|Lesson 8||February 15-21|
|"At the Lord's Table"|
Read For This Week's Study: 1 Cor. 10:1-13; 1 Cor. 11:2-34.
Memory Text: "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come" (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Key Thought: Christ gathers us to His table, where we drink from one cup and eat from one loaf in thoughtful contemplation of the provisions of God's grace. From this vantage point of God's family table we are to ponder our relationship with our crucified, risen, and soon-returning Lord, and our relationships with one another.
|Sabbath Afternoon||February 14|
THE RISEN LORD INVITES YOU TO SUPPER AT HIS TABLE. "The ordinances will be celebrated next Sabbath." What is your response when that line appears in the church bulletin? "Does any unwelcome, negative reaction rise in your mind? Is the first thought, "Again, so soon?" Many of us perhaps even most of us, have a great need to deepen our appreciation of sitting at the table with our Lord.
That the Christian believers at Corinth were experiencing considerable difficulty with the Lord's Supper brings us peculiar comfort. Compared to the gluttonous neglect of church members displayed in the pages of 1 Corinthians, our own lack of appreciation may seem a minor fault. However, Paul invites us, along with those erring believers, into the Upper Room to watch the Lord at the Last Supper. If we watch and listen carefully, we shall never be the same.
ANCIENT SINS (1 Cor. 10:1-13).
What ideas about Christian ceremonies do you think Paul attempted to correct in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
In treating erroneous views of the Lord's Supper and baptism, Paul lists four sins of God's people as examples of "what not to do." For each sin, Paul recalls a specific incident in Israel's wilderness experience:
|Idolatry (verse 7)||Worship of the golden calf (Exod. 23:1-6)|
|Immorality (verse 8)||Plague for immoral worship of the Baal of Peor (Numbers 25)|
|Putting Christ to the test (verse 9)||Plague of serpents resulting from impatience (Num. 21:4-9)|
|Complaining (verse 10)||Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; the ten spies (Numbers 16; 13; 14)|
The references to these stories are seen as examples for those "on whom the ends of the ages have come" (1 Cor. 10:6, 11, RSV). Paul's reference to the end time makes the priniple all the more appropriate to us!
What parallels existed between the experience of ancient Israel and the Corinthians in Corinth? What parallels could be traced to our own experience?
The sins of ancient Israel are paralleled in the experience of the Christians in Corinth. Paul deals with idolatry (8:1-13) and will do so again (10:14-22). Likewise, he has warned them against immorality and noted that they are "arrogant" about it (4:2, NRSV; Num. 25:6). The Corinthians are "putting Christ to the test" by linking their participation in the Lord's Supper with their involvement in idol feasts (1 Cor. 10:14-22). And, in their failure to follow Paul's directives (for example, 1 Cor. 5:9, 13) and their complaints against his leadership, they are reflecting the rebellion of ancient Israel.
"God would have His people in these days review with a humble heart and teachable spirit the trials through which ancient Israel passed. ..." -- Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 293.
"CONFIDENCE, FALSE AND TRUE" (1 Cor. 10:1-13).
What earmarks of false spiritual confidence were in evidence at Corinth? 1 Cor. 10:1-5, 12.
Some seem to have developed a strong and misplaced confidence in their spiritual invincibility. The apparently touted their participation in baptism and the Lord's Supper as providing spiritual security. They believed themselves "save" even if they were immoral (6:12-20) or participated boldly in idol feasts (8:10; 10:14-22). Paul debunks this false sense of security. He argues that the Israelites had also been "baptized" and had eaten spiritual food and drink but were anything but "safe."
What is the nature of true Christian confidence? 1 Cor. 10:13. Compare 1 John 3:18-22; 5:11-13.
Paul reveals the true source of Christian confidence. It is not participation in baptism and the Lord's Supper, but God's faithfulness and the divine provision of refuge. True Christian confidence, while keeping us fully aware of our susceptibility to temptation, assures us that God is faithful and eager to help us in our weakness.
Some of the Corinthians erred in making "too much" of baptism and the Lord's supper. In what might we err in making too little of these ceremonies? What might be the negative consequences in committing such an error?
Paul in no way demeans the ceremonies of baptism and the Lord's Supper. He calls Christians back to their baptism as the pivotal event of their experience (Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12). And his respect for the Lord's Supper is evident (1 Cor. 10:14-22; 11:17-34). Ellen White writes of the Lord's Supper, "It is the means by which His [Christ's] great work for us is to be kept fresh in our minds ... It is at these, His own appointments, that Christ meets His people, and energizes them by His presence." -- The Desire of Ages, pp. 653-656.
"Strong faith in a weak plank will land you in the river, but weak faith in a strong plank will get you across."--Paul Little, How to Give Away Your Faith (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1976), p. 112
STARVING AT THE LORD'S TABLE (1 Cor. 11:17-22; 27-34).
What would it have been like to attend a "fellowship luncheon" and the Lord's Supper at Corinth? 1 Cor. 11:17-22, 33, 34.
A house dating from Paul's day has been excavated in Corinth. The house of a well-to-do Corinthian citizen, it likely reflects the type of houses in which the churches met. A small dining room could accomodate up to nine people, while an adjoining court could hold thirty to forty. The host, then, would recline in the dining room with an inner circle of friends, while others would be seated outside in the courtyard.
To this architectural difference may have been added a difference in menu. Roman custom called for serving different types of food based on social status. The host's friends, people of considerable social status, would have had leisure time and could arrive early to enjoy large portions of excellent food. Members of lower classes, especially slaves, would have to complete their duties before participating as second-class citizens in the church gathering. (See Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, St. Paul's Corinth, pp. 153-161.
The scene, then, is not a happy one. The class structures of the world would have invaded the table of the Lord. One group gorges themselves with rich foods, while another struggles to satisfy their humger.
What remedies does Paul suggest for the situation at Corinth? 1 Cor. 11:22,27-34.
In the KJV, 1 Corinthians 11:27 reads, "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." Paul's real concern is that the believers not participate "in an unworthy manner" (see NKJV, NIV, RSV, etc.). Paul does call for self-examination (verse 28). Such examination will bring realization of how unworthy we are of God's grace. We can never be worthy except in His worthiness. Seeing our lack of worth is what should compel us to seek His grace at His table. One way that we can be unworthy to approach the Lord's table is to feel that we are somehow worthy to do so and more deserving than others.
Can you think of ways in which the social structures of the world continue to invade the church? What remedies are available? What positive and practical steps could you take?
IN REMEMBRANCE ... UNTIL HE COMES (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 and imagine yourself to be a participant at that first supper.
The situation at Corinth is so serious that their ceremony no longer deserves the title "the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:20). Paul obviously hopes that they will once again gather for a true Lord's Supper. To that end he ushers them into the upper room, inviting them to recline around the table and watch Jesus host that first Christian supper. In its true form this event is to be repeated again and again until that day when the saints join in the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9).
What did Paul hope his readers would learn by recalling the upper room? What thoughts are uppermost in your mind when you participate in the Lord's supper? What would you have said or done if you were a participant at that first supper?
Our understanding of the upper-room story is enriched by recalling the context in which Paul shares it. The selfish hoarding of the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:21,22) must cease in the light of two events: Christ's death and His coming. Christ's sharing of bread and cup contrasts with the selfish practices displayed in Corinth. And Christ was not just sharing mere food and drink, but offering Himself! In addition, Christ's coming implies a future judgment at which we will be called to account for our behavior (see 1 Cor. 11:29-32; compare Matt. 25:31-46).
Seventh-day Adventists do not believe, as some groups teach, that the emblems actually become the body and blood of Jesus. Instead, we hold that the bread and wine are rich symbols. Among the reasons is a simple one. When Jesus offered the Supper to his disciples in the upper room, He was physically present with them. They could not have mistaken the emblems for Him! However, the elements are significant, for they represent the body and blood of our risen Lord. Christ invites us to His table and offers us in the celebration of the ordinances His own presence, forgiveness, power, and life.
The upper-room story is one with a purpose. For Christians, the repetition of that story is not simply a pious ceremony. It provides a potent reminder of Christ's self-sacrifice and a call to self-denial and ministry. It points toward a coming Lord who will call us to accountability for our treatment of one another.
THE UNVEILING (1 Cor. 11:2-16).
Read 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. What situation do you think motivated Paul to share this counsel?
Paul commends the Corinthians for following "the traditions" he has shared with them. Verses 3-16 suggest, though, that Paul wishes to address one instance where some clarification was needed. Some Christian women in Corinth seem to have felt that they no longer needed to follow time-honored customs. They were participating in public worship unveiled. Paul's central concern is for the good name of Christianity. He does not wish for the fledgling movement to be "disgraced" by adopting a dress code that others would judge immodest or immoral (see verses 5, 6).
In what ways may we correctly apply 1 Corinthians 11:2-16?
In most parts of the world, the wearing of veils is no longer practiced, and this passage may seem irrelevant. However, there are thoughts here that should not escape our notice. Among these is a principle applicable to any society and time. Christians are to display a modesty and decorum that will allow the good news about Jesus unimpeded access to those who observe their behavior.
Also, note that women are praying and prophesying in worship (verses 5, 13). Paul does not counter their participation as such, but only the fact that some are doing so unveiled.
In addition, Paul seems uncomfortable moving too far from the principle of interdependence between men and women. He pauses to restate it in a most vivid way: "In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God" (1 Cor. 11:11, 12, NIV). As in the Lord's Supper, where the rich should not shame the poor, here neither men nor women are to lay claim to priority and so be "contentious" (verse 16).
"The opinion and conduct of the large body of believers was to be respected, and not opposed by a few self-opinionated members of the church at Corinth. This principle is always true; one individual or a few individuals should not feel that their ideas are superior to the general opinion of the church as a whole, and seek to impose those ideas on the majority."--SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 759.
Are there ways in which your behavior is impeding the access of the message of a returning Lord?
Further Study: Read Psalms 105, 106. Ellen White, having quoted 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, writes: "The experience of Israel, referred to in the above words by the apostle, and as recorded in the one hundred fifth and one hundred sixth psalms, contains lessons of warning that the people of God in these last days especially need to study. I urge that these chapters be read at least once every week."--Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 98, 99. What do you think are some "lessons of warning" that we need to hear from these passages today?.
First Corinthians 11 alludes to the treatment of the poor in our midst. On this theme see Matthew 25:40-46; James 1:22-27. Ellen White discusses the theme in Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 24-37. "It is not the abundance of your meetings that God accepts. It is not the numerous prayers, but the rightdoing, doing the right thing and at the right time. It is to be less self-caring and more benevolent. Our souls must expand."--p. 36.
Paul's is the earliest account we have of the "Lord's Supper." Compare it to the accounts in the Gospels: Matt. 26:26-30; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:14-23.
|1. How could you help to make the next
Communion service at your church a more deeply spiritual experience? and
3. What issues is your local church facing just now that are, at least in some ways, similar to the issues of abuses of the Lord's Supper and veiling in 1 Corinthians? Does Paul's handling of these situations suggest solutions?
Summary: We do not live the Christian life in isolation, but in community. In worship and in the Lord's Supper the Lord's family gathers. At these occasions, as always, the risen Christ is concerned about how His family members relate to one another and their witness to the world. These important gatherings should express the unity and love of members for one another and should help to advance the Christian mission.
|Keeping The "Mission" in
Traditionally the church has thought of mission schools as simple schools, often little more than a thatch-roofed hut, where a missionary or national worker teaches reading and writing as a way to intrudce a group of people to God. While some of these schools still exist, many "mission" schools have made impressive strides, and now are large, well-staffed institutions. But they still are mission schools in the truest sense.
In India, for instance, God still works through mission schools to draw students who otherwise are resistant to Christianity into an environment where Christ is honored and worshiped. The city of Madurai [MAH-do-ray] in Southern India is strongly Hindu. But four Adventist mission schools are effective soul-winning institutions. Each school enrolls more than 1,000 students, and each is known for its academic excellence.
One of these schools, Madurai North SDA High School, enrolls nearly 3,000 students. It ranks at the top in academic performance, and carries on an active spiritual ministry as well. In fact, the students and staff have so many different outreach activities, that the school recently voted to hire an evangelist to coordinate their evangelistic efforts! He incorporated several existing activities to plan and prepare Vacation Bible School programs in five previously unentered villages near the school. Each VBS enrolled at least 100 eager children, and drew enough interests to follow through with Branch Sabbath Schools. In one village a Hindu woman offered her home to conduct the Branch Sabbath School. Within a few months the first eight believers were baptized in this town.
The following year the school conducted VBS in five more villages, and followed up by inviting more than 300 children to experience summer camp. Most children had never been camping, and they loved it! These Hindu children learned more about the love of Jesus as they experienced the love of the volunteers who directed the camp. So far, 13 people have been baptized as a result of the second year of VBS outreach.
The staff and students of Madurai North High School plan to conduct VBS outreach in another five villages this summer. It's little wonder that the school has a reputation for excellence in spiritualand intellectual fields. They take seriously the "mission" in "mission school."
|Margaret Nathanielis children'sministries director in the Southern Asia Division|
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