The Lord’s Supper (part 3)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

In part 1 and part 2 of this series, we saw that the church at Corinth was divided when it came together to observe the Lord’s supper. The very nature of the Lord’s supper as a remembrance of the sacrificial work of Christ is opposed to such division. In this post, we examine Paul’s warning for the church:

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. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another-- 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. (1Co 11:27-34)

This warning should neither be overlooked nor misunderstood. Let’s line up some key verses in this passage:

Whoever…eats…or drinks…in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. (v. 27)

[A]nyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (v. 29)

What does it mean to eat and drink in an unworthy manner? It means to eat and drink without discerning the body. Well, what does that mean? As we saw in part 2, the Corinthian church was making a mockery of the work of Christ by being divided in their observance of the Lord’s supper. It makes sense to see that the “unworthy manner” of not “discerning the body” is coming together in a duplicitous manner, i.e. having a divided body. After all, Paul had established that Christ is not divided (1 Cor. 1:13). Indeed, he has even declared

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Cor. 10:16-17, emphasis mine)

It cannot be any clearer. Participating in the blood of Christ while being divided around the cup of blessing and participating in the body of Christ while being divided around the one bread make a mockery of the blood of Christ and the body of Christ. We can now see why Paul says that the one who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner is guilty concerning the body and the blood of the Lord, eating and drinking judgment on himself (1 Cor. 11:27, 29).

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