What does character have to do with it?

The last supper, Corinthian version

On this thursday of Passion week our thoughts turn to the Last Supper and the Biblical narratives that tell us all that went on there between Christ and his disciples. While the gospels are the main source for the actual initiation of the sacrament of communion, there is one other occurance of it recorded in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. This text should also be carefully considered.

Robert Hart, writing in the Nov/Dec issue of  Touchstone Magazine, presents a strong argument for what he considers was a main issue in the letter, “That Corinthian Problem”.

“The disarray, foolishness, and sin that St.Paul addressed when writing his first extant epistle to the Church in Corinth have worked to our benefit, for they gave rise to teaching in the Scriptures that has been needed throughout the subsequent history of the Church, and that we need today.”

He ties this main problem and thus the main concern for the Apostle as he writes to several of the main themes dealt with in the letter and shows that these are not disconnected thoughts but all examples of the main problem in the church.

“The same people who have gifts to work miracles and to prophecy, can, at the same time, be guilty of creating and perpetuating sinful divisions within the Bodu of Christ. The same people who truly discern spirits, and are able to test and know which spirits are not of God, can at the same time be proud to have a notorious fornicator among them, allowing him to receive the Communion of Christ’s Body and Blood along with all the rest.”

Hart points out that “they knew the right doctrine about idols” and that Paul did not question their knowledge and orthodoxy. No, the major rebuke was reserved for their lack of love and consideration for oneanother (see the warning in I Cor. 8). I think that he is correct in his exegesis of the text and its purpose for us today as we approach the Lord’s Table.

As I have posted before there is a very common attitude present at the observance of this solemn moment in the worship of the church which misses entirely its significance. If it is, for example, only about my individual forgiveness of sin, and not about participation along with my fellow Christians in the death of the Head of the Body, then I have missed a large part of what God was accomplishing in the death of His only begotten Son; I am in fact “not discerning the Lord’s Body” (11:29).

One final word from Hart, demonstrates that this was exactly what the selfish Corinthians were doing as they approached the Supper of Our Lord (I Cor.11).

“How, in their knowledge so enriched, with utterances so gifted, did they miss the obvious point? How could they have been so blind to the simple rule of putting the needs of their brothers and sisters ahead of their own desires? They were orthodox. They were learned. They were gifted. They were also carnal.”

This article by Robert Hart has thrown a whole new light on Chapter 13  for me. I now agree that it was originally meant as a rebuke, ” a fire lit to melt their frozen, unloving, selfish hearts.” May God grant all His people to come to the Supper with an unselfish attitude of gratitude for what He has accomplished to free us from our sin of selfishness and make us partakers of His divine nature.

Related: The Communion of Saints-A.W.Tozer

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