Among many Christian circles, The Holy Communion is still a bit of a mystery. It is an interesting fact that many pastors do not teach about Communion except for a few minutes before the receiving of it — and often this only amounts to a simple reciting of 1st Corinthians 11.
My friends, this should not be. In neglecting the details and good teaching of Communion, many are missing out on a very beautiful and very vital gift of Jesus Christ.
So today we will be looking at how to discern the body of Jesus Christ, and how to receive the wonderful gift which He has paid to give us all.
So let’s start by reading the well known verses in 1st Corinthians 11:23-26:
“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 oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me.
For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come.”
Immediately we can see the purpose of Communion made here. The bread represents the body of Jesus Christ, most believers already know this fact, but it is always good to mention it. Also that the cup represents the blood which He shed for us, again most believers already know this, I’m just stating it here for the new visitors primarily.
Where most believers tend to have confusion is in the next few verses. Let’s continue reading 1st Corinthians 11:27-32:
“For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come.
Why whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, 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 unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”
Now upon reading these verses, it would at first seem that in order for any of us to receive Communion, we must first be totally clean and absolutely holy; and this is how many churches (including ones that I attended long ago) taught it.
The trouble with this line of teaching is that it just doesn’t hold up under reason nor is it actually what the Scriptures say. Think of it, who among us could take Communion if the prerequisite was complete cleanliness or complete holiness?
You see my friends, if we examine the Scriptures, we see that Jesus always desires that we come to Him as we are — it is His job to clean us, to wash us; it is not our job to clean ourselves before coming to Him.
The word “unworthily” in verse 27 is the source of this confusion, but in verse 29 we can see what the real unworthy manner is… not discerning the LORD’s body.
Verse 30 lists this as the only reason that many believers are weak and sick today, and also why many have died prematurely (fallen asleep).
Now at this point some would ask the question: “James, what about the verses telling people to examine themselves?”
The answer to this is actually found in the surrounding verses. See a lot of people get into trouble by not actually taking the time to read what the verses are truly saying and just accept someone else’s explanation. This is why I always ask people to read the scriptures for themselves. I never want anyone to just accept something purely because I said it. I want them to accept it because it is what the Word of God actually says. Take another look at verses 31-34:
“For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
Why, my brothers, when you come together to eat, tarry one for another.
And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that you come not together to condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.”
Do you see it? If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. Notice that it does not say we would not be judged, but should not. So, what difference does this detail make? It completely changes the statement that the verse is making.
“If we would judge [take an honest look] at ourselves [in the light of the finished work of Christ Jesus] then we would see that we should not be judged or condemned.”
Now verse 32 has this to say “But when we are judged [when we feel guilty or condemned] we are chastened [lifted up, trained as a child] that we should not be condemned with the world [unbelievers].”
These are what the verses from the Bible are plainly stating. Does it seem too good to be true? In the case of our LORD Jesus, it is absolutely true.
The real purpose of the Holy Communion, as stated in verse 25 which we read at the beginning of this message, is in remembrance of Jesus. It is a remembrance, to always remind ourselves that we are healed and made whole by His body, and we are made righteous by His blood, shed for the complete removal of all of our sins. If we are not discerning His body broken for us, then we are receiving it in an unworthy manner. But when we honestly receive His body as the payment for us to be healed and His blood as the payment for our forgiveness of sins and complete righteousness in Christ, then my friends, nothing is more beautiful to our Father in Heaven, and it gives Jesus the honor and glory which His sacrifice deserves.
So let me encourage you today, don’t be afraid to take Communion, it is the provision which Jesus has given all of us to remember, and a wonderful vehicle by which we can receive from Him.
It is a lie of the enemy to tell you that you are too dirty to have communion now, or that you need to clean yourself first before coming to Jesus.
No, my friends, you come to Jesus honestly as you are, and He cleans you, totally and completely, and you are free and complete in Him.