any condescending way, but with grace, love, and humility. The damnation of verse 29, which is the same as the condemnation of this verse, could be avoided by this policy. And the rest will I set in order when I come- as he closes this section, which has extended from 8:1, the apostle indicates that there are matters which are particular to Corinth, and which are not so pressing that they need to be dealt with immediately. These he will arrange when he arrives. The matters he does set in order, however, were pressing, and were also relevant to all assemblies, and hence are dealt with in this inspired epistle, which in the goodness of God has been preserved for our learning and profit. This latter phrase shows that the subjects dealt with in the epistle are not a matter of local custom, but of relevance to all places and times.


It might be found helpful if certain practical consideration were set out with regard to the conduct of the Lord’s Supper. We should bear in mind that it is the Lord’s Supper. Not simply, as we have seen, that it belongs to the Lord and not believers, but chiefly because it is lordly in character.

We should come together with:

Solemn hearts. After all, one of the things we are doing is proclaiming the death of a Loved One. All casualness is therefore out of the question. Our attitude, dress, conversation, indeed everything, should be with dignity, bearing in mind what we have come to do. The old question is still valid, “Would you go for an audience with the Queen dressed like that”?

Examined hearts. We have thought of this in the notes, but we need to remind ourselves that this examination should ideally be done before we come. We are to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and the spirit, 2 Corinthians 7:1. Filthiness of flesh is easily detected, but filthiness of the spirit would include wrong attitudes and motives.

Prepared hearts. The scriptures said, “where there is no wood, the fire goeth out”, Proverbs 26:20. And this would have been true of Israel’s altar also. The fire of the altar was to be ever burning, and hence would need a constant supply of that which would keep it alight. So in a spiritual sense, we need, brothers and sisters alike, to be gathering thoughts of Christ during the week, so that when we come together there is a resource from which we may draw as we remember the Lord. This is not to say that the brothers should necessarily mention the previous week’s thoughts, but they should be there when needed. A well-chosen hymn can be valuable, but we should beware of disguising our own lack of exercise by giving out a hymn. In the nature of the case, a hymn is another person’s exercise- the Lord wants to hear ours.

United hearts. The Lord’s Supper is a collective exercise, an assembly action. It is an occasion when all should be moving together with the aim of remembering Christ and proclaiming His death. It is a pity that so many hymns are in the first person singular, when ideally they should be in the plural, for the Supper is not an individual thing. As we worship the Lord, we do so as a holy priesthood, and there cannot be a priesthood if there is only one priest. Those who lead audibly should bear this in mind. They are expressing things in the presence of the Lord on behalf of the whole company, and therefore should keep self well out of the way. When we break the loaf for ourselves, we do it from the same loaf as all others present, thus expressing our unity with one another and our common aims. How illogical to do this, and yet have a grievance against one with whom we are breaking bread! The Lord Jesus had a word for this situation- “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift”, Matthew 5:23,24. We should see to it, however, that we do not take offence at trivial matters. Those who have a tender conscience about offending their brethren should not be held to ransom by those who put on their airs and graces and take offence at nothing.

Intelligent hearts. The priests were to lay the parts of the burnt offering in order upon the altar. Would this order not be the order in which the parts were in the animal when it was alive? So, we should have a good appreciation of the Lord Jesus as He was in life, so that when we proclaim His death we are able to order our thoughts aright. We rightly reject the idea of a set service, with its rigid liturgy and cold formality, but this does not mean the Lord’s Supper is haphazard and disorderly. But the order must be spiritual, not carnal. It is said of the disciples on the mount of transfiguration, “when they were awake, they saw His glory”, Luke 9:32. So with us; only when we are awake to the truth of Scripture shall we see His glory and be able to speak of it.

Unselfish hearts. We still have the flesh about us, that sinful self which ever tries to intrude into spiritual things and spoil them. And not least at the Lord’s Supper. We are not present to talk about ourselves, but to remember the Lord. We can be seduced into talking about ourselves by being occupied with our blessings, rather than the Blesser. On the Mount of Transfiguration “they saw no man save Jesus only”, Matthew 17:8. It is good when we can say that about the meeting.

Reverent hearts. It is important that we address God appropriately in worship. We have the facility in the English language to speak to God in a way which is above the level of everyday conversation. We should cherish that advantage, and use it. We shall be helped if we a conversant with the Authorised Version of the scriptures, which preserves this dignified and reverent form of address. Apart from this aspect of things, there is still no substitute for the Authorised Version, and indeed in all probability never will be, for it is based on those manuscripts that have been transmitted faithfully down through the centuries. Since our worship should be Bible-based, then we do well to use that version which has stood the test of time, and which is easily available to all the people of God.