This is a message that is very special to me, because I have personally seen it from both sides. The church is divided in the area of communion. Some think of it as a special rite that is only for the elite few who are worthy of it. Others believe that it is merely a ritual with no real significance. Still there are others who really have no idea what communion is or why they participate in it.
So today we will be studying communion; the purpose of it and the provision in it. As we see the truth of communion in the light of the finished work of Jesus Christ, I believe that chains will be broken and people will be set free from the confusion in this area.
When I was a young boy, I heard something that a preacher said that affected me for many years. What I heard was that if I partook of the Holy Communion while there was any sin in my life, I would be cursed and fall sick. I would be eating and drinking judgment into my life. That preacher used 1st Corinthians 11:26-34 to make his point, let’s examine these verses together:
“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.
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.”
When casually reading, it seems as though the preacher was correct, but this is where we need to study and exercise some wisdom. Twice we see the word “unworthily”, first in verse 27 and again in verse 29. Both times it is an adverb; an adverb modifies the verb (action) and not the one performing the action. What we can learn from this is that these verses are not speaking about the person being unworthy to partake of communion, but the unworthy manner in which they were partaking.
When I heard that preacher tell me that I would receive judgment if I took communion when I was unworthy with sin in my life, it scared me so much that I refused to take communion. I’d rather pass on something that would end up bringing curses into my life – even as a boy I had more sense than to risk it! My mother also passed on communion for more than three years because she felt she was unworthy as well. So this same bit of confusion and bad teaching which brings fear has robbed many people from the glorious provision of communion.
Think about it, Jesus had communion with people. Were they free from sin? If not, He caused them to eat and drink unworthily. If the criteria for communion was sinlessness then no human could ever partake – only Jesus alone – because He is the only on without sin.
Yet look at what is being stated in verses 31 and 32: if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. In Luke 22:19-20, Jesus said to receive communion in remembrance of Him; and that is what is being spoken of here. If we would examine ourselves in remembrance of what Jesus Christ has done for us, how He has redeemed us, washed us and bought us back from sin, then we would see as the verse continues on to say that we should not be judged.
Now notice the two uses of the words “judge” and “judged” in verse 31. Our English translations have done us a disservice here, because in the original Greek text they are two separate words. The first word “judge” is diakrinō which means “to separate, discriminate or decide as an arbitrator”, and the second word “judged” is krinō which means “to condemn or punish”.
Do you see it? One small detail can make all the difference, and this is surely a wonderful difference. So to translate this verse properly in the light of what we have learned, it would read like this:
If we were to arbitrate and separate ourselves with regards to the finished work of Christ Jesus for us, we would see that we should not be condemned.
Now verse 32 is another area of confusion so let’s proceed to study it. But when we are judged (krinō again) we are chastened (trained, lifted-up) by the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. So we can see that this explanation now makes sense with the understanding that we now have. When we are feeling condemned, God trains us and lifts us up through the knowledge of Christ that we should not be condemned with the world.
Remember now that this is all in the context of Holy Communion. But we can already see how terribly this one preacher was robbing all of his people by frightening them away from communion. The very people who were feeling condemned by their sins were turned-away from receiving the way out – because as we just read, when we are feeling condemned, God lifts us up through the knowledge of Christ that we should not be condemned with the world… and the purpose of communion is to remember Christ. So truthfully this errant preacher was causing people to eat and drink unworthily because they were focused on themselves and their sins rather than the forgiveness and redemption that Jesus Christ paid to give them.
So we understand in detail the purpose of communion. Now let’s examine the provision that comes with it. Take another look at verses 29 and 30. We already know what it means to eat and drink unworthily, let’s see what the result of that is in verse 30: For this cause, many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
I added that emphasis for a reason… notice that it is a singular reason. The verse does not say “for these reasons…” but it says “for this cause”. This right here tells us that as per the previous verse 29, for those who discern the Lord’s body properly,they will be granted to have divine health, strength, and not “sleep” – which actually refers to premature death.
This is an area of provision that many believers have been missing. To better see this, let’s examine another area of scripture, Exodus 12:8-14.
There were two components here: the Blood, as a protection from judgment and death. When God saw the blood of the Passover Lamb, He would pass over that house, and it would be spared. That is where the name “Passover” comes from.
The other component was the Body of the Lamb. The lamb’s body was the provision for their bodies. Health and strength came to them through the roasted lamb that they ate. Many believers are receiving the blood for eternal salvation, and that is wonderful, however they are leaving the provision for their bodies behind and not receiving.
Verse 11 tells us how we should be receiving the body, with our lions girded, with shoes on our feet and a staff in our hand. Remember that the people of Israel were being delivered from slavery in Egypt, and this means there was some journeying to be done. So recognize the imagery here, God is telling them: Get ready! Eat with expectation!
Now let’s look deeper and realize that this is not just normal health we are talking about here but supernatural health. Turn now to Psalms 105:36-38:
“He smote also all the firstborn in their land, the chief of all their strength.
He brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person among their tribes.
Egypt was glad when they departed: for the fear of them fell on them.”
Verse 37 shows the wonderful physical miracle that was received by the Israelites as a result of receiving the Body of the Lamb. First of all He brought them out with silver and gold – that’s wealth. But even better still, there was not one feeble person among their tribes! That my dear friends, is supernatural health. There was not one person struggling, not one person weak, not one old or sickly person being carried. They all were the picture and definition of health!
The world tells us that as we get older our bodies naturally slow down and get weaker, but the world does not have Jesus, we have Jesus!
Now just for fun look at verse 38. Not only was this miraculous health, but supernatural divine health, because not only were they all strong and well, but they were so strong and well that the Egyptians – the ones who had been their captors and slave-masters – were glad that they were leaving because they were now afraid of them!
I want to share with you another picture of health… Luke 24:27-34, where two people were traveling down the Emmaus road and were troubled because Jesus was recently crucified. As they were walking and talking, the resurrected Christ met them and joined in their conversation, although they didn’t know who He was. Let’s read our text:
“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
And they drew near to the village, where they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and broke, and gave to them.
And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon.”
Jesus began explaining to them all of the things about Himself written in the Old Testament (all of the Bible is about Jesus). Then they ask Him to stay the night at their house because it was late, and we see something very interesting… In verse 30 Jesus proceeds to take bread, bless it, and brake it just as He had done with His disciples during communion. And as they receive that “body”, their eyes were opened and they “knew Him”. Contrast this with Genesis 3:7, were Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and their eyes were opened to sin; this time The eyes of these two people were opened to know Jesus. And this knowing was a complete and total knowing because then Jesus vanished. There was no need for His physical presence any longer because He showed them Himself in the scriptures and they had communion with Him.
Then in verse 33, they both departed all the way back to Jerusalem that same hour! They weren’t tired, they weren’t exhausted and they didn’t care how late it was. Their bodies were strengthened.
So how do we receive this for our lives today? Hebrews 9:16-17 gives us the answer:
“For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator lives.”
That word “testament” in verse 16, should be properly translated as “will”, just like a last will wen someone dies. When the person dies their will is executed and the family receives whatever is left for them in the will.
Now we know from Galatians 3:29, that in Christ we are also heirs according to the same promises that God has made. So what do these all mean. Well, Christ has already died for us, so how do we claim the will for us?
Here’s where it all ties together, go all the way back to the very first verse of our study. 1St Corinthians 11:26:
“For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come.”
My friends, each time you take communion and properly discern the Body and Blood of Jesus for you, you are claiming everything that He bought for you to have. Forgiveness of sins, health, wholeness and wealth.
Even so the greatest gift of all is to truly know Christ. We don’t go for the gifts, but the giver. If you do not know the true love of Jesus Christ for you, the other blessings are meaningless. He true purpose and provision of communion, is to proclaim the total and complete finished work of Jesus Christ for you.