The Corinthian Congregation & the Great American Parallel

Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: But the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:1-16).

 

            “Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church. I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunketn. What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 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. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come” (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).

 

            THE CUP OF BLESSING WHICH WE BLESS! THE COMMUNION OF THE BLOOD OF CHRIST! THE BREAD WHICH WE BREAK! THE COMMUNION OF THE BODY OF CHRIST! FOR WE BEING MANY ARE ONE BREAD, AND ONE BODY! WE ARE ALL PARTAKERS OF THAT ONE BREAD! When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul shifting gears within the epistle written unto the saints which were at Corinth. What you will find in this epistle is a powerful picture of the apostle Paul providing unto the Corinthian congregation the ordinances which he had given unto them while he was with them. What’s more is that upon reading the words found in the eleventh chapter—even the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of this epistle—is the apostle Paul teaching and instructing the Corinthians how to live as the body within the earth. It is absolutely impossible to read the words which are found in the latter portion of the tenth chapter of this book and not encounter and come face to face with the apostle Paul speaking directly unto the Corinthian saints concerning how they are to live as the body of Christ in the midst of the earth. We dare not and must not miss the incredible importance of what is found in this passage of Scripture and epistle for within it we encounter the tremendous truth surrounding the body of Christ—and not only the body of Christ but the fact that the body of Christ is made up of many members. There is a strong and powerful truth that is at the very heart and center of this part of the epistle for having exposed some of the dangers, snares and pitfalls of the Corinthian congregation as they attempted to live in community with each other the apostle Paul now turns to a more practical approach to living as the body.

 

            If you spend any amount of time reading the words which are found in this first epistle written unto the Corinthian congregation you will encounter the tremendous truth that this was a body which was not only deeply divided within itself but also a body that was at war with itself. In fact I would dare say that the first epistle written unto the Corinthian congregation is not only an epistle that was written for and unto that congregation but is a powerful picture of the nation in which we are living. You would have to be completely and utterly naïve to the events that have taken place over the last year and a half—and not only over the past year and a half but over decades—to not come face to face with the incredible truth that this nation is one that is not only deeply divided within itself but it is also a nation that is and has been at war with itself. There is a great need for us to recognize and understand that we in this nation have been at war with ourselves for quite some time and as a direct result of that war we are deeply divided. Over the past year and a half’s worth of time we have seen and witnessed this nation be divided across religious lines, across political lines, across gender lines, across lines of sexual orientation and the like. Not only this but we have witnessed and seen first hand how this nation has become divided even further—this time across lines of vaccination status. It is absolutely impossible to miss what has taken place within this nation as relationships rise and fall based on one’s vaccination status. If you are one who is not vaccinated, has not been vaccinated or has no desire or intention of being vaccinated you are immediately deemed as being inhumane to society as well as a danger and threat to others. Not only this but you will also be perceived as one who is entirely and altogether selfish and cares only about yourself without any concern for others.

 

            I sit here today writing these words and I am brought face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth that this nation is such that has been divided for quite some time now and is undoubtedly at war with itself. Consider if you will all the events surrounding police brutality and the violence that has flooded our streets. Consider the countless headlines that have surrounded Antifa and the various other forms of demonstration, riot, protest and domestic terrorism that has plagued this nation over the past year and a half. Essentially this nation has become one that has become a prisoner to itself and to its own ideologies, opinions, thought patterns and the like. There is not a doubt in my mind that the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints is not only such that serves as a picture of that church or body of Christ which is divided within and at war against itself but also a picture of this nation as a whole. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it is for within this epistle we are brought face to face with the undeniable truth that this nation is such that is and has been deeply divided within itself and is at war with itself. While there have been countless men and women—regardless of whether they are in the religious or political realm or whether they are in the entertainment or media realm—who might very well say that the greatest threat to this nation comes from without and is external I would dare say the greatest danger and threat to this nation comes from within. There are those who firmly believe that foreign and international terrorism is the single greatest threat to this nation and yet I would dare say that nothing could be further from the truth. If this nation is ever destroyed—mark my words that it will not be destroyed from without but from within. Although twenty years ago today two planes flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and although a plane crashed into the Pentagon, and although another plane would have potentially crashed into the White House were it not for the intervention of the passengers we must needs acknowledge and understand that the greatest threat to this nation has always and will always come from within.

 

            The more I write the words contained here the more I come face to face with the fact that it is the division within ourselves and our own infighting that can and will mark the demise of this nation. It was Jesus Himself who declared that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand and that a house which was divided against itself will fall. Following the same line of logic presented in the words of Jesus it is safe to say that a nation divided against itself cannot stand. Not only this but I would also dare say that a nation that is at war with and fights within itself cannot stand. I am absolutely convinced that when we think about this nation—particularly and especially over the past year and a half we have been a nation that has been largely at war with itself and bitterly divided. There is absolutely no mistaking this tremendous truth for you need only look at the events that have transpired over the past year and a half to see how bitterly divided we are and how men and women are and have been at war with each other. What’s more is that I am absolutely and completely convinced the words Jesus spoke—both in His charge and commission of the twelve apostles as well as in His Olivet Discourse—are directly applicable to the generation in which are living. I firmly believe that what the church of the Corinthians suffered from and struggled with is the same thing this nation has struggled with and continues to struggle with in this present generation. With this being said I would like to call and invite you to consider the following words which are found in both the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well as the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the same book:

 

            “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: For it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, ye shall have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which. Kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:16-33).

 

            “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).

 

            “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: For all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:4-14).

 

            On this twentieth anniversary of the events which occurred on September 11th there would be those who would dare say that the single greatest threat to our nation has always been—particularly and especially since that fateful day—those threats which proceed from outside our borders and boundaries. For nearly two decades—perhaps more than at any other time in history—we have believed that the greatest danger and threat to our nation comes from outside and without our borders and boundaries. The truth of the matter, however, is that the dangers which threaten our nation are not necessarily the greatest from without but from within. It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand that the single greatest threat to our nation has always been the conflicts, the wars, the division, the infightings and the struggles present within. If you think about the events of the Civil War during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln you will find the greatest threat to this nation was the division which existed between the Union and the Confederacy. At that point the single greatest threat to this nation was the fighting and bloodshed which was taking place on our own soil. Oh although we aren’t divided between the Union and the Confederacy anymore we must needs recognize and understand that there is still a conflict, battle, war and fight for the heart and soul of this nation. Although we aren’t fighting each other as during the days of the Civil War armed with guns and the like we are still at war with and against ourselves. Pause and think about all the violence that has taken place within this nation over and throughout the years and you will quickly come to the place where we realize that we have indeed been a nation that has been at war and odds with itself.

 

            The words and language we find in the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find that this was a church that was deeply divided with itself and a congregation that did not know how to be a true body of believers. There is not a doubt in my mind when reading the words found in this particular epistle that the Corinthian congregation was such that was entirely and altogether incapable—at least in their own strength—to be the true body of Christ in the midst of that city. The more you read that which is found in this particular epistle the more you will encounter and come face to face with the struggle which were found in the midst of this congregation. From division to strife, from envying to fornication, from defiling and polluting the Lord’s table to taking each other to court the Corinthian saints were such who had very little knowledge of how to truly operate and function with each other. In fact if you read chapters twelve, thirteen and fourteen you will find the apostle Paul writing and speaking unto them concerning the body of Christ being one with many members, love as being the greatest evidence in the body, and even the manifestation and demonstration of spiritual gifts in the context of the body of Christ. Without a doubt this first epistle was written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints as a means to bring them to the point where they recognized and understood the great need to be the body of Christ in the earth. The first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints is an incredibly powerful invitation given unto these dear saints to be such that not only recognize how to be the body of Christ in the midst of the earth but also recognize how to truly live in community, fellowship and unity with each other.

 

            It is with and having said all of this I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words found throughout this epistle—words which describe how incredible the struggle and conflict was in the midst of this congregation of saints and believers. Despite the fact they were enriched in all utterance and knowledge and despite the fact they came behind in no spiritual gift they were a church that was at war with itself and one that was deeply and bitterly divided. So severe were the divisions present in the midst of this congregation that they were unable to take and suffer wrongdoing and offense without taking brother to court. This epistle was undoubtedly one of tremendous correction as the apostle Paul sought to address and correct the various struggles and conflicts which were present in the midst of this church and congregation. As surely as we must needs recognize that a nation divided itself cannot stand and a kingdom at war with and against itself cannot stand so also must we be aware of the fact that a church which is divided within itself and at war against itself cannot hope to stand. Moreover that church and body of believers that has either disconnected itself from the Head which is Christ or has forgotten the Head of the body which is Christ can and will be entirely and altogether in an incredibly dangerous place in the midst of the earth and even among themselves. Having said all of this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints beginning all the way in the first and opening chapter:

 

            “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollo; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other” (1 Corinthians 1:10-16).

 

            “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for wheras there is among you envying and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollose; are ye not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).

 

            “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us; and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you” (1 Corinthians 4:6-8).

 

            “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us. Keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:1-8).

 

            “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of the God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:1-11).

 

            With each of these passages we are brought face to face with the conflicts, the struggles and the battles the Corinthian congregation faced. With this epistle the apostle Paul addressed strife, contention, envying, division, fornication, being puffed up, offense, entitlement and the like. By the time we come to the eleventh chapter of this epistle we find the apostle Paul bringing all of this to a head around the Lord’s table. If there is one place where division, strife and contention ought not to be found it is within the body of Christ in the church building as believers gather together, however, if there is one place within the church where strife, contention, abuse, and oppression cannot and should not be found it is at the Lord’s table. If and as you read the words found in the eleventh chapter of this epistle you will find the Corinthian congregation defiling and polluting the table of the Lord and the Lord’s supper. When they ought to come together to celebrate the body and the blood of the Lord Jesus they were actually oppressing each other. Instead of the Lord’s table being a place of remembrance and celebration it would be a place of division, strife and contention. In all reality I can’t help but be reminded of the words which were found in the first chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah as well as the first and second chapter of the prophetic book of Malachi.

 

            If you turn and direct your attention back to the words found in the first chapters of both the prophetic books of Isaiah and Malachi you will find these prophets of the Lord speaking directly unto the house of Israel concerning the Temple, concerning the altar, concerning sacrifices and offerings, and concerning their defilement and pollution of the altar and the sacrifices. What we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in these passages of Scripture is that these prophets of the living and eternal God indicted the children of Israel for their mistreatment, their mishandling, their defiling and their polluting of the altar and table of the Lord. Not only this but what we find in these passages of Scripture is a powerful indictment against them because of their defiling and polluting the altar and table of the Lord. What’s more is that the language that was used in each of these prophetic books contain powerful indictments against the children of Israel—not only prior to their exile and captivity in the land of their captivity but also after returning unto the land after seventy years of exile. It’s interesting to note that the same struggle the children of Israel had during the days of the prophet Isaiah were the same struggles we find in the days of Malachi just before the four-hundred years of silence would ensue. Adding to this even more is the tremendous truth the living God declared through Isaiah that He would no longer regard their offerings, their sacrifices, their festivals, their celebrations, their assemblies and the like. Not only this but the Lord would declare and proclaim through Malachi that He would that there was someone among them who would shut the doors of the Temple that His altar might no longer be defiled and polluted. With this in mind please consider if you will the following words which are found in each of these prophetic books:

 

            “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: But Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; Give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? Saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; It is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: Yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: Your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:3-15).

 

            “The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou. Loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? Saith the LORD: Yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return a nd build the desolate places; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, And, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever. And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel” (Malachi 1:1-5).

 

            “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: If then I be a father, where is mine honour? And if I be a master, where is my fear? Saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offered polluted bread upon mine altar; And ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? IN that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; Will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? Saith the LORD of hosts. And now I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: This hath been by your means: Will he regard your persons? Saith the LORD of hosts. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? Neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, Neither will I accept an offering at your hand. For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: For my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! And ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; Thus ye brought an offering: Should I accept this of your hand? Saith the LORD? But cursed be the deceive, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the LORD a corrupt thing: For I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen” (Malachi 1:6-14).

 

            It is absolutely necessary to pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they are but two passages which highlight and underscore the tremendous truth regarding the table of the LORD and sacrifices. The words presented here in these passages describe how the children of Israel not only polluted the offerings and sacrifices of the LORD but also defiled and polluted His altar which was referred to as “the LORD’s table.” We must needs recognize and understand this for when we read the words found in these passages—not only do we find the LORD speaking of having the doors of the Temple shut that no more profane and polluted fire would be offered upon His altars but we also find the LORD emphatically declaring that He could not handle the vain oblations, sacrifices and offerings presented by his people. The reason the living God could not accept the offerings and sacrifices of His people was because of the fact that their hands were full of blood. What makes this interesting is during the days of Isaiah the trouble with the table of the LORD and the offerings presented on it was blood on the hands of the people while during the days of Malachi the trouble with the table of the LORD and the offerings was that they offered polluted and defiled sacrifices upon it.

           

            The words which are found in the first chapter of the prophetic book of Malachi as well as the words found in the first chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah are an incredibly powerful indictment of the children of Israel and their treatment of the table of the Lord. During the days of Isaiah prior to the exile and captivity in the land of the Chaldeans as well as during the days of Malachi nearly one-hundred and fifty years after the return of the children of Israel from that captivity we find the people of God despising and polluting both the altar and the sacrifices. There is not a doubt in my mind we have a great need to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages for when we come to the eleventh chapter of the first New Testament epistle written by Paul unto the Corinthians we find them despising the table of the Lord. What makes the words in the eleventh chapter of this epistle so incredibly captivating is when you consider the fact that they weren’t defiling, polluting or profaning the table of the Lord in terms of the sacrifices of bulls, goats, lambs and the like but rather the table of the Lord which commemorate, memorialized and celebrated the death of the Lord Jesus. It wasn’t the broken bodies of bulls, goats, lambs and other living things which the Corinthian congregation was celebrating and remembering but it was the body of the Lamb of God which was slain from before the foundation of the world. It wasn’t the blood of bulls, goats, lambs and other living things which the Corinthian congregation was celebrating and remembering but it was the blood of the Lord Jesus which they were celebrating.

 

What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to think about and consider it is when you consider the following words which are found in the sixth and tenth chapters of the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews. The words which we find here in these chapters are an incredibly powerful picture of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ which was shed—and not only the body of the Lord Jesus which was broken and the blood which was shed but also the tremendous danger in despising and sinning against them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of that which is contained within these passages of Scripture for what is presented within them brings us face to face with an additional warning and inherent danger when it comes to the table of the Lord. There is not a doubt in my mind that if we want to truly understand the words presented in the eleventh chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints there is a great need to consider the following words which are found in each of these passages and the tremendous warning and word of caution which exists around sinning and transgressing against the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. Scripture is very clear concerning sinning against our physical bodies, sinning against the Holy Spirit, and even sinning against the Lord Jesus but it is also clear about sinning against the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. Not only this but Scripture speaks of the possibility of despising the body and blood of the Lord Jesus through our own willful and deliberate iniquity and transgression. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the sixth and tenth chapters of this New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews and the tremendous warning—not only against the absence of maturity and growth within our lives but also sinning against the broken body and the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ:

 

…Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14).

 

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, and to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:1-8).

 

…Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful promised) and let us consider the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:19-25).

 

For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for judgment and fiery indigtation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Cast not away therefore you confidence, which hath great recompsense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:26-39).

 

OF HOW MUCH SORER PUNISHMENT, SUPPOSE YE, SHALL HE BE THOUGHT WORTHY, WHO HATH TRODDEN UNDER FOOT THE SON OF GOD, AND HATH COUNTED THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT, WHEREWITH HE WAS SANCTIFIED, AN UNHOLY THING,  AND HATH DONE DESPITE UNTO THE SPIRIT OF GRACE? Oh pause for a moment and consider the tremendous truth that is found within these words for they serve as a powerful indictment and warning unto those who would dare despise the sacrifice and offering of the Lord Jesus. You will notice how this passage begins with the warning against sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth and how after doing so there remains no more sacrifice for sins but rather a fearful looking for judgment and fiery indignation. The late Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon entitled “Sinners In the Hands of an Angry God” and it was said that the conviction and anointing was so heavy upon both the preacher and the message that people were entirely and altogether gripped within their hearts and souls that they would grip the pews and seats wherein they were seated with great force. With this being said we must needs recognize the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for similar language is found here in that the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews speaking of it being a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. What’s more is that within this passage the author of the epistle speaks of a certain fearful looking for judgment and fiery indignation as well as the declaration that vengeance belongs unto the Lord and that He will recompense. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for they bring us face to face with sinning and transgressing against the body and blood of the Lord Jesus and trodding it underfoot—an act which calls for fiery indignation and judgment before the living God.

 

That which is present in the eleventh chapter of the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul must needs be carefully considered for in the previous chapter we find the apostle Paul writing and speaking of the cup of blessing which we bless with as being the communion of the blood of Christ. Moreover the apostle Paul also speaks of the bread we break as being the communion of the body of Christ. The apostle Paul then goes on to declare how we being many are one bread, and one body and are all partakers of one bread. Within this first epistle written by the apostle Paul—not only do we encounter the tremendous truth that the cup of blessing is the cup of the blood of the Lord Jesus, and not only do we encounter the tremendous truth that the bread we break is the bread of the body of the Lord Jesus but we also come face to face with the fact that we are indeed one body and one bread which is broken in the midst of the earth. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that while it is indeed true the body of the Lord Jesus was indeed broken for the remission of sins and for an atonement before and in the sight of the living God it is also true that we are one body made up of many members which is broken—not for the remission of sins but as a witness and testimony unto the world before and all around us. It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to the words found in the tenth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints for within it we are brought face to face with the fact that we as the body made up of many members are indeed bread in the hand of the living God which has been broken, which is broken and which continues to be broken for a witness and testimony unto the world before and all around us.

 

When you come to the eleventh chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find him speaking unto them concerning their treatment of the Lord’s table—and not only of the Lord’s table but also of their gathering together. Within this passage the apostle Paul describes how when they come together they do not come together for the better but for the worse. What’s more is that in the eleventh chapter we find the third declaration within this epistle concerning divisions being present in the congregation of the Corinthians. We first read of these divisions in the first and opening chapter of this epistle, we hear about these divisions again in the third chapter of the same epistle and now we hear about them a third time in the eleventh chapter. It is in the eighteenth verse of this chapter we find the apostle Paul speaking unto them concerning divisions among them—and not only divisions among them but also heresies among them. What we must needs recognize and consider when reading these words is the fact that the divisions which the apostle Paul speaks of in this particular section of the epistle is such that are found before and around the Lord’s table. It wasn’t enough for the apostle Paul to speak of and address the divisions present among the Corinthian congregation in terms of some claiming they were of Paul while others claimed they were of Apollos, or of Peter, or even of Christ. It wasn’t enough for the apostle Paul to speak of their being carnal and babes in Christ because of the strife, envyings and divisions which were present among them. In the eleventh chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul now speaks unto them concerning divisions present among them—and not only divisions but divisions present before and around the table of the Lord.

 

As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul writing and speaking of divisions which were present among them and how when they were come together into one place it wasn’t to eat the Lord’s supper. The apostle Paul goes on to describe how in eating every one taketh before other his own supper while one is hungry and another is drunken. This would immediately be followed by the apostle Paul asking them if they did not have houses to eat and to drink in and whether or not they despised the church of God and shame them that have not. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words and language found in this passage of Scripture for the words present here bring us face to face with the Corinthian congregation as despising the table of the Lord and the Lord’s supper through their own selfishness and their own wantonness. We ought not to lose sight of the language that is found in this epistle for the apostle Paul indicts, rebukes and corrects the Corinthian congregation and the divisions present among them—specifically concerning the Lord’s supper. The apostle Paul spoke of their coming together and yet how their coming together was not for good or for the better but for the worse. It is in this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul indicts the Corinthian congregation for shaming and despising the congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ in matters of the Lord’s supper. When they gathered together to partake of fellowship and the breaking of bread there were those among them who so despised others through their own lusts, their own wantonness, their own desires and their own pleasures. Oh consider if you will the following words which are found in the fourth chapter of the New Testament epistle written by James found in the New Testament:

 

From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain; ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteress, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw night to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:1-10).

 

Within this passage of Scripture we find James speaking of wars and fightings which were present among those who named the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and how those wars came even of their own lusts which war among them in their members. Moreover James goes on to write how they lust and have not and how they kill and desire to have and cannot obtain. Furthermore James writes how they fight and war and yet they do not have because they do not ask. Even when they do ask they do not receive because they ask amiss that they might consume it upon their own lusts. Pay careful and close attention to the words which are found here in this portion of Scripture for I am convinced it is at the very heart of the divisions which were present in the midst of the Corinthian congregation. Moreover I am absolutely convinced the words found in this epistle written by James strike at the very heart of that which took place at the table of the Lord and at the Lord’s supper as mentioned in the eleventh chapter of this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. Here in the eleventh chapter of the first epistle written by the Corinthian saints we encounter and come face to face with what might very well be fightings and warrings present among the Corinthian congregation for when they ought to gather together in unity, community and fellowship to partake of the Lord’s supper there were those among them who were not only despised but who were also left hungry and thirst. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to consider it is that there were those who would come into the house of the Lord to partake of the Lord’s supper—and not only of the Lord’s supper but also of fellowship with each other and with the Lord—and yet they would leave hungry and thirsty while others would leave full.

 

To build upon this all the more I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention—not only to the words which are found in the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew but also the words which are found in the thirty-sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel. It is in the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find the Lord Jesus speaking of “the least of these” while in the thirty-fourth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel you find the prophet speaking of the shepherds and sheep which were indicted by the living God. Oh I am absolutely convinced there is a great need to recognize and consider the words which are found in each of these passages for they bring us face to face with the tremendous dangers which were found in the Corinthian congregation as well as the dangers which are present among us within our own gathering together. Having said this I now invite you to consider the following passages in light of what is present in the eleventh chapter of the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints:

 

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall dseparate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in; Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, unto everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: Naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:31-46).

 

And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of many prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye at the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: But ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD God; behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. For thus saith the LORD God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheeph that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment. And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the LORD God; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats. Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? And to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet. Therefore thus saith the Lord God unto them; Behold, I even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle. Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad; Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:1-23).

 

As I bring this writing to a close I find it necessary to remind you of the words which Jesus spoke concerning that which wasn’t done unto the least of these and how there were those left hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and in prison because those who named His name and professed to be His followers chose not to be a witness unto them. What’s more is I am reminded of the words which are found in the thirty-fourth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel and the indictment of the Lord against the fat cattle and against those sheep which not only trod under foot the green pasture thus despising it for other sheep but also eating until they were full while other sheep were left hungry and destitute. That which we find in the eleventh chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints is a strong and powerful picture of the saints of God despising the Lord’s supper and the table of the Lord simply because they cared only for their own lusts, their own desires, their own pleasures and nothing for those around them—those who were part and members of the same body as they themselves were. We must needs read the words found in this passage of Scripture and come to the place where we not only ask ourselves how we are treating “the least of these”—those who are hungry, those who are thirsty, those who are naked, those who are sick and those who in prison but also how we are treating those who might the weak and destitute among us. One of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is how we treat the least of these which are before and all around us in this culture and society and how we treat our own brother and sister who are present among us within the body of Christ. There is a great need for us to acknowledge and recognize our treatment of “the least of these” as well as our own brother and sister who are present among us within the body of Christ. Having said this I leave you with the following words which were also written by James and are found in the second chapter of his epistle:

 

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:1-13).

 

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