I enjoy a lot of things—hiking, playing board games, writing—but my favorite activity is studying the Bible. I just love it. I love seeing it change people’s lives, I love learning new things about it, and I love trying to teach and preach the Bible every week. I love that book!
As we came through 1 Corinthians 10 and 11, I was doing a lot of study on communion, or the Lord’s Supper, and I just love what the Bible has to say about it. As I’ve been preparing for 1 Corinthians 12 – 14, I’ve been doing a lot of study on “the body of Christ,” and I love what the Bible says about it… it’s the church!
Not a universal, invisible church out there somewhere, or else what would all the spiritual gifts mean? Or what would church discipline mean? Or what would the word church (assembly) mean?
I’m aware of the rare institutional uses of the word church in Scripture, but they in no way imply that there’s a universal church that all believers are connected to. There’s the family of God and the kingdom, but that’s not church.
The body of Christ is us. And so is every other local church whose head is Christ and whose doctrine is according to “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” Jude 3.
The church at Corinth was the body of Christ, and Paul was writing them about their church unity… which was absent! They were observing what they thought was the Lord’s Table, but by breaking the very picture of the unity that Christ’s broken body and shed blood brings, Paul said, “This is not to eat the Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor. 11:20). Their church was separated when they should have been unified (see 1 Cor. 11:18, 33). Their church was self-focused when they should have been Jesus-focused (see 1 Cor. 11:21–22, 29).
So, they were told, “Stop it.” Not in those words, exactly, but Paul encouraged them to individually and corporately examine themselves before God. First it says, “Let a man examine himself,” which is the individual side of examination. But then there was the church statement, too:
“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Notice the ye. It’s a personal remembrance that we do together. Ye and you in our KJV is plural (and other Y words like your, yours, etc… but still looking for y’all), while thee, thou, thine, etc. is singular.
So “…ye come together…” in 11:17, and “…when ye come together in the church” in v. 18, and “When ye come together therefore into one place…” in v. 20, and “…when ye come together to eat…” in v. 33, and “…ye come not together…” in v. 34… these are references to the assembly of believers in Corinth.
When this assembly had a member in unrepentant sin, Paul told them, “…do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13. “Them that are within” are the church members, and in verse 11 of that chapter, Paul told the church that if a member was in unrepentant sin, “…with such a one no not to eat.” That’s the Lord’s Supper.
Paul wasn’t talking about kicking someone out of a “universal” church, but out of their local congregation. They one in sin could no longer commune with that church, which was later described as the physical manifestation of the body of Christ with members in particular. We are the members, and if body parts mean anything to a body, well, church members mean something to the church body.
Nobody is a vestigial organ! We are all important, and necessary, and gifted by the Holy Spirit, and a part of what God is building here. That’s why church membership is important, because it is about connecting to the body of Christ.
I’m convinced that the Scriptures teach us to be unified through Christ with a body of believers, and that 1) baptism is the entrance into that body by identity and submission, and 2) communion is the fellowship of that body around Christ’s sacrifice for our sin. These are the two church ordinances.
We’re talking about the church, which cannot be described any better than this: ”That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:27
Tonight’s obedient observance of the Lord’s Supper is a beautiful step in helping us be “holy and without blemish,” and I’m looking forward to “come together” and observe it with you.