One of the central passages in the Bible concerning Communion (the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper) is 1 Corinthians 11:23-34. There, the Apostle Paul gives direction to the church for proper observation of the sacrament. He includes a warning: eating and drinking this Communion meal in an unworthy manner is sin and will be punished. He counsels that those coming to participate in the sacrament “ought to consider” themselves. What should we consider?
First of all, Paul makes a clear connection between the elements of this table and the Lord Jesus Christ. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 for instance. Taking part in this meal is a testimony that what is represented in the bread and cup–namely the Lord Jesus Christ’s body and blood–are truly embraced in the communicant’s heart. If you are not counting on Jesus Christ for your salvation, eating and drinking of this sacrament would be hypocritical. That’s one thing to consider.
Secondly, there is the matter of sin. The larger context of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth is one of right living and right relationships with others. Take a quick tour of the letter. It’s vitally important to be living right with God and others, otherwise you’re simply going through religious motions. That’s a consistent point of emphasis. That’s another thing to consider.
This isn’t a regulation that says sinners cannot come, however. If it were, none of us would be fit to Commune. Think of the money the church would save on bread and juice! No, it is precisely because we are sinners that this meal is a blessing–it reminds us that… well, let me show you a big but about it:
But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us.
It’s not that we’re good and therefore deserving of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice. It is that God loved us enough that Christ died for us while we were undeserving.
In this way Communion affords us a great opportunity to “come clean.” It’s a great opportunity to recognize… again, let me show you another but, this one from the Apostle John:
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the righteous one.
Communion is a great opportunity to cling again, anew and afresh to our Advocate. So, going back to the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he advises: But if we judged ourselves we would not come under judgment.
Great advice and thought provocation when you next prepare your heart to observe Communion.