Summary: How are we to observe the Lord's Supper in a suitable manner?
This morning we will observe the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Are you ready? Last week in announcing that we will have it, I exhorted you to prepare your hearts to receive it properly. The Book of Church Order requires the announcement so that “all may come in a suitable manner to this holy feast.” Are you ready to observe it in the proper manner? How do you get ready? For that matter, are you qualified to receive it? Our text this morning provides for us an examination time to answer these questions.
Recall the context and argument. The Corinth believers celebrate the sacrament as part of a religious meal held in someone’s home. They have shown bad table manners. The more well-to-do take advantage of their social standing to receive more and better food than their brethren who are on the lower end of the social ladder. This is despicable behavior. The very meal intended to display unity in the body of Christ is being used to display divisions. It shows a disdain for the church of Christ.
Paul recalls for them the words of institution in an effort to impress upon them the sacred intent of the sacrament. The bread and cup represent the very body and blood of their Lord. They speak to the new covenant made by Christ for his people. To receive them is to proclaim the benefits of his death – salvation and inclusion in his covenant. Therefore, the participants should understand what the Table means and in what manner they should participate.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.
With such a warning, we certainly want to know what is an “unworthy manner.” We get our answer through context (what the Corinthians were doing), through the previous verses that reveal the worthy manner, and the following verses that further clue us in. Again, the context is the disrespect that some believers are showing their brothers and sisters in Christ. That disrespect is carried over to the sacrament itself, because they are showing it at the very table of the Lord. Indeed, they treat the sacrament as little more than any other social event. The sacredness has departed the tradition.
What constitutes a worthy observance? Remembrance of Jesus Christ: “Do this in remembrance of me” (24, 25); “proclaim the Lord’s death.” An unworthy manner is, again, to partake of the sacred meal as though eating a common meal (or snack in our case).
The next two verses give us further insight. First, verse 28: Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
Examine what about himself? That is the big question. Is he to look for sin in his life? He should always do that. This examination is what gives him freedom to partake of the sacrament without inviting judgment upon himself. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.