Summary: God calls us to judge ourselves before we worship, or face His judgement because we dishonoured Him. The judgement revolves around recognition of the Body of Christ, the people of God.
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”
“We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ” [2 CORINTHIANS 5:10]. This knowledge serves to restrain many of God’s people from pursuing evil. Christians live with the knowledge that they will face a divine review of the conduct of their lives. They know that there is a day in which they will stand as open books before the Judgement Seat of Christ. This is not a judgement to determine if the Christian is saved or lost; it is a judgement of the conduct of their lives since believing. However, Christians even now face judgement on an ongoing basis.
Those who preach the Word are judged on an ongoing basis by the Lord; and they know that they are subject to greater scrutiny as their ministry is reviewed. Our conduct as Christians is judged by the world who watches to see how we conduct our lives. How many people are turned from considering the Faith by wickedness in the lives of professed saints of the Most High God? We are responsible to be discerning about the way fellow Christians live, holding one another accountable before the Lord. In our text, the Apostle instructs those participating at the Lord’s Table to judge themselves, or face judgement by the Lord Himself.
AN INVITATION TO JUDGE OURSELVES — The text presents an invitation to judgement. Either we will judge ourselves whenever we approach the Lord’s Table, or we are informed that the Lord Himself will judge us. We are urged, therefore, to engage in self-judgement before we partake of the Meal. The criterion for self-judgement is our view of the Lord’s Table. The basis for self-judgement is our attitude towards worshipping the Lord Jesus. The purpose for self-judgement is to ensure that we worship according to the will of the Lord. Each of these points is vital, demanding that as Christians we understand what we are doing.
The Criterion for Self-Judgement is Our Understanding of the Lord’s Table. Do we observe a magical rite? Does participating in the Meal make an individual holy or somehow more acceptable to God? Do we come before the Lord only to be judged on how perfectly we perform the ritual? If we heed the teaching of much of Christendom and agree with the attitude of the most of those who participate at one time of another, the Meal is magical, a means to make us acceptable before the Lord, and we must therefore perform the ritual precisely.
However, neither in the institution of the Meal nor in the prescriptions for conduct of the Meal are there found such sentiments. When He instituted the Meal the Master “took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body’” [MATTHEW 26:26]. Had He offered His arm and said, “Bite Me,” the disciples would have been repulsed. However, they understood that the bread He broke was symbolic.
Had they any doubts concerning the fact that drinking from the cup was symbolic participation in the blood of the Master, they would have surrendered any such doubts when He took the cup and gave thanks before offering it to them. He said, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” [MATTHEW 26:28]. Jesus stated that He offered juice and not blood—the same juice they had just drunk at the Passover celebration; and even had there been misunderstanding concerning what was offered, that misunderstanding would have been cleared up when the Lord Jesus added, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s Kingdom” [MATTHEW 26:29].
During previous messages I have stressed my belief that the majority of evangelical Christians have transformed the Meal until it is difficult to recognise what it was meant to be. The Meal is now a Christian ordinance rather than a church ordinance. No longer is the Meal strictly a congregational act of worship, subject to the oversight of the church, but it is now a sacrament subject to the desire of the participants. This transformation of the Meal is in keeping with the stress on democratic decision-making among the churches, rather than consensus after prayer and appeal to the Word of God. In other words, modern Christians will loudly demand their rights, even at the Lord’s Table, rather than humbly submit to the Lord of the church.