“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). We don’t have to be a Biblical scholar to any degree to comprehend that is a stern admonition. We find it in the midst of 1 Corinthians 11 wherein Paul is issuing a long line of expected behaviors to the church in Corinth. After addressing head coverings in the first 16 verses, he moves to the proper administration of the Lord’s Supper.
Verse 18 chastises the Church for tolerating divisions during this time, the very opposite intent of the memorial:“For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it” 1 Corinthians 11:18). He proceeds to remind the Corinthians of the account itself, and the purpose of the ordinance in verses 23-26: a reminder of the work of Christ done for us. It is after these texts that our sobering admonition is levied. “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.”
Paul communicates that our very special time of reflection and benefit may be used, if we are not careful as something which brings judgment—being guilty of the blood of the Lord! . “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly” (1 Corinthians 11:28-29).
Partaking of this event in “an unworthy manner” brings judgment. To my understanding, an unworthy manner is that which fails to address sin, or wrong-doing in the participant’s life. Failure to communicate full surrender to Christ as you engage in the act of doing just that invites some element of judgment, or consequences, even to the point of sickness or death.
This passage may often be cited at communion services, but oftentimes we fail to walk through what exactly this may mean. Let me suggest 3 areas of self-examination, keeping in mind that this ordinance is a reminder of the relationship (unity) we have with God because of the work of Christ (vertical), and the relationship (unity) that we have with each other (horizontal), again, due to the work of Christ.
Three points of examination are these:
- Offenses any person may have against you. (Matthew 5:23-24)
- Observations of another’s sin. (Matthew 18:15-20)
- Any unconfessed, or besetting sins in yourself not dealt with. (2 Peter 1:1-7)
Matthew 5:23-24 commands, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
If you have done something wrong to someone, even if you haven’t but they think you have… deal with it. This command is given in order to sustain, or repair any damage of unity within the body. Don’t drink the Lord’s if someone has a valid grudge against you; don’t do it.
Matthew 18:15-20 address the proper behavior to be followed in the event that someone has sinned, against you or otherwise. If you know of a brother who is in sin, go to them, first alone, then with another to validate the accusation, and then finally to the church leadership.
Matthew 18:15-17 commands, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16“But if he does not listento you,take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
These words are given that the people of the Body of Christ may be in unity, and rightly walking with God. Remember, any sin is a sin against God which damages relationships. You may know of an infraction being committed by a brother or sister which needs to be addressed in order for the entire Body to be healthy.
You need to examine yourself to see if there is any sin in your life which needs to be addressed.
Peter addresses the need for the highest of character to be exhibited by those who have been called by His own glory and excellence. Read 2 Peter 1:1-7.
“For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in yourself-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love” (2 Peter 4-7).
Woven throughout Peter’s words of exhortation is the need to be pure (remember his command to be holy, as our Father in Heaven is holy) “… but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
An unworthy manner is a manner not worthy before God. Make sure, as you rightly confess Christ, and what He has done to make you holy, that you do not examine yourself poorly and allow sin, any sin to compromise your status of sweet fellowship.
Allow the Holy Spirit to sweep through you and reveal to you what areas need to be dealt with, or surrendered. With a clear confession, you’re ready to serve to Lord once again.
[The Shepherd’s Echo is a previously published TheShepherdsPen]