Eating meals in the church building is more of an issue of having large social gatherings in a church owned building where the facilities (e.g., a fellowship halls, kitchens) are funded by the Lord’s treasury. Most use such events to attract membership or to have what they deem to be fellowship with members of the church. It is noteworthy that fellowship halls were not once named among new testament churches.
Luke wrote, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their ‘homes and ate together’ with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46).
Luke specifically mentions a distinction of where the early Christians met to discuss the Lord and where they met to eat meals. Why mention the location of the meals? Specifically, why even mention meals at all? Take note that Pagan temples were the location of many of the acts of excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures, rather than of the spirit. Pagans purposely went to the temple to eat. Paul describes this in his discussion about meat in I Corinthians 8 where he notes that the connection between meat and temples is so strong that for some coming out of idolatry, it may be hard for them to now separate them. Luke made the distinction between paganism and Christianity, in that Christianity was not based on food and drink, but on the spirit filled life. As Jesus truly said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds out the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4)
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.” Rom 14:17-21
It is unwise to associate food with the worship of God. It is completely foolish to use food as an enticement to get people to come to services. Jesus showed that men were easily swayed by food, and once given food they were inclined to forget spiritual concepts.
This gives a bit more background to Paul’s comments in I Corinthians 11:17-22
“In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes 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 praise you for this? Certainly not!“
The rhetorical question of “Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in?” is a pivotal question. I’ve heard many point out that Paul was addressing an abuse of the Lord’s Supper and not a social gathering that occurs at a time completely unrelated to the Lord’s Supper. True, but I think there were more issues at work than just the Lord’s Supper. He was scolding them about the Lord’s Supper because they forgot that the purpose of getting together on the Lord’s Day was not a matter of physical desires, but of spiritual needs. Worship of God is not the filling of the stomach, but rather the filling of the spirit, not with carnal food but with the Word of God.
Paul’s inspired solution to the problem of the stomach versus the spirit is for meals to be eaten at home. In other words, eat somewhere else, rather than where you assemble. He had the option of telling them to just eat at another time, which would then imply that it could be at the same place, just at a different time. He did not even suggest such a thing. Since he specified a place where they should be eating their meals, at home, he eliminates the place of worship assembly as that location.
The Jewish synagogues were places of prayer and study, somewhat like a mini temple, but without the sacrifices. Jesus used them for study and teaching. In the actual temple, Jesus threw out those who desecrated the temple by doing things (which happened to be authorized and legal things to do) other than using it as a house of prayer. God actively encourages men to study and pray. He actively discourages men from equating carnal things such as eating and drinking, with spiritual things such as studying, teaching and praying. Thus, even as Paul so commanded via the Holy Spirit, when you come together each Lord’s day, this is to partake of the Lord’s supper and not to eat a common meal. If you are hungry, eat at home. This command in an of itself invariably excludes the church building, fellowship halls or any other church sponsored place of eating.