Do we need to judge ourselves at the service of Lord’s table?

We perhaps have seen the new teaching on the Lord’s supper by some man from Kerala who pulverized the traditional teaching on the Lord’s supper. It is nothing but the fulfilment of Acts 20: 29 – 31 which says “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn every one night and day with tears.”

Let’s analysis the issue here in detail. We all cling to the doctrine that persuades us to examine ourselves before taking part in the Lord’s Supper. The proponent of this new teaching has overturned the doctrine and says that it is not the time to remember our shortcomings. Rather, he forces his adherents to only examine the body of Christ. Though this is partially true as he says, many believers hailing from Kerala, think that they must discern their own body as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11: 29, “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner, eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” The Malayalam translation has missed out on the word “Lord’s body”, leading many to believe in the same manner. It is true that 1 Corinthians 11 exhorts us to examine the body and blood of Christ, but it does not mean that we are free from judging ourselves on the occasion of Holy communion. A careful study of the scripture can wipe out the confusion and give us a strong ground to consent to the apostates.

When we interpret a pericope from the Bible, we must also consider the immediate context for what purpose the author has written it. Here Paul was addressing a different issue that existed at the Corinth church. First of all, there was a division in the Corinth Church and as we flip through the pages of history we see that the division was not only in terms of leadership but also in terms of social and class. In the first century, there was an occasion called the love feast before they broke the bread. The Believers who were rich and affluent used to come to the meetings early as they had relatively less work. But the poor came late as they had to toil for their survival. Those who came early used to eat and drink as they wanted and when poor believers came there was nothing left for them. By the time they broke the bread some were overfed and drunk but not many of them. So there was disharmony in the body of Christ. Having this issue in mind, apostle Paul urged the believers of the Corinth church to discern the body of Christ first and then to examine themselves. Apostle Paul longed to see the believers of Corinth, understanding the real truth in the Lord’s supper. The truth is, as the bread consists of multiple flours, similarly the body of Christ comprised of everyone who believes in Him. In other words, believers are the body of Christ only when they are united. A well-known historian described likewise about the early Church, “within their own limits they had solved almost, by the way, the social problem which baffled Rome and baffles Europe still. They had lifted women to her right place, restored the dignity of labour, abolished beggary, and drawn the sting of slavery. The secret of the revolution is that the selfishness of race and class was forgotten in the supper of the Lord, and a new basis for society found in the love of the visible image of God in men for whom Christ died”. It was a similar dream that Apostle Paul had for the Corinth Church. According to Paul, a church where social and class distinctions existed is not at all the body of Christ. As William Barclay puts it, “A real church is a body of men and women united to each other because all are united to Christ”. But the church at Corinth failed drastically in this area and what provoked Paul was that even in the atmosphere of Lord’s supper they exhibited this disunity. He did not warn them to break the church of God, but to build them up.

Therefore in this passage of the scripture, the demand for self-examination of believers at Corinth and the body of Christ are inevitable. As far as the self-examination is concerned, was it only applied to Corinthians? As the so-called teachers of hyper-grace say, Are we exempted from self-examination? Of course not! When we read 1 Corinthians 11: 26, 27, it says “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.” In the bible, whenever a verse starts with the word, “Therefore” we must consider the preceding verse. Here verses 26 says as often as we take part in the Lord’s supper, we proclaim the Lord’s death. As Lord’s supper is not taken part in any public place, this does not relate to non-believers or non-Christians. We, as a church, proclaim to ourselves that our Lord came, died and rose again and got the victory over sin and death.

So let us also examine what Apostle Paul says about Christ death. According to Romans 6: 10, Jesus died to sin once for all, but the life that He lives, He lives to God. The same chapter of Romans also says that those who were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death. In other words, we are united together in the likeness of His death. So what should be the outcome, if we all those who have taken the baptism united into His death? We should be in the likeness of the verse – Romans 6:10, as Christ died to sin once for all and the life He lives, He lives to God. Romans 6:6,7 says, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died, has been freed from sin.“ This is the kind of death that our Saviour had faced for us and He also united us into His death. So that we no longer be slaves of sin but slaves of righteousness.

Now coming back to 1 Corinthians 11, when we approach the Lord’s table this thought must dominate us. We all must recall the kind of death, Christ had died as we approach the Lord’s supper. As we examine His death and our relation to His death, there should not be any spot of sin in our life. Therefore if anyone partake the Lord’s table in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord (1 Cor. 11: 27). The Spirit of God admonishes us through Paul to examine our life. 1 Cor. 11:28 says, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” He did not ask us to stay away from it but to examine ourselves before partaking at the Lord’s table.

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