Four Facts Showing Supper A Local Church Function
In Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth, he taught four things about the Lord's Supper.
1. The Supper is a church ordinance. In 1 Cor. 10:16-17, Paul tells them that the one loaf should be partaken of by them as one body in Christ as a symbol of His one physical body being broken for them and of their oneness in Him. The three-fold oneness there emphasized is one loaf of bread partaken of by one local church as a spiritual body of Christ symbolical of His one physical body which was given for them. That passage means nothing, if it does not mean local church communion. There is no point nor purpose to what Paul says, if he is not teaching this local church that as a body of Christ, they should partake of one loaf of bread to symbolize the one broken body of Christ and their unity in Him.
2. Another proof of Paul's teaching that communion should be limited to the local church is found in 1 Cor. 11:18-20. "When ye come together in the church." Church always means the local body or institution, when used as Paul uses it in that passage. They came together as a church to observe the Lord's Supper. It is a church ordinance. It cannot be observed by conventions, associations or fellowships. They came together as a church to observe it. There is no more warrant for a member of another Baptist church observing the Lord's Supper with the Corinth church than there is for a member of another church voting in the church at Corinth in the election of a pastor or the reception of new members. The Lord's Supper as truly as church govermnent, is a local church affair. There is reason as well as Scripture for that. No church ought to extend its communion beyond its discipline. If so, as lax as many churches are in their discipline, there will be heresy and immorality both present, and if they are present, it ceases to be the Lord's Supper.
3. The third fact Paul emphasizes in this epistle is also found in 1 Cor. 11:18-20. In that passage Paul very plainly says that if heresies or division is either there, it is not possible to eat the Lord's Supper. This goes back to the passage in chapter 10 where he emphasizes the three-fold oneness or unity at the Lord's Table. Here he puts the negative side. If heresy is present, unity in doctrine is destroyed. If division is present, unity in doctrine is destroyed. Open communion destroys and frustrates the Lord's Supper so completely that it ceases to be the Lord's Supper and becomes a social feast. But modernism and fundamentalism in the same church effectually destroys its unity and makes impossible the observance of the Supper. So does gross immorality. See I Corinthians chapter 5.
4. The fourth fact about the Lord's Supper brought out by Paul in this epistle is this, namely, that turning the Lord's Supper into a social or sacramental feast, is a grievous sin and brings sickness and death upon those who pervert its design. See 1 Cor. 11:23-32. If we discern our own souls and seek sacramental grace in this memorial ordinance, we eat and drink condemnation to our own souls and bring upon ourselves chastisement from the Lord. If in our coming we discern only his broken body and shed blood in these beautiful symbols as we meditate upon Him, whose death we commemorate, we have fellowship with Him, and with His kindred spirits, who discern His body and his blood.
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