Not Discerning the Lord's Body
In his admonition and exhortation to the Corinthians concerning the proper way to observe the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the apostle Paul gives a very serious warning about the rituals of bread and wine:
"Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthy, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eats and drinks unworthy, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (1.Cor.11:27-29 KJV).
In order to understand what Paul said in this admonition to the Corinthians, it is important to understand something about these people whom the Father called out of the city of Corinth to become his children.
The Corinthian Church seems to have been a group of Christians with many problems. Both of Paul's letters to them contain strong correction. The first letter was almost totally devoted to correction and admonition and it contained many remarks about their poor spiritual behavior.
No other congregation is corrected on as many points as the Corinthians. This fact in itself should tell us something about the spiritual character and maturity of these Christians. Although they were children of God, they had major problems in understanding how to conduct themselves and they were truly babes in the faith. See 1.Cor.3:1-2.
Paul reprimanded the Corinthians about envy, strife, division of opinions, jealousies, immorality, incest, lawsuits, drunkenness, conceit, lack of Christian love, carnal mindedness, desecration of the body (i.e., the temple of God), intellectual vanity, misuse of spiritual gifts, and disorderly and shameful conduct in and out of church meetings.
The picture Paul paints of the Corinthian Church is of people who were dying spiritually and allowing evil, instead of good, to rule in their lives. Far from being a perfect example of spiritual maturity, those at Corinth were a good example of how not to live a righteous life. Therefore, Paul's overall message to those at Corinth was a call to repentance.
There is not much historical information about the church at Corinth other than Paul's letters. However, what is known gives us an insight into the potential problems of being a Christian in that society.
Corinth was the capital of Achaia in 57 A.D. and was a major export-import center between Asia and Europe at the crossroads of a major trade route. The city was very wealthy and its inhabitants were notorious for their licentious lifestyle. The city's reputation was so bad that it became the metaphor for immorality in the proverbs of some foreign languages. Moreover, it was immortalized by Latin poets. The term "to Corinthianize" became a part of the Greek vocabulary and meant "to live in drunken immoral debauchery."
The religions of the city's many diverse inhabitants who came to ply their trades in this prosperous area were practiced there. The bulk of the inhabitants were Italian freemen, Greeks, Jews, and people from the cities of Levant. Out of this city of wealth, immorality, and pagan religions, God the Father called a cross section of its citizens to become his children. When one considers their environment and cultural background, it is no small wonder that these people had great difficulty growing toward spiritual maturity.
ABOUT PAUL'S WRITINGS
Before doing a detailed study into 1.Corinthians 11:23-30, it is recommended to review what the apostle Peter had to say about Paul's writings being difficult to understand:
"And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given to him has written to you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [twist], as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction" (2.Pet.3: 15-16 KJV).
Paul's admonition to the Corinthians about the symbolic bread and wine of the Passover makes very little sense without first understanding that these elect had already been taught the meaning and purpose of the bread and wine. We know this because the symbolic and prophetic fulfillment of the Passover is an intrinsic part of the plan of salvation for humanity.
Any ignorance of the meaning of the Passover that these elect had was not due to being ignorant of its importance; it was due to their lack of spiritual maturity.
Because Paul is speaking of the deep physical and spiritual meanings and purpose of the bread, wine, blood, and body of Christ, what Paul said to the Corinthians cannot be understood today unless a person first understands the things Paul taught concerning Jesus as the Passover Lamb, the Redeemer, and the Savior of humanity.
The explanation that follows is only a general overview of what Paul was trying to convey to the Corinthians, and it should be followed up with study and meditation on the meaning and purpose of the symbols which Paul speaks of in this admonition and instruction.
A Major Clue 1.Corinthians 11:17-30
Verses 17 to 22 give a major clue to understanding the Corinthians’ problem concerning their observance of the Passover:
"I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better, but for the worse. For indeed first I hear divisions to be among you when you come together in the church. And I believe some part. For there must be heresies among you, so that the approved ones may become revealed among you" (vs.17-19 Para.).
After resolving a controversy about the proper length of women's hair, Paul begins to tell them that their lack of unity when they are assembled to worship is due to those who bring heresies into their meetings:
"Then you coming together into one place, it is not to eat the Lord's supper. For each one takes his own supper: first in the eating; and one is hungry, and another is drunk. For do you not have houses to eat, and to drink? or do you despise the Church of God, and shame those who have not? What do I say to you? shall I praise you for this? I do not Praise" (vs.20-22 Para.).
As Paul begins to speak of the Corinthians' perversion of the Passover, he indicates that they are incorrectly calling the Passover the Lord's supper—"it is not to eat the Lord's supper." Notice, Paul also condemns their improper practice of the Passover with a festive meal and shameful, drunken, and disorderly behavior.
After condemning their behavior, Paul reminds them that the things he had taught them concerning the Passover observance were from Christ; then, he repeats some of what he had taught.
"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do you, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me" (vs.23-25 KJV).
"Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthy, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord" (v27 KJV).
Because Paul established his authority to teach the proper observance of the Passover and gave this extremely serious warning, we can assume that something the Corinthians were doing in observing the rituals of the bread and wine was very wrong and in need of correction.
Some of the Corinthians were observing the Passover by having a festive meal and drinking too much, which constituted an improper observance of the Passover and its rituals. The Corinthians were improperly practicing the rituals of unleavened bread and wine, which symbolize the broken body of Christ and his blood that was poured out for us.
It is important to remember that just before this warning, Paul reminded them that Christ's body was broken for them, and that they had an agreement with the Father, which was sealed with the blood of Christ.
Unworthy and Guilty
Remember that Paul was speaking to the elect of God who had repented of their sins, been baptized, and transformed into sons of God through the power of the Father's holy spirit. Those to whom Paul was speaking were children of God, but how could they be unworthy to partake of these symbolic rituals, and what does it mean to partake of the bread and wine unworthily and be guilty of both?
Paul wrote that those who do not take the bread and wine correctly are guilty of a violation, which he also said will result in the payment of a very serious penalty by the violator.
The English word unworthy in verse 27 is translated from the Greek word anaxios, which means irreverently and is derived from a similar word meaning unfit. Clearly the use of the word anaxios does not refer to a person being unfit to observe the Passover, because only a person who has the indwelling of the holy spirit is worthy to observe the Passover. The Greek word anaxios in this context speaks to a person's disrespectful attitude and behavior concerning the symbols of Christ's body and blood.
The English word guilty is translated from the Greek word enochos, which connotes one who is guilty of violating a law.
Paul said that those who do not take the bread and wine correctly are guilty of a violation, which he later says will result in the payment of a very serious penalty by the violator.
A Personal Evaluation
"But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup" (v28 Para.).
Paul said that a person must perform a personal evaluation before observing the Passover. It is obvious that this evaluation is done in order for a person to determine if they are in harmony with the meaning and purpose of these two symbols.
Being In Harmony With God
Performing a serious and honest evaluation of one's attitudes, mindset and lifestyle before observing the Passover is extremely important in order to understand one's current spiritual condition before God.
If a person finds that they are in harmony with God, they can feel secure in the knowledge that they are not violating the meaning and purpose of the body and blood of Christ.
If a person finds that their attitude, priorities in life, and/or lifestyle do not measure up to what they understand to be the will of God, that person needs to ask forgiveness for their error and change their direction in life in order to conform to the will of God.
Once this personal evaluation is made and a person is satisfied that they are in harmony with the meaning and purpose of the body and blood of Christ, that person can partake of these symbols with the assurance that they are worthy to do so.
Damnation and Discerning
"For he that eats and drinks unworthy, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (v29 Para.).
The English words damnation and discernment are translated from the Greek words krima and diakrino, which mean judgment with the sense of condemnation and to make a distinction or distinguish.
But what does Paul mean by "not discerning the Lord's body?" What does this have to do with damnation, personal evaluation, and partaking of the bread and wine unworthily?
Paul showed that the result of taking of the bread and wine while being out of harmony with the meaning and purpose of these symbols is to put yourself in a state of self-imposed condemnation before God.
Being out of harmony with the meaning and purpose of the body and blood of Christ, puts a person in opposition to God's will for their life, and puts them in a position of being condemned for their lack of righteous attitude and behavior. Therefore, it is extremely important to perform a serious personal evaluation before observing the Passover and to correct one's course, if necessary.
Discerning the Lord's body means to fully consider the importance of what Christ did by coming to the earth and living in human form. Jesus was no ordinary human, and what he did while in human form was no ordinary act.
Before being a human, Jesus was an immortal spirit-being possessing the highest form of existence: life that springs forth from itself, never dying or decaying. This immortal being who was not subject to death emptied himself of his glory, power, and immortality to become a mortal man.
"But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything, and through whom he made the world and everything there is. God's Son shines out with God's glory, and all that God's Son is and does marks him as God. He regulated the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in the highest honor beside the great God of heaven" (Heb.1:2-3 LBP).
Weak, Sickly and Asleep
"For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (1.Cor.11:30 KJV).
Paul told the Corinthians that the reason many of them were weak, sickly and asleep was their current practice of observing the Passover. But, was he speaking of physical or spiritual health? We need to look carefully at the Greek language from which these words are translated in order to understand what Paul said:
- Weak is 'asthenes', which can mean 'impotent', 'sick', or 'without strength'
- Sickly is 'arrhostos', which can mean 'inferred' or 'sick'
- Sleep is 'komesis', which can mean to 'sleep', or 'lifeless'
Physical or Spiritual?
The condition Paul describes as weakness, sickness, and sleep, which concerns discerning the Lord's body, has nothing to do with a person's physical health; it has everything to do with a person's spiritual condition before God.
The context of First Corinthians is correction and exhortation to repent of wrong spiritual attitudes and behavior and to grow toward spiritual maturity.
The issue in First Corinthians 11:29-30 has nothing to do with physical illness or healing the physical body; it has to do with one's covenant with God the Father and Jesus Christ and one's spiritual health, which is the reason Paul put so much emphasis on the Corinthian character flaws in this letter.
Nowhere in chapter 10 or 11 do we find a reference to physical sin for which there is a need for physical healing.
The whole issue here is the lack of spiritual character and the need to analyze one's state of righteousness before God as one comes before him during the Passover.
Paul said that many were spiritually weak and sickly. Some had even gone to sleep spiritually which could lead to spiritual death.
Many were weak, sick, and asleep because they had not discerned the Lord's body. They had forgotten or neglected to contemplate the enormity of what Christ had done when he sacrificed his body and blood for them.
Why Did Christ Come?
In order to understand why many of the Corinthians were sick and lifeless spiritually, we need to review the prophecies concerning the healing aspect of Christ's sacrifice and the reason for his coming.
By His Wounds You Are Healed
"He is despised and abandoned of men, a man of pains and acquainted with sickness. . . Surely he has borne our sickness, and he carried our pain. . . But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our lawlessness: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his wounds we ourselves are healed" (Isa.53:3-5 Para.).
The Hebrew words for wounded and bruised are halal and daka, which mean wound (fatally), bore through or pierce, be crushed, contrite, or broken. Both of these words foretell the kind of death that the Savior would endure as the sacrifice for humanity's physical and spiritual sins.
Jesus understood that the spiritual sickness of humanity was their violation of the law of God, which is sin. He understood that it was this sickness (sin), which was the root cause of all of humanity's suffering.
It was the human sickness of sin—the transgression of the law—that Christ would bare and be mortality wounded for. It was for our lawlessness (sin) that he received a torturous beating, which tore and bruised his flesh so much that he was unrecognizable as a man.
Isaiah 53:3-4 is about the spiritual sins that are the cause of human misery—"He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our lawlessness." Our transgressions and our lawlessness are the reasons Christ had to come and give his perfect life as a sacrifice for humanity.
"Just as many were astonished at you, So his appearance was marred more than any man And his form more than the sons of men" (Isa.52:14 NASU Para.).
The beating that Jesus suffered at the hands of the Roman soldier was undeserved, because he had committed no crime worthy of such punishment.
It is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the torturous beating he suffered, and the pouring out of his life's blood to death that one can be spiritually healed and have the peace of mind which comes as a result of knowing that one's sins are forgiven. See Jn.14:27; Rom.8:6; Phil.4:7.
Behold the Lamb of God
As John the Baptist was preaching the soon coming of the Messiah and baptizing those who were repentant, he saw Jesus coming and said: "Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world" (Jn.1:29 KJV). See also verse 36.
It is important to remember that the prophetic meaning of the Passover under the first covenant with national Israel pointed to the time when the Creator God would come to earth to redeem and save humanity from the death penalty that was a result of violating the law of God: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all" (Isa.53:6 KJV).
The bread and the wine are inseparable, because the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which included his body and blood, was a total sacrifice. His body was broken and his blood poured out to death as the complete and perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin.
Reconciliation Through Christ's Body and Blood
"Come let us return to the Lord: For he has torn, and he will heal us; he has stricken, and he will bind us up. He will give him life after two days: on the third day he will raise him and we will live before him" (Hos.6:1-2 Para.).
In this prophecy, we see one of the rare mentions of God the Father. Here, Hosea foretells the reconciliation between God the Father and sinners through the healing sacrificial death of Christ for the forgiveness of sin.
"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live to righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed" (1.Pet.2:24 KJV).
A person to whom the sacrifice of Christ is applied is healed of their spiritual sin. It was for the forgiveness of sin that Jesus was beaten, crucified, and bled to death. Truly by his stripes we are healed of our spiritual sickness, which is sin.
Perfect in Mind and Body
In the form of a man, the Creator God was totally human in every aspect. Although he had the same pulls and desires of the flesh that all men have, he had a perfect unity of spirit with the Father, and by utilizing the power of the holy spirit that was within him, Jesus overcame the pulls of the flesh, was without spiritual sin and was found righteous before the Father. Therefore, his perfect spiritual character could be the perfect sacrifice for the spiritual sins of humanity.
Physically, Jesus was a perfect human. Not only was his mind perfect before God but also his body was perfect. Jesus experienced life as a human within a strong, vibrant, and healthy body, which lacked any physical imperfection. He was physically perfect before the Father; therefore, he was the perfect physical sacrifice for the sins of humanity. He was the prophetic Passover lamb without blemish.
Jesus Christ experienced and overcame intense mental and emotional pain as well the physical pain and agony of the torturous beating and crucifixion in order to qualify as a perfect spiritual and physical sacrifice for our sins.
It is extremely important for each person who is called by the Father to understand the tremendous love that Jesus Christ has for humanity and the enormous risk that he took when he gave up his immortal life to dwell in a physical human body:
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Heb.2:9 KJV). See Lk.24:1-7; Acts 2:24-32; 3:15,26; Rom.6:8-10; Phil.2:6-8,
1.Pet.3:18; Rev.2:8; 1:4,17-18.
The Creator God who made all that exists for the Sovereign God voluntarily gave up his immortality to come to earth in human form to live a sinless life as an example for us to follow; then, he allowed his perfect body to be destroyed and his life to be taken from him. He did all of this so that you and I could be saved from eternal death because of our violation of God's perfect law. See 1.Cor.6:19-20; 7:23.
Without some understanding of the enormity of what Christ did through his sacrifice and the personal responsibility that each person bears for his death, it would be difficult to understand the seriousness of the symbolism that is pictured in the bread and wine of the Passover. Without this understanding, it would also be extremely difficult to have the proper respect for the symbols of bread and wine and for Jesus Christ who these symbols represent.
A Lesson for Today
It behooves each person who has been called by the Father to salvation through the body and blood of his Son to heed the words of Paul concerning a serious self-examination before observing the Passover. Any who seriously examine themselves with a proper attitude and resolve to change that which is in error will be found worthy to partake of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
By B.L. Cocherell b5w26