I CAN’T SAY that I’ve given a great deal of thought to this particular passage until a recent Lord’s Day…
The brother presiding at the table brought it to my attention.
Paul wrote, “Many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep…” (1 Cor. 11:30).
What exactly did the apostle mean?
It is possible he was speaking figuratively.
Contextually, the brethren at Corinth had merged a common covered dish fellowship meal with the communion.
Yes, their eyes were open, but their hearts were dull and closed — in essence, asleep.
It was a sort of spiritual congregational form of COVID19 where brethren can’t shake hands or hug, lest they spread the virus.
Members at Corinth could shake hands and hug (whatever cultural form their greetings might have taken), but evidently they didn’t do so.
They were divided and separated (vv. 17-19; cf. 1:12) physically and spiritually and failed to exhibit brotherly love and affection.
What the Lord had initially intended (cf. Mat. 26:26) as a precious feast for the soul had incrementally been warped and twisted into a gluttonous feast for the belly.
What made it even worse was the fact that some were eating, while others were actually going hungry (v. 21, 33-34)!
Yes, the church body was coming together at the same location (v. 20), but no, they certainly weren’t coming together in the highest sense of the term (vv. 18, 29, 33-34).
“Many are weak (i.e., feeble and infirm) and sick (powerless, without strength)…and many sleep” (i.e., have died).
A number of commentators think this refers to a kind of divine judgment (v. 32) against various members of the congregation – akin to what had happened to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11; cf. Rev. 2:21-23).
They believe Paul was speaking literally.
In essence, they are convinced God actually made some members physically ill because of their divisive and unloving hypocrisy (v. 34).
That’s a plausible interpretation and merits further study.
Were these infirmities in verse 30 figurative or literal?
One brother suggests the former:
“They were languishing with spiritual infirmities (cf. the lukewarm, Rev. 3:15-16, and those who had left their first love, Rev. 2:4). Because they had failed to discern the body (properly remember the sacrificial death of Christ and its necessity in their salvation) they had grown negligent and lost interest in the higher values of life and eternity” (Winters, 159).
IF these afflictions were in fact, figurative, it’s scary to realize that this spiritual virus can still infect our hearts today.
Brethren can be deer-in-the-headlights awake as they consume the loaf and swallow the fruit of the vine, and yet simultaneously be in a spiritual stupor – physically awake, but spiritually asleep.
Beloved, may I lovingly probe (Psm. 139:23) our hearts with the scalpel (Heb. 4:12) of the Word?
These are obviously rhetorical questions.
No, of course we can’t.
End of sentence.
Sure, we can consume crackers and juice and then salve our collective conscious’ by saying, “Look Lord, we took the Supper–and in truth no less!”, but the reality is, doing so may actually indicate our inner weakness, sickness, or perhaps worst of all, spiritual slumber or death (cf. Mat. 9:12).
I have an exhortation for us all.
Let’s all observe, partake, worship, and evaluate our hearts – and THEN let’s really show one another, as well as the world, that we are ONE in Christ Jesus!
“For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17).
“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike