Chapter 11:27-34 (ESV) - 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.
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.
Question to consider: What was the unworthy manner in which some in Corinth were taking the bread and cup?
Even though some of their worship practices were commendable, when it came to communion, Paul had to give them a stern warning. For instead of sharing the meal to participate in the life-giving sacrifice of Christ, they treated it as common. Some ate their fill of the bread and got drunk on the wine while others went without. In doing this, Paul warned that they were eating and drinking judgment on themselves rather than sharing in the hope and renewal it was intended to be. The sacrament had for them become poison and death rather than refreshment and life.
Paul used “body” in this passage in two ways. The first was in the sense of the communion bread as the body of Christ. Some Corinthians were guilty of making it common by selfishly feasting on it before the rest of the church could arrive to the meal. Paul exhorted them to eat at home if they were too hungry to keep the bread and wine sacred. Their lack of self control was worthy of judgment.
The second way Paul used the word, body, was in reference to the congregation - the body of Christ. The body they were to discern before eating and drinking was their fellow Corinthian believers. How could they participate in the meal without knowing whether everyone had arrived? How could they take a portion which would keep somebody else from receiving any? Today, churches are meticulous about partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an orderly fashion for this very reason. Everyone gets relatively the same amount of bread and wine, and we all participate together so that a Sunday morning will have millions and millions of Christians gathered together at the table.
You may be asking yourself, “How can we offer such a small portion and still refer to it as a meal?” Communion is not significant to us because of the amount we receive but because of the promise of God placed upon the elements. We are renewed by the Savior behind the elements, not the elements themselves. The same idea is present in our baptism. It is not the abundance of water that makes us clean but the promise of God placed upon the water.
Dear heavenly father, help us to hold fast to the sacred in a world where everything becomes profane. All around us is death and decay, but You have the words of eternal life. May Your word create new life in us and conform us to the image of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.