For nearly 2,000 years, Christians have assembled each Lord’s Day to worship God in the manner described in the New Testament. Eating the Lord’s Supper is one of the five avenues of worship taught in the scriptures.
Perhaps the most meaningful of all the passages in the New testament concerning the Lord’s Supper is found in I Cor. 11:23-30. After having established the church at Corinth and having given the Christians oral instructions concerning this memorial meal, the Apostle Paul wrote those words.
First, there is the retrospective look, “This do in remembrance of me (v. 24). The Lord’s Supper is a period of several minutes each Lord’s Day in which we Christians look back to the life of our Lord and contemplate His love and sacrifice for us.
In the second place, there is the prospective look, “Ye proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes” (v. 26). The Lord’s Supper is to be eaten by Christians, those who not only remember that their Lord dies to make possible their salvation, but who also look forward to His eventual coming again.
What does it mean to partake of the supper unworthily? “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily (Greek word “anaxious” meaning treating it as a common meal) shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” (v. 27) The words of warning were written to cause each Christian to realize the seriousness which attends the eating of this memorial meal. It is to be done reverently and thoughtfully, never carelessly and idly. During the time of the eating of the Lord’s Supper, every Christian should make a supreme effort to be sure that he/she is worshipping acceptably.
What does it mean? Some have thought that the passage refers to a person who has lived a sinful life during the recent past, and that he/she should not partake of the Lord’s Supper. In this passage, Paul is speaking directly to the Corinthians who were guilty of partaking of the Lord’s Supper with a spirit of division (v. 18), factions (v. 19), selfishness in indulgence (v. 21), neglecting the poor (v. 21) unthoughtfulness and carelessness in approaching the Lord’s Supper. This list seems to indicate that having sin within one’s heart and life is what is meant by partaking unworthily. But this verse does not have reference to the life of the one partaking, but to the manner of the actual eating of the Lord’s Supper itself.
Not to discern (diakrino, means to separate thoroughly) or think of Christ and His death for us while eating the Lord’s Supper is the sin being warned against in this verse. The manner in which the individual partakes of the Lord’s Supper is the message in this verse.
The Lord’s Supper is a witness of the great sacrifice of all ages. “But let a man examine (dokimazo, process of proving) himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (v. 28) As one prepares to partake of the Lord’s Supper, he/she should examine themselves and make sure that they approach it as a memorial to the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord -- not a common meal.
It is true, however, that the Christian who has fallen into sin does need to repent genuinely and pray for God’s forgiveness before he/she comes to the Lord’s Table. When this is done, he/she needs to come and partake; because this person, above all things, needs the spiritual strength that this Supper provides.