UNITY IN THE BODY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
This morning we will be observing Communion. Turn to I Corinthians 11 for our message titled, UNITY IN THE BODY.
1 Corinthians 11 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
Upper Room 1 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)
Upper Room 2 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)
Upper Room 3 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)
Overall Background: About 10 months ago, Nicole and I stood in the very place where these words were spoken. It’s known as the Cenacle, the upper room, where Jesus celebrated the last supper with His disciples. How do we know that? Because, during the early centuries of Christianity, the church on this site was the center of Christianity in Jerusalem. Tradition claims that it was also the site where Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection and where the Holy Spirit came upon them on the Day of Pentecost. Even though the rib vaulted bay (ceiling), columns, pillars, and walls have been rebuilt many times, parts of the floor are claimed to be original. I cannot describe the feeling I had when we stood on the very ground that Jesus and the disciples possibly stood or sat on for the Last Supper.
Picture with me that night when Jesus was with His disciples in this upper room. Earlier in the evening Luke tells us in Luke 22:24 “there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.” Jesus knew that and so in John 13 after the regular meal had ended Jesus began to wash the feet of His disciples. Why? To teach them what it meant to be humble. It was a demonstration of how they should be towards each other. They got it because when He revealed to them that one of them would betray Him, instead of being defensive or pointing fingers, Matthew 26:22 says, “they were exceedingly sorrowful…” and Mark 14:19 says, “they began…to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?”…“Is it I?” Meaning: They were not judging each other but themselves. Now, Jesus explained to them about the bread and the cup.
What’s the point? Before the disciples could understand the meaning of the bread and the cup, there had to be a change in attitude from pride and self-righteousness to humility, sorrow, and self-examination. A change in attitude had to come before a change in understanding. Unfortunately, by the time Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church, they were anything but that. They were pushing and shoving each other at the Lord’s Table. They were divided.
Question: How is your attitude this morning? Is there pride in your heart? Is there sorrow in your heart? Have you taken the time to think about what Jesus went through for you 2000 years ago? Have you examined yourself and asked – “Is it I?” or are you too busy judging others? Are you saved?
3 things we will see in this passage that will prepare us for Communion today and also bring unity in the body.
1. THE SOURCE OF DISUNITY
To understand the context in which Paul wrote the words, we should begin in verse 17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, (Paul is telling them the reason for these instructions. It is to correct them.) since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 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. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.
Background: What is Paul talking about? The Corinthian church was divided. Why? They had a lot of problems. You have to read the previous 10 chapters to understand that. They were filled with envy, strife, sexual immorality, idolatry, stealing, cursing, and the list goes on and one. They were living in the flesh. You cannot be united as a body of Christ and have this behavior on the side. 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. In other words, it was no longer about the Lord’s Supper but their own supper. In other words, how the Corinthian Christians were acting at home is now how they were acting at church. Their personal sins were infecting the church body. What they were doing behind closed doors was now being done inside the church. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 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. Instead of the Communion being a time of humility, sorrow, and self-examination, they were having food fights! Who brought more food? Who brought less food? Who got in line first? As a result, some people were walking away hungry and some were walking away drunk. It was embarrassing! By the way, not much has changed, most church fights happen over food!
Here’s the point: Show me a church with a lot of problems and I will show you people living in sin. How you live Monday through Saturday will sooner or later show up Sunday mornings. “You can cover up only so long. Sooner or later it’ll come out in public.”
Application: How is Sunday worship for you? If Sunday worship is a sign of Monday living, how is Monday living? Is there trash in your life that you haven’t dealt with? Are you bringing your trash into the church body?
II. THE MEMORY OF THAT NIGHT
Background: What is interesting to me is that Paul does not just reprimand them about their behavior at the table or give them a long lecture on the dangers of discord in church. Instead, he takes them down memory lane to that night when Jesus kept the Passover with His disciples. Listen to verse 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
That phrase – “in remembrance of Me” is very important. What Paul is saying here is that the reason you all are acting this way is because you have forgotten that night when Christ washed the feet of His disciples and when their hearts were humbled, He explained to them about the bread and the cup. You have lost sight of Christ and not just any Christ but the Christ who gave His body to be broken for us.
Again, verse 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
Once again, there is that phrase – “in remembrance of Me.” You have forgotten your Master and God Jesus who allowed His blood to flow out for you.
What is the point? The antidote to disunity is a return to the night when Jesus revealed to His humble disciples the suffering that He was going to face. The reason churches are filled with pride and self-righteousness is because they have forgotten that night when Jesus was the focus and His sacrifice was the subject. Humility, great sorrow and self-examination was the only response. If there’s pride and hate in your life, bring the cross back into your memory.
Application: When was the last time you reflected on what Christ did on the cross for you? When was the last time you reflected on His death for your sins? When was the last time you told Him – “I’m not worthy of anything. It’s only by your grace that I stand.”
III. THE TIME FOR SELF-EXAMINATION
1 Corinthians 11 27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
The consequence of their personal sins was weakness, sickness, and even death. Could it be that the church in America is weak, sick, and dead is because we have lost sight of the sacrifice and death of Jesus for us.
Now, this is the crux of the matter – What do we do now? Listen to verse 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. The place to begin is to deal with sin in my own heart. What is the promise? If I do it, God won’t have to.
Application: Have you examined your life lately? This does not mean that you need to do introspection on yourself—go looking for sin. Let God expose your sin. Let God decide what is sin in your life. Then deal with it harshly.
What’s the result? It will bring unity in the body.
Are you part of the body of Christ?