This is our third week taking a look at what Paul wrote to the brothers and sisters in Corinth about the Lord’s Supper and how they had lost sight of the significance of celebrating the Lord’s Supper together. As a result, they had turned the Lord’s Supper, which was given by Jesus as an opportunity to remember His life given for all of those who will believe in Him, into nothing more than a divisive dinner party. The wealthy members of the church gorged themselves on fine food, some even got drunk, while the poorest members of the church sat around with nothing to eat and left the evening hungry and feeling left out. Paul made this crystal clear in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22.
Last week we focused our time on verses 23-26 where Paul shared what happened on the night of the Last Supper, when Jesus shared the Passover meal with His disciples and redefined the cup and unleavened bread.
This morning we are going to focus on the remedy shared by Paul with all of those in Corinth. Paul gave them a remedy so the Lord’s Supper could be restored to what it was supposed to be for the entire body of Christ in Corinth. We can find the remedy in verses 27-34, but let’s start reading in verse 23.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another– 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home– so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come. (1 Corinthians 11:23-34 ESV)
For many people the one thing they take away from these verses is that they should not share in the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner.” It is very important that we understand what Paul intended when he gave this instruction. I’ve known people in the past who took this instruction from Paul to mean that if they sinned during the week, if they didn’t do all that God meant for them to do and be all that He meant for them to be, then they shouldn’t take Communion on Sunday because they weren’t worthy.
A missionary who served in Nairobi said that on the Sundays they would share the Lord’s Supper many of the members of the church would leave just before Communion began because they feared that because of sin in their lives they would get sick if they ate the bread and drank from the cup. Is this really what Paul intended by giving the Corinthians these instructions?
Let me take you back to the very first Lord’s Supper. The one in which Paul just told us, “On the night when he was betrayed…” There at the table that night was Judas who would betray Jesus. There was also Peter who would deny Him, not once, but three times. And then there were the other disciples, all of whom would flee for their lives. Now let me ask you…was there anyone worthy at the table that night? Oh, there was One, but only One, and He was the One who broke the bread, handled the cup, and would give His life for those who were unworthy.
We shared Communion together as a congregation just a few moments ago. Let me ask you, “Were any of you worthy to receive the Lord’s Supper?” I would say that each of us are as unworthy as the disciples Jesus shared the Lord’s Supper with so many years ago. I would also say that Paul’s primary intent in this instruction was not for you and me to take a personal inventory of the past week to determine if we should or should not take Communion. Did I have my Quiet Time each morning? Check! Did I go to worship and Sunday school? Check! Did I tithe? Check! In addition to these things I also mowed the yard of a neighbor who has been sick. Double bonus! I also volunteered to help the kids in Study Buddies, I’m helping Jessica with the Children’s Ministry on Sunday morning, and I spent time volunteering at the King’s Klinic on Tuesdays! Wow! I think I’m good to take Communion today! This little exercise might lead us to believe that we are worthy to take Communion, but in fact it is nothing more than an exercise in spiritual arrogance. As I was studying these verses this past week I was reminded of another place in God’s Word where worthiness was sought out. Turn with me to Revelation 5:1-5 and let’s read together.
1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:1-5 NIV)
There is no person who is worthy and this Scripture teaches us there will never be anyone in heaven or on earth or under the earth who is worthy…except for the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus our Savior. The most appropriate mindset we could possibly have when we approach the Lord’s Table is the complete and thorough understanding of our own unworthiness. We do not share in Communion because we are worthy, but He invites us to His Table because He is worthy.
Now, even though none of us is worthy to come to the Lord’s Table–the unworthy are welcome because of what Jesus has done for us. We, the unworthy, are welcome, but we need to recognize that although the unworthy are welcome, we are not to partake of the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner.” What does that look like? Well, to understand this we need to know the context of these verses. What was the intent of Communion and what was happening in Corinth at the time Paul wrote this letter? These two things are vitally important for us to understand. First, we must remember what Paul wrote in verse 26. Read it with me.
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26 ESV)
Our time at the Lord’s Table is a time to remember and proclaim. This word “proclaim” is a really interesting word. In the Greek New Testament it is the word, “katangellete” which means, “to announce, proclaim, or to make known.” Let’s take a look at a couple of other places where the same word is used. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 2:1-2.
1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2 NIV)
In this instance Paul proclaimed, he made known to the people the testimony about God. What was that testimony? “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” That was Paul’s singular message. There is one more instance I want us to take a look at and it is found in Colossians 1:27-29. Read it with me.
27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 1:27-29 NIV)
Once again, who is the topic of Paul’s sermon? It is Jesus: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Paul says Jesus is the One we proclaim, the One we are announcing, the One we are making known to the world.
Now that we understand this let’s go back to the Lord’s Table and verse 26. When we come to the Lord’s Table we, you and me, are proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes. Our taking the cup representing His spilled blood, poured out for the forgiveness of our sins, and then taking the bread, symbolic of His body, His sinless body freely given for sinners like you and me is a silent, but resounding sermon about the significance of our Lord’s death. The time we spend at the Lord’s Table is a proclamation of Jesus crucified and Jesus’ coming again. The One whose death is proclaimed during Communion did not remain dead, but He lives, and He is coming again! Ciampi and Rosner write,
The reference to Christ’s return raises the question of the kind of community he will ultimately establish and reminds the reader that as the church awaits the consummation it must endeavor to be a community whose koinonia or fellowship is marked by Christ’s self-sacrificing commitment to the well-being of others. (Ciampi and Rosner. The First Letter to the Corinthians. pg. 554).
This leads us to remember the other important detail of the context of our Scripture. Do you remember what was taking place in Corinth during the agape feasts where they celebrated the Lord’s Supper? They were eating the bread and drinking from the cup but there was no communion, there was no unity in the community. They were divided and their gatherings were divisive. Their coming together failed to reflect the servant’s heart of Jesus–it was simply a self-serving dinner party. They were not following in the footsteps of their self-sacrificing Savior. Take a look at verse 27 with me.
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:27 ESV)
Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be held liable for His death. We can become guilty of dishonoring Jesus and the sacrifice He made through His death on the cross on our behalf. I know there are those with us this morning who have not understood the seriousness of the short time we spend at the Lord’s Table each Sunday. Though that time may be short it is priceless and it demands our undivided attention and surrender. If you are one of those who have not been familiar with the seriousness of the service of Communion then let me share with you what John MacArthur has written about coming to the table in an unworthy manner.
One can come to His table unworthily in many ways. It is common for people to participate in it ritualistically, without participating with their minds and hearts. They can go through the motions without going through any emotions, and treat it lightly rather than seriously. They can believe it imparts grace or merit, that the ceremony itself, rather than the sacrifice it represents, can save or keep one saved. Many come with a spirit of bitterness or hatred toward another believer, or come with a sin of which they will not repent. If a believer comes with anything less than the loftiest thoughts of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and anything less than total love for his brothers and sisters in Christ, he comes unworthily. (MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians. pg. 273-274).
So, to come to the Lord’s Table in an unworthy manner is to come failing to recognize the sacrifice that Jesus made so that we might be reconciled and restored to God the Father. It is coming to the Lord’s Table while refusing to extend to others the same grace and mercy we have received from the Lord, even though we are unworthy of His grace and mercy. It is coming to the Lord’s Table and freely receiving from the Lord while demeaning, humiliating, slandering, and disrespecting others for whom Jesus also died. If we do this then we are guilty of sinning against the body and blood of our Lord.
What are we to do to make sure we don’t make these mistakes? Paul gives us clear direction in verses 28-29. Turn there and let’s read it together.
28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Corinthians 11:28-29 ESV)
What does it mean to “examine” ourselves? That’s such an important question. First of all it means that we remember that Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary because I am a sinner who is absolutely hopeless apart from His atoning death in my place. Am I living my life in a way that diminishes the great sacrifice made by Jesus on my behalf? Second, am I living my life in the context of the Body of Christ in such a way that diminishes my brothers and sisters for whom Jesus died? God has placed you and me in this local body of believers and we are to love one another. How are we to love one another? Great question! I’ll let Jesus take this one. Turn with me to John 13:34-35. Jesus said,
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)
Has He loved you? Then you are to love others. How has He loved you? In that same way you are to love others. Has He forgiven you? Then you are to forgive others. Once you were an outsider, not belonging to the people of God, but He brought you in, He made you His own, and that is exactly what we are to do for others. You may be a big shot out there, out in the world, but in the Body of Christ you and I are simply recipients of His amazing grace. That knowledge, this insight, should alter the way we live out our lives out there should it not? We are to examine ourselves each and every time we come to the Lord’s Table. David Garland writes,
A proper understanding of what these elements represent should change the Corinthians’ attitude and behavior toward others. It reminds them of their dependence on Christ and their own interdependence and should cause them to share their own provisions with others at the meal who have little or nothing. Paul is arguing that when they recognize fully the meaning of the sacrifice of Christ, remembered in reenacting the Last Supper, they will act compassionately toward their brothers and sisters in Christ. …The Lord’s Supper becomes the starting line for the transformation of the relationships and structures of the community. (Garland, David. 1 Corinthians. pg. 553).
I have thought about what Dr. Garland has written so much this past week. Our society is a mess and it is getting messier by the day. Division. Tension. Animosity towards one another. Feelings of superiority of one group over another group and the groups are multiplying each and every week. I could go on listing all that ails us, but the real question is “How can we span the divide? How can we move the needle so that the tension between the tribes is transformed into community? How can we fix this mess we’re in?” The brightest minds in America have offered solution after solution and none of them have worked. Their solutions are nothing more than fool’s gold. I have no answers for the general public, but for those of us who are in Christ, for those who are followers of Jesus, the solution is the Lord’s Table. David Garland said, “The Lord’s Table is the starting line for the transformation of the relationships and structures of the community.” How can that be? It can be when we come to the Table and recognize what God has done for us, not just me, but us, and in turn we offer that same grace, mercy, and forgiveness to others.
Because those in Corinth were failing to examine themselves and living however they wanted to live, there were consequences. Paul describes those consequences as “drinking judgment on themselves.” Read verses 29-31 with me.
29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. (1 Corinthians 11:29-31 NIV)
Some have tried to explain away what Paul has written by saying that those in Corinth who were mishandling the Lord’s Supper became spiritually weak and spiritually sick as well as spiritually asleep, but that’s just wishful thinking. Another error is made when people try to link all sin to sickness, weakness, and death. I’ve known Christians who have said, “The reason you are sick is because there is sin in your life. If you will only confess your sin then you will get well.” Are some sicknesses caused by sin? Absolutely! Is it biblical to say that if you get sick it is because of sin in your life? Absolutely not! We do so much damage to believers and unbelievers alike by saying things that simply are not biblical. Oh, you can lift one verse out of context and make the Bible say anything you want it to say, but we are called to take in the whole counsel of God.
We are not the first to need correction about this subject. In John 9, Jesus and His disciples came upon a man who had been born blind. The disciples, those who lived with Jesus night and day, those who had listened to Him teach time and time again, asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2 NIV) Sin was definitely the cause of the man’s blindness? And only two options? His parent’s sin or the man himself sinned? The disciples didn’t leave Jesus many options to answer their question did they? Do you know how Jesus answered them? “Neither of them sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Here’s the good news. We need not be concerned about becoming sick or weak or dying if only we will be more discerning when we come to the Lord’s Table. Recognize this Table for what it is–an opportunity to remember and proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Recognize this table as a reminder that Jesus died not just for you and me, but for all within the Body of Christ. Recognize this Table as the place where we receive so freely, in great abundance from the Lord and then willingly, enthusiastically lavish love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness upon those the Lord has put in your life.
One last thing before we go. Paul says we won’t need to be “judged” by God if we will “judge” ourselves, if we will approach the Table with the seriousness and surrender God desires for us. But then, in verses 32-33, he writes,
32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. 33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. (1 Corinthians 11:32-33 NIV)
“Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord…” It sounds like it’s almost a given that we will be “judged,” or I like the other word Paul uses, “disciplined.” You and I are not always going to get it right. We are going to continue to mess up and when that happens we need to fess up so God can get us back on track. Even though we have been redeemed, even though we are being sanctified, cleansed by the work of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit–we still must wrestle with our flesh. We must continually crucify the fleshly desires. When we get off track, God will help us with this by way of His discipline. God disciplines those He loves, He does not condemn His own.
The word “discipline” is a powerful word for you and me. The Greek word, “paideuo,” means “to teach or instruct.” It was used most often in relation to the upbringing of children who need direction, teaching, instruction, and correction. Those of you who are parents, do you discipline your kids to crush and condemn them or to train and correct them? And this is exactly what God is doing with His kids, you and me. Oh, He is a good, good Father is He not? God disciplines us and just like young athletes who feel the pain of tough practices or having to run sprints after practice for messing up, sometimes God’s discipline stings. The writer of Hebrews wrote,
11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11 NIV)
God disciplines out of love and it is with purpose. The purpose of His discipline is to produce fruit, “a harvest of righteousness and peace” in the lives of His people. Our time is up. I hope the last three weeks have been a blessing to you in the same way they have been to me. I hope that from this day forward your time at the Lord’s Table will be filled with remembering the life that was given for you and every follower of Jesus. I hope you will receive His grace and mercy and extend it, lavish it on the lives of others. And I hope you will recognize that the most powerful sermon takes place each Sunday at His Table: He died, God raised Him from the dead, and He is coming again!
I don’t want anyone to miss out on experiencing His great love and mercy. His is a love that is incomparable. His love will never let you go. If you are not a follower of Jesus won’t you come forward and express your desire to follow Jesus?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
September 19, 2021
1 Corinthians 11:27-34