I’ve never written a communion meditation or an article on this subject before. I’ve never really felt the need to. But after several communion messages, I feel the need to unpack and to point out what is being said in the following verses. So bear with me. I’ll attempt to keep this short.
Turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 11. I’ll be starting in verse 17 and continuing down to verse 30. The background information for this passage is as follows. Paul is writing this letter to chastise the church in Corinth. These “church” members were meeting in their homes to worship God, and that is great. However, they were getting together and eating a meal first. Again, that is great. Fellowship with believers should always be a good time, but these people were getting drunk. Or they got so wrapped up in the “fellowship” time that they lost sight as to why they were together. Let’s take a look.
1 Corinthians 11:17-30 (KJV – Just to switch things up a bit.)
17 Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. 1 Corinthians 11:17 (KJV)
So, here, Paul is not a happy camper. He’s saying you are getting together, but you are doing it wrong.
18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 1 Corinthians 11:18 (KJV)
I love Paul because he just says it like it is. You have some people in this church that are uppity and all are not united in Christ. Some thought they were better than the other church members. It was a house divided on itself.
19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 1 Corinthians 11:19 (KJV)
Let’s go to the Strong’s Concordance. Examining language is always an important step when trying to make sense of things in the Bible. You need to go back to the language it was written in to get the true meaning of what is being said. Anything of any value takes work and effort to obtain.
Heresies – (b) “a sect;” this secondary meaning, resulting from (a), is the dominating significance in the NT, Acts 5:17; 15:5; 24:5,14; 26:5; 28:22; “heresies” in 1 Cor. 11:19 (see marg.). See SECT.
Sect– “a choosing,” is translated “sect” throughout the Acts, except in 24:14, AV, “heresy” (RV, “sect”); it properly denotes a predilection either for a particular truth, or for a perversion of one, generally with the expectation of personal advantage; hence, a division and the formation of a party or “sect” in contrast to the uniting power of “the truth,” held in toto; “a sect” is a division developed and brought to an issue; the order “divisions, heresies” (marg. “parties”) in “the works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21 is suggestive of this.
So in the early church you had “sects” that developed that held to their own beliefs or takes on things, which is why the Bible would eventually have to be put together. It gave direction, but let’s keep pressing on.
1 Corinthians 11:20-22 (KJV)
“20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. 21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? what shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.” (Ok, you jerks. I didn’t teach you to take communion in such a manner.)
If you look back at history, these communion gatherings turned into a huge party. People would show up having eaten supper, but would consume alcohol and be totally smashed when it came time for communion (no, I don’t think alcohol is the devil, but more about drinking at a later date). Or poor people would show up starved to death, and the rich would show off how much they had to eat and drink. So more focus for the poor was on getting bread and wine instead of Christ, because they were hungry. It should also be mentioned that this was a good time for the “rich” members of the congregation to show off their wealth in general. So Paul is saying ‘Enough. Eat your supper at home, don’t show up drunk and take care of other members of the church.’
What happens if you don’t heed Paul’s warning?
Paul goes on to teach communion, and goes into the oft quoted passages during communion times in most churches. You can read those verses, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Now comes the warning, and where some churches are a little off track in their theology on this subject.
27 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. 1 Corinthians 11:27 (KJV)
Here’s your English lesson for the day. Pick out the main adverb in this sentence. Hint: –ly is a good indicator of adverbs. Adverbs, in case you don’t remember, modify verbs like an adjective modifies a noun (Ex. “soft kitty”). Soft is the adjective telling something about the kitty. The kitty is soft. Adverbs do the same thing. So, the adverb “Unworthily” modifies the verbs “eat and drink.” If you eat and drink the body and blood of Christ (AKA take communion) unworthily, then something is going to happen. Keep reading.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 1 Corinthians 11:28
STOP! Here’s where most churches camp out. Who out there reading this has been asked to examine themself and if you don’t feel worthy, then you shouldn’t partake? Let that communion pass on by. Don’t go forward. If you feel unworthy, then don’t partake. Horse hockey! There isn’t one individual out there that is worthy. Thank God Jesus Christ died and made us worthy to take communion. He “worthified” us! We all are scoundrels that deserve to be hanging on that tree next to Jesus and to be sent to hell for our sins. But like that thief on the other cross, who recognized his unworth but asked Jesus to remember him, we will make it to heaven.
Luke 23:39-43 (KJV)
39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Thank God for that man on the cross. Because of him, and what Jesus said, I have hope. Hope that God can take someone that deserves to be up on that cross too, who deserves to be crucified and dying for my sins. But, instead, Christ redeemed me so that I can be with Him in paradise. As my old pastor Dr. Gene Scott would say, “He treated his son like you or I should be treated, so he could treat us like his son deserves to be treated.” God adopted us saints. We are His sons and daughters.
You can recognize the same salvation formula taught thereafter. With your mouth confession is made; with a repentant heart and recognition of who Jesus is. From that confession of faith – you make it in! End of story!
‘But what if it wasn’t real? What if…?’
That’s not your job. Last time I checked, God judged the heart. Not you and not me.
‘Well, you have to live a good lifestyle. You gotta walk worthily to be a Christian.‘
That man on that cross lived in sin his whole life but, in a split second, all that went away. He went to heaven to be with Christ.
‘Well, that’s not fair. I went to church my whole life, got gold stars, attendance pins, fed the poor, gave up alcohol, don’t watch TV, etc. You mean I can live like hell my whole life and get in with a deathbed confession?’
Yip, I sure do. With the heart man believeth and with the mouth proclamation unto salvation is made. Don’t frustrate the grace of God. It’s His gift to give out. Stop judging God and others.
Saints, that’s the good news of the Gospel that needs to be shared. Not the self-righteous, judgmental hypocrisy that is paraded around as Christianity. Quit trying to live the 10 commandments and judging everyone that can’t! Because, quite contrary to your belief, you ain’t living them either (emphasis on the AIN’T). I don’t know about you, but I’m under Faith and Grace, not the unbending laws written on stone.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV)
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
And if you are out from under Grace then you are going to hell.
Galatians 5:4 (KJV)
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
Grace is what allows God to look on you with the spectacles of Christ. If you are standing on your own works, which are filthy rags, you don’t make it in friend. Jesus Christ came, fulfilled the law, nailed it to the tree and set you free. You have the Holy Spirit in you to guide you. The law is dead and buried. Leave it in the tomb where it was laid. Quit judging, start loving and start teaching God’s Word. You don’t have to accept their sin, but you need to accept the sinner into the church and let God do the changing. God hasn’t appointed you or me to whack, beat or cut the sin out of sinners. We need to stop making people, that don’t fit into our idea of what a Christian is, unwelcome in our churches. No wonder churches are losing members. Sadly, some “Christians” would be out in the crowd chanting ‘kill him’. Kill that evil person up there on the cross. He’s too bad to make it into heaven. God would never let him in. And, just as a side note, it wasn’t sinners that stoned Stephen in Acts. It was the religious people, the “church” people of the day. Just because we do things in “God’s name” doesn’t make it right.
Now back to this communion English lesson. Paul defines the “unworthy” action that we are to be on guard for.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 1 Corinthians 11:29 (KJV)
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE WORTHY, FEEL WORTHY or PASS SOME TEST FROM SOME CHURCH OR CHRISTIAN to take communion! What you have to do is discern the Lord’s body when you take communion. In other words, you have to know what the bread and wine represent when you take it. If you don’t, then you are in violation. And now you are “damned” of God. There is punishment. What is the punishment?
30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 1 Corinthians 11:30 (KJV)
In Isaiah, the Bible foreshadows what communion will mean. Christ’s blood covered our sins and also healed us. When you or I don’t discern the elements and their meanings, then this is when damnation is visited on you or I. It has nothing to do with lack of Godly behavior, but everything to do with keeping your eyes on Christ. From this we can surmise that the punishment is sickness, weakness and in some cases death. Christ brought healing as well as forgiveness through his death, so shouldn’t we focus on that too?
Never let someone guilt you, or don’t guilt yourself, into not partaking. We are supposed to come to the table of the Lord with thanksgiving and praise, looking for healing. Do it in remembrance of Christ’s act. Grace doesn’t come through your efforts. So it doesn’t matter how many times you have failed and let God down, nor how bad you feel. Praise God, during this time, that Christ covered that failure and you can leave there knowing that God sees you as Christ. His love doesn’t rise and fall like the tide. God loves you perfectly and completely, no matter what. Christ took your guilt, pain, suffering, shame, etc. and it was nailed to the cross with Him. Take communion every day if you wish at home or at church in a worthy manner; discerning the body and blood of Christ, and thank God for what He did for you.
Grace (unmerited favor) and Peace (cessation of againstness) to you,
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