E. The connection
In the local context of the Corinthian culture, some during the assembly were still following the drunken behavior of the pagan temple culture of Corinth. They had made the general love feast an opportunity to manifest their pagan temple culture and arrogant attitudes. The love feast, therefore, became a reflection of their unrighteous attitudes and lack of love for one another, rather than a reflection of the united nature of the ekklesia of Christ. Some who were possibly Christian athletes who participated in the Games may have been bringing their competitive spirit into the assembly of the saints.
Paul was harsh in this context with the ungodly behavior of those who competed for recognition during the assembly. The reason for his harshness was in the fact that the Corinthians were attacking the loving nature of the ekklesia of Christ. The members of the body are bound together as one body through love, just as the Father and Son are one (Jn 13:34,35). However, the Corinthian love feast manifested everything but love and unity. Their inconsiderate and competitive behavior was subsequently manifested to the unbelievers who may have showed up at the “love” feast.
Paul’s rebuke was not that they were violating some ceremonial rituals of either the love feast or the Supper. His rebuke was stern because the arrogant and competitive spirit among them were destroying the communal and participatory nature of how Christians are to fellowship with one another as the ekklesia of Christ. Though he initially addressed them as the “church (assemblies) of God in Corinth” (1 Co 1:2), they would cease to be this united body of Christ if they continued in their disruptive assemblies that manifested before the world an unloving spirit.
If indeed the specific assembly about which Paul wrote was a provincial assembly during the Isthmian Games, then we can only imagine what attending athletes would be saying about the Christians of Achaia when they returned home after the Games. This may explain why the Holy Spirit focused specifically on this problem among the Achaian Christians. Their behavior was simply bad advertisement for the early church.
When the love among disciples is lost, as was typical with some in the regional assembly of Achaia in Corinth, then the lampstand of the gospel is taken from the city. The members of a loveless church may continue to meet, but because they manifest an ungodly behavior with which they surround the love feast of celebration and the Lord’s Supper, they no longer reflect the gospel in their assemblies (See Rv 2:4). Paul saw this happening in Corinth, and thus, in his rebuke he identified and corrected such unbecoming behavior among the disciples.
One lesson is strikingly clear from Paul’s revelation surrounding the Corinthian problems: If any assembly of disciples in any area manifests division in the love feast and the Supper, then the members are bad branding examples for the church. The love feast/Supper is the perfect opportunity to determine if each member of the body has the heart of God. If members cannot sit down and eat together in harmony with one another, then they are not together as the one body of Christ. If the members are competitive in their individual ministries, then they destroy the unity by which the organic body must function in harmony.
If the members autonomy from one another throughout a province or state has divided them to the point that they cannot come together in a common meeting in “Corinth,” then they are sectarian. One of the greatest lessons learned from regional love feasts is that such events provide everyone with the opportunity to manifest the nature of the organic body of Christ. Regardless of where each member of the body sits on Sunday morning throughout the province or state, he or she is still a member of the one body of Christ. Assemblies must never be used as an opportunity to divide members from one another. We are all “of Christ.”
[End of series]