More than anything else God wants you to grasp and understand, totally apart from your works, totally unconditional He loves you. Not because there’s something good in you but because there’s something good in Him. He has chosen you to be the object of His affection because beyond what any of us know, His love is infinite. And He cares about you and He wants a relationship with you. But because He is holy and we are sinful the only means of relationship with a holy God was Christ, the fully man, fully God stretching out His arms and dying in your place and in my place.
And when we do that, not only do we bring it to remembrance but look at the last line. It says, “And we proclaim His death.” And so by way of summary in this first section, the ancient path of breaking bread together restores our spiritual passion.
How does your passion get restored? By remembering who Jesus is, your Savior, God, your sin-substitute and remembering what He’s done. He has died upon the cross for you.
The apostle Paul makes it clear that it’s not only enough to remember who Jesus is and what He did, but we need to remember who we are and our present need of repentance.
The Lord’s Supper is a time to look upward and outward, and with praise and adoration, but it’s also a time to look inward, to take a spiritual x-ray, to take a spiritual MRI, to let the Spirit of God open His eyes into your heart, into your life, and to your motives and mine, and say, “Lord, if there’s anything that’s not right.” You see the reason we drift, is what? It’s a little, subtle sin today, a little subtle sin tomorrow, a little attitude tomorrow. Another little motive next week. And little by little by little we don’t understand that we’ve drifted.
And what the Lord’s Supper is about is to recalibrate your soul. And the way you recalibrate your soul is you get first clear on who He is, and what He’s done. And then you take that and look in the mirror and you say, “Lord, where am I really from your perspective?”
Notice, the apostle Paul’s teaching picking up in verse 27. He says, “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner,” circle that phrase, “will be guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of our Lord.
A man ought to examine himself,” circle that phrase, “before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
Then listen to this very often strange but powerful passage. Verse 30, “That is why many among you are weak and sick and a number of you have fallen asleep.” That’s a technical term used every time in the New Testament for when a believer in Jesus Christ dies and goes to heaven. “But if we judged ourselves we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world.”
Notice there is a warning, there’s instruction, there’s a reason, and then there is a response. The warning is: Don’t eat, or don’t come to the Lord’s table, in an unworthy manner.
This passage has been much debated, you can go to commentaries and find a zillion different explanations of what an “unworthy manner” is. Option number one for many: It’s an unbeliever taking the Lord’s Supper. It’s obviously not, you know, one of the things you need to do, I don’t know where you’re at or where you’re coming from. I didn’t grow up as a believer.
But this is a holy moment, and it’s a holy moment for God’s family. And when you’re going to be offered an opportunity to get up and take the bread and take the cup, if you’re not a believer in Jesus Christ, you’re instructed to watch and observe, just see what happens, don’t go, don’t take it, and try and say, “What are these people doing and what does this really mean?”
Another explanation has been that there’s some unconfessed sin in a person’s life. It’s an unworthy manner because there’s unconfessed sin and you take it in this way. And of course we’re instructed to make sure that there’s no sin, to literally say, “God, is there anything between us? I’m going to sit quietly.”
No music, no strumming guitars. Dead, cold silence where you can say, “Lord, if there’s anything between You and me,” and you’re a believer, the Holy Spirit lives in you, “will You show me, will You just show me right now? And I know Your heart is never to condemn and You’re never vague.
Will You show me if there’s anything in my life that I need to tell You and come into agreement with You, and ask You to forgive me, and claim Your promise that if I confess my sin You are faithful and just to forgive me of my sin, and cleanse me of all unrighteousness.” That’s certainly a part of the Lord’s Supper.
But the actual phrase “an unworthy manner” is not so much pointed toward unbelievers and it’s not so much about unconfessed sin. That’s something that believers would understand they were to do.
To partake in an unworthy manner, the meaning of this word has to do with meaning taking it carelessly, thoughtlessly, routinely, going through the motions. It would be having the memorial without the meaning. That’s an unworthy manner.
It means you come, you’re gathered as a church, you know the story, you’ve done it a zillion times, in many churches we do it right at the end or right at the beginning and, “Okay, let’s get those cups out, passed really fast because, you know, there’s a football game coming on, so get the cup, get the bread ready. One, two, three, hit, hit, swallow, swallow, bang, bang.”
No appreciation for who Jesus really is. No recollection back to what He’s really done for you. No quiet, extended time to evaluate where you really are at in your heart, in your life to recalibrate your soul? It’s just going through the motions. It’s just doing what you’ve always done. It’s coming to church and going through the spiritual motions of taking the Lord’s Supper.
That’s what it means to take it in an unworthy manner. And what it does it diminishes His work on the cross. What it does it diminishes His blood that shed for you. What it does it diminishes the fact that you’ve been sealed with the Spirit and that you’re a child of God, and you don’t take time to let the Spirit of God love you and care for you, and God’s plan always and every time in convicting is never to be down on us. It’s to point something out like a surgeon sees a piece of cancer and cuts very carefully so that no arteries or anything would be hurt, and gets just the thing that needs to be out, and lifts it out and is it painful, yes, and removes it so you can be whole and to be healed.
That’s God’s heart and when you take the Lord’s Supper, it always brings you to a time where you come back to first things. Back to your first love. Back to the relationship, out of the routine, out of just, you know, reading the Bible, out of just praying, out of being religious, out of trying to be a good, moral person.
It brings you back to just you and Jesus, His love for you and what He’s done, and now where are you at with Him? That’s the warning.
The instruction is very simple. He says, verse 28, “A man ought to examine Himself.” And that just means take personal inventory.
When you open your heart and you say, “Lord, if there’s anything between us,” He’ll bring a specific incident, and a specific issue, because His heart’s desire is never to push you down. His heart’s desire is to make a correction, so that He can put His arm around you and draw you back close to Him.
His Son, by His blood, paid for whatever sin is keeping you and me from Him. And all He wants to do is, by faith, have you recognize that, so there can be a fresh application of the atonement, or the covering, or the grace, and the forgiveness to restore the fellowship with God.
And so this is a time where you examine yourself. And then notice the reason. “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” You might put a little parenthesis around “the body of the Lord” because as you see this you would, in the context, think initially that we’re talking about Jesus’ body.
And it is but it’s not His physical body. You see we’re going to find just a little bit later that when Paul introduced this, the reason he gives this long explanation about the Lord’s Supper is the Corinthian church was involved in abuses and the abuses were, some people were coming early and eating a big meal, and they ate real fast because when the poor people came, they didn’t want to share their food.
And some people came so early, and were having such a big time before the worship service, that some people were actually drunk in the worship service. And some people would come and have a big meal, and some people would come with nothing, and it was causing division in the church.
And not recognizing the body of the Lord is when you examine yourself you don’t just examine yourself on the vertical, “How am I doing with God?”
You examine yourself and what you do is you say, “How am I doing with God’s people, the body? Is there a relationship in the body of Christ that needs my attention? Is there an attitude in my heart, is there someone I need to go to?” That’s what it means to recognize the body of the Lord. You examine yourself and then you say, “Lord, I want to be right with You, but I’ve got to be right with my brothers and sisters in Christ.”
And the reason is is because judgment occurs. That’s why He says, “Because these abuses,” can you imagine going to a church service and some people were drunk?
Going to a church service and some people are going thinking, “We’re the body of Christ and Christ died for us and He loves us and you won’t share anything with me?”
He says, “Because of this some of you are,” God’s judgment, “are weak and sick and some have prematurely even died.” Now if that doesn’t get your attention and if you don’t think taking the Lord’s Supper is an issue of sobriety that ought to get your attention.
God says when we do not treat one another, and when we take things that are very precious and very holy, and we’re callous with them, and we go through the motions, and we make a mockery of them that He will, in the velvet vice of judgment, keep closing that and if we don’t respond the ultimate judgment for a believer is He doesn’t kick you out of His family, He takes you home early.
And that’s what this passage teaches. He said in the church, at that time in Corinth, some people were sick and some people actually had premature death because of their lack of obedience and responsiveness to God.
So what should the response be? He says, verse 31, “But if we judge ourselves we won’t come under judgment.” In other words, if you don’t take it in an unworthy manner, if you come and recognize who Jesus is and what He’s done and if you stop and evaluate and, “Where am I at with You, God, and with the body?” Every time we take the Lord’s Supper it’s a purifying time.
I remember the story of a fellow, he was at MIT and he was teaching and he was a nationally known speaker, and one of the heads of a nuclear submarine let him go on board and he said, “you know the submarine can only stay down,” and I forget, it was only sixty or ninety days.
And he said, “Well, why? Do you run out of water?” He said, “Oh no. We got plenty of water.” He said, “Well, do you run out of food?” “No, we got plenty of food.” “Well, do you run out of oxygen?” “Oh no, we can create our own, it’s no problem.”
He said, “Well, why do you have to surface every sixty or ninety days?” He said, “Because in this submarine we have missiles that we can shoot all over the world, But what happens is because of the magnetic pulls of the earth, we have to come up and we recalibrate all of our instruments because we get off after sixty or ninety days. If we shoot a missile and we’re a fraction of a degree off, and it goes about three or four thousand miles, you can imagine how far it would be off. And the only way to keep this submarine in line is it needs to come up, and lock onto the North Star, and then we triangulate with all of our satellites to make sure we are exactly where we think we are.”
And, you know, that’s a good picture of what the Lord’s Supper needs to be. It’s where we stop and we align it, rooted in the Scriptures, focused on the person of Jesus, and the Spirit of God recalibrates our heart, our mind, and our soul about where we’re really at with Him.
Because we do deceive ourselves, don’t we? I mean the heart is deceitful.
The Lord’s Supper isn’t just a vertical “me and God,” it is about me and His body, the church, about me and my brothers and sisters. He’s going to tell us that we need to remember who we are as fellow members of His body.
Not just who Jesus is and what He did, not just remember who we are and what our needs are, but we need to come out of the Lord’s Supper and say, “We are a part of a real, organic, living group of people tied together by the Spirit of God, placed in His body, and our relationships matter.
Follow along in verse 17. He says, “But in giving instruction I don’t praise you because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For in the first place when you come together as a church I hear that divisions exist among you and in part I believe it. For there must be factions among you in order that those who are approved may become evident among you. Therefore, when you meet together it’s not to eat the Lord’s Supper.”
Do you hear it? It’s a rebuke. He said, “We got a problem here. You ask me a question when you,” notice the repetition, “when you come together. When you come together, when you meet together you are the Church,” do you hear what he’s saying? It matters about when God’s people come together.
He goes on to say, “It’s not to eat the Lord’s Supper,” verse 21, “for in your eating one takes his own supper first and one is hungry and another is drunk. What? Don’t you have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.” Do you hear the emotion here?
This is the church that he birthed; this is the church that he planted. He knows these people, they’ve come to Christ, they’ve had a radical transformation and then the actual celebration of their unity in Christ, and of their common forgiveness, and their new life as a new community, they are practicing just the opposite.
And I don’t know about you but I’ve read a few passages in Scripture. He sounds pretty ticked off to me. I mean He just sounds pretty doggon’ ticked off like, “What in the world are you doing? How could this happen to God’s Church? Your very actions are the antithesis of everything that Jesus taught, of everything that we know that’s true.”
And then notice how he bookends this section. Here’s the application, “So then my brothers when you,” notice the phrase, “come together to eat,” notice now consideration, “wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home so that you may not come together for judgment. And the remaining matters I shall arrange when I come.”
The rebuke is: Your actions, when you are meeting together in relationship, are telling the opposite story of Jesus who built a body, who died, who invited you into His body, who the moment you believed baptized you into this thing called “the Church.” We belong to one another. We’re interdependent. It matters. This is not a social group. This is not a meeting that you come to once a week.
We are a part of an organic, supernatural community and it matters what you say, and what you think, and what you do, and how I treat you, and how you treat me, and how we treat one another is the basis and the evidence, according to Jesus, whether the world will even know this is true.
“A new commandment I give you that you love one another. It’s by this love for one another that the world will know that God sent His Son.” And so he rebukes them and then he gives them some instruction, this application to be servants, to wait, to share, and to love. And so my response here is brotherly appreciation.
The Lord’s Supper is God’s visual aid to restore our spiritual passion by forcing us to do three things: Remember who Jesus is and what He’s done, one. Two, remember our present need of repentance. And three, remember we’re one body and members of one another.
I wrote on my notes a concluding statement that’s meant a lot to me. We are to express our love for God, whom we can’t see, by expressing our love and devotion to each other who we can see.