Come Together

    But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. [1 Cor 11:17-22]
The question has come up regarding what Paul is talking about in 1 Cor 11 here, and for your Friday pleasure I thought I'd hammer out a couple of pages on the subject, especially as it relates to this comment recently proffered in the meta:
Since there is no biblical instruction that the table must be conducted in a "local assembly of believers" (I assume you mean a local church), then I posit that any group of believers who is gathered together (a family, a small group, a church, a gathering at a religious camp) may share the table.
Now, just for the record, the LBCF says this on the subject:
The supper of the Lord Jesus was instituted by him the same night wherein he was betrayed, to be observed in his churches, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance, and shewing forth the sacrifice of himself in his death, confirmation of the faith of believers in all the benefits thereof, their spiritual nourishment, and growth in him, their further engagement in, and to all duties which they owe to him; and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other.[XXX, 1]
And to be sure we reckon what the underlined part there means, consider this:
A particular church, gathered and completely organised according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members; and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered), for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which he intrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons. [XXVI,8]
That doesn't really have anything to do with 1 Cor 11, but it does point out that the historic Reformed Baptist view of the church, its officers, and the ordinances is that the church is right to call forth "officers" (we might say "ministers") by which the ordinances are administered, and that these ordinances -- particularly the Lord's Supper -- is to be administered to the whole church and not just smaller assemblies in fellowship. This is undergirded by the LBCF's stress on the use of the sabbath for Christian worship.

But that said, is this what Paul would have required? I mean, LBCF and all that stuff, but is it biblicious enough for us to have to follow it today?

Well, the place to start is that Paul wasn't happy with the Corinthians. He says, "I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse." Now, what does he mean by "come together"? "Here come old flattop he come grooving up slowly"? I am pretty sure he means "when you come together as a church", because that's what he says in the next sentence. The Greek actually says, when you-all are gathered "ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ" -- which doesn't mean "whenever a couple of you are around". It means when you are gathered together for the purpose of worship as God's people. That doesn't mean "as smaller groups". It means "as the body of Christ; as one body; when you all come together as one assembly".

So as Paul continues his anti-commendation to the Corinthians here, consider that what he is criticizing is what the practice and what they ought to be practicing as a body together.

"When you come together," he says, "it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal." And to this, Paul says specifically, "What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?" Notice the contrast he draws between the "houses" of each one verses the "church of God" -- that whatever you do at home, it should not be that way when you come together as the church of God.

"yes, well cent," says one, "we come together as the church of God in many ways, and one of them is that we, in my neck of the woods, come together in our homes as smaller groups to worship God. And when we do that, we sometimes take the Lord's supper -- nobody in the group gets excluded. We come together in a different way than Paul describes here, but it's not disqualified by Paul."

Dude, that's hooie. That's simply wandering around the text rather than reading it. Paul says explicitly here that the church ought to come together specifically for the Lord's supper, and come together specifically without any divisions. When your church goes out to smaller groups in homes to occasionally have the Lord's supper, it's doing in fact what Paul here excoriates -- only it actually goes out to the homes to make the divisions rather than clique up even though the church is all in one place.

Let me say this: there's nothing wrong with small group fellowship. It's great for prayer and real spiritual intimacy. But the gathering in one body specifically has the charge -- seen here as said by Paul -- to remember the Lord's death in the ordinance of the meal.

See: Paul's point here is that if you were in your own home having a select few people over, that's a division which has nothing to do with the assembly of the believers -- it's your party, and you can cry if you want to. But when the believers are actually assembled, your private party time is over. Taking the Lord's Supper out to those smaller groups doesn't sanctify the smaller groups -- it only makes completely obvious that the church is not coming together for this act.

The believers are to assemble for the Lord's Supper, not merely meet up in little coffee claches. Paul says if you assemble but do not treat each other as one body, you are doing something unworthy. How can you then say that if you just don't meet up as one body but instead meet up as smaller units of one body you can get past the criticism that you haven't united?

Paul says come together, right now. I say he's got a good point -- and it's up to you to be in God's house with God's people on His day. You're not coming together if you're not actually with all of those people.