· What if I did not properly discern or recognize “the body of the Lord”?
· How would, or could, I make sure that in my eating of the bread and drinking of the cup I would not sin “against the body and blood of the Lord”? If I am not sure, would I then be punished with sickness or even death? [The fear of “sinning against” and “not discerning” may scare people to avoid the Lord’s Supper.]
· What makes one “worthy” and thus not subject to judgment? And if one’s worthiness is related to moral-ethical perfection or spiritual maturity, can anyone ever qualify to participate at the Lord’s table?
· Paul reminds his readers of the tradition about the institution of the Lord’s Supper (1Co 11:17-34). Paul deals with a problem in the church: “Your meetings do more harm than good” (11:17). Paul has heard that “there are divisions” among them and that these divisions manifest themselves precisely at the occasion when they “come together” (11:18,20).
· The occasion is an ordinary meal which includes symbolic actions and the recital of significant words. These festal occasions came to be known as the agape, or love feasts (mentioned in Jude 12; 2Pe 2:13). What was to be central — a caring love for one another grounded in Christ’s sacrificial death — was manifestly absent: “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper which you eat” (11:20). Rather, they were eating and drinking in an individualistic, selfish manner (11:21). Some, apparently the more affluent among them, had brought their food and, without waiting for others, had gone ahead and eaten their meals. There was even excessive drinking of wine. Meanwhile, the poorer members of the fellowship, who were able to bring little or nothering, were humiliated (11:22). Rather than sharing out of their abundance, those of means acted as if they were in their own homes. It was not the Lord’s Supper they were eating, but their own!
· Paul reminds them of the words which Jesus spoke at his last meal with the disciples (11:23-25). In those words, symbolically represented in broken bread and poured-out wine, Jesus interpreted the significance of his life and death: it was for them (11:24); a new covenant had been inaugurated through the sacrifice of his shed blood (11:25); they had become participants in that new covenant community (10:17). When they ate and drank, and heard the words of the Lord, they were to “remember” him. Their eating and drinking was to be a declaration and proclamation of the Lord’s self-sacrifice (11:26).
· The “unworthy manner” of eating does not imply that those who partake consider themselves worthy of the Lord’s Supper in their own characters and persons. Such interpretation would exclude all honest men. Clearly, the “worthiness” is interpreted by the phrase, “recognizing (discerning) the body of the Lord.”
· Two possibilities for the word “body”. It may refer to either the Lord’s physical body or the church as the body of Christ (1Co 12:13,27).
· (1) The first view means that the person partakes of the Lord’s Supper without understanding what the Lord’s Supper means or recognizing that it symbolizes Christ’s crucified body. [There is one problem with this view: why is the blood not mentioned?]
· In order not to be judged, the self-examination can include a question like, “Do I discern and appreciate that the bread and the wine represent Christ’s atonement accomplished for me one the cross, and do I wholly commit myself to Him, and trust that His body was broken for me, and His blood was shed for my sins?”
· (2) The second view means that the participant is not aware of the nature of the church as the body of Christ, resulting in the self‑centred actions of 11:20-21.
· They were participating in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner because of their unloving behaviour. This behaviour contradicts the purpose of Christ’s death, namely, to create a new covenant community. Thus, they are “guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord” (11:27).
· Not discerning the body is to misunderstand the nature of Christian community and the unity of the church (10:16-17; 11:20-21) and act in ways which undermine its vitality, its life and witness. It is that which stands under God’s judgment, for to do harm to Christ’s body is to oppose the purposes of God for which the Lord’s body was broken and his life’s blood was poured out.
· Christians are to examine themselves with regard to the spirit in which they approach their participation in the Lord’s Supper: Is it other‑directed or self‑directed? Paul says the solution (“so, then”) is to act out of love (11:33).
· The judgment (11:30) is not God’s eternal judgment but such disciplinary judgment as physical sickness and death (11:32). The Lord’s Supper is not to be taken lightly.
· Paul has rebuked gluttony and drunkenness, and these abuses are sometimes in themselves a cause of sickness and death. But further, the extreme tension in the mind and spirit of one who has professed faith in the Lord, and is yet clinging to sin, though a more subtle cause, is yet an actual cause of sickness or death.
· We should prepare ourselves for the Lord’s Supper through healthy introspection, confession of sin, and resolution of differences with other believers.