Communion is a symbol of God’s grace, and it’s a time for receiving the full benefits of what Jesus paid for. It represents the awesome price God paid to redeem you from the prison of sin. Sickness and death are part of the curse of sin (Genesis 2:17). Jesus died to set us free from sin and all its effects, but we won’t be free unless we put our faith in his work. As we saw in the last article, the Corinthians were suffering unnecessarily because they were not recognizing or discerning the Lord’s body.
When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, we need to realize that we are coming into vital contact with Jesus Himself and should expect that something definite will happen to us for our good. God has made it truly easy for His people to walk in divine health. We just need to come to His Table, put our faith in His broken body for our healing and partake. It is so simple, yet so powerful.
That is why the devil has tried to steal this truth from the church by making Christians believe that they should not partake. And he does this by making them believe that they are unworthy to come to the Lord’s Table. This erroneous thinking is largely due to a misinterpretation of the following verses:
27Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (1 Corinthians 11:27–29, KJV)
What It Means To Partake Unworthily
The word “unworthily” is an adverb, which means it modifies the verb. In this case, “unworthily” describes the action of eating and drinking. It is not describing the person who is eating or drinking. So Paul was not saying that if you are an unworthy person, do not partake.
Yet, the church has somehow misconstrued that teaching and now, Christians are saying, “If you are unworthy, don’t partake.” Or, “If you have sin in your life, don’t come to the Lord’s Table lest you become weak and sick, and die prematurely.” They have turned something that is meant to be a blessing into a curse.
In any case, all of us who come to the Lord’s Table are unworthy and made worthy only by His blood. It is only Jesus’ death that qualifies us to partake. Paul was not saying that we should not partake if we are unworthy. He was saying that we should not partake in an unworthy manner.
What does it mean to partake unworthily? Read the rest of verse 29 and you will conclude that if you fail to discern or understand the significance of the Lord’s body, you are eating and drinking in an unworthy manner.
The Corinthians partook unworthily because they did not recognize that the broken body of the Lord was meant to bring them health and wholeness. And by treating the Holy Communion as a ritual, they missed out on the blessings. They did not understand the significance of the bread. They did not know why they were partaking. This is what it means to partake unworthily.
The manner in which we partake will determine whether we experience the benefits of the Lord’s body. If our attitude is, “It’s just a piece of bread,” then that is what it will be. And we will have robbed ourselves of the life-giving effects of the bread at His Table.
Paul described in greater detail the manner in which the Corinthians partook. Let us take a closer look:
20Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? (1 Corinthians 11:20–22)
So Paul was not saying that if you have sin in your life, you cannot partake. He was telling us to partake in the correct manner, which is to recognize that the Lord’s body was broken so that ours can be made whole. Do not take the Lord’s Supper because you are hungry. If you are hungry, eat at home first.
The point of Paul’s teaching here was for Corinthians to discern the power of the Lord’s broken body. By failing to do so, we are making His work on the cross ineffective and powerless as far as we are concerned.
When you fail to discern His body, you are actually despising His work on the cross. Vine’s Expository Dictionary has this to say about partaking unworthily:
Unworthily — anaxios NT: 371 is used in 1 Corinthians 11:27, of partaking of the Lord’s Supper “unworthily”, i.e., treating it as a common meal, the bread and cup as common things, not apprehending their solemn symbolic import.
Jesus wants us to take the bread and believe that His body was broken so that our bodies can be made well. And when we discern it that way, we are partaking worthily. When you come to His Table and release your faith in the Lord’s body, you will receive the benefits of healing, health and wholeness. And you will be strong and healthy, and live long.
Communion is not a time for sin examination but Jesus examination. The next time your conscience tries to condemn you as unworthy, remind yourself that Christ died for the unworthy. Tell yourself, „In Christ, I am righteous and holy. I am not justified because of what I did, but because of what He did. On the cross He did away with my sins once and for all, and through His precious blood I have been eternally forgiven.”
What It Means To Examine Yourself
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (1 Corinthians 11:28)
Usually, we are told that to “examine” myself means to check if I have sins in my life and to confess them all, as though our sins disqualified us from coming to the table. But Jesus died for sinners. He died for the lost and the least, the damaged and the hurting. He died for the worst of us and for those who fight on the way to church.
If you think you need to clean yourself before coming to Jesus, you are living under a lie. If you think the Lord’s table requires minimum standards of worthiness, you have missed the cross. If you are tempted to hide like Adam whenever God appears, you need to hear the good news of His grace.
To correct this misconception, we have to understand the context of Paul’s statement. He is addressing the issue of eating and drinking unworthily. So it follows that he was telling the Corinthians that they should examine themselves to see if they were eating and drinking in a worthy manner. Nowhere does it say that he told them to examine themselves to see if there was sin in their lives.
The word for examine means „to test and by implication approve.” In the old covenant, the high priest examined the sacrificial lamb, not the one who brought it. In the new covenant, Christ is your Lamb without blemish or defect (1 Peter 1:18-19). Examine Him. See yourself as tested and approved in Him.The proper way to examine ourselves is in light of the cross.In Him you are as righteous and holy as He is.
It is so simple, but preachers have for so long made Christians fearful and sin-conscious when God wants us to be Son-conscious.
What It Means To Drink Judgment To Yourself
For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (1 Corinthians 11:29)
The “judgment” or „damnation” (according to King James Version) does not mean God’s anger or wrath. The Greek word used here is krima, which means divine sentence. When Adam sinned against God, a divine sentence fell on the human race (Romans 5:12). Weakness, sickness and death are some effects of that divine sentence.
It wasn’t that God was judging them for getting drunk at communion. They were suffering the effects of sin because they did not properly value what Christ had done on their behalf at Calvary. Because they weren’t attributing to Christ the full worth of His sacrifice, they were still suffering – in the language of King James – the effects of damnation: rejection, sickness, condemnation.
What It Means To Judged Yourself And To Be Judged By God
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened, that we may not be condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:31-32)
Many people misunderstand the word “judge” that appears many times in these verses 31-32. They think it means judgment and condemnation from God. But that’s not what it means.
- The first time “judge” appears in verse 31 is the Greek word “diakrinō,” which means “to distinguish, to separate, to carefully discern through examination, to make a distinction…,” just as it did in v.29 for the word “examine.”
- The second and third time the word “judge” appears in verses 31-32, it is the Greek word “krinō.”
“Krinō” has many different meanings: Separate / approve / to have an opinion / to determine / to judge, to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong / to pronounce judgment / to subject to censure (scolding or correcting)
The second time when is used „krino,” the passive form of the verb which is related to the term judgment „krima” from verse 29. The same parallel set of terms for judging and judgment are used in the same way between these two verses. This verse seems to be the inverse statement of the verse 29 where Paul said, „If he does not judge rightly, he eats and drinks judgment to himself.” Here in verse 31 Paul says, „If he does judge rightly, he will not be judged.”
So, based on this understanding of the Greek word meaning, Paul is saying that if we judged ourselves in the light of the finished work of the cross (forgiven, accepted, blessed, healed), we will not be subject to God’s divine sentence.
This instance of “judge (krinō)” is not referring to condemnation by God. We can be sure of this because John 3:16-18 is saying:
“16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn (krinō) the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
John tells us that the world is “condemned already,” and Jesus came to save us from it. So, “judge (krinō)” in 1 Corinthians 11:31 cannot be referring to condemnation by God.
“But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened, that we may not be condemned with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11:32)
This is the same term that was used in verse 31 above, but verse 32 confirms for us what Paul meant when he used the word krino in the previous verse. This kind of judging is equivalent to the Lord’s discipline of a believer.
„Judged by the Lord” (according to Young’s Literal Translation) is a reference to the witness of the Holy Spirit who will constantly seek to affirm that we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (John 16:10). In Christ, we are judged righteous and are thoroughly approved.
In the same way we used the others meanings of the Greeks words when we talked about the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the discipline of the Lord from Hebrews 12, we have to apply the other meaning of the word krino, in the light of the new covenant, that is „to be subject to correction.”
The word for disciplined in this verse should not make you think of punishment. The word “chastened” in Greek is “paideuō,” and it means “child trained… it means training as in training up a child.” This is the same term that is used in that passage about the Lord’s discipline of believers in Hebrews 12:5-11. To discipline is to disciple and we are discipled by the Lord.
“…that we may not be condemned with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11:32)
As „judged by the Lord,” in verse 31, it does not refer to the condemnation of God, nor the word „condemned” in this verse, refers to the condemnation of God in regard to us.
The word “condemned” is the Greek word “katakrinō.” It is the same word used in Romans 8: 3, where it’s described what God did in Christ:
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned (katakrinō) sin in the flesh.
Katakrinō is the strongest word for condemn you can find. It’s made up of the verb krino, which means to judge, and the word kata which means down or against. Think of the word catastrophe and you get the idea.
God hates sin. When Jesus became sin on the cross, God came down hard… so hard that the sins of billions were condemned in the space of a few hours. So hard that sin has been dealt with once and for all (Hebrews 9:26). The cross was a total catastrophe for sin and a total victory for us.
The other meaning of the word condemned is „to pass sentence upon.” According to the context of 1 Corinthians 11, to be condemned with the world means to have weakness, sickness and death. God does not want us to suffer the sentence that is already on the world: weakness, sickness and premature death.
With that in mind, the paraphrase of these two verses would sound like this:“When we receive the Lord’s good judgment – in him you are righteous! – and when we learn to discern what is from the Lord (grace and healing) and what is not (sickness and worry), we are trained up as sons and daughters. We no longer suffer the effects of sin and condemnation.”
As long as we are here on earth, our bodies are subject to the ageing process, which is part of the divine sentence. All our bodies are decaying every day. Our brain cells are dying daily. One day, when we get to heaven, we will have brand new bodies that never grow old, never tire and never look bad. Meanwhile, the Lord’s Supper is how God helps us offset this process of aging and walk in divine health. Every time you partake, you are reversing the effects of the curse or divine judgment in your body.
To put it all together, here is the paraphrase of the 1 Corinthians 11:26-32 based on the original Greek behind some of the words, so we can get closer to Paul’s original meaning than many of the translations we have today. Keep in mind that Paul never wrote to condemn Christians. He wrote to free them from sin and all its effects. If you are not being set free when you read his writings, something is wrong.
|NIV Translation||Paul’s Paraphrase|
|1 Cor 11:26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.||For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death and triumphant victory over sin and all its effects until he comes.|
|1 Cor 11:27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.||Therefore, if you eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord without appreciating what Jesus accomplished, it’s like saying ‘Jesus died for nothing.’ You are not honoring the Lord’s body and blood.|
|1 Cor 11:28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.||So before you take communion, take a look at yourself. Are you sick? Are you battling guilt and condemnation? Are you giving place to things that Jesus carried in his body and paid for with his blood?|
|1 Cor 11:29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.||Because if you eat and drink without understanding all that the Lord did in his body, you’re not going to be free. It’s like saying, “I’m still under judgment.” For instance, if you don’t believe that by his wounds you were healed, then you’re not going to be healed.|
|1 Cor 11:30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.||This is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have died prematurely.|
|1 Cor 11:31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.||But if we judged ourselves in light of the finished work of the cross (forgiven, accepted, healed), then we would not suffer the punishing effects of sin (condemnation, rejection, sickness).|
|1 Cor 11:32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.||When we renew our minds and learn to discern what is from the Lord and what is not, we are trained up and no longer suffer sin’s effects. Unlike those who reject the grace of God revealed in Jesus, we can live free from sickness and condemnation.|
How should we do communion?
33So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions. (1 Corinthians 11:33-34)
Communion at the Corinthian church was a total fiasco. Paul said their meetings did more harm than good (1 Corinthians 11:17). He said this because their table manners made them a disgraceful advertisement for the gospel: “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat.” (1 Corinthians 11:20). Indeed, it was not.
Paul wrote to correct their poor behavior. He reminded them of the significance of communion before giving them some practical instructions. He then finished by expressing his hope that their meetings “may not result in judgment.” What is this judgment Paul is speaking of? It is the same judgment of verse 29. When you do communion so badly that it’s no longer communion, you impede the gospel, and people suffer for it.
Jesus said, „Preach the gospel of the kingdom.” It’s the good news of another world for the inhabitants of a condemned one. It’s the declaration that death no longer has the last word from One who died and rose again.
Whenever we meet, we have an opportunity to release either the grace of a risen King or the condemnation of a fallen order. We will dispense either the flavor of heaven or of a corrupt world. In acting like it was described, the Corinthians were doing the latter. They were snatching food instead of giving thanks. They were humiliating others instead of giving grace.
If the Corinthians show us how not to do communion, then the Jerusalem Christians show us how to do it right:
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common … 46They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
When we reveal the real Jesus at the table of grace, good things happen. Those outside are drawn in, the sick and poor have their needs met, and the result is praise and thanksgiving to God. What does communion look like when it is done well? It looks like heaven.