Open Communion: WARNING!

Since the publication of Unclean I've continued, here on the blog, to expand upon my defense of open communion. And in making those arguments one text in particular comes up as a counterargument:
1 Corinthians 11.27-29
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.
The argument here is that communion should be closed so that people might be protected. For if we allow people to take communion in an unworthy manner they will be eating and drinking judgment upon themselves. Closed communion, then, is paternalistic in intent, protecting the spiritually immature from hurting themselves.

Two responses. One quick and less deep. The other more deep and more important.

The quick response is simply to note that we eat and drink judgment on ourselves. We might call this the libertarian response to the paternalistic practice of closed communion. That is, it's not the church hierarchy's job to protect people from themselves, passing judgment about who can or can't take communion. As if the clergy were morally pure enough to make such a call.

Thankfully, this is not what we see in the text above. We don't see the clergy inserting themselves between the people and the Lord's Table. What we see is a judgment that we bring onto ourselves.

But while that's an important point it doesn't get to the deeper issue. Yes, while it is true that the judgment we face is a judgment we bring onto ourselves, this doesn't make communion any less dangerous. And if communion is dangerous then shouldn't people be warned so that they don't unwittingly take the meal in an unworthy manner and bring judgment upon themselves?

In short, sure, communion isn't closed but shouldn't it at least have a warning label?

I do think communion should come with a warning label. The question is, what should the warning be about?

Most advocates of closed communion suggest that the warning label should be about moral purity and piety. In this view taking a personal moral inventory is what Paul means when he says "everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat the bread and drink the cup." That is what I was taught growing up. Before taking communion I had to sit there, inventory my sins and feel remorse.

To be clear, I do think it's important to make moral inventories of our lives, to feel remorse and to repent. I try to do this everyday. It's called examen in Ignatian spirituality.

So I don't want to suggest that examen isn't a part of Christian spiritual practice. I just don't think that examen is what Paul is taking about in 1 Corinthians 11. Communion isn't a practice of moralistic introspection, it's a communal practice of welcome and grace.

I believe this becomes clear when we step back and look at the larger context of 1 Corinthians 11 (and the overall context of the book).

So let's look at the context of Chapter 11. Why is Paul giving instructions about the Lord's Supper? A few verses before the passage above Paul tells us:
1 Corinthians 11.17-22
In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!
Paul's concerns here are all communal, how the body is welcoming (or, rather, not welcoming) and honoring each other. When they "come together as a church" there are "divisions." Because of these divisions the celebration of communion is not the Lord's Supper. That's key. What makes something "the Lord's Supper" is a lack of division.

Okay, then what sort of division are we talking about? Doctrinal or theological divisions? Personal moral lapses during the workweek? Nope. Paul is speaking about divisions of honor and shame. We read words like "despise the church" and "humiliating those who have nothing."

Ponder that. Paul says that the meal the Corinthians were eating was not the Lord's Supper because they were, in the way they practiced the meal, humiliating, despising, and shaming the poorer members of the church. This is the context we need to have in mind when we go on to read Paul's exhortations a few verses later about "discerning the body" before taking the Lord's Supper. The body here is the communal body of Christ gathered around the Table.

This communal reading of body is supported by noting that immediately after his remarks about the Lord's Supper in Chapter 11 Paul moves into his famous body-metaphor in Chapter 12: "the body is not made up of one part but of many." And even that discussion is about honor and shame. Many have tended think Chapter 12 is about the diversity of spiritual gifts in the body. But that's not Paul's main concern. His point isn't that we all have different gifts. We certainly do, but the problem is in how we honor and shame various gifts. Note the honor and shame focus in Paul's culminating assessment in Chapter 12:
1 Corinthians 12.21-26
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 
I think the key to understanding Paul's comments about "discerning the body" in regards to the Lord's Supper is found right here. Note how Paul has circled back to the concern he floated in Chapter 11, the concern over "division." This suggests to me that Paul's is still here thinking about the Lord's Supper deep now into Chapter 12. As more evidence of this note the parallel between Chapter 12's concern over honor and shame with what Paul started with in Chapter 11: "You despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing."

The weaker, less presentable parts of the body--the poor in the church at Corinth--were to be given special treatment and care. These "shameful parts" of the body were to be given greater honor "so that there should be no division in body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other."

Again, note how the divisions in the body are about shaming and honoring. 

This, then, is at the root of Paul's claim that the Corinthians were eating and drinking judgment upon themselves. The Corinthians were taking the Lord's Supper in a way that was shaming other members of the body. The meal, meant to be a sign of a body where "each part has equal concern for each other," had become the exact opposite, a location of humiliation, shame, and exclusion. Thus the meal itself, in all it was supposed to represent, stood in judgment of the Corinthians. In eating a meal of inclusion while engaging in acts of exclusion the Corinthians had judged themselves. Their own actions had condemned them.

And with that in mind, let's go back to the issue of open versus closed communion.

Is communion dangerous?  Should people be warned about their participation?

Yes and yes. But those answers, in light of what we've just discussed, do not mitigate against the practice of open communion. In fact, I'd argue that open communion is better positioned here relative to closed communion given the particular warnings we need. More, I'd argue that the fact that communion requires a warning presupposes its openness. Why warn if communion is closed and safe?

So, yes, open communion is dangerous. People do need to be warned, as Paul warned the Corinthians, that if you take this meal of inclusion while shaming, humiliating and excluding others then you've brought judgment upon yourself. You're being a hypocrite as your ritual actions in the Supper are not being supported by your lifestyle. In taking the Lord's Supper you are professing that you have "equal concern" for others, that you give "greater honor" to the least of these. Thus you bring judgment upon yourself when you shame and humiliate others, when you fail to discern and care for the many parts of body of Christ. Especially the most shameful parts.

So, yeah, people do need to be warned about that. People need to be told what the meal symbolizes and the expectations it places upon us. If you shame and humiliate "the least of these" you shouldn't eat the bread and drink the cup.

And if you do eat the meal while shaming and humiliating others, the welcome of Jesus--symbolized in the meal--will stand in judgment against you.

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39 thoughts on “Open Communion: WARNING!”

  1. Are you saying that 'open' only has to do with the body of Christ or also includes anybody who wants to partake, even if a non-believer?  If the latter, then the context (Paul is only writing to believers) has been missed.

  2. Hi, David-

    If the rite of communion comes with the explanation RB just gave, then wouldn't anyone who would want to partake in it automatically be a "believer"? IOW, Jesus calls us to treat the poor and those society as shamed with respect, the act of communion is one that shows respect to everyone, therefore those who take communion *believe* in Jesus.

  3. I dunno Kenton, what you say sounds right, but how does the God of legal justice justify hearing or seeing a person- a person to whom otherwise His Ear and Eye are blind- until they recite "The Sinner's Prayer"?

    I'd like to believe in what you're saying here, but your theology feels a little thin to me.....

  4. I can't know the motives of anybody; even those who might 'want to take communion.'  If however, they believe the gospel (1 Cor 15:1-4; without any of the adders about 'feeding the poor' for example) then they may have a 'communal' part in  communion.  By the way, it is also not up to me to decide if another does in fact believe.

  5. David, the question we need to honestly ask is this: did God give the table for the church or for the world?  Besides belief, there is no ontological difference between the two--the church are the people who have apprehended (or been apprehended by) the good news while the world simply does not know that God has, does, and will love it.  Paul says to the Corinthians "As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."  If the feast is a herald, then most certainly the church would want the world to hear it.  The question of "divisions" can be appropriated from within the church to the church and the world--if the table obliterates the strata by which humanity layers itself and thus Gaius and the poorest slave are to be seen and treated as equals, then certainly the table would not be an instrument by which the strata would be reintroduced between the church and the world.

  6.   Forgive me if I'm misunderstanding, David, but are you implying that
    "feeding the poor" is merely an "adder" to the Gospel - as in, not
    really essential to the Gospel?

  7. I think your theology and exegesis are spot-on.

    I do wonder, however, why what you're saying doesn't seem to fit what I've seen of "closed communion" and "open communion" groups. I've never seen a Catholic STOP a non-Catholic from receiving the Eucharist, or a Church-of-Christ elder STOP an unimmersed person from receiving communion. All of these groups have, on the contrary, tried to use the "closed communion" doctrine as a teaching function to talk about what sort of people we need to be in order to benefit from communion. On the other hand, I have seen open communion groups teach that if you do not care at all about the doctrine or community life of any Christian group, and have no desire to ever be included in any community of Christians, it's still fine for you to come on up and have a bite and a drink because hey, your relationship with Jesus doesn't depend on "organized religion."

    Because your theology and exegesis are spot-on, I think the teaching function of the church must be explicit in describing communion as a community meal. After all, before we can discern the Body or repent as a Body, we have to desire to be a Body. For many Christian communities, baptism is a way to be a Body. It is not a closed or exclusive practice. It is completely open to all, to homeless people smelling of wine as well as rich greedy jerks. But by divorcing communion from baptism, we guide people NOT to discern the body, we imply that this table has zero, zilch, nada to do with joining Christ's body.

    Again, I'm with you. Restrictions to communion should be warnings calling for self-imposed examination. The community must be open and welcoming and non-humiliating and non-shaming. And yet I'm more optimistic than you that these values can be met by groups that espouse "closed communion"; and I'm more fearful than you that these values are met by groups that espouse "open communion."

  8. Mike-

    You know how sometimes a satirist is taken seriously and it can be the highest compliment?

    Let's just say you almost had me there.

    Can you please give me a semi-colon and a close parenthesis next time?

  9. Dan G-

    Your blogger profile says "Texas" and "Software Engineer". Those both describe me.

    Are you in the Dallas area by chance?

  10. "...must be explicit in describing communion as a community meal...."
    I have heard communion described in many ways- feast, meal, banquet, etc- yet all I ever get is a little cube of bread and a little shot glass of watery fruit juice.   Over the centuries we have turned communion into a symbolic ritual that, I think, bears little resemblance to that of the NT readers.
    Paul's comments about welcoming the poor and least among us, not over-imbibing, etc, makes sense when communion was a real meal.  Real food, real wine, enough to over-imbibe and get messy, enough that excluding others meant they were missing out on something significant and substantial.
    After all, communion was instituted as an extension of the passover meal, and while that has symbolism throughout it, it is indeed a meal.

  11. By the term 'Gospel' I am referring to the few verses in 1 cor 15 passage which is what God says one must believe to receive eternal life.  As far as I know there is no Scripture that would lead one to conclude that he must 'feed the poor' as a condition of receiving eternal life.  After receiving eternal life, 'feeding the poor' may indeed be an expression of the love of Christ.

  12. Belief is surely the difference between the believer and the lost person.  Therefore, it makes little sense to me to offer to a person who does not believe that Jesus is coming back the opportunity to 'proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.' That person needs the witness of the truth of Jesus.

  13. This reminds me of an interesting paper I read on the greek verb διακρινω, generally translated "discerning" or "recognizing" in 1 Cor 11:29. The author suggests an alternative interpretation of the passage, aruging that the emphasis is not on maintaining personal purity in order to be able to participate, but rather on maintaining community and relationships.
    http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/48/48-4/JETS_48-4_733-755.pdf

  14. And what an impoverished understanding of the "good news" that is.  Instead of dumbing I Corinthians 15 down to equate an individual's "eternal life" with the "gospel," why not let Jesus himself define and outline it, as he does in Matthew 5 and Luke 4, drawing on the messianic hopes in Isaiah 61 (and indeed throughout the Prophets) to show how, in "the kingdom of God/heaven," the lame leap, the dumb speak, the oppressed are freed, the hungry are fed, the thirsty are slaked, etc., etc...and how, as his brothers and sisters, we are to be hard about the task of being agents of that same "good news?"

  15. Hi, David-
    Well first of all, Paul doesn't use "eternal life" language in I Cor. 15. He does use "saved", but I think the rhetoric of salvation had less to do with going to heaven when you die and was more about contrasting the life of following Jesus with the life of following the Caesars. (They used the term to describe what they're actions brought to the lands they conquered.)("Eternal life" also has some problems in how it's understood. I use the phrase "the life of all time" as a way of reading "aionios zoe". It's less about "what happens when we die" and more about "living while we're alive.")

    In I Cor. 15, Paul talks about "holding firm" lest believing be "in vain." Read that again. By not holding firm Paul is saying that belief would be in vain. That's the problem of centering your life on a theology. It might be in vain. There must be something more to following Jesus than intellectual assent to some idea.And to come back to the idea of open communion, if people are willing to dignify those around them that society might otherwise shame, they have a belief that transcends some assent to a theology. It's a belief in the good news (gospel) Jesus preached in Matt 5 where blessing the poor is at the top of the list. It also offers the hope of resurrection of the gospel in I Cor 15.I don't think if anyone "holds firm" to dignifying others that way, that Jesus condemns them for not having their theological ducks in a row. (The parable of sheep and goats in Matt 25 touches on this.)

  16. Any so-called "unbeliever" who would in good faith (as it were) accept an invitation to join believers at an open communion table is PRECISELY the kind of person who, upon observing the beauty and shalom of a sign/foretaste/herald community, would be most likely to become a believer.  Your view of both the Eucharist and gospel is too small, too frail, and far too static.

  17. Ya beat me to it by a hot minute!  Good post.  I wish I coulda said the same thing in less words than I did!

  18. Thanks for this Richard. I knew there was something wrong with the typical reading of this, but you've put it straight quite well.

  19. I have had communion both ways--as literal meal and as symbolic meal. Even Passover is sometimes a big feast, sometimes a smaller-scale ritual. Sometimes we get closer to the NT ideal, sometimes farther. I'd argue that a shared cracker-and-shot-glass is closer to the intended reality than Corinth's abuses. Oddly enough, I think that in any service I've seen, those who "miss out" on this still know there is something significant and substantial going on--and those who partook knew they were being invited into a real family meal, however ritualized. It is only when it becomes a vending-machine product dispensed impersonally, and without the warning label that Richard describes, that one might easily miss its significance altogether.

  20. Maybe. Unless we are so flooded by anonymous acceptance of everyone, and so afraid of being distinctive or transparent, that the unbeliever does not know she is being invited to join believers--she thinks she is being allowed to commune with God all by her lonesome, grabbing the product but not even glimpsing the beauty and shalom of the herald community that dispenses the product.

  21. What qb thinks about my understanding is . . . well . . . , interesting.  But, does qb realize that he is saying that Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit holds to an 'impoverished' gospel?  Paul says beginning in 1 Cor 15:1 "Now I make known to you, brethren, THE gospel which I preached to you, . . .  by which also you are saved, . . ."

    It is this specific gospel that Paul talks about in Romans 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . ."  Nevertheless, it is the gospel that qb is ashamed of !!!

    If you know anything about Greek, you know that 'THE gospel' here refers to a very specific gospel and not just any good news.  Now just for fun, let's take a look at Luke 4 which you so graciously brought to our attention.  Beginning in verse 18 Jesus says "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. . . ."

    Well, not exactly.  The verb here means to proclaim ANY good news.  There is no noun here nor any article to define it.  There is not a technical term here referring to THE Gospel, as Paul does.  Jesus is indeed providing 'good news' just not the gospel that saves today.

    Moreover, you read the message in physical terms while Jesus was talking in spiritual terms.  It is not the materially poor he has in mind; it is those who are spiritually poor.  qb really needs to stop trying to be so clever and become a little more humble and open to learning.

    A question:  Is the Kingdom here now?  If so, then how do you explain the lame not leaping, etc.???

  22. Hi, Alan. I thought I'd weigh in. It is because I do not accept any ontological distinction between church and world that I think the question of which God gave the table for is misguided. The "world" is the community of those to whom God is giving the table; the "church" is the subset of the "world" that happens to be receiving (being apprehended by), rather than rejecting, what God is giving to them.

    So nobody wants the world not to hear the invitation to the Table. On the contrary; closed communion is an attempt to make sure that people do indeed hear a real invitation to a real Table, an invitation they may accept (by allowing themselves to be apprehended as Christ's family) or may reject (through rejecting being apprehended as Christ's family). Incorporation into Christ's family, and hence to Christ's family meal, is absolutely open to every group, position, and level of unworthiness. Most Christians call it "baptism". . . .

    On the other hand, refusing to be apprehended as part of Christ's family, but trying to grab some of the family meal through the window, is a little bit silly. . . . We do not bar anyone from communion. Some of us simply ask that you come in and take your seat at the table, the seat that God and we both pray so desperately for you to take, before you start asking us to pass you the green bean casserole.

  23. First the 'saved' vs 'eternal life' distinction.  I purposely used 'eternal life' to try to avoid any 'churchy' jargon.  I failed.  Sorry.  I personally am not waiting to go to heaven to get eternal life.  I possess it right now and hope you do also.

    You have offered so much here that I would like to address; but, I'll just comment on one of your sentences:  "It's a belief in the good news (gospel) Jesus preached in Matt 5 where blessing the poor is at the top of the list."

    I assume you are referring to Matthew 5:3.  If so, there is nothing in verse 3 about 'our' blessing the poor, e.g. feeding the poor who can't afford to feed themselves.  It is a statement of good news that the "poor in spirit" are already blessed.  The spiritually poor in contrast to the self righteous already possess the kingdom of heaven.  That's the good news Jesus is relating.  But, He is most definitely not telling you or me what the gospel that leads to salvation is.  Moreover, the verse has nothing to do with what we 'christians' might do to be 'nice' to others.

  24. I was not referring to a "never-ending life that commences after death."  I possess 'eternal life' right now and if my senses are working correctly, I am not dead yet.

    "I see that you're referring to a very specific passage, but you seem to also have a very specific reading of those verses."

    Do you think the author had manifold meanings in mind when he wrote those words?

    "This concept of "choose Christ before you die or forfeit everlasting life" is read onto the Gospels when it's just really not there."

    I agree.  The Gospels are not the place to go to learn how to become or to live as a Christian.  They are a history of Jesus' dealings with His people (Israel, and I assume you are not a first century Israelite); Paul tells us what the resurrected Jesus revealed to him for Gentiles, THE Gospel.

    "Eternal life is not received - it is participated in."

    There are so many passages that seem to contradict this statement but for brevity how about just one.  Romans 3:23  "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Eternal life is a gift, a thing to be received and is contrasted here with something else that is received, wages.

  25. David-

    I don't know how much to unpack of that last paragraph. Sadly, I think we are a long way apart on this.I'll say this much: we can either participate in the message of the kingdom that Jesus preached, or we can try to impede it. I want to participate as fully as possible. (There's a certain amount lip service there. My actions often belie that.) To the extent that I, you and anyone else participates in that message of the kingdom - being agents of the blessings in Matt 5:3ff - "salvation" (meaning what that word meant in the 1st century of occupied Rome) comes. We have "the life of all time."  As everyone does the same, there will finally be "Shalom." We will break bread and share wine with those who are different from us. That's what I believe and hold firm to.

    Grace and peace to you, David.

  26. Perfect!  qb knows the 'kind of person' (not an actual unbeliever; but, rather just a 'so called' unbeliever) who is 'most likely to become a believer.'  qb can never be accused of  being too small, too frail, nor too static.

  27. Honestly, I'm a bit confused how to respond to this because we obviously don't come at this the same way.  Could Paul have had manifold meanings in 1 Corinthians?  Sure - but that doesn't mean I have to read into it a meaning that the Gospel has to mean anything about "never-ending life after death".  I am curious to know what exactly you believe THE gospel to be, though, since it seems to have much more to do with life after death than life before it.  (Side note: you may also want to check out Beck's "Slavery of Death" series if you haven't already done so.)

    The fact that you think the Gospels are not a good place to learn how to become or live as a Christian signifies to me that you and I are so far apart that we probably can't have an exchange that is anything more than simply talking past one another.  I certainly don't want to put words in your mouth, but it appears as though you subscribe to a theology that believes something roughly akin to the idea that, "There is one Christ, and if you are not a Jew then Paul is his  prophet."  Simply put - I don't buy it.  The veil was torn and Paul is neither my priest nor my only prophet.  I follow Jesus.  I take the Gospel accounts of His words and actions to be accounts of the examples I am to live by - perhaps his actions much more than his words.  I take the advice of Paul only as it is filtered through the lens the example set by Jesus.

    Our difference in this matter is no more clearly seen than how we view and emphasize a reading of Romans 3:23.  Sure, eternal life can be viewed as a gift if you're framing the conversation around the idea of "wages" and "gifts".  What is the gift, though?  Could it not be seen as the opportunity to participate in the kind of life that Christ has paved the way for?  However, this is still Paul's framing and making sense of Christ.  It in no way is more normative in my understanding of Christ than the Gospels are.  I read this verse through the eyes of a revealed Christ who talked about the Kingdom already amongst us.  I read Paul through Jesus, not Jesus through Paul.  Reading Jesus through Paul (in all of his words) is, in not just my opinion, leads to very serious misreadings of the Bible and can account for a lot of really bad Protestant theology.  I can only assume this is also why you seem to think that the Gospel accounts are not the place to go to learn how to be like Him.

    What's clear here is that neither of us makes sense to the other.  You're gonna read the Gospels through a Pauline filter, and I'll continue to assert that Jesus Himself is THE Gospel revealed best (though certainly not contained completely) through the canonical Gospels.  You will continue to read Paul's letters first, and assume that they are the best way to understand Christ (thus your exegesis of Romans 3:23), and I will continue trying to live/be like Christ as revealed in the Gospels and allow my exegesis of the rest of the New Testament to be footnotes on what it means to live in a very literal fashion just as Christ did.  Given that our basic commitments are so divergent, we cannot be fully intelligible to each other.

  28. "...those who 'miss out' still know there is something significant and substantial going on..."
    True.  My wife and I played hooky from our church last Sunday and attended a Choral Eucharist at the local Anglican Cathedral.  The music, choir, the thunderous pipe organ, the acoustics, and the sheer magnificence as well as simple beauty of the service was delightful.  They remind themselves of more scripture in a single service than we would hear in a month of Sundays in our Baptist church.We did not go forward to receive communion, partly because of embarrassment, partly because we felt it was 'their moment'.  We would have been welcome, I know.   I am somewhat of a pragmatist, which doesn't match with their view of the Real Presence in communion, so it felt better to let their family enjoy their family time.

    Perhaps next time.

  29. "There is one Christ, and if you are not a Jew then Paul is his  prophet."  

    I too find the above statement to be entirely false.  Paul is not a prophet; he is an apostle;  sent directly by Jesus to the gentile world.  (By the way, John, Peter, James were Apostles to the Jew, are you a Jew?)  Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and nothing he says contradicts anything else in Scripture.  Nor is any part of Scripture a filter for another part; it is all God's Word.  That of course doesn't mean that either you or I are prevented from misunderstanding what Scripture contains.  But, the idea of giving priority to Paul's writings or to the gospels is not consistent with a view that the Scriptures are ALL the Word of God.

    "I follow Jesus.  I take the Gospel accounts of His words and actions to be accounts of the examples I am to live by - perhaps his actions much more than his words.  I take the advice of Paul only as it is filtered through the lens the example set by Jesus."

    If you follow Jesus, have you turned any water in wine recently?  (Foregive me for this snide question; I hope you'll get the point.)

    Let me just ask this.  How do you understand 1 Cor 4:16 "Therefore I (Paul) exhort you, be imitators of me." and 1 Cor 11:1  "Be imitators of me (Paul), just as I also am of Christ."

    Is this the arrogant man Paul speaking or is this Scripture?

  30. Very helpful discussion of the issue. I draw a lot from René Girard & I appreciate the way you zero in on issues of rivalry & exclusion, what Girard call scandals, stumbling blocks

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  32. Sorry to enter the conversation so late - I've been away (from Swansea, UK, where I live, visiting my mum in New York).  I simply want to throw into the mix a NT text that is rarely cited in discussions about open/closed Table, viz. Acts 27:33-37: a post-storm meal on the ship taking Paul to Rome, eaten by crew and passengers, including soldiers and prisoners -- a very motley 276 in all -- presided over by the apostle, whose actions have such decidedly eucharistic overtones that it sure looks like an Open Communion to me.

  33. I haven't ever thought of that passage in this light.  What a great insight.  Thank you.

  34. I think that for the most part the church has missed some powerful truth because we have read things into the passage that are not there and have not understood a couple of key words in I Corinthians Chapter 11. The 1st key word is the word, "unworthily". Look it up in WE Vines and you will see that it basically means to have a lack of understanding. In Colossians 1 Paul wrote that he was praying for them that they might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding so that they might walk WORTHY of the Lord...

  35. When Paul spoke of judgment he was most likely thinking of the curse that we have been redeemed from in Christ. He did not say that God would judge us. (We have assumed that he meant that.) And by the way, how does God judge us now in Christ? On the basis of our performance, or on the basis of what Jesus has done on our behalf?

  36. Communion should be a time of celebration of what Jesus has done for us, not a time of self abasement! Read the first few chapters of the book of Acts. They broke bread from house to house, praising God and having favor with all the people. So when early believers had communion, it was a time of rejoicing.

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