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The Sacred Supper

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

–Acts 2:42

If you look at a pack of cigarettes, you will notice that it carries a warning. The wording of that warning has changed over the years, but it says something like, “Warning: the surgeon general has determined that cigarette smoking is hazardous to your health and may cause cancer.”

I have often thought that whenever we observe the Lord’s Supper, it would be good if the communion table had a warning on it that said, “Warning: the apostle Paul has determined that taking the Lord’s Supper in the wrong way with the wrong attitude is hazardous to your spiritual health and may lead to death.” That is the sobering truth we find in the passage we are going to study this week.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul was addressing various problems in the Corinthian church. In chapter 11, he tackled the abuse of the Lord’s Supper.

To appreciate what Paul was saying in this passage, we have to understand the culture when Paul wrote these words. The Lord’s Supper was something completely different than the way we often observe it in our churches today. William Barclay explained that in the first century, the word “supper” had a very important meaning. The Greeks had three meals a day. Breakfast was nothing more than a piece of bread dipped in wine. It was kind of like an Egg McMuffin–something you would have on the run. Lunch was eaten anywhere, even in the city square. But supper was the most important meal of the day. It was not one of these sit-down-and-shove-it-in-your-mouth affairs. No, it was a time when the family would linger around the table, much like our Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

The early church adopted that fellowship meal as part of its Sunday evening worship. Jude 12 refers to it as a “love feast” or “agape meal.” It was like a potluck dinner: everybody would bring something to the fellowship meal. Somebody might share Scripture to encourage the people. Somebody might lead a song. But mainly it was a time to fellowship with one another. And at the end of the fellowship meal, they would observe the Eucharist, which means “the giving of thanks.” Today, that portion is what we call the Lord’s Supper. So when Paul talked about the abuse of the Lord’s Supper, he was talking about the entire fellowship meal experience. And he warned that to take the Lord’s Supper in the wrong way is to invite God’s judgment.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Sacred Supper” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2011.

William Barclay, “The Letters to the Corinthians,” The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002), 120.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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