Let’s take our Bibles and turn to First Corinthians once again, chapter 11. First Corinthians, chapter 11. You know, the unity of the church is a top priority for the Lord Jesus Christ. In his high priestly prayer in John 17, he prayed to the Father for all those who belonged to him:
that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
I love that prayer. I can’t get enough of that. Do you realize Jesus is saying that the Father loves us as much as he loves his own Son? Because we’re in him. The unity he speaks of here is not some sort of organizational unity. It’s not a structural unity, it’s a spiritual unity. He’s speaking of our union with Christ. You know that phrase, ‘Believe in me’ that Jesus called people to so often we find in the Gospels, and especially in the Gospel of John? The word in is actually the word into. Into. Jesus says believe into me. And when you believe in Jesus, you believe into him. And you’re united with him in a spiritual union. And by virtue of being united with him, you are united with everyone else who’s united with him. That’s the beauty of it. In fact, just a page over from where we are in First Corinthians 11, you see in chapter 12 verse 13, Paul says in one spirit we were all baptized into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, all were made to drink of one Spirit. There is a spiritual reality of unity that Christians just cannot undo. As I said last Lord’s Day, we can try to get away from each other, but we can’t. Ultimately, we are bound together and even if we run away from each other here on earth, one day, if we truly belong to the Lord, we’re going to be back together in heaven. And the basis for that unity is Jesus Christ himself and what he has accomplished in our place on our behalf through his atoning death and his glorious resurrection.
As we saw last Lord’s Day, the Lord’s Supper is a special ordinance that’s given to the Lord’s Church for this very purpose of exhorting us to symbolize these very truths. And sadly, in what is perhaps the most egregious irony of ironies in the universe, the Corinthians were attempting to observe the Lord’s Supper in a way that was the complete antithesis of what it was meant to communicate. The teaching we have on this ordinance, then, is given in an extremely ugly context. And yet this is done in the wisdom of the Lord, like when a jeweler displays a beautiful diamond against a black felt cloth so that you can see the brilliance of that diamond shining in the light against that stark, so the corruption of the Corinthians makes the meaning of the Lord’s Supper all the more significant and brilliant. Follow along as I read this passage beginning in verse 17 all the way down to the end of the chapter. Paul says:
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 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. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—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.
Last week I noted that this passage breaks down nicely into three sections: verses 17 through 22, and then verses 27 and 34 serve as sort of bookends to the middle portion of verses 23 through 26, so if we outlined this, we could call verses 17 through 22 the mockery of the Lord’s Supper. Verses 23 through 26 could be the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. And then the last portion, 27 through 34, could be the admonition of the Lord’s Supper. And we’ve already looked at the meaning of the Lord’s Supper in verses 23 through 26 (if you were here with us last Lord’s Day). If you weren’t, you can go online and listen to that. But this morning what I want to do is draw those bookends together, and I want us to learn from the bad example of the Corinthians and take heed to Paul’s admonition to draw some conclusions about the right way that we ought to come to the Lord’s Table.
So first, I want to look at the mockery of the Lord’s Supper and verses 17 to 22. Now Paul, as a good pastor, was doing his best to bring this chaotic congregation along, and even in the midst of dealing with so many different manifestations of pride and selfishness among the Corinthians, he was always looking for evidences of grace. Look at verse 2 of this chapter. He pointed out there and commended them that they remembered him in everything and maintained the traditions even as he had delivered them to them. That’s instructive for us. Just as a side note, we often get frustrated with each other, but if we will be like Paul and look for the evidence of grace, there will always be something that we can find that we can commend one another for. We ought to look for those instead of the negatives and maybe there would be more peace. So Paul is doing that, but in stark contrast to that, there’s nothing that he can find commendable about what they’ve been doing in their so-called observance of the Lord’s Supper. And immediately we see the problem in verse 18: the irony that when they came together (and we noted last time he uses that verb five times in this chapter here–to come together as a church) they’re coming together to celebrate the very ordinance that proclaims their unity in Christ, they were divided. It’s the antithesis of the whole thing. You know, it’s telling that with all the problems that the Corinthians had–that’s what this book is; it’s just a book of correcting problems–and with all the problems that the Corinthians had, Paul began this letter by addressing this issue of disunity. In fact, he spent the first four chapters of this letter (the longest portion of the letter) dealing with divisions in the church. Back in chapter 1 and verse 10 he had said, I appeal to you brothers by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. And then he goes on to say that this is in response to a verbal report that he had received from Chloe’s people, one of the messengers that had come to him that had told him that there is quarreling among you. He went on to spend those four chapters correcting those divisions that had to do with the issue of factions that were created by favoring certain leaders among them–putting one leader over another. This one’s my favorite preacher. He’s the rock star, not your preacher. And then you have the uber-spiritual ones who were of Christ, you know, they didn’t need a preacher. They just had Christ. Well, Paul, diagnosed their division like a spiritual surgeon in those four chapters, and he identified the root problem of the heart, which is a pandemic of pride that we just see keeps surfacing in this letter. And here in our passage, he’s tackling the report he has heard of division surrounding the observance of the Lord’s Supper. It had nothing to do with their favorite leader, but it had everything to do with them coming together to celebrate their unity and doing it in a divisive way. And the root of the problem is the same. It’s been the same throughout. That’s why we’ve called this study holiness through humility. We’ve been called as saints–as holy ones, as he says in chapter 1 in the introduction, and we do that by humbling ourselves.
But that’s not what was going on at Corinth. The presenting problem was pride, manifesting itself in selfishness. And notice, Paul says that he believes the report in part, and what he means by that is that while the division over the leaders had seemed to sweep through the entire church (he says each one of you is lining up under one leader or another), it seems here that this division–these factions–were caused by only some. There were some innocent parties in this, so he believes it in part that there is partly factions going on and he explains what he means further in verse 19 where he says that there must be factions among you. Now, what does that mean? He has commanded them not to have divisions. He’s been very clear about that. And here he says there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. Well, he’s not commanding them to have factions. What he’s doing is just recognizing the fact of the matter, that in a sin-cursed world and even in the church there is always going to be division, because even if we’re believers, we’re still sinners that are saved by grace. And of course, there will always be wheat among the tares. And so there’s always going to be division, and he says there must be division so that those who are genuine, or those who are approved, will be made manifest. The word must there means necessary. And so, what Paul is doing here is giving us a peek behind the curtain of God’s sovereignty to remind us that he does indeed work all things together for good, for those who love him and are called according to his purpose, and he uses even the division in the church that’s a result of our own sin to do something good. And that good is a sifting–a sanctifying sifting–that reveals those who truly belong to the Lord. And those who do truly belong to the Lord, and our sinning, are brought to a place where they can examine themselves and repent. And that’s what he’s going to talk about in the latter part of this chapter, so that unity will ultimately prevail in the church.
You know, there’s always this sanctifying sifting going on in the church, and as you know, as I do, if you’ve been a Christian any amount of time, that the sinful human heart can find all sorts of things to disagree and divide over–just about anything. Of course, our Lord never calls us to unity at any cost. There are times where we must divide over biblical doctrine, but as you well know, the division in the local church is rarely due to doctrine. Rarely. It’s almost always the product of pride that manifests itself in some sort of matter of preference. I want it my way. And the division in the church at Corinth was so pronounced that Paul says in verse 20 (notice): when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat. What a slam. He says you can call it whatever you want but it’s not the Lord’s Supper. Not at all. You’re making a complete mockery of it, is what you’re doing. And then he goes on to explain what they were doing. He says, for in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry and another gets drunk. Now when the church gathered in those early days, they would do so in the largest space available, and it was typically the homes of wealthier Christians. And oftentimes, Christians would have a meal together before they would partake of the Lord’s Supper as just part of the course of their worship. I mean, they were Baptists, right? I mean, that’s a third ordinance–a potluck, right? So they’d have a meal together. I mean, these guys were right on–and then they would have the Lord’s Supper together. We see this going on in Acts chapter 2, verse 42, where it says they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Breaking of bread was a means of eating together, right? And probably meant that they would have a meal and also partake of the Lord’s Table together as part of that. And it seems that the wealthier Corinthians who were hosting these gatherings in Corinth were not sharing with those who were poor. Instead, they were going on (and really gorging themselves is the idea here) with their food and their drink. It was so audacious that Paul says some of them were drunk. I don’t think they were actually intoxicated. I think Paul is being hyperbolic here. I think he’s saying this is how obnoxious it is. I mean, you’re gorging yourselves with your food and your drink. Notice in verse 33 down at the end of the section here he gives this command to wait for one another, and so it seems that they weren’t only behaving in this selfish way of, you know, hoarding food and gorging themselves, but they were doing it even before the poorer people arrived. And so instead of waiting for them and sharing some of their food with them and eating together as the family of God, they were despising those lower-class people who were the workaday blue collar people. And as we’ve noted, many of them, probably most of them, were actually slaves.
You know, as ghastly as this sort of behavior seems to us–and it is ghastly behavior, indeed–it was customary of the First century Greco-Roman culture. This is just what you did. They had stark class distinctions where the elites would always stand opposed to the lower classes that you had, the haves and the have nots. And that was intentionally maintained among the people. But for Christians this was completely unacceptable because look again at chapter 12 and verse 13: Jews or Greeks slaves or free, we’ve all been made to drink of one Spirit, right? Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Now of course, those verses don’t mean that your ethnicity changes when you become a Christian. It doesn’t mean that your biblical gender role changes. It doesn’t mean that your socioeconomic status changes. It’s not like you become a Christian and your master just lets you go free now. That’s not what he means by those statements, but what he means is, again, what Jesus prayed for. There is a spiritual unity that binds us together, and as Christians we get that, or at least we’re supposed to, regardless of any differences among us. We’re to not only get it, but we are to exercise it by showing the same sort of sacrificial love for one another. So I love to always say, you know, in the church, the janitor may be the elder. And he may be the one who makes decisions that affect the man who’s the CEO of the Fortune 500 company. That’s right. That’s biblical. That’s good. It doesn’t matter what your gender is, it doesn’t matter what your economic status is. It doesn’t matter what your ethnicity is. We are one and there should be no distinctions among us except for those that are biblical. But we ought to have the same sacrificial love for one another. And what the Corinthians were doing was just completely disregarding that. You know there’s no exceptions or footnotes to the command of Philippians 2:3 to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. No exceptions; no footnotes that qualify that statement. That goes for all of us. And the Apostle Paul, whose heart burned with the priority of the Lord Jesus Christ for the unity of his church, was so greatly disturbed by the Corinthians’ mistreatment of one another, he just sort of exclaims (look at verse 22): What? And then he asked these rhetorical questions, just sort of berating them, dressing them down. Don’t you have houses to eat and drink in? Can’t you eat at home? And note it at the end here in verse 34, he says if anyone’s hungry, let him eat at home. He means it. Eat at home before you come. If you’re that hungry that you’re going to come and gorge yourself in front of everybody and despise these poor people who come and starve through the whole thing. Do you despise the church of God? Are you going to humiliate those who have nothing? He says, what shall I say to you? Should I commend you in this? I’m sorry, but there’s no evidences of grace here whatsoever. This is pathetic. It sounds like the sort of speech I remember hearing as a boy. Instead of getting a spanking–it hurt much more than that–it was to hear my father say those words, I’m disappointed in you. That’s what Paul’s doing. I’m disappointed in you. And the reason Paul was so irate was the fact that they weren’t just doing this. This was bad enough, but they were doing this in the context of the Lord’s Supper–the very meal that was to symbolize their unity. It was just ridiculous, obnoxious.
And so, as a corrective, what does Paul do? Well, he’s a good teacher, so he once again relays to them what he had relayed to them many times before. Note that: for I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you. Paul had delivered this to them time after time after time because he’d been with them for a year and a half, and he’s probably the one who stood up and led the ordinance. So, he had relayed this to them, so he says, okay, let’s come back and let’s go over this again–the ABC’s of the Lord’s Table. And he teaches them to them. And we’ve already covered those in detail last Lord’s Day so I’m not going to go into all that again. Just to remind ourselves very quickly those points: he teaches them that the Lord’s Supper is an exhortation directly given from the Lord himself to his church; it’s a commemoration of his atoning death on our behalf; it’s a proclamation of all that death entails; it’s an anticipation of his glorious return because we do it until he comes; and it’s a participation (as we saw in chapter 10, verses 16 through 17) with him and with his people where he is present in a special way among us to declare his union with us, our union with him, and our union together as his people.
With that reminder in mind, he then goes into the admonition in verses 27 through 34. Now the entire context of this passage really comes to a head and the whole understanding of this is really bound up in that one word in verse 28 that is so often misunderstood that’s translated in an unworthy manner. That’s one word. The King James Version translates it unworthily. And partly because of that and partly just because people don’t pay attention to context, Christians believe (many Christians believe), and many ministers perpetuate the belief that Paul is speaking here of the person who partakes of the meal. That you are unworthy. You are unworthy to come to the Table. But you know, brothers and sisters, this can’t be the case because not one of us is worthy or will ever be worthy to come to this Table. Think of Psalm 15–way back then–the question, who is worthy to enter the presence of the Lord? And then David gives the template, you know, the one who always does what’s right, who always speaks truth in his heart. And he just fires off all these things. And you look at it and you say, yeah, that’s not me. That’s not me. That’s not me, if you’re honest. Unless you’re the tax collector and then you say, oh, yeah, that’s me. That’s me, right? But the true Christian says, yeah, that’s not me. That’s not me. Before the Lord saved us, brothers and sisters, don’t forget there were none righteous, not even one. There was none who understood there was none who were seeking after God. I don’t care what the seeker-friendly people say. There’s none who are seeking after God. Not one. That’s Romans, chapter 3 verses 10 and following (you could look it up and check me). We had all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That’s Romans 3:23, part of the Romans Road. Furthermore, we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), and we were helpless and hopeless and powerless to do anything about it. That’s Romans, chapter 5, verse 6. That’s just a sampling. I mean, it’s all throughout the Bible and especially throughout the New Testament, we see that we are hopeless and helpless to save ourselves. Even Charles Wesley, who was an Arminian, knew that because he wrote, long my imprisoned heart lay bound, right? Held fast in those chains. He knew that we’re slaves to sin. We’re hopeless and helpless to save ourselves. It’s solely by the Lord’s grace that we were called unto salvation. And it’s only by the Lord’s grace that we are kept for that salvation, like we read in First. Peter, it’s kept in heaven for us. And that’s not because we’re performing so well. It’s because God is keeping it. Because he says in Philippians 1:6 that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. And brothers and sisters, it’s therefore by God’s grace that we’re bid to come to his Table. And we’re not just asked to come, we’re commanded to come to the Table. Because we’ve been justified by his grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone; forgiven of all of our sins, declared righteous not by any merit of our own, but because the righteousness of Jesus Christ has been credited to our account so that we stand before God as righteous as Jesus. You know, God doesn’t look at us and see how we’re doing today as opposed to yesterday. And he doesn’t look at us and say, yeah, oaky, you’re cleared. You’re innocent. Now let’s see how you do and we’ll talk about it at the end. No, not at all. We are as righteous as Jesus in the sight of God. That’s why Jesus says that the Father loves us as much as he loves his own Son, and why we’re joint heirs with Christ. Because we’re united with him and all that he’s accomplished for us in his death for us and in his resurrection and life that he gives us. So none of us would be worthy to come to this table apart from Jesus. But because we’re in Jesus, Jesus says come. And come regularly.
So what does it mean to partake of the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner? And once we figure that out, we’ll find out what it means to do it in a worthy manner. The word unworthy is the negative form of the Greek word axios which has the idea of balancing the scales. That’s really what it literally means. It means something that corresponds to its counterpart, something that’s a perfect fit. Or here’s the word that I think it should be translated–if it were up to me, you know, obviously it’s not–here’s the word I think: consistent. That’s what it means. Axios, worthy, here means consistent. Consistent with what it’s supposed to represent. In fact, we find out the meaning of this word more clearly when we look at its use in a couple of places in the New Testament, where it’s used in the very exhortation toward unity. Look at Ephesians 4 with me for a moment. If you know the book of Ephesians, you know the first three chapters are all about our union with Christ. Paul uses that little phrase over and over and over: in Christ, in Christ, in Christ. So he teaches the doctrine of our union with Christ for three chapters. He hammers it home. He talks about how we’re united, whether Jew or Gentile. He just digs into that. We’re all one in Christ, the middle partition’s been broken down. We’re in Christ and then in chapter four, he begins to exhort on the basis of that. So on the basis of all of that, he begins in Chapter 4, verse one, therefore. I therefore, the prisoner of the Lords, urge you notice to walk in a manner worthy (there’s that word worthy) of the calling with which you have been called with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Turn over to Philippians chapter 1 and look at verse 27. Again, verse 27 in the book of Philippians is the first command that Paul gives. He hasn’t gone into as much doctrinal depth as Ephesians–he’s very personal here. But when he does start giving commands to this church, that is just really a wonderful church that he’s really thanking for the gift that they sent him, he says in verse 27 only let your manner of life be worthy (worthy) of the gospel of Christ so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you, that you are standing firm and one spirit with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. So to walk or to live in a manner that’s worthy of your calling is to walk or live in a manner that’s worthy of the gospel. And to do that is to behave in a manner that’s consistent with the gospel. And to do that means that you’re eager to maintain unity in the gospel among the people of God. That’s what that word means: to behave in a way that’s consistent with the gospel. Now back to First Corinthians chapter 11 again, the Lord’s Supper is the Lord’s symbol that proclaims all that the Lord has done that unites us together in him. So to participate in the observance of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner is just this: to do it in a way that’s inconsistent with what it conveys. It’s to communicate the exact opposite of what our Lord intends. And this is why Paul says to the Corinthians, the way you’re acting is not the Lord’s Supper. It’s really the anti-Lord’s Supper. It’s the complete opposite.
Now you know what that means. That’s what the text means. But not only does the context tell us just how the Corinthians were being inconsistent with the gospel, Paul goes on to spell out for them in verse 29 that what they were doing was eating and drinking without discerning the body. What does he mean by that? Well, look back in chapter 10 with me again. And look again at verses 16 and 17. He says, The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, or we all partake of the one bread. When he says we’re not discerning the body, that we’re to discern means to understand it correctly, to treat it properly. He says, look, this whole meal here represents what Christ has done for us that binds us together and we do it together. We participate together with him when we gather together to proclaim that unity. And you just don’t get it. That’s what he means by that. You’re not discerning the body correctly. You’re mocking this whole thing because you’re not participating in a way that’s consistent with what it is meant to portray. And that’s why it’s not even the Lord’s Supper, even though you’re going through the motions of it. And the Lord takes the mistreatment of his own very seriously. You remember back in chapters 8 through 10, Paul spent that entire section talking about this whole issue of how we’re to use our Christian liberty, our so-called rights in Christ, and how the main point is that we’re not to be selfish, but sacrificial for the benefit of others. And remember in Chapter 8 verse 12 he said that if you sin against your brothers–and, he says, sinning in that way in that context is to be selfish with your so-called rights–if you just go ahead and exercise your rights and you sin against that brother and wound their weak conscience when it’s weak, you sin against Christ. You see, Jesus takes it that personally. You remember in Acts chapter 9 when the Lord first called Paul to himself when he was still Saul of Tarsus on the way to Damascus to round up the Christians and abuse them and cause them to blaspheme–remember that? And Jesus says, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting those Christians? No, that’s not what he said. Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? You see, the Lord takes the mistreatment of his people personally. That’s how united we are to Christ. And when we sin against one another, we sin against the Lord Jesus Christ and how flagrant and how obnoxious is it to sin against one another and against Christ around his Table? Men, that’s like inviting someone over to your house for dinner, and they insult your wife. That’s what we’re doing.
You know, I would say even beyond that offense in the confines of the family of God (which is horrific enough), what does the profaning of the Lord’s Table tell the world about Jesus Christ and his gospel? When we act inconsistently this way, when unbelievers come into the gathering and they can see chaos and disorder and disunity and strife and division–and maybe they don’t even have to come into the church; they just hear it out there in the community: Oh, that church. I heard about them–how antithetical is it when we mock the very symbol of our love? Because what did Jesus say John 13:35? By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. And isn’t that what Jesus prayed in that high priestly prayer–that the world may know? And yet we mock it right here, round his Table and make nothing of it.
This is why Paul says in verse 27 that the one who does so is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. What does he mean by that? He means that you are liable for sinning against Jesus Christ himself. That’s what he means. That you’re mocking him and his death and his resurrection and all that it symbolizes. And you’re mistreating his people. And he doesn’t take that lightly. And therefore, the one who does this, as we read, eats and drinks judgment on himself. And he says that’s why many of the Corinthians were weak and ill and some have died. I wonder how many Christians today are sick and who die early for this very reason. He doesn’t mean that the elements of the table somehow all of a sudden now (they were symbols before), but now all of a sudden they become magical and they turn into like a potion that poisons you. You know that’s not what he means. What he means is that when you profane the Lord’s Table and mistreat his people in this way, he brings judgment upon you according to his will. And that’s a warning. That’s a stark warning. Don’t take this lightly, this Table.
But here’s the solution. Note the solution there in verse 28. Paul is correcting. He’s saying, repent. And how do you do that? Well, you examine yourself. Well, what does that mean? Well, it doesn’t mean to fret in your seat while the piano plays to try to make sure you’re worthy enough to take it right? It doesn’t mean that. So, stop doing that. It means to take a personal inventory of your heart. In fact, the word is dokimadzeto, which is from dokimadzo, which means to be tested and found approved. And it’s the same word used over in verse 19 of the one who is found to be genuine when these factions arise. Dokimadzo is to be found, tested and approved, so for the Corinthians this meant that they were given the opportunity here by Paul to admit their mistreatment of their brothers and sisters, and to repent and to seek forgiveness from the Lord and from those they had offended and to come afresh to the Table and celebrate it with joy. So that’s what the text means. But the application is the same for us. As I’ve said, the Lord’s Supper is not a confessional but it’s to be a celebration. Christians are those who regularly confess their sins. First John 1:9, right? If we confess our sins, he’s faithful, righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all and righteousness. That’s just what Christians do. That’s the tenor there of First John chapter 1. If we say we have no sin, we lie, right? The truth is not in us. So, Christians are people who didn’t just believe back in 1982 and write it in their Bible, and I’m good now, you know. No Christians are people who are repenting and believing and repenting and believing and repenting and believing and confessing and confessing and just walking with the Lord and growing. That’s who we are. If you’re waiting until you come to the Lord’s table to confess your sins, you probably don’t understand what it really means to repent and believe. Or you’ve just been taught very wrongly by a whole lot of those people who perpetuate the fact that that’s what you’re supposed to do here.
But certainly there are those in every gathering of believers who are either mere professors or perhaps they’re genuine believers who are caught up in a habitual sin. That is possible for a believer for a time to be caught up in some sin that you’re harboring. That the Lord’s Supper is indeed an opportunity for us to examine our hearts, you know, especially if we are engaging in hatred toward another brother, we should never partake of the Lord’s table because that’s the very thing Paul’s talking about here, that is the meaning. But the wider application is indeed that if you’re harboring some sin, if you’re nursing some sin that you’re not willing to let go of, well, you would make a mockery of the Lord’s Table in that regard as well, wouldn’t you? To some degree at least. And so, the warning here folks, is that we would not continue on in hypocrisy. And if we do, the chastening hand of the Lord is upon us. He says, If we judged ourselves, we wouldn’t be judged. That is, we would heed the warning here. And we would use this as an opportunity, a grace from the Lord. To examine ourselves. It’s a means of God’s grace. He says, but those who don’t heed the warning, they will be condemned along with the world. This is discipline. This is God’s grace. And so we are to heed.
So that brings us to this: what does it really mean to partake of the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner? Well, Paul tells us what it meant for the Corinthians very specifically in verses 33 through 34. So, if you want to know what it means, it’s right there. Let’s read it. So then (that’s a concluding statement) so then my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home so that when you come together, it will not be for judgment. It won’t be for the worse, but for the better. And then he says about the other things I’ll give directions when I come. We don’t even know what that means. There were other things he was going to give directions about, and he’s going to stop there and he’s going to move on to their next question about spiritual gifts. So if we took Paul’s words there to the Corinthians and we put them in applicational form for us, it would mean that to partake of the Lord’s table in a worthy manner is to come to the Lord’s Table with a pure heart. Not a sinless heart because we’re never going to be sinless, but a pure heart. One that’s not prideful. One that’s not holding grudges against others. But one that’s humble. And that we would not display selfishness but love to everyone, even those people in the fellowship that sort of rub us the wrong way, or they’re just this, or they’re just that. And that we don’t have any flagrant hidden sin that we’re not willing to let go of. And that we wait for one another and we partake together in a way that does indeed proclaim all that the Lord’s Supper is to proclaim.
Now, this morning we’re not partaking of the Lord’s Supper. We did that last week. But we are going to do it next week. So what I’d like to ask you to do by way of application this week is to think on what you’ve heard this morning–to meditate on it. If you took some notes, maybe go back over those, maybe listen to the sermon again and think it through, so that when you partake of the Lord’s Table next Lord’s Day, perhaps it may be the first time in your Christian life that you’ll do so with understanding. Because let me ask you, when’s the last time you heard a sermon on the passage in its context? Maybe never. And that is the beauty, isn’t it, of going verse by verse through the word of God. Let’s bow together.
Our father in heaven, it is a wonderful time to come together and to hear from you. To be instructed from your word. To have understanding. And how wonderful it is to come to your Table. I wish we were doing it again today after this. May our hearts anticipate that time, not fret it. Heaven forbid that we would wish that we wouldn’t have to come to it, that we would come willingly and joyfully. To celebrate all that it communicates: the death of the Lord Jesus on our behalf, certainly the soberness of that thought, but the joy that is entailed in that–that he is the risen Lord, and we anticipate his return. And we participate in it together as your people united in you–that it really is the Lord’s Supper. It’s his supper. It proclaims him. I pray that you would work in our hearts over the course of this week to think on all that we do when we come to that Table and to think upon what we may need to do in the meantime in our hearts when it comes to our brothers and sisters. May unity in your church be our priority as it is to you, Lord. We pray this in your name.