Elijah Ministries

Mystery of Communion - Part 1

On any given Sunday at churches everywhere, members of the congregation come together for the Lord's Supper, otherwise known as Communion or the Eucharist. I don't know how many times I've heard the same warning to "examine myself" before partaking. Many times, I've been scared to eat and drink of the Supper, afraid God would surely kill me because I had so many problems and so many things wrong with me. Communion became a fearful thing. I'm sure the Pastors overseeing this event meant well, encouraging all of us not to take this sacrament lightly. However, it was not something I looked forward to very often, because I always felt so unworthy. The admonishment I heard was always the same, regardless of what church I attended, and was always based on the following passage:

"Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep."

1 Cor. 11:27-30 NKJV

Needless to say, I didn't feel much like communing with the Lord after hearing this repeated each month. I knew I would be in trouble because I could always find something wrong with myself, always a hint of condemnation. It was only recently that the Holy Spirit showed me the real meaning behind this passage.

Distorted Captions

Various books of the bible were written as complete letters. However, due to the chapter and verse setup or captions over specific passages, we sometimes mistakenly take certain scriptures out of context. I'm sure the intention in doing this was to help us locate and remember certain parts of scripture. It's much easier memorizing a verse than an entire letter. The problem here is that we can detach pieces and try to make them stand alone, distorting the rest of the letter or epistle. If you received a letter from a dear friend, you wouldn't read the middle and nothing more. It would be important to read it from start to finish to understand what your friend wanted to tell you, their train of thought, emotions and what they were really trying to say. Well, that's what Paul the Apostle was trying to do here. He was writing to the Corinthian church to address some of their many problems, namely, immorality, spiritual immaturity, sectarianism, church discipline and the proper use of spiritual gifts (sounds like the 20th century church). Consequently, it is important to read the passage concerning the Lord's Supper in this light.

Factions and Divisions

To get a better idea of where Paul was coming from, start at 1 Cor. 11:17 and following:

"Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must be also factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you." 1 Cor. 11:17-22 NKJV

What was Paul talking about here? Surely not the Lord's Supper. He was dealing with the poor attitude and the misconception regarding WHY they were getting together. It wasn't just for the meal (vs. 20), it was for the fellowship and communion with other members of the body! The Lord's supper is far more than just a meal or sacrament. It is to remember the RELATIONSHIP Jesus has with us. "...This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me" (vs. 25). What is the purpose of the New Covenant? To restore the relationship with God lost through sin! To let Him live within us and we in Him! To tear down the veil of separation!

The Body

Let's look at verse 29 again:

"For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself, not discerning the Lord's body".

The Critical Text of the Greek New Testament translates the scripture this way:

"For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself, not discerning the body".

See the difference? Isn't this what Paul was saying a few verses earlier? The Corinthian church was not coming together to "eat the Lord's Supper" (vs. 20). The Lord's Supper is the relationship with members of the body. Is is more than a meal (many times the Lord's Supper was part of a "fellowship dinner"), it is the re-establishment of the relationship. "For this reason (not understanding the "body") many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep" (vs. 30). We open ourselves to God's chastisement, illness or even premature death by not discerning the "body". Whether it is the Lord Jesus or His church, the same is true. We must understand the importance of oneness, fellowship and brotherly love in order to comprehend the meaning of the body. God does nothing by accident. Everything established by Him is for a purpose and we do damage to ourselves when we take lightly the things of God or don't discern His intent.

This topic will be continued in Part 2!

Willie Jefferson, 3/12/96


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