1 Corinthians 11:17-22
The Lord’s Supper is partly about the unity and fellowship of God’s people. The people Paul was writing this letter to were anything but unified. They were divided over all kinds of issues. Throughout the letter of 1 Corinthians, we see that they were divided into factions, with some following Apollos and others following Paul. They were divided on important doctrines, with some affirming the resurrection and others denying it. They were divided over the kinds of foods they should eat and days to observe, with some thinking that those things are what true religion is about. In this passage, we see that they were divided socially, between the rich and the poor. Verse 19 says that there were “factions among you.” Rather than observing the Lord’s Supper as it was intended, as a ceremonial memorial meal, they were treating it as a time to fill their hungry bellies, like an ordinary meal of the day. The rich brought their food from home and ate all of it, without sharing it with the poor. Verses 21-22 say, “For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 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?”
They made two mistakes. First, they were treating the Lord’s Supper like it was one of the ordinary meals of the day, when it was supposed to be an ordinance for the purpose of remembering Christ and what He had done. Second, they turned the meaning of the Lord’s Supper on its head. The Lord’s Supper was designed to depict the unity and fellowship of God’s people. Instead, at the Corinthian church, it was a symbol of their division.
Have you ever thought about the Lord’s Supper in terms of unity and fellowship? Think about it. It is a corporate meal. Meals are times when people come together, not just to eat, but to enjoy one another’s company and share one another’s experiences. If you eat a meal with someone, it’s usually because there is already some kind of personal connection there. So, when we the church eat the Lord’s Supper together, it’s a symbol of our unity in Christ and of our common fellowship in the gospel. What should that unity and fellowship look like practically? It means that when you come in the door of a church, you feel loved by the love of Christ in others. It means others go out of their way to speak to you and to know you, and that you go out of your way to speak to them, to ask how they’re doing. It also means opening our homes to one another, and sharing our belongings with one another (cf. Acts 2:42-47). That’s unity and fellowship.
But, it’s even more than that. It’s unity and fellowship around the gospel of Christ. That means talking about Christ with one another, sharing our experiences in Christ and love for Christ with one another, talking about what we’ve learned from Scripture during the week, and the ways that we’ve found Christ precious this week. It means sharing our struggles in the faith with one another and bearing one another’s burdens, as we walk the walk of faith together, encouraging one another to persevere in Christ. Unity and fellowship means helping one another when you’re in trouble. Unity and fellowship in Christ means knowing about the hardships in the lives of others and finding ways to serve them. It means cooking meals for people when their loved ones die, and letting them know how much you care about them. One example in my own life of how someone once ministered to me and my family is that a couple of years ago when we had that ice storm, a church member went out of his way to check on us. His job was to deliver newspapers early in the morning; so, he was already out in the bad weather in his 4x4 with snow treads, and he gave us a call. He asked us if there was anything we needed him to do for us, to go to the grocery store, or to run an errand. He did it because of his love for Christ and love for us in Christ. He wanted to show the love of Christ to us in a tangible way.
Those are just a few examples of Christian unity and fellowship in Christ. There could be many more. Perhaps you have your own stories about how God’s people have served you and loved you. The Lord’s Supper is a time to remember that, and to think about how you can continue to serve the Lord by loving and serving His people.