The early disciples came together regularly on the first day of the week to fellowship with one another and to partake of the Lord’s Supper during or after a love feast. They celebrated the gospel of Jesus with the bread and fruit of the vine. They celebrated one another during the love feast. In view of these participatory events, we need to approach the context of 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 with the understanding that the love feast was a meal upon which the Supper was based. Seated in the love feast, the Supper of the Lord was observed in order to celebrate the Redeemer of the one redeemed body.
It is in the context of this celebration of the love feast where we discover that some of the Corinthian disciples were reflecting their divisive and competitive attitudes. There is justification to consider that the particular love feast/Supper that Paul addressed in the context of 1 Corinthians 11 was an occasional regional assembly during which rude behavior and inconsiderate attitudes were revealed on the part of some of the participants. In fact, when we consider their rebuke by the Holy Spirit through Paul, we can better understand the purpose of the love feast and Supper encounter for which both were conducted by the early church.
A. The historical setting:
Many Bible students make an unfortunate interpretive error by lifting the events discussed in 1 Corinthians 11 – 14 out of the historical context of the early church, particularly the church of Achaia. For this reason, we must caution ourselves about reading into the context our own rituals that we traditionally maintain today that surround the love feast/Supper. It is simply our quest to understand the teaching of the word of God and the examples of how the disciples of the first century responded to the gospel. We must do this with the historical background of the early disciples, and not our own.
Since the letters of 1 & 2 Corinthians were written to Christians throughout the province of Achaia, we must understand that the assembly for the love feast/Supper about which Paul addressed was probably an occasional provincial assembly of the Achaian church in the city of Corinth (1 Co 15:16; 2 Co 1:1; 9:2; 11:10). If we bring the discussions of this chapter into the context of the weekly love feast that was likewise observed by the Troas church in Acts 20:7, then we must understand that the Achaian disciples were in some way locally and provincially coming together in fellowship to eat the love feast and celebrate the Lord’s Supper. But the specific love feast/Supper that gave rise to some unique problems in Corinth was not the weekly event. It seems to be a forced interpretation to assume that the assembly about which Paul addressed was any particular weekly house assembly. He seems to be addressing the dysfunctional behavior of some in an assembly that was much larger than a house assembly.