May 28, 2022
“Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. So a man should examine himself...”
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1 Corinthians 11
“Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. So a man should examine himself; in this way he should eat the bread and drink the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment upon himself. This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep. If we were properly evaluating ourselves, we would not be judged, but when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord, that we may not be condemned by the world.” 1 Corinthians 11:27-32
Almost every time I have taken Communion, a pastor has mentioned today’s passage: “Whoever eats or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner…”. “Unworthy” is most often taken to mean “non-believer.” The pastoral explanation is usually accompanied with an invitation for a non-believer to come to Jesus before eating and drinking judgment upon themselves by taking Communion.
It is always good to lead people to the Lord, and I believe Communion is exclusively for believers. But reading today’s chapter, I wonder if the scenario mentioned above accurately sums up Paul’s intended message to the Corinthian church.
First off, Paul is speaking of self-serving activities among professing believers.
“For, to begin with, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and in part, I believe it.” 1 Corinthians 11:18
There were social cliques and class divisions among the body of believers. Paul reminded the Corinthian believers of the order and graciousness that Jesus displayed when serving His disciples. Furthermore, Paul urges that those guilty of discrimination have abandoned the essence of Communion. Perhaps Paul was calling their faith into question.
“For as often as you eat and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:26
They taught us a good saying in kindergarten: you are what you eat. When we take the bread and cup into ourselves, we are also reaffirming our commitment to live sacrificially, even unto death, laying down our lives as an example so that others may enter into a saving relationship with Jesus and commune with Him as we do.
I believe that “to eat in an unworthy manner” includes those Christians who would receive the elements, all the while blaspheming them, by refusing to live sacrificially. This would invoke the judgment of God, which leads to the disciplined correction of His children. All this so the reputation of God’s Holiness among His people would be preserved in the world…that those in the world, in turn, would believe in Jesus.