17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse.
18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.
19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.
20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.
21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? 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 do not praise you.
I do not praise you (v.17) — Paul found a reason for praising them in verse 2, but not here.
better (v.17) = (spiritually) advantageous
worse (v.17) = (spiritually) deteriorating
as a church (v.18) = as an assembly — not referring to a building
divisions (v.18) = dissensions — wrong living
in part I believe it (v.18) — Paul seems to be indicating that he’s willing to think better of them or believe the reports had been exaggerated.
factions (v.19) — the divisions referred to in verse 18, but with the added idea of conscious choice — wrong thinking
approved (v.19) = have stood the test — individuals who stand out because their refusal to act wrongly is in marked contrast to the behavior of most.
A “heretic” is simply a dissenter. A heretic may rise to dissent from self-will, or he may protest wrong being done or taught. The wrong kind of heresy is that which dissents from the truth of the Word of God; the right kind of heresy, that which dissents from what is wrong. In the case above the apostle says, there must be dissensions, protests, against the disorders at your love feasts, “that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (v.19).
It is important too to observe the meaning of the word “divisions” (v.18). The Greek, schisma is simply our “schism,” an alienation or estrangement. This trows further light on the problem at Corinth. It was not a theological problem; it was that some had “rubbed each other the wrong way.” In 12:25 the apostle declares: That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care one for another. Stam, page 193
not to eat the Lord’s supper (v. 20) — they came together to eat, but their behavior prevented it from being the Lord’s supper
one is hungry (v.21) — no sharing
What! (v.22) — “Why bother coming together?”
do you not have houses (v.22) — If you’re simply satisfying your appetites, do it at home.
shame (v.22) — The rich were shaming the poor with their unshared abundance.
There’s a wide range of opinion on this passage (and the verses that follow), mostly, I’m guessing, because of differences of opinion regarding progressive revelation. Here’s what some of my commentaries say:
The statement “in eating” [v.21] points out that actually the occasion was only a simple meal which each of the believers could have eaten anywhere. They were probably mixing up the “love-feast” (Agape) with the Lord’s supper. The love-feast was a meal of which the early Christians partook in common. Each participant brought his own share of food, and all contributions were pooled to make a common feast. Thus the poor who could bring but little, shared in the plenty of those who had in abundance. The Corinthians, however, had lost this Christian fellowship and had resorted to class distinction. The poor brought of their scant store and went away hungry, while the wealthy brought abundantly of their rich foods (including wines) and became intoxicated as well as making gluttons of themselves. It seems that they did not put their food together, there was no sharing; but rather, each ate what he brought. So in reality it was not a meal in common — they did not share and share alike. Thus the Christian principle was destroyed at the very meal that should have displayed it in practice. To call such a meal “the Lord’s supper” was unscriptural and did grievous abuse to that observance. — Greene, pages 367-368
There was a shameful abuse of the Lord’s table. Baptism was also abused but he did not make a single attempt to reform this. On the other hand, he said that he thanked God that he did not baptize any but two with a family (1:14-15); but here he rebukes the abuses and proceeds to set it right. This was in the year 59. According to Charles Welch, he received the full blaze of the mystery of the Body at 60 A.D. [Acts 28]. If now, as some say, the Lord’s table does not belong to the Body, why then should Paul proceed to reform it for just one year. If it had been a thing to be set aside, he would not have endeavored to reform it for one year at most. — Bultema, page 93
The sin of coming tot he table of the Lord without proper preparation and a thorough understanding of its meaning is followed by the most serious and terrible results. If Christians would believe, study and conscientiously practice the admonition of this passage it would spare them untold grief and suffering and save them thousands and ten thousands of dollars in time and doctors’ bills. — DeHaan, page 127
I’ll save my personal conclusions until I’ve studied more.