This morning after services one of our members explained that when he discusses I Corinthians 11:17-34 with liberal brethren who claim that the church is authorized to have common meals in a kitchen or fellowship hall, he argues the following:
Instead of the Corinthians coming together in one place to observe the "Lord's Supper" they were bringing in meals (e.g. potluck), dividing off into cliques and eating ahead of others, shaming the poor who had nothing. The food that they were bringing had nothing to do with the Lord's Supper, it was simply for feasting, partying etc.
Is his argument correct?
It doesn't work since Paul tells them to eat at home. "So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come" (I Corinthian 11:33-34). If the problem was cliques and shaming the poor, he would have them deal with it while together. Eating at home would not solve those problems.
Since the meal was not to solve hunger, there was no common meal.
"Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you" (I Corinthians 11:20-22).
Verse 20 makes it clear that it is the Lord's Supper under discussion; thus, "supper" in verse 21 is still the Lord's Supper. The problem was they were not eating it together (as discussed in I Corinthians 10:16-17). Thus, one is "hungry" (has not partaken) and another is "drunk" (not in the sense of intoxication, but having satisfied his thirst). By mixing both eating and drinking terms, Paul covered both aspects of the Lord's Supper -- the bread and the fruit of the vine.
Paul's point is if someone is too hungry to wait for his brethren, then he should eat at home. The church is gathered to eat the Lord's Supper. To not do it with proper reverence is to despise the church and shame those who were unable to partake because nothing was left. "For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another" (I Corinthians 11:30-33).