1 Corinthians 11 and Paedo-Communion

Dr Mike Ross, Moderator of the 40th PCA General Assembly, and Senior Minister at Christ Covenant Church in Charlotte, NC.

I’ve been trying to put together the class for the Adult Bible Study on Sunday evening, and I’ve settled on a study of 1 Corinthians 11:27-32; this will be somewhat timely given the growing debate over the issue of paedo-communion (henceforth referred to as PC) in Presbyterian and Reformed churches. An overture was just presented at the 40th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America regarding this issue; it’s not the first time, and nor will it be the last. As I’m still in the midst of my Greek review, I’m going to take a break from the Romans 1 posts and stop and focus more broadly on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.

If we were to outline this pericope, it would break into four sections:

  1. The Problem Stated (vv. 17-22): Some are eating and drinking in a selfish manner, leading to gluttony and drunkenness, which leaves some unable to partake. This section uses primarily the second person plural “you” (vv. 17-20 and v. 22), interspersed with Paul’s own first person singular “I” (vv. 17-18, and v. 22 at the end). In this section Paul is interacting with their abuses that he has mentioned.
  2. The Words of Institution(vv. 23-26): The Apostle reiterates the words of institution, with their emphasis on ‘in remembrance of me’ (v. 25) and ‘you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’ (v. 26) as the basis for his response to all mishandlings of the Lord’s Table, not just the Corinthians mishandling. Paul reports Jesus institution the Supper with Jesus’ own third person singular “he” throughout (vv. 23-26). This restating of the account severs to show that it was originally given to the “you” who were present with Jesus, and now, since it is being retold to the Corinthians, to them as well and also to those who read and heed, including ourselves and Christ’s Church, “until he comes”.
  3. Examination and Discernment (vv. 27-32): This section, with its introductory ‘therefore’ (v. 27), is drawn from vv. 23-26, and states that one must examine himself (v. 28) and ‘discern the body’ as one eats, or wone is in danger of eating and drinking ‘judgement on himself’ (v. 29). Thus it is based on the significance or intention of the Supper as given in the prior section. This section breaks down into two subsections. In the first section, Paul begins by giving his warning in general terms to all, who did then or now do, read or hear his account (vv. 27-29). This is evidenced by his expressing himself in such a way that his warning apply to all, that is, with such constructions that are rendered in English as “whoever” (v. 27), “a person” (v. 28), “anyone” (part of a participial construction, v. 29) that apply to any and every one, and with verb forms in the third person singular throughout vv. 27-29 directing his comment to each one (he or she that reads), with the first one being in the future tense (v. 27, ‘will be guilty’), and specifying ‘himself’ (v. 29, referring back to the ‘anyone’ that begins v. 29) to make certain that the individual realizes that he or she is to heed this warning. In the second section (vv. 30-32), Paul writes to the Corinthians in particular with the second person plural ‘you’ (v. 30), now understood to refer back to the original ‘you” in vv. 17ff., and with is transitional words, ‘that is why…’, as well as the specific words ‘many of you…’ and ‘some of you‘ (theof you being implicitly understood in Greek), which ‘you[s]’ are then changed into a ‘we’ in which he includes himself with them (vv. 31-32).
  4. Instructions on Overcoming the Problem (vv. 33-34): With it’s introductory ‘then’, these verses now return to vv. 17-22. They are to ‘wait for one another…when they come together to eat’ (v. 33). This is the section that most particularly returns to the problem originally addressed in vv. 17-22. The language here is, again, primarily second personal plural (vv. 33-34), with is made even more explicit and specific with a third person ‘anyone’ and ‘him’ in v. 34.

I’m sure you are wondering by now what my point is, and how this relates to the practice of paedo-communion. Check back in tomorrow afternoon, and I’ll tell you!

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One thought on “1 Corinthians 11 and Paedo-Communion

  1. Pingback: 1 Corinthians 11 and Paedo-communion (Part 2) | Southern Reformation

"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve." (Romans 16:17-18) Please read "The Comments Policy."

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