1 Corinthians 11:21
For in eating every one takes before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
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(21) For.—Here follows a description of the conduct and mode of proceeding at this feast, which renders it impossible, as stated in 1Corinthians 11:20, for it to be a Lord’s Supper. Every one greedily seizes (takes before distribution is made) what he has brought with him, and appropriates it to his own individual use, instead of making it a contribution to the general and common supply. Every one comes to eat his own supper, and not the Lord’s Supper. And the result is that while some poor man, who has not been able to bring enough for himself, remains unfed, some rich man, drinking the wine which he brought, and which he has not shared with others, is drunken. (See Note on 1Corinthians 11:34.)

11:17-22 The apostle rebukes the disorders in their partaking of the Lord's supper. The ordinances of Christ, if they do not make us better, will be apt to make us worse. If the use of them does not mend, it will harden. Upon coming together, they fell into divisions, schisms. Christians may separate from each other's communion, yet be charitable one towards another; they may continue in the same communion, yet be uncharitable. This last is schism, rather than the former. There is a careless and irregular eating of the Lord's supper, which adds to guilt. Many rich Corinthians seem to have acted very wrong at the Lord's table, or at the love-feasts, which took place at the same time as the supper. The rich despised the poor, and ate and drank up the provisions they brought, before the poor were allowed to partake; thus some wanted, while others had more than enough. What should have been a bond of mutual love and affection, was made an instrument of discord and disunion. We should be careful that nothing in our behaviour at the Lord's table, appears to make light of that sacred institution. The Lord's supper is not now made an occasion for gluttony or revelling, but is it not often made the support of self-righteous pride, or a cloak for hypocrisy? Let us never rest in the outward forms of worship; but look to our hearts.For in eating - When you eat, having professedly come together to observe this ordinance. In order to understand this, it seems necessary to suppose that they had in some way made the Lord's supper either connected with a common feast, or that they regarded it as a mere common festival to be observed in a way similar to the festivals among the Greeks. Many have supposed that this was done by making the observance of the supper follow a festival, or what were afterward called "love feasts" ἀγάπαι agapai - "Agapae"). Many have supposed that that custom was derived from the fact that the Saviour instituted the supper after a festival, a feast in which he had been engaged with his disciples, and that thence the early Christians derived the custom of observing such a festival, or common meal, before they celebrated the Lord's Supper. But it may be observed, that the passover was not a mere preliminary festival, or feast.

It had no resemblance to the so called love feasts. It was itself a religious ordinance; a direct appointment of God; and was never regarded as designed to be preliminary to the observance of the Lord's Supper, but was always understood as designed to be superseded by that. Besides, I know not that there is the slightest evidence, as has been often supposed, that the observance of the Lord's Supper was preceded, in the times of the apostles, by such a festival as a love feast. There is no evidence in the passage before us; nor is any adduced from any other part of the New Testament. To my mind it seems altogether improbable that the disorders in Corinth would assume this form - that they would first observe a common feast, and then the Lord's Supper in the regular manner. The statement before us leads to the belief that all was irregular and improper; that they had entirely mistaken the nature of the ordinance, and had converted it into an occasion of ordinary festivity, and even intemperance; that they had come to regard it as a feast in honor of the Saviour on some such principles as they observed feasts in honor of idols, and that they observed it in some such manner; and that all that was supposed to make it unlike those festivals was, that it was in honor of Jesus rather than an idol, and was to be observed with some reference to his authority and name.

Everyone taketh before other his own supper - That is, each one is regardless of the needs of the others; instead of making even a meal in common, and when all could partake together, each one ate by himself, and ate that which he had himself brought. They had not only erred, therefore, by misunderstanding altogether the nature of the Lord's supper, and by supposing that it was a common festival like those which they had been accustomed to celebrate; but they had also entirely departed from the idea that it was a festival to be partaken of in common, and at a common table. It had become a scene where every man ate by himself; and where the very idea that there was anything like a "common" celebration, or a celebration "together," was abandoned. There is allusion here, doubtless, to what was a custom among the Greeks, that when a festival was celebrated, or a feast made, it was common for each person to provide, and carry a part of the things necessary for the entertainment. These were usually placed in common, and were partaken of alike by all the company. Thus, Xenophon (Mem. lib. 3:cap. xiv.) says of Socrates, that he was much offended with the Athenians for their conduct at their common suppers, where some prepared for themselves in a delicate and sumptuous manner, while others were poorly provided for. Socrates endeavored, he adds, to shame them out of this indecent custom by offering his provisions to all the company.

And one is hungry - Is deprived of food. It is all monopolized by others.

And another is drunken - The word used here (μεθύω methuō) means properly to become inebriated, or intoxicated; and there is no reason for understanding it here in any other sense. There can be no doubt that the apostle meant to say, that they ate and drank to excess; and that their professed celebration of the Lord's Supper became a mere revel. It may seem remarkable that such scenes should ever have occurred in a Christian church, or that there could have been such an entire perversion of the nature and design of the Lord's Supper. But we are to remember the following things:

(1) These persons had recently been pagans, and were grossly ignorant of the nature of true religion when the gospel was first preached among them.

(2) they had been accustomed to such revels in honor of idols under their former modes of worship, and it is the less surprising that they transferred their views to Christianity.

(3) when they had once so far misunderstood the nature of Christianity as to suppose the Lord's Supper to be like the feasts which they had formerly celebrated, all the rest followed as a matter of course. The festival would be observed in the same manner as the festivals in honor of idolaters; and similar scenes of gluttony and intemperance would naturally follow.

(4) we are to bear in mind, also, that they do not seem to have been favored with pious, wise, and prudent teachers.

There were false teachers; and there were those who prided themselves on their wisdom, and who were self-confident, and who doubtless endeavored to model the Christian institutions according to their own views; and they thus brought them, as far as they could, to a conformity with pagan customs and idolatrous rites, We may remark here:

(1) We are not to expect perfection at once among a people recently converted from paganism.

(2) we see how prone people are to abuse even the most holy rites of religion, and hence, how corrupt is human nature.

(3) we see that even Christians, recently converted, need constant guidance and superintendence; and that if left to themselves they soon, like others, fall into gross and scandalous offences.

21. one taketh before other—the rich "before" the poor, who had no supper of their own. Instead of "tarrying for one another" (1Co 11:33); hence the precept (1Co 12:21, 25).

his own supper—"His own" belly is his God (Php 3:19); "the Lord's Supper," the spiritual feast, never enters his thoughts.

drunken—The one has more than is good for him, the other less [Bengel].

There was at this time in most of the Christian church a Jewish party, viz. such as were converted from Judaism to Christianity, and had a tang of the old cask, being too tenacious of some Jewish rites. These looked upon the Lord’s supper as an appurtenance to the passover, immediately after which we know that Christ at first instituted his supper. As therefore Christ did eat the paschal supper before the Lord’s supper; so they, in imitation of him, though they forbore the paschal lamb, yet would have a supper of their own to precede the Lord’s supper, and having provided it at home, would bring it to the place where the church was to meet; and their poor brethren contributing nothing to the charge of that supper, they would not stay for them, but took this their own supper: so it came to pass, that the poorer Christians were hungry, had none or very little share in their feast, while others, the richer part of the church, had too much; for I take our translation of this word, meyuei, to be very hard and uncharitable. Hard, because the word doth not necessarily so signify, only drinking beyond what is strictly necessary, and our translators themselves, John 2:10, render it well drunk. Uncharitable, because it certainly must be very uncharitably presumed of this church of Corinth, that they should suffer persons, at that time actually drunk, to come to the Lord’s table. For in eating,.... Not at the Lord's table, but at tables spread for them in the place of divine worship, where everyone brought his own food, under a pretence that others, particularly the poor, should eat with him; but instead of that, he sat down and ate it himself, and would not stay till the rest came, to eat together:

but everyone taketh before other his own supper; that is, without tarrying till all came together, in order to eat a friendly meal with each other, to encourage and increase brotherly love, one would sit down and fill himself before another came; so that some went without, whilst others had too much; and thus the designed end was not answered, and the whole was a piece of confusion and disorder:

and one is hungry, and another drunken; he that came late had nothing to eat, and so was hungry; when he that was first either eat and drank to excess, or at least very plentifully, so that he was very cheerful, and more disposed to carnal mirth, than in a serious and solemn manner to partake of the Lord's supper; and who is thought to be the rich man, who brought his own provisions, and ate them himself when he had done; as the poor may be meant by the hungry, who having no food to bring with them, and none being communicated to them by the rich, were in want, and starving; so that here were many abuses justly chargeable on them. Dr. Lightfoot is of opinion, that by him that was "drunken" meant the Jew that ate the paschal supper, of which he ate and drank freely; and by him that was "hungry", the Gentile, who was so not out of poverty and necessity, but because he refused and avoided eating of the ante-supper, as savouring of Judaism; and so here was a schism and division among them.

For in eating every one taketh {h} before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

(h) Eats his food and does not wait until others come.

1 Corinthians 11:21. Προλαμβάνει] takes beforehand his own meal (as contrasted with κυριακ. δεῖπν., comp Chrysostom: ΤῸ ΓᾺΡ ΚΥΡΙΑΚῸΝ ἸΔΙΩΤΙΚῸΝ ΠΟΙΟῦΣΙΝ). Instead of waiting (1 Corinthians 11:33) till a general distribution be made and others thus obtain a share (comp Xen. Mem. iii. 14. 1), and till by this means the meal assume the form of a κυριακὸν δεῖπνον, he seizes at once for himself alone upon the portion which he brought with him, and holds therewith his own private meal in place of the Lord’s Supper. The expression is not “in the highest degree surprising,” as Rückert calls it; but it is very descriptive of the existing state of matters. Grotius (comp de Wette) is wrong in supposing that the rich ate first, and left what remained for the poorer members. This runs counter to the ἕκαστος, which must mean every one who brought anything with him. Of course, when the rich acted in the way here described, the poor also had to eat whatever they might have brought with them by themselves; and if they had nothing, then this abuse of the Lord’s Supper sent them empty away, hungry and put to shame (1 Corinthians 11:22; 1 Corinthians 11:33).

ἐν τῷ φαγεῖν] not ad manducandum (Vulg.), but in the eating, at the holding of the meal.

πεινᾷ] because, that is to say, he had nothing, or but little, to bring with him, so that he remained unsatisfied, receiving nothing from the stores of the wealthier members.

ΜΕΘΎΕΙ] is drunken, not giving the exact opposite of πεινᾷ, but making the picture all the fuller and more vivid, because ΠΕΙΝᾷ and ΜΕΘΎΕΙ lead the reader in both cases to imagine for himself the other extreme corresponding to the one specified. We must not weaken the natural force of μεθ., as Grotius does, to “plus satis bibit.” See on John 2:20. Paul paints the scene in strong colours; but who would be warranted in saying that the reality fell at all short of the description?21. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper] Rather, for in the eating, i.e. when ye eat. Every passage relating to the Eucharist in the N. T. leads to the conclusion that it took place at the end of a social meal, such as the Last Supper itself. See Acts 2:42; Acts 2:46; Acts 20:7; Acts 20:11. It was called the Agapè, or feast of love, and was like the ἔρανος of the Greeks, to which, very frequently, each brought his own portion. See Art. Erani in Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities. The divisions among the Corinthian Christians (1 Corinthians 11:18) were of the kind which we are accustomed to denominate “sets” in a small society,—cliques and coteries, which were the product, not so much of theological, as of social antagonism. Thus the members of the Corinthian Church were accustomed to share their provisions with members of their own “set,” to the exclusion of those who, having an inferior social position, had few provisions, or none, to bring. Hence while one was only too well provided with food, another had none.

and another is drunken] We have no right, with some commentators, to soften down the force of this word, as though no such abominations were possible at Corinth. The permeation of the Christian community by the Spirit of Christ (see note on ch. 1 Corinthians 5:1) was a more gradual process than is generally supposed.1 Corinthians 11:21 Ἕκαστος, every one) G. Raphelius says: “It was a custom at Athens, in the age of Socrates, for every one of those, who met at supper, to bring some meat for himself, which they did not set out for general use, but every one usually ate his own.” Then, after he has referred to the testimony of Xenophon, he concludes, “That this very passage of the apostle, is a proof so far of the observance of this custom, even at that time, by the Corinthians, who had become Christians, that when they were about to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, they brought at least bread and wine, if not other meats also, into the church, of which a part was afterwards taken and consecrated for the eucharist. For doubtless Paul calls the first their own supper, 1 Corinthians 11:21, ἴδιον δεῖπνον, namely the meat, which every one had brought from home, and which they fell upon as their right, without waiting for others. Then, οἱ μὴ ἔχοντες, those who have not, 1 Corinthians 11:22, can be understood to be no other than the poorer members, in whose presence, the richer, not without showing contempt for them, intemperately feasted, before the distribution of the elements in the Lord’s Supper, which the poor were present (had come) to enjoy, while no other food besides was prepared for them.”—προλαμβάνει, takes before) when he ought to wait, 1 Corinthians 11:33.—ἐν τῷ φαγεῖν, in eating) Language which relates to the feeding of the body, 1 Corinthians 11:33, etc., from which the Lord’s Supper very widely differs.—καὶ, and) and one indeed (inasmuch as he has not) is hungry (and thirsty): but another (inasmuch as he has, is well filled and) becomes drunken. The one has more than is good for him, the other less.Verse 21. - For in eating; rather, in your eating. Every one. All who have themselves contributed a share to the common meal. Taketh before other his own supper. It is as if they had come together only to eat, not to partake of a holy sacrament. The abuse rose from the connection of the Lord's Supper with the agape, or love feast, a social gathering of Christian brothers, to which each, as in the Greek eranoi, or "club feasts," contributed his share. The abuse led to the separation of the agape from the Holy Communion, and ultimately to the entire disuse of the former at religious gatherings. One is hungry. The poor man, who has been unable to contribute to the meal which was intended to be an exhibition of Christian love, looked on with grudging eyes and craving appetite, while the rich had more than enough. Is drunken. "St. Paul draws the picture in strong colours, and who can say that the reality was less strong?" (Meyer). Calvin says, "It is portentous that Satan should have accomplished so much in so short a time." But the remark was, perhaps, dictated by the wholly mistaken fancy that the Church of the apostolic days was exceptionally pure. On the contrary, many of the heathen converts were unable at once to break the spell of their old habits, and few modern Churches present a spectacle so deplorable as that which we here find in the apostolic Church of Corinth. It is quite obvious that Church discipline must have been almost in abeyance if such grave scandals could exist uncorrected and apparently unreproved. Taketh before other

Not waiting for the coming of the poor to participate.

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