1 Corinthians, Lesson 17: A Look at the Lord’s Supper

Eucharist2 (610x351)Last week, we finished looking into Paul’s use of Israel’s sins during the Old Covenant as examples of what not to do for the Corinthian Christians in the New Covenant. At first glance, it simply looked as if Paul’s examples were Israel being unfaithful to God (and they were, but the question is, “In what way?”). But then Paul said, “God is faithful” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

If most of the Israelites falling away and not entering the Promised Land was because they were unfaithful, then you’d think they just needed to try harder at being faithful! But Paul was emphasizing that life with God depends on His faithfulness to us, not our ability to be faithful by trying harder.

And that makes sense. For when we look into Paul’s Old-Covenant examples, they all, in some way, dealt with one’s faith-life with God in relation to worship. That’s is especially true when we look at how Paul used the Septuagint, the Old Testament for those 1st-century Christians, to drive that point home:


Lesson 16, God is Faithful


It’s then that Paul moved into discussing how God is faithful to us in His New Covenant: The Lord’s Supper.


Properly understanding the Lord’s Supper

Read 1 Corinthians 10:17

  • When we receive the Lord’s Supper, why do “we who are many [become] one body”?


  • How can “bread do this” (see the previous verse, 1 Corinthians 10:16)?


  • How does the example that Paul uses, that “there is one bread,” show how the Lord’s Supper back then differed from our current-day practice?


Read 1 Corinthians 10:18

  • What is Paul bringing up in this verse, which he had earlier covered? (1 Corinthians 10:8, Numbers 25:1-9)


  • What was the result of the Israelites having “communion fellowship” with the Moabites during their worship of Baal? (1 Corinthians 10:8, Numbers 25:9)


Read 1 Corinthians 10:19-22

  • If an idol is really no god at all, which is what Paul says (1 Corinthians 10:19-20), then why did 24,000 Israelites die at Shittim after they had “communion fellowship” with the Moabites during their worship of Baal?


  • What does Paul not want for the Corinthians Christians? (1 Corinthians 10:20)


Dunamai, cannot: The ESV has, “You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21). Although Paul was telling them not to do that in vs. 20, that wasn’t the main point in vs. 21. Neither was Paul saying that they didn’t have the ability to do that (the distinction between “can” and “may”). The Corinthians obviously could, because they did eat meat sacrificed to idols.

Paul’s point was that they weren’t powerful enough to do both. In the same way that Israel wasn’t powerful enough to keep their idols from causing them harm, so also was it for the Corinthians. Don’t expect to participate in false worship, or false worship of God, and come out unscathed.


Lesson 17, Communion Fellowship with Demons


  • Looking at both Israel’s and the Corinthians’ false “idols,” discuss our false “idols” relating to worship and how that affects us.


The Christian Worldview

Read 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Here, Paul adapts a verse from the book of Sirach, in the Old-Testament Apocrypha (remember those books were part of their Old Testament, the Septuagint). He applies it to the situation in Corinth: “Not everything is good for everyone” (Sirach 37:28).

  • Contrary to the inclinations of our sinful nature, how does the Christian view his “rights” in relation to his neighbor?


Read 1 Corinthians 10:25-26

We now learn a bit more about how the Corinthians Christians were eating meat sacrificed to idols. Someone could buy meat sacrificed to idols within the temple grounds of a pagan god. Someone could also buy such meat later in the marketplace.

  • Which way of getting meat sacrificed to idols was acceptable and which was not?


  • Paul loosely quoted Psalm 24:1 from the Septuagint (Paul used “fullness” instead of “all”). By pointing back to creation, what becomes the default position for the New-Covenant Christian as to what he or she may eat?


  • What changes that “default position” for the Christian?


Read 1 Corinthians 10:27-30

  • If the host of a dinner said that the meat he is serving you was sacrificed to a pagan god, why would not eating the meat be for his (the host’s) conscience, not yours? Clearly, it doesn’t burden the host’s conscience in the least since he is serving the meat.


Bottom Line: Is the food safely disconnected from the context of idolatry? If yes, a Christian is free to eat. If no, for the sake of the other person’s conscience, a Christian chooses not to eat because of the confession that eating that meat sacrificed to an idol would make: all gods are equal, worship of a false god doesn’t matter, I believe in that false god, etc.

Read 1 Corinthians 10:31

  • Whatever the Christian does, for what purpose is it?


Excursus: The Glory of God

The Greek word that Paul uses for “glory,” doxa, can mean “brightness” or “glory.” The ESV correctly translates doxa in 1 Corinthians 10:31 as “glory.” But the question for us is this: “What did Paul mean by ‘glory’?”

To understand Paul’s thinking, we need to recognize that he was a Jewish rabbi, turned Christian, who understood things in Jewish ways. For the Jew, the word for “glory” was cavod, which doesn’t have in it the idea of brightness but, instead, of mass, weightiness, and/or substance. (We see the Apostle John, a Jew, reflect this thinking when he wrote: “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” [John 1:14]. The glory was that God now had “substance” in the Person of Jesus Christ because of His incarnation.)


Lesson 17, Cavod, Glory


Doing something “for the glory of God” reflects the substance that He is, not detract from it. Understanding cavod christologically (that Jesus is the Father’s glory in His “substance,” His incarnation) is recognizing and upholding Jesus’ “substance,” His incarnation, and what that means for us.

By extension, recognizing the glory of God in Christ Jesus also recognizes Jesus’ “substance,” His coming to us in His Supper, which just happens to fit the topic that Paul is dealing with in 1 Corinthians 10-11.

Perhaps, this may help us “get” the idea of cavod. The 2nd Commandment says, “Do not misuse the name of the Lord, your God.” A literal translation from the Hebrew is: “Do not carry the name of the Lord, your God, into the emptiness.” Thus, any word or action that takes away from the substance or mass of God is carrying His “glory” into the emptiness; it’s belittling God through one’s words or actions.

Doing something for the glory of God does not belittle Him but, instead, builds Him up.


Read 1 Corinthians 10:32-11:1

  • In what ways does Paul encourage the Corinthians Christians to do everything “to the glory of God”?


  • Why would imitating Paul be beneficial to the Corinthians Christians?


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