The taking of Communion is a serious matter. Partaking of it in the right manner may impact our very health and longevity; the context that Paul outlines implies that it may also have implications in how Jesus judges the world in the Tribulation.
When Paul learned how the Corinthians were coming together for the Lord’s Supper, he wasn’t pleased. The intent, as Jesus Himself spoke about it, was to eat and drink in remembrance of Him and to proclaim what He did in this world through His death (1 Corinthians 11:25-26). Instead, the congregation in Corinth was showing up with much less than that in mind. Some of the richer folks ate a full meal; some people actually got drunk on wine; others who were poor went hungry in plain sight of the ones who ate in front of them. Paul asked, in their doing this, “Do you despise the church of God” so much that you would act so un-Christ-like? (1 Corinthians 11:22)
With this as introduction, Paul proceeded to inform the church how dangerous it was for them to conduct themselves with such a serious issue as Communion. He noted six aspects of this in the passage of 1 Corinthians 11:27-34 that should have made them sit up and take notice, just as it should for us today. First, here’s the passage:
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.
What does this passage say in summary?
- Taking Communion in an unworthy manner causes guilt before the Lord (v27)
- Whoever partakes of the Lord’s Supper must examine himself and his relationship to Christ; failure to do this and correct irregularities brings God’s judgment (v28)
- Judgment that results from taking Communion and not repenting of one’s sin may result in a person becoming weak, ill, or even dying (v30)
- When we judge ourselves by looking into the perfect mirror of Christ, God will not judge us (v31)
- Failure to self-judge, address the sin in our lives, and correct it as the Lord requires brings God’s discipline upon us; this discipline could be as severe as what the unbelieving world experiences such that we may be condemned with the world (v32)
- Coming together for Communion should be for the right reasons and with the appropriate response; in doing do, the Lord will not heap judgment upon us (v33-34)
If we consider Communion in the manner that Paul communicates, we see the depth of it and the necessity to come before the Lord in partaking of it with a heart that is right. Could much of the illness in the church today result from people casually taking the bread and wine (grape juice) and not properly examining themselves and doing something about the sin that God reveals to them? Verse 30 certainly seems to indicate that.
That’s bad enough, but verse 32 is even more troubling. The sequence is that through the lack of self-judging and correcting ourselves, the Lord by necessity will judge us. If He finds uncorrected sin, He disciplines us. What if that discipline doesn’t work and someone continues in his sin?
Let’s go to Revelation 21:8:
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Do you think there are those in the church today who practice sexual immorality? Might there be some who place God to the side and worship another god such as money or power? How about liars? Are there any of them among us?
Whether it is these sins or others, God wants us to release them, to give them back to the world. A true follower of Jesus Christ may fall into sin occasionally, but he cannot – he must not – practice sin. A lifestyle of sin indicates a lack of redemption. Is such a person born again? I don’t know, perhaps not, but anyone committing such practices regularly, who then takes Communion, and who doesn’t self-judge so as to repent, will be first disciplined by God, then experience worse if he fails to change. As the verse in Revelation indicates, this unrepentant person will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. What 1 Corinthians 11:32 seems to indicate is that this person will suffer the condemnation of unbelievers. What is that condemnation? It is the soon-to-come Tribulation, i.e. God’s wrath upon this unbelieving world. That certainly implies missing the Rapture. And, if someone does that, and they have known the goodness of God, can they still be redeemed during the Tribulation? There are some Bible prophecy teachers who don’t believe they can be saved at that point; that the deception will be too great upon them.
The lesson to take from this today is that when we partake of Communion, we must do it in such a way that our hearts are right and/or made right through this remembrance of Christ. By ignoring or rejecting this command that we examine ourselves, it can have disastrous consequences. For those of us who approach the Lord in a worthy manner, we can rejoice because His favor then rests upon us.