Pain is part of our body’s warning system. If you touch something hot, it hurts so you automatically pull away before it does much damage. And chest pain (angina) is the most common warning sign of a heart attack. Pain is an alarm and warning signal to the body. It indicates that something needs our attention.
In 1 Corinthians 11 there is a description of the Lord’s Supper (v.23-26), followed by a rebuke (v.27-32).
The description gives two reasons for celebrating it – one internal (for us) and one external (for others). The first reason was to remember what Jesus has done for us. The second reason was to “proclaim the Lord’s death” to others. As we partake of the bread and wine, we are declaring the importance of the Lord’s death. That Christ’s death on our behalf provides eternal forgiveness of our sin. And it says we are to carry out this remembrance and proclamation “until He (Jesus) comes” again and all believers will be with the Lord forever.
The rebuke begins with a warning about how not to celebrate the Lord’s Supper – not in an unworthy manner (v.27). Then there is a command that addresses the warning, “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup” (v.28NIV). The self-examination being asked for here was to reveal their sins (like wrong attitudes and wrong relationships) and to repent by getting right with God and getting right with one another.
Then there is another warning, “For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honouring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself” (v. 29NLT). This is like the warning in verse 27 that malpractice at the Lord’s Supper leads to God’s judgment. Verse 27 said that disrespecting the meaning of the Lord’s Supper brings the guilt of disrespecting the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross. As verse 29 mentions the body of Christ, but not the blood it seems to indicate disrespecting other believers in the church. For example, there was a lack of unity at Corinth.
Then there is an observation, “That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died” (v.30NLT). Because of this persistent sin many were weak and sick and some died. We may minimize the seriousness of sin, but God doesn’t. God has the right to discipline believers (Heb. 12:5-11). It’s a physical judgement like a parent disciples a child; not a spiritual death. God knows that pain gets our attention and often makes us stop and think. So the Lord’s Supper is a solemn and serious affair. It should bring confession, repentance and unity.
The Corinthians were careless, selfish, and indifferent to the needs of others. They were going through the motions of the Lord’s Supper as a routine, but living as though the death of Jesus meant nothing to them. They were self-centered, not Christ-centered. They had divisions and not unity. They were coming together mainly to eat and drink. They had ignored their sins and continued in them. Pagan culture had infiltrated into the church at Corinth.
If Paul was here, would he give us a rebuke for how we practice the Lord’s Supper? Are we living like a follower of Jesus Christ? Are we coming to the Lord’s Supper reverently and humbly and with the right heart? Don’t be a hypocrite like the believers in Corinth. They took part in the Lord’s Supper and continued to be sinful. They didn’t consider themselves “to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). Their conduct didn’t match their position in Christ (Col. 3:3, 5-11).
Then there is a summary of the rebuke, “But if we examined ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned with the world” (v.31-32NLT). The purpose of divine discipline is correction, not punishment. If we judge ourselves by taking corrective action by confessing and repenting our sins, then God will not have to judge us. But if we don’t take corrective action, God’s discipline is evidence that we are a believer. If we are not disciplined when we are sinful and unrepentant, then we are probably not a child of God.
Let’s attend the Lord’s Supper regularly to remember the Lord, having examined ourselves and with love for others. But don’t take the emblems unless you are a follower of Christ. And be sure you’re up to date with God regarding any unconfessed sins.
Father, we know we are prone to sin and that this separates us from you and from each other. That’s what happened at Corinth and it happens to us as well. Help us be aware of this so we can confess and repent of our sins. Also, when we strike difficulties in life help us remember that the pain may be to remind us to get back on the right track with you.
We thank you for sending Jesus to die so that our sins might be put away forever. We share the emblems together in remembrance of His death and resurrection. Declaring that it provides eternal forgiveness of our sin. So, we offer thanks and praise for all that you have done through Jesus.
In Christ’s name, Amen.