1 Corinthians 11:17-34 | Whose Instructions Do You Follow?

One member of my book club recently brought some dessert to share with the group.

She wrapped each piece of cake individually and brought her own metal forks to share with us.

After she had passed them out but had not picked up her own fork, one of us teasingly asked, “Do we need to wait to eat our piece until you have picked up your fork?”

With a glint in her eye, she quickly picked up her fork so we could enjoy the yummy treat.

What does this cultural practice of waiting for the hostess to pick up her fork before the guests can begin eating have to do with 1 Corinthians 11:17-34?

1 Corinthians 11:17-34 | Whose Instructions Do You Follow? | The Problem

Paul’s dominant theme in 1 Corinthians chastises the cultural arrogances hindering the growth of the gospel message.

This passage sees Paul chastising the Corinthian’s behavior when they gather to share the Lord’s Supper.

17 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. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. [1]

Is Paul being serious or sarcastic in verse 19? Why or why not? (Also see 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 and 3:1-4)

What happens when this church comes together for the Lord’s supper? (Verses 20-21)

Who is being despised and how? (Verse 22)

Paul strongly chastises the cultural practice that the wealthier members of the church at Corinth were engaging. They clearly thought they had the right to eat and drink more than the less wealthy members at these gatherings.

1 Corinthians 11:17-34 | Whose Instructions Do You Follow? | The True Purpose

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. [2]

Describe when Christ started the Lord’s supper. (See verse 23, Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, and Luke 22:1-22)

What are the purposes of reenacting the Lord’s supper according to Christ? Paul? (Verses 24-26)

The Lord’s supper is about remembering Christ dying on the cross to restore all of us to a right relationship with the Lord, while we wait for his promised return. (See Acts 1:6-11)

1 Corinthians 11:17-34 | Whose Instructions Do You Follow? | The Proper Way

27 Whoever, therefore, 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. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come. [3]

List the consequences that happen when one takes part in the Lord’s Supper unworthily. (Verses 27-30)

How is being disciplined by the Lord to our advantage? (Verse 32)

What must we do to take part in the Lord’s supper worthily? (Verses 28, 31, 33-34)

Proper etiquette at the Lord’s supper is to share equally with all believers. Cultural standing should never be the focus.

1 Corinthians 11:17-34 | Whose Instructions Do You Follow? | Application

How do you prepare yourself for participation in the Lord’s supper?

Do you need to be more serious about the Lord’s supper? Why or why not?

How can our approach to the Lord’s supper support unity among all believers?

These verses reinforce that the Lord’s supper is more significant than a basic meal. Rather, it is a reminder of the value of Christ’s salvation gift that is shared with everyone, regardless of cultural status.

We frequently practice proper etiquette when waiting for someone who shares a simple piece of cake with a small group of friends. How much more valuable is it to practice proper etiquette at the Lord’s supper?

There is so much more in this passage to consider. What else inspired you in these verses today? Share in the comments below!


Barbara Lynn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 11:17–22.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 11:23–26.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 11:27–34.

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