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Communion Meditations (2015)

         Self Examination

Originally scheduled for October 11

1 Corinthians 11:28 NASB  (28)  But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.


It is an often repeated injunction, but a seldom explained one. We are told to examine ourselves; just what does that mean? We might begin with a problem that Paul is trying to solve in this passage. It seems that some of the Corinthians were treating the Lord’s Supper more or less like a potluck. Worse, they were exhibiting rather bad manners in doing so. Those who arrived early seem to have been fed quite well; others went hungry. Some of them got drunk in the process. Whatever else this might mean, it’s obvious that these people were not taking the Lord’s Supper seriously at all. Paul tells them that in that instance they are guilty of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So it is that he tells them that they should examine themselves first. It’s a common thought in the Old Testament and the New Testament; self-examination is a requirement so that you might produce the fruits of repentance. The word itself in this context is often used to mean to test something, like you might put a bar of metal to a test. John Wesley put this fairly simply; you must know the nature and design of the Lord’s Supper and desire to comply with both. Put shortly, know what you’re doing and do it right. Another commentator said that it should always be done “in loving remembrance.” You are to remember what the Lord did for you at the Cross.

These criteria exclude certain people from taking communion. For example, most churches do not offer communion to infants, for they are not capable of understanding what they are doing. But we might extend that; if someone claims to be a Christian, but does not really understand what the Lord’s Supper is, we might at that point tell them not to participate until they do. But suppose someone comes in to take the Lord’s Supper while he is furious and angry; a state which does not do much for the ability to examine oneself carefully. Should we not, in Christian charity, decline to serve such a man? Take that little bit further. What about the man who is willing to partake in the Lord’s Supper, but not willing to repent? We do him no favors by offering communion to such a man.

So what should we do? We need to remember that communion is a sacrament: an outward sign of your inward intentions. When you take communion you declare the death of our Lord Jesus Christ as being the atonement which covers your sins. Look inside yourself; do you really mean this? If not, it is better not to partake. But if you are willing to do so knowing what the bread and cup really mean, in full sincerity and great love for your Savior, do so. Then go forth this week and show the world that you are one who is in full communion with our Lord and Savior.

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