Should you examine yourself before taking the Lord’s Supper?
Quick Answer: Should you examine yourself before taking the Lord’s Supper? Two thousand years ago, the Corinthians were getting drunk and eating up all the food at the Lord’s Supper. It was for this reason that Paul said they were partaking in an “unworthy manner” and needed to examine themselves. But the Lord’s Supper is to be done in remembrance of Jesus Christ and His finished work, not in remembrance of our recent track record of sins. So, we can keep the focus on Jesus and celebrate the Lord’s Supper with joy!
Diving Deeper: The lights dim and the somber music plays. You’re invited to examine your recent sin record in order to get right for the Lord’s Supper. Although we see this scenario in many churches, is this what the Apostle Paul intended when he said, “let a man examine himself” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)?
Not at all, in fact. When we examine the context, we see the antics the Corinthian believers were engaging in at the Lord’s Supper. In 1 Corinthians 11:18, Paul writes, “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it.” Apparently, there were conflicts when they came together to eat the Lord’s Supper. Then we find out some were getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper, while others were eating up all the food. This was the “unworthy manner” Paul was pointing out. In short, the Corinthians were making a mockery of the Lord’s Supper!
Therefore, Paul was rebuking them for disrespecting the body and the blood of Christ. For this reason, he told them to examine what they were doing: “But a person must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28). Paul was essentially saying, “You’re acting crazy. It’s inappropriate that you are getting drunk, eating all the food, and leaving the poor with nothing to eat.” This was the unworthy manner, and this was why Paul instructed them to examine their practices.
This is precisely why Paul goes on to say that some of the Corinthians were weak, sick, and falling asleep. Here, he makes reference to the sickness and passing out (or even death!) that comes from alcoholism. (Note here that some have wrongly suggested God was striking the Corinthians with weakness or sickness as a punishment for their irreverence, but there is no evidence in the passage for such a view!) We always want to keep in mind that Jesus took our punishment for sins in full, and there is no punishment left from God for any believer (John 5:24; John 3:18).
One might wonder why the passage states that they were “coming together for judgment”, but this once again simply refers to their feuds and factions, as they were judging each other. Finally, Paul’s solution of “waiting for one another” and “eating at home first” proves the entire issue was the way the Corinthians were conducting themselves at the supper. The solution was simple and straightforward – change their practices.
Paul’s remarks had nothing to do with Christians being unforgiven, uncleansed, or unworthy. So, we don’t have to try to get forgiven and cleansed each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Christians are forgiven. We are qualified by the blood of Jesus. We can always take the Lord’s Supper with thankfulness and respect. We don’t have to clean up our lives first or somehow improve ourselves or cleanse ourselves beforehand. That’s what the blood of Jesus did for us – once for all (Hebrews 10:14).
Jesus instructed that The Lord’s Supper be done in remembrance of Him, not in remembrance of our recent track record. The Lord’s Supper should always be a celebration of what Jesus accomplished – His death that brought us forgiveness and His resurrection that brought us new life.
Let’s Make It a Conversation!
1. What has been your experience with the Lord’s Supper? Have you felt the need to examine your sins and “qualify”?
2. Some have claimed that God was striking the Corinthians. How does this idea contradict what Jesus did for us on the cross?
3. How does understanding the true context of 1 Corinthians 11 help you celebrate communion with greater focus on Jesus?