Q105. What is required to be a worthy receiver of the Lord’s Supper?
A105. It is required of them that would worthily (that is, suitably) partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves—of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body; of their faith to feed upon Him; of their repentance, love, and new obedience––lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.
1 Corinthians 11:27-31. “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.”
1 Corinthians 5:8. “Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
2 Corinthians 13:5. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”
In 1 Corinthians 11:28 the Apostle Paul commands the Corinthians, saying, “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” From the early church until today, worthy receivers of the Lord’s Supper must examine their hearts, minds, and lives before eating the bread and drinking the cup. No one was or is permitted to partake of the Lord’s Supper with a heart filled with contempt or foolishness toward the Lord or His people. The Lord does not tolerate unbelief or disobedience in those who partake. It is those who express true faith in Jesus Christ that are permitted to partake. Though the examination is difficult and heart-rending at times, it is those who express true faith in Jesus Christ that welcome it every time the Lord’s Supper is taken.
In 1 Corinthians 11:29 the Apostle Paul writes, “For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.” The Greek word which is translated as “judge” means “to separate” or “to make a distinction.” The Corinthians failed to distinguish the Lord’s Supper from the Love Feast (which was a fellowship meal that preceded the Lord’s Supper). By blending the two meals together (not to mention abusing the elements and mistreating one another), the Lord’s Supper became common or ordinary as opposed to being holy. Today, believers individually and churches collectively run the same risk of treating the Lord’s Supper as common or ordinary, as another religious ceremony.
The underlying reason for this behavior for both the Corinthians and for believers today comes stems from an inadequate view of Christ Himself. If the Lord’s Supper is viewed as common or ordinary then it is likely that Christ Himself is viewed as common or ordinary. The beauty and glory of Christ must be known intellectually and experientially. He must be viewed as He is described in Hebrews 7:26: “…holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens…” if His supper will be viewed as holy. In other words, as goes our knowledge and experience of Christ so goes our regard for the Lord’s Supper.
A due examination of our interest in Christ is in line with what Paul commands the Corinthians at the end of his second letter to them. He writes, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” The Greek words which are translated as “test” and “examine” together in this verse mean “to scrutinize something so as to prove its genuineness.” The Corinthians and receivers today are commanded to subject themselves to the scrutiny of God, His Word, and their own consciences so that they can know with certainty their true spiritual condition. By so doing, they can know whether or not they have eaten Christ’s flesh and drank Christ’s blood by faith and thus become worthy receivers of the Lord’s Supper.
As 1 Corinthians 11 indicates, the repentance of the Corinthians was not up to date. They had not repented of their careless and irreverent behavior toward Christ and their fellow church members. The love of the Corinthians had grown cold toward Christ and their fellow church members. They failed to affectionately bring to mind both Christ and His death on the cross in their place. Similarly, they failed to love their fellow church members. The obedience of the Corinthians had declined. They failed to take Christ at His Word and obey His clear command concerning the Lord’ Supper.
What can be learned from 1 Corinthians 11? To be a worthy receiver of the Lord’s Supper one must have spiritually tasted the body and blood of Christ and seen that He is good. All known sin toward Christ and fellow believers must be dealt with or put away before taking the Lord’s Supper. Reconciliation between the believer and Christ must take place. Reconciliation between believers must take place. Otherwise, the Lord’s Supper is taken in an unworthy manner and temporary judgment will come.
However, the Apostle Paul (and God Himself) desires that this not take place. Through an honest and thorough examination, receivers can avoid eating the bread and drinking the cup in an unworthy way and thus being “guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.” That being said, even the temporary judgment of the Lord demonstrates His goodness and is meant to turn the offender(s) away from eternal condemnation.
May the Holy Spirit help each of us to regard both Christ and His Supper as holy as so be worthy receivers of the Lord’s Supper. Amen.