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Why Some Misunderstand 1 Corinthians 11:22 (and 11:34)

August 3rd, 2008

“What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?”

(1 Corinthians 11:22)

From time to time, the subject of eating in the church building arises. Invariably, to study 1 Corinthians is to encounter the passage. Some have read Paul, here, to mean simply that one should never eat in the church building, period and, to do so is a sin. But, is that precisely what Paul intended to convey to the churches of Christ? We think that this position is in error and has caused a definite division.

1. The so-called, “Non-Institutional” group is responsible for advocating the no-eating-in the-church-building position. Also known as, “Anti-Churches,” due to their opposition to Bible classes and congregational support of orphan homes through collective church offerings. This group also often insists upon using one cup to distribute the fruit of the vine.

2. They have forced 1 Corinthians 11:34 into a proverb type. But, it is definitely not a proverb! 11:34 is a historical narrative remark by Paul to meet a specific Corinthian problem, where the Lord’s Supper was being confused with the common meal (1 Cor. 11:20). In 11:21, he states the problem. Then, Paul asks in order to teach-“What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?” (11:22). Paul cannot commend this practice (11:22). He proceeds to cite how the communion was initiated and meant to be perpetuated (11:22-26). To do otherwise is to engender a profane practice (11:27-33). His solution is to avoid mixing the common meal with the Lord’s Supper.

3. Acts 20:11 should studiously be consulted in conjunction with Acts 20:7. Notice that after they had worshipped together at Troas, they shared a time of food and conversation. This Christian tradition is known as the “love feast” (see Jude 12-tais agapais).

-Robert M. Housby