What is communion? Why do we practice (if we practice) this ritual? Could there be more to this act and its corresponding passages than we often realize? I would like to suggest that the answer is yes! As the old hymn says, “There is power in the Blood”!
Discerning the Lord’s Body
“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; 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.’ 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.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 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. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.“ 1 Cor 11:23-30
I believe that our misunderstanding of this passage and the Atonement has lead many of us to be weak, sick, and to die an untimely death. Below, I’ll discuss the purpose of the Blood and the Body of Christ.
a) The Blood – This much we have understood well. As John wrote, “…and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” 1 John 1:7.
The Blood took care of the Sin issue:
“…this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Matt 26:28
“… and we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.” Rom 3:24-25
“…to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Eph 1:6-8
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” Leviticus 17:11.
“Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Hebrews 9:12.
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now ONCE in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Hebrews 9:24-26.
The blood heals, redeems and removes sin for the soul and cleanses our conscience.
b) The Body – Jesus calls us to partake of his body, in remembrance of him. This is the part of the Lord’s Supper where we, as the Church, seem to often miss. For when was the Church broken and killed for the sins of the world? Almost seems like a silly question, right? Why is it then that many will read verse 29,
“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body”,
and say that we need to discern things within our congregation (the Church), and make sure there aren’t any grudges or unforgiveness? There should never, regardless of the time or occasion, be issues of sin (anger, strife, grudges, immorality) among believers! You don’t need the Lord’s Supper to remind you of that. And examining ourselves (not introspectively, but by Holy Spirit) to see if we are in sin should be a constant practice of every believer.
Therefore, I would like to suggest that the body we are to discern is not the Church. The church was not broken for mankind, nor are we healed by the stripes of the Church. The body we discern is the body of Jesus Christ.
The Body was broken for us during the Passion of Christ Jesus. His body being broken was part of the Atonement for mankind. By HIS stripes, we are healed. The Blood dealt with the Sin issue. The Body dealt with the wages of sin: weakness, sickness, curses, and death.
Now what is the meaning behind the ‘unworthy manner’, the ‘examination’, and ‘discerning the Lord’s body’? Let’s explore this.
i) We have all heard about the dangers of partaking in an ‘unworthy manner’. But what manner is unworthy? Is it when we fail to be introspective? No! Read 1 Corinthians 11:17-22: We know the Corinthian church had a track record of unrighteous actions within itself (divisions among believers, selfishness, drunkenness, etc.). So don’t partake of the Supper of the Lord the way they did. They were treating it like the pagan feasts they were used to participating in before coming to know Christ.
ii) Then why must we ‘examine ourselves’? I would like to suggest we are called to examine ourselves to see if any of us have some fruit, or products of sin in our physical bodies – to be sick, injured, weak, or dying. This is why Paul writes, “For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.”
We have had a great understanding that Jesus has atoned for our sins in the Church. By his blood, we are made clean and righteous before God. But what we must also embrace is that we are also able to examine ourselves for any trace of the products of sin. Sin is to the soul what sickness is to the body – BOTH HAVE BEEN DEALT WITH.
Therefore, just as we are confident in the fact that our sins have been atoned for, we must have confidence that our infirmities can no longer have a legal right to our bodies. When we examine ourselves, we examine soul and body, for the Lord has given his Blood and his Body.
Now, understanding this, let’s move on to the next verse.
iii) “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment (κρίμα krima – ‘condemnation of wrong’) on himself, not discerning (διακρίνω diakrinō – ‘make distinction’, ‘prefer’) the Lord’s body.”
Why do we need to recognize the body of the Lord Jesus Christ?
“[Jesus] bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” 1 Pet 2:24.
The Blood of Jesus heals, redeems, and atones for the SOUL. And the Body of Jesus heals, redeems, and atones for our physical BODIES.
“[God] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4)
“saved”; σῴζω sōzō – verb, “save, i.e., from perishing, suffering, or sickness.” SOZO saves the soul AND heals the body. It is a complete work.
If we ‘eat and drink’, meaning, participate in this act of remembering that Jesus was the Atonement for Mankind, yet do so without recognizing that His Body was broken for us in order to deliver us from the consequences of sin (weakness, sickness, and death, as Paul noted), we fail to embrace the full measure of His Atonement. Therefore, we are left as though we are still condemned (that is, in a fallen state), even though we are legally redeemed, when we fail to acknowledge the full measure of His Sacrifice.
iv) “For if we would judge (διακρίνω diakrinō – ‘make distinction’, ‘prefer’) ourselves, we would not be judged (κρίνω krinō – ‘be put asunder’, ‘be judged’). But when we are judged (κρίνω krinō), we are chastened (παιδεύω paideuō – ‘instructed’, ‘taught’, ‘corrected as a child’) by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” 1 Cor 11:31-32
Ok, so what is Paul saying here in verse 31? If we would make a judgment call regarding ourselves, seeing if we have deeds of sin, and/or sickness and disease, and knowing that they are illegal, then we discern the Lord’s Body and embrace his full work of Atonement for us. If we would discern the Lord’s Body, and understand that he is the final Atonement for our sins, and the products of sin – infirmities, sickness, and death – then we can receive freedom from the consequences, or “wages”, of sin. Many Christians believe the sin issue has been dealt with, but fail to realize that the products of sin – sickness and death – have also been atoned for by the Body. This is again why Paul then says, “For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.”
Then in verse 32, Paul relieves the fear his readers may have, thinking, “Am I now condemned because I’ve failed to discern the Lord’s Body?” The answer is no! For even if we have failed to discern the atonement through the Body of Jesus, Jesus Himself teaches us, leads us, and guides us into full revelation of His work, “that we may not be condemned with the world.”
I strongly feel that whether we participate in Communion in house churches or in our weekly gatherings, there is opportunity for power to flow when we celebrate the sacrifice of Christ. It renews our mind to the work of the Cross – in fact it’s like renewing our vows with Jesus! We are married to Him, in covenant. I’ve even heard testimonies of people getting healed during communion without anyone praying for them!
written by Leo De Siqueira