1 Corinthians 11:27-29
Why whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.…
A frequent question, "Who should come to the Lord's table?" Many have come who ought not to have come as they were; not a few have been deterred from coming who were quite suitable. Many have not pondered sufficiently the duty of observing the Lord's Supper; many have been alarmed by certain expressions contained in this passage.
I. GLANCE AT THE SCENE. It lies in gay, voluptuous, immoral Corinth. A city magnificent externally; abased and abandoned internally. A meeting of Christians in some private house, light amid darkness, truth surrounded by error, holiness in the centre of corruption. The gathering is for the love feast and the Supper of the Lord. A love feast, alas! in which love is largely absent; a Supper of the Lord in which the Lord is strangely dishonoured. The light is dimmed, the truth is alloyed with error, the holiness is defiled by guilt. There are divisions (1 Corinthians 1:11, 12); there are pride, selfishness, irreverence (vers. 21, 22); there is even drunkenness (ver. 21); yea, even further, the hideous head of immorality is raised in the midst of this little Christian society (1 Corinthians 5:1). This Epistle arrives from the founder of the Church - a letter smiting Corinthian transgression and transgressors hip and thigh. Picture the scene!
II. GLANCE AT CERTAIN WORDS AND THEIR MEANINGS.
1. Damnation. This word has so terrified some that they have never been able to summon sufficient courage to obey the dying command of their Lord. They have supposed that an unworthy participation in the sacred feast would seal their doom and consign them to perdition without remedy. But the word does not justify such a view. Instead of "damnation," we should read, as in the Revised Version, "judgment." And ver. 32 explains what "judgment" means: "When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." Judgment here means "chastisement," and note particularly that this chastisement is sent to prevent us from being condemned with unbelievers. What follows upon unworthy participation at the Lord's table, if we are believers, is not something to destroy us, but something to prevent us from being destroyed. If we will not benefit by the chastisement, if under it we harden our hearts like Israel of old, then we shall be cast away. The sin of unworthy participation is great, and the correction will be severe, but neither is what some sensitive natures have dreaded,
2. Unworthily. Note that the apostle speaks of the unworthiness of the act, not the unworthiness of the person. To say, "I am unworthy," is doubtless to speak the truth, but it is irrelevant. Unworthy persons may participate worthily. Nay, further, only those who feel that they are unworthy are in a right state to sit at the table. The self righteous are never "fit." The supper is for penitent sinners; for such as Paul, "the chief of sinners." But the act may be unworthy, and that from many causes. Anything that hinders us from "discerning the Lord's body" (ver. 29) will cause us to eat and drink unworthily. We have to recognize the bread and wine as emblems of that body, as set apart to show this forth, and therefore to be dealt with solemnly, thoughtfully, reverently. We must enter into the meaning of the feast, and through the outward reach the inward and spiritual. At the supper we do not halt at the emblems; we have fellowship with Christ, we remember him, we renew our vows, we profess to be his followers, we show forth his death "till he come." Now, many things may hinder us from doing this, and thus cause us to cat and drink unworthily; such as:
(1) Thoughtlessness, leading to irreverence.
(2) Ignorance of the meaning of the ordinance. This may be very culpable ignorance.
(3) Unconverted condition. Quite unfit for supper because have not received what it sets forth.
(4) Worldly spirit. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." We may be trying, and thus be charging Christ with falsehood, even as we approach his table.
(5) Unbrotherly feeling. That which separates us from believers is very likely to separate us from Christ.
(6) Immorality. If we hug sin, we cannot embrace the Saviour. Such unworthy participation involves:
(1) Guilt. We become guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, seeing that our sin is concentrated upon that observance which specially sets these forth.
(2) Punishment. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (ver. 30). Present chastisement, and, if this prove inefficacious, future and final punishment.
III. A REMEDY. This is not to see that "we are good," according to a very current expression and impression. In one sense we can never be "fit." It is to examine or prove ourselves by
(1) appeal to conscience,
(2) God's Word,
(3) God's Spirit.
And what we have to ascertain is whether we
(1) repent Of sin,
(2) believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and.
(3) are seeking to live in the fear and love of God.
If we are right upon these points, we need have no dread in approaching the Lord's table, but rather draw near in joy and confidence and in anticipation of large spiritual blessing.
IV. A WARNING. Remark that none are here told to absent themselves from the Lord's table. Not even the Corinthians most blamed, an apparent exception being the immoral person (1 Corinthians 5:1), and he was excluded only until he had shown repentance for his sin (2 Corinthians 2:7, 8). The reason is that to abstain from the Lord's Supper is to sin. We ought to be "fit," in the true sense of the expression. There is only one place which is right for us, and that is at the table. We may be wrong in coming; we must be wrong in staying away. To refrain is to condemn ourselves at once. "This do in remembrance of me" is one of the most sacred of commands. If we are bound to break it because of our carnal and lost state, we do but multiply transgression. We are not bound, for we may escape from the condition which unfits us, and then draw near with boldness and with hope. There is a false humility restraining many from coming to the Lord's Supper; it is a very false humility and a very deceptive humility - it is the adding of another sin. Away from Christ we are altogether wrong, and in escaping from one sin (coming to the table whilst unconverted) we only fall into another (disobeying the dying command of Christ). There is every obligation resting upon us to repent, believe, and live to God; then we are fitted to discharge the other obligation, "This do in remembrance of me." Failure in the one involves failure in the other, and our condemnation is increased. There is no right place for the unbeliever. - H.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
WEB: Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks the Lord's cup in a way unworthy of the Lord will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.