Jesus' Gold Standard of Love

1 Corinthians is a letter to a church that found itself in the most influential and cosmopolitan city of its day. Yet this was a troubled church. The church received the gospel, but it was not governed by it. In many practical ways, the church was governed by culturally-derived mottos rather than mature reflection on the gospel and its implications for life.

In 1 Corinthians, each gospel-corrective radiates from the bodily resurrection of the believer from the dead as expressed in chapter 15. The bodily resurrection as defined in the gospel necessitates:

  • unity rather than popularity (chapters 1-4, esp. 3:21-23),
  • sexual and legal integrity rather than promiscuity and litigation (chapters 5-7), and
  • love in a context of knowledge (chapters 8-14). The priority of love governs how we eat (chapters 8-10) and how we meet (chapters 11-14).

When we meet as a church at the Lord's Table, we meet in remembrance of Christ's love, not in pursuit of grace.

As the gold standard of love, the Lord’s Table exposes counterfeits. (1 Corinthians 11:17-22)

The Lord’s Table can highlight that divisions exist. Some divisions are so uncalled-for that they almost surpass believability when considered in light of Christ's broken body and shed blood.

The Lord’s Table can highlight that cliques exist. These are similar to divisions but have more of a theological bent, different groups organized around some favored point of supposed doctrine. While these must exist, this does not excuse us from not dealing with them (1 Corinthians 1:10, 1:3). This unfortunate factious state does serve a purpose; it makes clear and evident who is on the Lord's side.

The Lord’s Table can highlight the simple fact that there is hypocrisy or duplicity in our congregation. The Corinthian problem was one of class distinction. The Lord’s Table became the occasion to make those class distinctions clear and apparent. Those distinctions may still be reality outside of the church, but the body and blood of Christ demand that the church of God act differently when gathered together.

These revelations do not have to be the ultimate word on those who are exposed, but can serve as a wake up call for God's people to get right and move forward.

As the gold standard of love, the Lord’s Table standardizes the core commitments of the church. (1 Corinthians 11:24-26)

It standardizes the practice of the church as communal. We partake in the presence of one another. We are out of order to think that we can be in communion with Jesus without being communion with the church.

It standardizes the source of the power of the Church—Jesus in us! The symbol of eating and ingesting is an appropriate picture of Christ in us, taking control of every aspect. Our union with Christ is the profound source of power for the church. This union renovates and transforms the rationalizing apparatus of every true believer.

“Part of the beauty of the “self-image” the gospel [specifically our union with Christ] gives us is that it delivers us from narcissism, and from seeing “self” as the central project of our lives. It produces a blessed release by inducing a new self-forgetfulness in us precisely because we now know who we really are!”

It standardizes the proclamation of the church. "His death" references a part to represent the whole gospel in all its stunning beauty. We never forget from whence we have come. Our lofty position in Christ can never be construed to mean that God got a deal when He got me! My salvation required the death of His precious one and only Son! I proclaim this truth about myself every time I partake of the Lord's Table.

The believer's confidence is not and can never be a self-confidence; rather, it must always be a substitutionary confidence. We do not presume our intrinsic self-worth with a demand for justice, but rather are characterized by a convictional deep intrinsic humility and gratitude that justice was suspended so I could know free and full forgiveness. Jesus’ death defines what the disposition of truly born-again people looks like.

The Lord's Table also standardizes the timeline of the church. We remember “till He comes.”

As the gold standard of love, the Lord’s Table personalizes responsibility of each individual in our church. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)

Anyone can be guilty of sinning against such amazing love and grace. The remedy is for us to examine ourselves. Are we judging the body rightly (honoring, discerning, having concern for)? The word "body" here refers to the church. We vigilantly examine ourselves because Jesus will protect the unity of his church. We can examine ourselves rightly because we have access to objective truth in God's Word. We have the nature necessary to understand and apply that truth as its Author intended!

When we do sin against the grace and the love of God by not valuing His church as we ought, there is still hope! We escape ultimate condemnation when we allow ourselves to be corrected by the Lord's discipline.

May our coming together before the Lord’s Table be for good and not for worse. May we confess our divisions and factions, our personal agendas, and leave them at the foot of the cross. May we see anew and afresh the absolute commitment of Jesus to unifying His body. Let us resist any attempt to divide this congregation, and may we together demonstrate in an exemplary way the unity Christ died to secure.

Application Points

  • How are you doing at love? Compare yourself to the gold standard that Jesus holds out. Do you love Him and His people that way?
  • Don't allow yourself to be co-opted by the forces that would divide Christ's body.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Romans 8:38-39 – Even death is viewed as belonging to the believer because it simply ushers us into the presence of our Savior.
  • Matthew 13:24-30, 38-42 – Christ mentioned that the wheat would grow with the tares while the kingdom is delayed.