Unworthy of Communion?- 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

In our previous post, we have seen that the sacrament of communion is in essence a re-enactment. Jesus, at the Last Supper, made a proclamation of His intent to offer His body and blood on the cross for our sin, and in remembrance of His proclamation we also make a proclamation of our intent to do what He did, to die to self will and live for God’s will. We offer our bodies to our Father as living sacrifices, asking Him to do whatever is necessary to make us like Jesus, to help us die the death He died, to die to sin (Romans 6:10). Paul then proceeds, in verse 27, with an admonition not to partake of communion in an “unworthy manner”. What does Paul mean by this, does he mean that we must confess all known sin, that any unconfessed sin makes us “unworthy” of participating in communion? The Greek word translated “unworthy” here is anaxios, the root of which is axios, a word literally meaning “to balance the scales”, here used with the alpha privative, which gives it the meaning here of a failure to balance the scales. So what does Paul mean here by the use of this particular word? We must remember that Jesus proclamation was of an intent, a desire, an attitude of submission of his body and will to the Father, so to balance the scales here is to act accordingly in response to what Jesus did, to respond with the same attitude which He demonstrated for us in Gethsemane, to respond with a willingness to take up our cross and follow Him, to “humble ourselves and become obedient to death- even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). Jesus offered up His body and blood to the Father that night, and our participation in communion is also an offering up of our bodies and blood to the Father, this is what we re-enact in this sacrament. To participate in this sacrament without this attitude, without a willingness to take up our cross and die to sin, is to “sin against the body and blood of the Lord” (verse 27). This is why Paul then tells us, in verse 28, to “examine ourselves”, to examine our attitudes and determine if they are like Jesus’ attitude expressed in Philippians 2. Paul then makes what at first glance seems a rather puzzling statement, telling us that “anyone who eats or drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment upon himself” (verse 29). The Greek word “recognize” here is diakrino, to “separate or distinguish between”. It is used in the New Testament to express doubt or reservation, and describes one who is “at odds with himself”, is double minded and has uncertainty regarding his attitudes or actions. Paul is describing for us again the one who is “unworthy”, and this describes one who has doubts or is unsure about whether or not he wants to “take up his cross”, whether or not he wants to be obedient to the point of death, whether or not he is willing to pay the price necessary to die to sin. To “eat and drink” (participate in communion) in this state brings “judgment”, for God honors our actions. Eating and drinking is making a proclamation of our desire to die to sin and live for God, and God honors that proclamation. He does so by bringing things into our lives to help us die to sin, he uses “all things” to “conform us to the image of Christ” (Romans 8:28-29), which then explains the “weakness” and “sickness” mentioned in verse 30. Paul then concludes this passage by explaining to us that this “judgment” here is actually a form of “discipline”, a Greek word meaning to “train up a child”. Eating and drinking then are an invitation to God to do what is necessary to “train us up”, to conform us to the image of Christ, to help us die to sin. So to sum all of this up, when we participate in communion we are making a public proclamation, the same proclamation Jesus made, a proclamation of our intent and willingness to take up our cross and follow Him, to offer our bodies up to God as living sacrifices, to die to sin and live to God. This is why Paul tells us to examine ourselves, because when we make this proclamation, God honors it, and will then bring things into our lives to help us die to sin and conform us to the image of Christ. Many of these things are rather unpleasant, and to eat and drink unworthily is to eat and drink unwilling or unprepared to take up our cross and die to sin, to fail to respond properly to what Jesus did for us both that night and the next day at Calvary.

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