(1Co 11:27-28 ESV) 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.
This is one of the several most horribly misused verses in all of scripture. Which says a lot. Context! Context! Context!
When I was a kid and for long afterwards, some very foolish preachers taught that this means you damn yourself if you take the Lord’s supper when someone is holding a grudge against you. Meaning, of course, that Jesus damned himself when he took the Last Supper because nearly the entire Sanhedrin wanted him dead!
I know people who skipped Holy Communion for decades because they were unable to obtain the forgiveness of some mean-spirited relative or former friend. What a foolish, cruel, ignorant teaching! Do not repeat this lie. Do not let this lie be spoken in your presence without correction. Do not participate in the works of Satan!
No one is worthy to take communion, save Jesus Christ himself. But by grace we are invited to his table, and by grace we may receive what he offers.
“Unworthy manner” refers to being unloving toward your fellow church members in the way you take communion.
The reference to participating in the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner must be understood in light of the context, where the Corinthians were practicing the supper in a way that humiliated other members of Christ’s body. To eat and drink in an unworthy manner is to eat and drink in a way that demeans, humiliates or disrespects other members of Christ’s community. … To worship Christ in a way that shows disrespect towards those who are have been “united with the Lord,” have become “one with him in spirit” (6:17), and who share or participate in his body and blood (10:16) is to sin not just against them but also against the covenant reaffirmed in the meal, against the Lord of the meal and of those brothers and sisters in Christ.
Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Pillar NTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 554-555.
(1Co 11:29 ESV) 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
“Body” here surely has a double meaning, both the literal body of Christ sacrificed for us and the body represented by God’s people present at the table of the Lord.
If we humiliate and insult our brothers and sisters at communion, we obviously didn’t learn the lesson of self-giving and sacrifice that we should have learned from Jesus’ example. The body of Christ is not merely for our atonement. It was also given to form us into the body of Christ — a body of people who, like his literal body, has been crucified in sacrifice for others.
The behavior of the Corinthians was a particularly black sin because they violated the message of the cross in a particularly direct and severe way.
(1Co 11:30 ESV) 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
This is a tough one because it runs so contrary to our modern conception of health and medicine.
Spiritual ills may have physical results. The ill health and even the deaths of some of the Corinthians had spiritual causes. Some see the results of excessive drinking (v. 21), but Paul seems not to be referring to the ‘natural’ results of excesses, but to the chastening hand of the Lord (v. 32). He does not say that all illness comes about in this way; there are other causes. But this is a real one, and it took place even though some of the Corinthians had ‘gifts of healing’ (12:9, 28).
Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale NTC 7; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 160.
There is no reason to imagine that God has given up this method of discipline. And I’ve heard stories from close friends who believe they’ve seen God take lives and health to deal with sin in a given a church — and I see no reason to doubt what they’ve seen. (This one should drive us all to our knees.)
(1Co 11:31-32 ESV) 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.
So we have a choice. Judge ourselves and so avoid God’s judgment; or do as we please and let God mete out the punishment.
Those who object to church discipline, even when done under wise and loving leaders, should consider the alternative carefully.
(1Co 11:33-34 ESV) 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.
Again — quite plainly — Paul does not condemn eating a meal together, in a house, in a building, or anywhere else. He condemns refusing to wait for each other. He condemns being jerks. He condemns failure to eat a common meal in common.
“If anyone is hungry” does not mean “eat all meals at your own home.” It means, “If you’re too hungry to wait, eat enough at home so that you can wait on your brothers and sisters and eat together.”
By having something to eat before the meeting they will not be tempted to go ahead and start the meeting early (before all have arrived) in order to assuage their hunger. The idea is not that they would not eat anything at the church meeting, but that their participation in the meal which included the Lord’s Supper would be focused on the significance of the meal itself and the fellowship with other members of the community and not on satisfying one’s own natural hunger.
Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Pillar NTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 559.
Matt Redman, Communion Song
Oh, how could it be
That my god would welcome me
into this mystery?
Say ‘eat this bread, take this wine’
Now the simple made divine
for any to receive
See his body, his blood-
Know that he has overcome
Every tril we will face
None to lost to be saved
None too broken or ashamed
All are welcome in this place.
By your mercy, we come to your table,
By Your grace you are making us faithful
Lord, we remem-ber You,
And remembrance leads us to worship
And as we wor-ship You,
Our worship leads to communion
We respond to your invitation;
We remem-ber you