27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (1 Corinthians 11:27–29, NKJV)
Some read this verse, and upon examining their spiritual life they conclude themselves to be unworthy to eat the Lord’s supper. But look closer. The point of this verse is not one’s character, but one’s conduct while eating the supper. (If a Christian has sins preventing proper worship, then repentance and confessional prayer assures God’s forgiveness, Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jno. 1:9. When one’s sins are forgiven he or she is indeed worthy to eat the supper and to offer other worship to God.) Today’s verse requires us to examine ourselves concerning the manner in which we eat the supper. It warns us against eating it “in an unworthy manner.” This happens when we fail to eat the supper as a memorial of Christ’s body and blood (v. 23-26). The Corinthians had turned it into a selfish meal that provoked division in the church. This perverted the purpose of the Lord’s supper made their worship vain (1 Cor. 1:18-21). If we do not remember Christ’s body and blood when we eat the bread and drink the cup, we are guilty crucifying the Lord. Such a damning judgment reflects how serious it is to eat the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner.
25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:25–26, NKJV)
After the Passover meal, Jesus continued inaugurating His supper by telling His apostles to drink “this cup” which “is the new covenant in My blood.” He explained that the “fruit of the vine” (“the cup”) signifies His blood “which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). The bread, symbolizing His body, and the juice of the grape, symbolizing His blood, constitute the elements of the Lord’s supper. His supper was not an extension of the Passover meal (a feast of the old covenant). Neither did Jesus institute His supper as part of a larger “fellowship meal” or “table fellowship” as some has contrived. It is a memorial meal during which unleavened bread and the juice of the grape are eaten in memory of the Lord’s death that dedicated His new covenant (by which the remission of sins is offered to all, Heb. 9:16-22). Until Christ returns, Christians proclaim His death each time they eat His supper. This simple and solemn memorial meal calls us back to Golgotha and the sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the world. We must reverently and always partake of it as the Lord intended – as a memorial and a proclamation of His death.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23–24, NKJV)
The Lord’s supper is not a church tradition that was developed by centuries of human customs and adaptations. Neither do the Scriptures describe it as a sacrament of the church (that is, an outward sign causing grace in the soul of a person). By revelation, the apostle received the teaching he now gives concerning the eating of and the purpose of the Lord’s supper (cf. Gal. 1:11-12). While eating the Passover meal with His apostles, Jesus instituted something new and different that would be eating in the kingdom of God (Lk. 22:14-20; Matt. 26:26-29). The unleavened bread would bear new meaning, representing the body of Christ (the bread is not the actual body of Jesus). Eating this bread is a solemn remembrance of Christ’s body that He sacrificed for us. Thus, “the bread which we break” is “the communion of the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16). The bread of the Lord’s supper does not satisfy the belly – it is not a table meal. It serves to awaken our memory of the death of Christ, whose body hung suspended on a cross for our sins. Eating the bread of the Lord’s supper is designed to focus our attention on Christ’s body, reverently remembering His unselfish love toward us.
Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11, NKJV)
Even as earthly fathers provide for their families on a daily basis, it is God Himself who gives the rain for the food we eat, “filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). Jesus assures us that our heavenly Father knows our physical needs and provides them to us in due season (Matt. 6:31-33).Therefore, our prayers are to be filled with joyful thanksgiving to our Father for His daily provisions. He gives and sustains our lives, and it is the ungrateful heart that eats without giving thanks and expressing faithful dependency upon God for life and its sustenance (1 Tim. 4:4-5). This portion of Christ’s model prayer reminds us that our prayers should gratefully recognize God as the loving and constant source of life’s provisions every day.
So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:3, NKJV)
God allowed Israel to be hungry in the wilderness, before feeding them with manna for forty years. God was teaching them a lesson, one that proved difficult for them to remember. The daily bread from heaven they received taught them dependence on God for their daily bread. But, it taught so much more. Israel’s existence in the promised land depended on them living by every word that came from God’s mouth (Deut. 8:1). Jesus used this verse to withstand the devil’s temptation (Matt. 4:4). Jesus is the “bread of God,” the “living bread” who came down from heaven to give us the food that enables us to live forever (Jno. 6:33-35, 48, 51, 57-58). Like Israel, we must know our hunger for eternal life before we are prepared to partake of the bread of God, Jesus Christ, and live forever. Our hunger for eternal life leads us to know that we only have life when we keep every word of God (Rom. 1:16-17).
And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” (Numbers 21:5, NKJV)
God fed Israel bread from heaven every day for forty years during their wilderness wandering (Exo. 16:36). But, instead of joyful thanksgiving, Israel repaid the Lord God with the sins of complaining, grumbling and ingratitude. Do you find yourself complaining about God’s good gifts? For example, do you complain about Jesus, the “bread of God” which came from heaven to give life to the world (Jno. 6:33-35)? Do you resist His will, complaining and grumbling against His commands that are intended for your spiritual and eternal good? Give thanks in everything, and do not complain when Jesus commands your obedience. Learn from Israel and never allow your soul to loathe Jesus as “worthless bread.”