Breaking Bread- The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper Part 12
The congregations of Corinth met every Sunday, the first day of the week, “to show forth the Lord’s death till He come again.” 1 Corinthians 11:26 Let all be cognizant of the fact that Paul had also commanded the membership of Christ to contribute according to his ability. No religious institution of denominational bearing rejects this “receiving the offering every Sunday!” All agree and none dissent for it proves the weekly meeting of the saints. With this concession in mind, we have only to notice what is said in 1 Corinthians 11:20: “When you come together in one place, that is, every week at least, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.” When they gathered together there was a stated purpose, to remember Christ and His death that each communicant shared.
It was common in Corinth and the other cities of Greece for various sections of the community to form themselves into associations, clubs, or guilds; and it was customary for such societies to share a common meal once a week, or once a month, or even, when convenient, daily. Some of these associations were formed of persons variously provided with the world’s goods, and one of the objects of some of the clubs was to make provision for the poorer members in such a manner as to subject them to none of the shame which is apt to attend the poor being without. All members had an equal right to present themselves at the table; and the property held by the society was equally distributed to all. This custom, not unknown in Palestine itself, had been spontaneously adopted by the primitive Church of Jerusalem and was a natural outgrowth of their “coming together.” The Christians of those early days felt themselves to be more closely related than the members of any trade guild or political club. If it was convenient and suitable that persons of similar political opinions or belonging to the same trade should, to some extent, share with their community a common meal, it was certainly suitable among Christians. Quickly, it became a custom for Christians to eat together in their common meals, after remembering the Lord. These meals were called agapae-love feasts and became a marked feature of the early Church, by custom, not command. On a fixed day, the first day, marked by purpose, each, which could, would bring a contribution to the feast. It began by partaking of the consecrated bread and wine. Some Churches of Christ today, do not have fellowship meals and do not know WHY!
The manner of celebrating the Lord’s Supper was recommended by its close resemblance to the original celebration of Christ and His disciples at the close of the Paschal Supper. The Paschal Supper was meant to satisfy hunger for the long trip ahead. It was for the Exodus. Our Lord took bread and broke it. He sat with His disciples as one family, and the meal they partook of was social as well as religious. In Corinth, when the Lord’s Supper with its remembrance was ended, and Christ’s presence was no longer felt at the common table, the Christian love feast was corrupted. The wealthy took the best seats, kept their delicacies, and, without waiting for any common distribution, each looked after himself and went on with his own supper, regardless of the fact that others at the table had none. “Everyone takes before other his own supper,” so that, while one is hungry and has received nothing, another at this so-called common love feast has already taken too much and was intoxicated. The rich had houses in which to eat, but brought their food for the sake of appearance, brought their contribution to the meal, but consumed it themselves. The results were what Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11. So Paul cries out: “What, shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.” The resulting consequence was that from being truly love feasts, exhibiting Christian charity and temperance, these meetings became scandalous as scenes of greed, selfishness, and excess. But what is interesting is this: Paul did command the whole assembling disbanded, and even though the rich had changed the drink to fermented wine (which they now had an excuse to partake), Paul’s recommendations is that those who had houses “eat at home” so the solemnity of the assembling be put back in the purpose for which they assembled!! Even though the command to feed the poor is to be remembered by the Church; the dishonoring of Christ became a result the Church was spreading in its meal, weakening the faith, and stopping the very purpose for which they were coming together!! The Roman Catholics still show signs of this debauchery and went further than was demanded, they allow only that the communicant partakes of the bread, but not the wine, blaming it on the fear of “spilling” the blood.