By Dan Bailey
It is good for us to study and meditate upon the memorial of the Lord's Supper. At one time in Corinth, the apostle Paul had to rebuke the brethren for intermingling the Lord's Supper with a common meal. God expects our worship to be according to His Word, and to be spiritual in nature. Paul wrote the church in Corinth saying: "When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not" (I Corinthians 11:20-22).
Paul was not condemning Christians for partaking of a common meal together, but he was condemning the intermingling of that meal with worship. Paul's purpose was to keep the common meal separate and distinct from the worship service. Sometimes Christians gather together for a common meal in a home, a restaurant, or somewhere on the church property. There is nothing at all sinful with this. However, it should be distinct from our worship services.
Paul went on to say, "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come" (I Corinthians 11:23-26).
When Jesus said of the bread, "Take eat: this is my body," He was not saying that the bread really, that is, literally, became His body. But rather that it was symbolic of His body, or represented or stood for, His body. The bread brings to our memory the precious body of our Lord that was suspended between heaven and earth upon the old rugged cross.
The cup mentioned in I Corinthians 11:25, meant the contents of the cup, or the fruit of the vine. There are some who believe that Christ meant for His disciples to use only one physical cup while partaking of the Lord's Supper. This is to confuse the container with that which is in the container. Whether we use one physical cup or many, does not effect the contents of the cup. Jesus said, "...This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me" (I Corinthians 11:25). The cup is not literally blood, but it represents, or is symbolic of the blood, of the Lamb of God.
When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, He said, "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). When we partake of the Lord's Supper we do so in remembrance of His death. "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come" (I Corinthians 11:26).
To partake of the Lord's Supper "unworthily" has reference to the manner or disposition of heart while partaking of the supper. Each person is to "examine himself" and to "discern the Lord's body." To discern the Lord's body is to make the proper separation or distinction between the common meal, common things, and spiritual worship. If there is no separation of the two, then Christ is not properly set apart or honored in our hearts. Our worship needs to be as directed from God's Word.
The final thought from Albert Barnes enumerates reasons why one should examine himself before taking the Lord's Supper. --