Examining Ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:27-34)

I have always been intrigued by the job of a detective. Pieces of evidence and details people may gloss over detectives stop and study. They take a closer look, examining the material. Their purpose in doing this is to find something that will expose the person guilty of the crime. Now, translate the work of a detective to Christians partaking in the Lord’s Supper. As Christians, we must hear the Apostle Paul’s exhortation, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (11:28). In other words, before we partake of remembering and proclaiming Christ by eating the bread and drinking cup, we need to examine our hearts. The reason we ought to examine ourselves is to see if there is any unconfessed sin in our lives. If there is unconfessed sin, the proper response is to repent of it. We are to do the work of a detective, if you will, by studying and examining our own hearts. If we refuse to examine and repent, then we partake in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner (11:27). This does not come without consequences. These consequences of partaking unworthily speak to the significance of the Lord’s Supper.

What exactly are such results? In two words: guilt and judgment. For the person who eats the bread and drinks the cup without examining their heart, the word of the Lord says that person is guilty concerning the very thing they are supposed to be remembering and proclaiming in taking the Lord’s Supper (11:27). Put another way, in the Lord’s Supper we, Christians, remember and proclaim the death of Christ. When we partake of the elements in an unworthy manner we sin, revealing our guilt. Moreover, the Christian who fails to examine themselves eats and drinks judgment on themselves. For the Corinthians, the unexamined issue was around church unity and caring for others in the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 11:17–22, 33–34). Although division was the specific concern Paul addressed in the Corinthian church, any unconfessed sin leads to partaking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. Whatever the sin may be, what is this judgment one eats and drinks upon themselves? It is the disciplinary judgment of God (11:31–32). For Christians, they are in Christ and cannot be condemned as unbelievers in the world (see Romans 8:1). However, a follower of Christ does face the discipline of God when they have unrepentant sin in their life (see Hebrews 12:6). Simply put, to neglect examining yourself before partaking in the Lord’s Supper is to bring the disciplinary judgment of God upon yourself. For the Corinthians, this disciplinary judgment took the form of weakness, illness, and even death (11:30). For us, it may take a different form. We may not become physically ill and may not die, but there will most assuredly be serious consequences.

Therefore, the next time you partake in the Lord’s Supper, examine your heart and life. The purpose of taking the elements, the bread and cup, is to remember and proclaim the death of Christ, not to bring the judgment of God upon yourself (11:34). In examining ourselves and repenting if need be, we honor the Lord by taking His Supper in a worthy manner.

Reflection Questions:

  • How does 1 Corinthians 11:27-34 relate to the significance of the Lord’s Supper?
  • Why is it important to examine yourself before you partake of the bread and the cup in the Lord’s Supper?

This post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

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