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Communion Meditations (2013)

Self Examination


Originally scheduled for August 11

We are told that all Scripture is profitable. We may therefore look at today’s example seeking for our own benefit.

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.

(1 Corinthians 11:27-32 NASB)


This passage addresses a common fallacy among Christians. We often think that communion is “just a ritual.” We think of it as a Memorial — but with no potential impact on our lives. Paul, in this passage, such as right. If you think that you can take communion with no effort at repentance and self-examination, you are wrong in a most deadly way. If you can remember the sacrifice of Christ and yet let it have no effect on your life, then I would question whether or not you have a working example of hypocrisy. You most certainly have a working example of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace. In his words:

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

We might look at it this way: suppose we could hear the inner thoughts of people as they approach the Lord’s Supper. We might here in one man’s mind what appears to be a grateful recitation of his blessings, including the fact that he is a righteous man, with nothing to confess or repent — and very happy that this is the case. Another man might simply be saying, “Lord, be merciful to me, the sinner.” We know which of the two is going to be forgiven.

That’s the choice in each of us has to make every time we approach the Lord’s Supper. We have to decide whether or not we are going to politely say, “it’s only a ritual” or that it is a ritual in the face of Almighty God. Ritual in the face of Almighty God is never meaningless, and is very likely to provoke him to divine action. Paul points out here that illness and death may result from the wrong attitude towards Communion. Whatever else that means, it means that Communion is not “just a ritual.”

So therefore we must serve proper and timely warning: examine yourself. See if there is something in your life which needs to be brought before the cleansing blood of Christ. Do not fear to bring it to your Lord; he knows your needs, he knows your weaknesses. He wants you to bring them to him. He longs to forgive you and to make you whole — but you must ask for forgiveness. That starts with the process of self-examination. Lord, be merciful to us, the sinners.

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