The Church of God in Corinth: In Remembrance of Me By Scarlett Stough

We are given a glimpse into a first century Christian congregation in the Apostle Paul’s letters to the church of God in Corinth (I Corinthians 1:1-2). Most members were newly out of pagan religions. They had no training in the moral instruction written in the Hebrew Scriptures. They knew the basics about Jesus, but had not matured beyond being “mere infants in Christ” (I Corinthians 3:1-3).

Paul began his first letter to the Corinthian church with thanksgiving for them and with a reminder of their calling into fellowship with Jesus (I Corinthians 1:4-9). Then he began to correct and instruct them. When he came to the way they were observing the Lord’s Supper, he said:

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good (I Corinthians 11:17).

Matters haven’t changed a whole lot in the past 2000 years, have they? Divisions, selfish behavior, cliques based on economic and social status, and humiliation of those who have less of this world’s goods and prestige still infest our congregations. Our attitudes and behaviors still turn people away from Jesus who taught and modeled genuine love.

Most congregations today do not combine eating a common meal with the taking of the bread and wine in memorial of Jesus’ death as did this early church. In this way, we avoid the specific problem that Paul addressed in this passage. But the root cause of the Corinthian problem can still exist in our hearts today.

Jesus instructed his disciples and his followers to remember his death in a memorial ceremony of drinking from a cup of wine symbolizing his blood poured out and by eating a portion of unleavened bread that symbolizes the death of his sinless body (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:13-22).

Through this letter, Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians and us today that we are expected to understand the significance of these symbols of bread and wine as we consume them:

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (I Corinthians 11:26).

He also gave a warning:

Therefore, 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 (I Corinthians 11:27).

This is not a call to perpetual guilt and shame over our sins. None of us have, or will in this life, achieve a sin-free existence. The Lord’s death has made forgiveness and God’s grace a way of life for those who believe (John 3:16-21).

To avoid taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, we are instructed:

A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself (I Corinthians 1:28-29).

The Greek verb here translated “examine” is also translated as “test” in several places in the New Testament. In another context, Paul admonished this church:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test (II Corinthians 13:5)?

Besides testing our faith, we should also test our actions:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each should carry his own load (Galatians 6:2-5).

We not only need to test our own attitudes and actions, we also need to test the spirit of prophets, of teachers and their teachings:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (I John 4:1).

Test everything. Hold on to the good (I Thessalonians 5:21).

Another question on our test could be “Are we being transformed through the renewing of our minds instead of continuing to conform to the world around us? If so, “then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).

Our examination needs to be of our own motivations and actions rather than the state of someone else’s faith. Are we extending love and mercy, grace, to others as God has extended grace to us?

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others (Philippians 2:1-4).

Paul did not tell us to refrain from taking the Lord’s Supper unless we were super-duper righteous; he admonished us to recognize the body of the Lord while we participate in this ceremony reminding us of the great debt paid by Jesus on our behalf.

For the Scripture References and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: Test Yourselves