Read: 1 Cor. 11:17-34
1. How do we come to the table?
How do we come to the table? Are we coming clinging to Christ or crucifying Christ? There can only be two ways: worthy or unworthy manner. The manner of our approach is very important. It is not in the external rituals, but in the attitude of our heart. How we come and not who we are is important. We are unworthy, only Christ is righteous. We do not deserve anything and must approach the table as sinners who need grace. As people who completely trust in the righteousness of Christ. We are unworthy, but He is worthy. He became our worthiness. He became wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption on our behalf. “Because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” [1 Cor 1:30-31]. Our hearts must proclaim with the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” [Rev 5:9] But there is an unworthy manner. It is coming not clinging to Christ. “Nothing in my hands, I bring.” To approach in a unworthy manner is the opposite. Disjointed from the people of God. Holding to sin. Coming from self. To eat unworthily is to make a negative declaration. His life means nothing to me. It is to look at Jesus on the cross in an unworthy manner. Without piety and love in repentance to Him. It is to approach the table in an un-repented heart. Although we are born again people of God, we are constantly looking and relying on Christ and not on our own flesh or worthiness. The Corinthians were approaching the table from sin and division. They made a mockery of the table by ignoring whom it speaks about. By using it as a normal meal and not as a worship and remembrance of Christ.
2. What must I be doing when I partake in the Lord supper?
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail to meet the test! [2 Cor. 13:5] Do I live more than my words? Do I live by the affections of my heart? It is an ongoing examination. Does my life show grace? Do I peruse holiness and peace with all men? Do I live in sin? Do I trust completely in Christ and abandoned myself. Unbelievers must not eat and drink of the cup. We must be careful with our children. Can they take part? Test them. Make sure. Test their deepness. Probe to see if their confession is an honest one. Look at their live to see if their is buds of new live. How can they drink and testify when they do not have a new heart. On a positive note, we may use the table to teach them about Christ. Teach them about self-examination.
Self-examination may bring guilt. The purpose is not to resurrect old sin and guilt. It is not to be driven from the table or that you may become worthy. We cannot be worthy in ourselves. Self-examination is not a morbid introspective which leads to depression. The table is for those who are longing for the righteousness of God. It is for those who are aware of their sin. The table is for those who are poor and humble in spirit before our great God. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” [Matt. 5:3]. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. [Matt. 5:6]. These are the ones who are welcome at the table. It is not those who can say I am worthy to sit at the table. It is for those who know they need a Savior. The key in self-examination is: But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. [1 Cor. 11:31]
3. What will be the outcome if we partake in an unworthy manner?
God will not to be mocked. There is a limit to His patience. Look at verse 29: For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. [1 Cor. 11:29]. Older translations use the word damnation. This is not hell. A true believer cannot be lost. The judgment in these verses is to save a person. Verse 30: weakness, sickness and death. They failed to discern the body of Christ. Is it the body of Jesus or the church? It is the body of Jesus. To participate in communion without any thought of Jesus and the body is to shun Jesus and His sacrifice. It is to treat Jesus and the sacrifice of His body in an unworthy manner. It is to trample under foot the body of Christ. It is to treat Him as a common thing. To partake without humble worship, is to treat Jesus’ sacrifice as a common thing, which I can abandon if I want too. Do we get sick? Do we die? Yes. Not because of personal sin. Do not think it is because we fail to live up to the law. But we cannot tone down the warning of this passage. Remember the background of Corinthians. They lived in sexual immorality, pride and self-righteousness. The Lord’s Supper may be a time of covenantal judgment. Look what Paul said to the Corinthians when they meet together: It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. [1 Cor. 5:1-5]. The essence of what Paul was saying is that a person who lives in sin must be removed from the church, which resembles God’s grace and protection. Excommunication of a believer might lead to severe physical discipline and even death, but in the end his soul will be saved. In Hebrews 12 God says He disciplines legitimate children (Heb. 12:7-8). If this does not happen, you sit with a liberal and a death hollow church.
4. What other instructions might Paul have given?
Verse 34 shows that the Corinthians came to the table not thinking of Christ but rather as if coming to a normal table. It was about the attitude of the heart. The instructions were not in the outward rituals, which made it worth, but in the attitude of heart. God does not tell us to use unleavened bread. If Christ is the true bread of life, does it matter? How often? There are no instructions. It can be too often or too less. Leading to over familiarization or forgetfulness. The Bible does not prescribe although there was ample time here in 1 Corinthians. We must guard that it becomes a religious rite. There is no instruction about the cup. There are no instructions about a certain way, which make it unworthy. It is in the simplicity of it. Eat, drink and do it in remembrance of me. Keep it simple. Nothing more. The next time we partake, take God’s instructions into consideration. Come repentant. Come thoughtfully. Come remember the One whose blood was shed for you. Come looking at the Savior and not in the bread and juice.
1. The Lords Supper – Dare We Eat: 1 Cor. 11:17-34. (Link to source)