In this passage Paul rebukes the church for their conduct in respect to the observance of the Lord's Table. We are told by ancient writers that in some of the early churches observance of the Lord's Table was preceded with a love feast which led to some improper behaviour.
(Vs. 18.) "In the matter I will deal with now, I do not praise you but must condemn you; for when you meet together to observe this ordinance, you are doing more harm than good. You are not edifying and instructing; but rather you are indulging the flesh in intemperance, causing division, factions and even heresies."
(Vs. 19.) There will always be divisions, factions and heresies in churches because Satan is always busy sowing tares, false prophets and teachers are plentiful and human nature (being weak and wicked) is easily led astray. These things do not come forth by chance but through the providence of God, who allows Satan to show himself and allows men to discover the evil of their own hearts in order that those who are genuine (whose doctrine and conduct are according to Scripture) might be recognized plainly.
(Vs. 20, 21.) "When you gather together for your love feasts and so-called observance of the Lord's Supper, it is not the supper instituted by our Lord that you observe." According to some writers, as Christ did eat the Passover supper before the Lord's Supper, in an imitation of a sort, they would prepare lavish meals at home and bring them to the meeting-place. Some had much to eat, some had little or none, some even drank too much wine and none of them shared with, or waited for others. These love feasts turned into unlovely debaucheries.
(Vs. 22.) "Do you not have private homes in which to eat, drink and indulge your appetites? Do you have contempt for the place where the church meets? Do you have contempt for the poor people of the church, who are not blessed as you are?" It is a good thing for a church to bring food, come together for fellowship, equally sharing and waiting one for the other in feasts of love and fellowship, but certainly not in conjunction with the observance of the Lord's Table.
(Vs. 23-26.) Paul then sets forth the Lord's Table as it should be observed by the Lord's church.
1. He tells how he came by the knowledge of it by revelation from Christ!
2. He sets forth the Author of it the Lord Jesus himself!
3. He gives the time of the institution the same night he was betrayed and arrested.
4. He lists the materials of the supper bread and wine (Luke 22:14-20). The bread represented his body, broken, and the wine his blood, which was shed for us. Nothing is said of the absurd doctrine of transubstantiation. The bread and wine do not actually become the body and blood of the Lord, but only represent or symbolize his body and blood. "This do in remembrance of me," said our Lord, in order to keep fresh in our minds and hearts his sacrifice for our sins and his intercession now on our behalf. We not only remember his death for us, but we "show", declare, or proclaim his substitutionary work (1 Peter 1:18, 19).
5. It should be observed frequently, no time is specified; but, "As often as you observe the table, you remember and proclaim his death."
(Vs. 27-29.) Whoever eats the Lord's Table in a way that is unworthy of Christ may be said to be guilty of the body and blood of Christ, insomuch as he violates this important ordinance, despises the precious blood of Christ and treats lightly the sufferings of our Lord. Let each person examine himself concerning his own knowledge of Christ - who Christ is, what Christ did, why Christ suffered and where Christ is now. Let him determine his experience concerning repentance, faith and love for the Redeemer; then let him eat. For an unworthy person (not a believer) to come to the table, or for him to come in an unworthy manner (as the Corinthians were doing), or to come for an unworthy purpose is to bring God's wrath upon himself This is no ordinary supper, but a most time.
(Vs. 30.) Because of their unworthy treatment of the Lord's Table, God had visited some of them with afflictions and even death.
(Vs. 31, 32.) "If we will examine ourselves, as directed in the above verses, confess our sins, condemn ourselves and look to Christ alone for forgiveness through his blood, we will not under divine judgement (1 John 1:9; 2:1,2). But when we are under the trying hand of the Lord, let us be comforted to know that God deals with us as a Father disciplines, corrects and instructs his children, so that we shall not finally be condemned with the world of unbelievers.
(Vs. 33, 34.) "When you gather together to observe the Lord's Table, meet together as one body, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home." This is not a time to satisfy fleshly appetites, but a time of worship and remembrance of our Lord.