Paul dishes out some harsh criticism for the church in Corinth because of their lack of caring and compassion for one another when they took the Lord’s Supper. There was radical division and isolationism. Paul is clear that they are sinning and this behavior is contrary to the gospel. In fact, he suggests that people are worse off than if they hadn’t come together to celebrate the Lord’s supper in the first place: “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse” (1 Cor. 11:17 ESV).
Paul goes on to say that the meal is so divisive that it is not even the Lord’s supper: “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat” (vs. 20). The problem is that the Corinthians’ meal was a selfish meal, and not one centered around Christ and others. Some ate alone. Others ate in groups without waiting for those who were hungry. Others got drunk. It had nothing to do with the cross of Christ and everything to do with gluttony. Paul warned that anyone who “eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord” (vs. 27).
He also instructed them to discern the body (church) when eating and drinking at the table. That means there was a cross examination that happened in addition to self examination. Both were important. If Paul warns of not eating in an unworthy manner, it goes to say that eating in a worthy manner is essential. So what is the worthy manner? A worthy manner unites believers at Christ’s table. Brothers and sisters should wait for one another. They should be reconciled as they partake of Christ’s body and blood.
Christ died to unite believers, not to cause separation. Jesus helps us imagine the table in heaven when he eats this meal anew with us. Jesus certainly didn’t have in mind drunken chaos. Therefore, it’s critical for us to eat in a worthy manner that honors others at the table.