NOT DISCERNING THE LORD'S BODY

In his admonition and exhortation to the  Corinthians concerning the proper way to observe the Passover and  the Festival  of Unleavened Bread, the apostle Paul gives a very serious warning about the rituals of bread and wine:

"Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup  of the Lord, unworthy, shall be guilty of the body and blood of  the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of  that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eats and drinks  unworthy,  eats  and drinks damnation to himself, not  discerning  the Lord's body" (1.Cor.11:27-29 KJV).

The Corinthians

In  order to understand what Paul said in this  admonition  to the Corinthians, it is important to understand  something about  these  people whom the Father called out of  the  city  of Corinth to become his children.

The  Corinthian  Church seems to have been a group of  Christians with many problems. Both of Paul's letters to them contain strong correction. The first letter was almost totally devoted to correction  and admonition and it contained many remarks  about their poor spiritual behavior.

No  other  Church of God is corrected on as many  points  as  the Corinthians. This fact in itself should tell us something about the spiritual character and maturity of these Christians.  Although they were children of God, they had major problems  in understanding how to conduct themselves and they were truly babes  in the faith. See 1.Cor.3:1-2.

Paul reprimanded the  Corinthians about envy, strife, division of opinions, jealousies, immorality, incest, lawsuits, drunkenness, conceit,  lack  of Christian  love,  carnal mindedness, desecration  of the  body (i.e., the temple of God), intellectual vanity, misuse of spiritual  gifts, and disorderly and shameful conduct in and out  of  church meetings.

The picture Paul paints of the Corinthian Church is of people who were dying spiritually and allowing evil, instead of good, to rule in  their  lives. Far from being a perfect example  of  spiritual maturity, those at Corinth were a good example of how not  to live a righteous life. Therefore, Paul's overall message to those at Corinth was a call to repentance.

Historical Corinth

There  is  not much historical information about  the  church  at Corinth other than Paul's letters. However, what is known  gives us an insight into the potential problems of being a Christian in that society.

Corinth  was the  capital of Achaia in 57 A.D.  and  was  a  major export-import  center  between Asia and Europe  at  the crossroads of a major trade route.  The city was very wealthy and its inhabitants were notorious for their licentious lifestyle. The city's  reputation was so bad that it became the metaphor for immorality in the proverbs of  some foreign languages. Moreover, it was immortalized by Latin poets. The  term  "to Corinthianize"  became  a part of the Greek vocabulary and  meant "to live in drunken immoral debauchery."

The  religions of the city's many diverse  inhabitants  who came to ply their trades in this prosperous area were practiced there. The bulk of the inhabitants  were Italian freemen, Greeks, Jews, and people  from the cities of Levant. Out of this city of wealth, immorality,  and pagan  religions, God the Father called a cross section   of  its citizens  to become his children. When one considers their environment  and  cultural background,  it is no  small  wonder  that these people had great difficulty growing toward spiritual  maturity.

ABOUT PAUL'S WRITINGS

Before  doing  a detailed study into 1.Corinthians  11:23-30,  it is recommended to review what the apostle Peter had to say  about Paul's writings being difficult to understand:

"And  account  that the longsuffering of our Lord  is  salvation; even  as  our beloved brother Paul also according to  the  wisdom given  to  him has written to you; As also in all  his epistles, speaking  in them of these things; in which are some things  hard to  be  understood, which they that are  unlearned  and  unstable wrest [twist], as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction" (2.Pet.3:15-16 KJV).

Paul's  admonition to the Corinthians about the symbolic bread and wine of  the Passover  makes very little sense without  first  understanding that these elect had already been taught the meaning and purpose of  the  bread and wine. We know this because the  symbolic  and prophetic fulfillment of the Passover is an intrinsic part of the plan of salvation for humanity.

Any  ignorance of the meaning of the Passover that  these elect had  was  not due to being ignorant of  its importance; it  was due to their lack of spiritual maturity.

Editors Note:

Because  Paul  is  speaking of the deep  physical  and  spiritual meanings  and  purpose  of the bread, wine, blood,  and  body  of Christ,  what Paul said to the Corinthians cannot  be  understood today unless a person first understands the things  Paul  taught concerning  Jesus  as the Passover Lamb, the  Redeemer,  and the Savior of humanity.

The explanation that follows is only a general  overview  of what Paul was trying to convey to the Corinthians,  and it should  be followed up with study and meditation on  the  meaning and  purpose of the symbols that Paul speaks of in this  admonition and instruction.

A Major Clue

1.Corinthians 11:17-30

Verses  17 to 22 give a major clue to  understanding the  Corinthian's  problem  concerning their observance  of  the Passover:

"I do not praise you, because you come together not for  the better,  but for the worse. For indeed first I hear divisions  to be among you when you come together in the church. And I believe some part.  For there must be heresies among you,  so  that  the approved ones may become revealed among you" (vs.17-19 Para.).

After  resolving  a controversy concerning the proper  length  of  women's  hair, Paul begins to tell them that their lack of  unity  when they are assembled to worship is due to those who bring  heresies into their meetings:

"Then  you coming together into one place, it is not to  eat  the Lord's  supper. For each one takes his own supper: first  in  the eating;  and one is hungry, and another is drunk. For do you  not have houses to eat, and to drink? or do you despise the Church of God, and shame those who have not? What do I say to you? shall I praise you for this? I do not Praise" (vs.20-22 Para.).

As  Paul  begins to speak of the Corinthians'  perversion  of  the  Passover,  he  indicates that they are incorrectly   calling  the Passover  the Lord's supper—"it is not to eat the Lord's  supper." Notice, Paul also  condemns their improper  observation  of the Passover with a festive meal and shameful, drunken, and disorderly  behavior.

After condemning their behavior, Paul  reminds them that the things he had taught them  concerning the  Passover observance were from Christ; then, he repeats  some  of  what he had taught.

"For I have received of the Lord  that which also I delivered  to you that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was  betrayed took bread: And when he had  given thanks, he broke 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 you, as often as you drink it, in remembrance  of me" (vs.23-25 KJV).

The Warning

"Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup  of the Lord, unworthy, shall be guilty of the body and blood of  the Lord" (v27 KJV).

Because Paul  established his authority to  teach  the  proper observance of the Passover and gave this extremely  serious warning,  we can assume that something the Corinthians were doing  in observing the rituals of the bread and wine was very wrong and in need of correction.

Some of the Corinthians were observing the Passover by having a festive meal and drinking too much, which constituted an improper observance of the Passover and its rituals. The Corinthians were improperly practicing the rituals of  unleavened bread and wine, which symbolize the  broken body of Christ and his  blood that was poured out for us.

It is important to remember that just before this warning, Paul reminded  them  that Christ's body was broken for them,  and  that they had an agreement with the Father, which was sealed with  the blood of Christ.

Unworthy and Guilty

Remember  that  Paul was speaking to the elect of  God  who  had repented of their sins, been baptized, and transformed into  sons of God through the power of the Father's holy spirit.  Those to whom Paul was speaking were children of God, but how could they be unworthy to partake of these symbolic rituals, and what does it mean to partake of the bread and wine  unworthy and be guilty of both?

Unworthy

The  English word 'unworthy' is translated from the Greek  word 'anarios',  which  has the sense of not being in equilibrium,  not  of equal  weight, and not appropriate or reasonable. In all  of  Paul's writings,  he only used the word 'anarios' for a corrective  purpose.

Paul did not say that the Corinthians had no right to  observe the Passover, nor did he say that they were spiritually unfit to observe  it. By  using  the word 'anarios' Paul expressed that some Corinthians were wrong in their attitude,  behavior,  understanding and approach to observing the symbols  of bread and wine which caused these people to be in disharmony with the meaning and purpose of these two symbols.

Guilty

The English word 'guilty' is translated from the Greek word 'enochos', which connotes 'one who is guilty of violating a law'.

Paul  said that those who do not take the bread and wine  correctly are guilty of a violation, which he later says will result in the payment of a very serious penalty by the violator.

A Personal Evaluation

"But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup" (v28 Para.).

Paul said that a person must perform a personal evaluation  before observing the Passover. It is obvious that this evaluation  is done in order for a person to determine if they are  in harmony with the meaning and purpose of these two symbols.

Being In Harmony With God

Performing  a  serious and honest evaluation of  one's  attitudes, mind-set  and  lifestyle before observing  the  Passover  is extremely  important in order to understand one's  current spiritual condition before God.

If  a  person finds that they are in harmony with God,  they  can feel secure in the knowledge that they are not violating the meaning and purpose of the body and blood of Christ.

If a person finds that their attitude, priorities in life,  and/or lifestyle do not measure up to what they understand to be  the will  of  God, that person needs to ask forgiveness  for  their error and change their direction in life in order to conform to the  will of God.

Once  this personal evaluation is made and a person is  satisfied that they are in harmony with the meaning and purpose of the body and  blood of Christ, that person can partake of these  symbols with the assurance that they are worthy to do so.

Damnation and Discerning

"For he that eats and drinks unworthy, eats and drinks  damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (v29 Para.).

The  English words 'damnation' and 'discernment'  are  translated from  the Greek words 'krima' and 'diakrino', which mean  'judgment  with the  sense of condemnation' and 'to make a  distinction' or 'distinguish'.

But  what does Paul mean by "not discerning the Lord's  body?"  What does  this  have to do with damnation,  personal  evaluation,  and partaking of the bread and wine unworthily?

Damnation

Paul showed that the result of taking of the bread and wine while being out of harmony with the meaning and purpose of these symbols  is to put yourself in a state of self-imposed condemnation before God.

Being out of harmony with the meaning and purpose of the body and blood  of  Christ, puts a person in opposition to God's will  for  their life, and puts them in a position of being  condemned  for their lack of righteous attitude and behavior. Therefore, it is extremely  important to  perform  a serious personal evaluation before observing the Passover and to correct one's course, if necessary.

Discerning

Discerning  the Lord's body means to fully consider  the  importance  of  what Christ did by coming to the earth and  living  in human form. Jesus was no ordinary human, and what he did while in human form was no ordinary act.

Before being a human, Jesus was an immortal spirit-being  possessing  the highest form of existence: life that  springs  forth from itself, never dying or decaying. This immortal being who was not  subject to death emptied himself of his glory,  power,  and immortality  to become a mortal man. See our study paper concerning who God is.

"But  now  in these days he has spoken to us through his  Son  to whom he has given everything, and through whom he made the  world and  everything there is. God's Son shines out with God's  glory, and all that God's Son is and does marks him as God. He regulated the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is  the  one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat  down  in the highest honor beside the great God  of heaven" (Heb.1:2-3 LBP).

Weak, Sickly and Asleep

"For  this  cause many are weak and sickly among  you,  and  many sleep" (1.Cor.11:30 KJV).

Paul told the Corinthians that the reason many of them were weak, sickly and asleep was their current practice of  observing the Passover. But, was he speaking of physical or spiritual health? We need to look carefully at the Greek language  from which  these  words are translated in order to understand  what Paul said:

Physical or Spiritual?

The  condition that Paul describes as weakness,  sickness,  and sleep, which concerns discerning the Lord's body, has nothing to do with  a person's physical health; it has everything to do with  a person's spiritual condition before God.

The  context of First Corinthians is correction  and exhortation to repent of wrong spiritual attitudes and  behavior and to grow toward spiritual maturity.

The  issue in First Corinthians 11:29-30  has nothing to do with physical  illness  or  healing the physical body; it  has  to  do with  one's  covenant with God the Father and  Jesus  Christ  and one's spiritual  health, which is the reason Paul  put  so  much emphasis on the Corinthian character flaws in this letter.

Nowhere in chapter 10 or 11 do we find a reference to physical sin for which there is a need for physical healing.

The whole issue here is the lack of spiritual character and the need to analyze one's state of righteousness before  God as one comes before him during the Passover.

Paul said that many were spiritually weak and sickly.  Some  had even gone to sleep spiritually which could lead to spiritual death.

Many were weak, sick, and asleep because they had not discerned  the  Lord's body. They had forgotten or  neglected  to contemplate  the enormity of what Christ had done when he  sacrificed his body and blood for them.

Why Did Christ Come?

In order to understand why many of the Corinthians were sick  and lifeless spiritually, we need to review the prophecies concerning the healing aspect of Christ's sacrifice and the reason for  his coming.

By His Wounds You Are Healed

"He  is  despised and abandoned of men, a man of  pains  and  acquainted  with sickness. . . Surely he has born our sickness,  and he  carried  our pain. . . But he was wounded for  our transgressions; he was bruised for our lawlessness: the  chastisement  of our  peace  was upon him; and with his wounds  we  ourselves  are healed" (Isa.53:3-5 Para.).

The  Hebrew  words for 'wounded' and 'bruised' are  'halal'  and 'daka', which mean 'wound (fatally)', 'bore through' or 'pierce', 'be crushed', 'contrite', or 'broken'. Both of these words foretell the kind  of death that the Savior would endure as the  sacrifice  for humanity's physical and spiritual sins.

Jesus  understood  that the spiritual sickness  of  humanity  was their  violation of the law of God, which is sin.  He  understood that  it was this sickness (sin), which was the root cause of  all of humanity's suffering.

It  was  the human sickness of sin—the transgression  of  the law—that Christ would bare and be mortality wounded  for.  It was for our lawlessness (sin) that he received a torturous  beating, which tore and bruised his flesh so much that he was unrecognizable  as a man.

Isaiah 53:3-4 is about the spiritual sins that are the cause of  human misery—"He was wounded for our transgressions.  He  was bruised for our lawlessness." Our transgressions and our lawlessness are the reasons that Christ had to come and give his  perfect life as a sacrifice for humanity.

"Just as many were astonished over You—so much was the disfigurement  from man, his appearance and his form from sons of  mankind" (Isa.52:14 Para.).

The beating that Jesus suffered at the hands of the Roman soldier was undeserved, because he had committed no crime worthy of such  punishment.

It  is  through  the sacrifice of Jesus  Christ,  the   torturous beating  he suffered, and the  pouring out of his life's blood  to death  that one can be spiritually healed and have the peace  of mind that comes as a result of knowing that  one's  sins  are forgiven. See Jn.14:27; Rom.8:6; Phil.4:7.

Behold the Lamb of God

As John the Baptist was preaching the soon coming of the  Messiah and  baptizing those who were repentant, he saw Jesus coming  and said:

"Behold  the  Lamb of God which takes away the  sin  of  the world" (Jn.1:29 KJV). See also verse 36.

It is important to remember that the prophetic meaning of the  Passover under the first covenant with national Israel pointed to the  time when the Creator  God would  come to earth to redeem and save humanity from  the death penalty that was a result of violating the law of God:

"All  we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone  to his  own way; and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity  of  us all" (Isa.53:6 KJV).

The bread and the wine are inseparable, because the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which included his body and blood,  was a total sacrifice.  His  body was broken and his  blood poured out to death as the complete and perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin.  

Reconciliation Through Christ's Body and Blood

"Come  let  us return to the Lord: For he has torn, and  he  will heal  us; he has stricken, and he will bind us up. He  will  give him  life after two days: on the third day he will raise him and we will live before him" (Hos.6:1-2 Para.).

In  this   prophecy, we see one of the rare mentions  of  God  the Father. Here, Hosea foretells the reconciliation between God the Father and sinners  through the  healing sacrificial death  of  Christ for  the forgiveness of sin.

"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we,  being dead to sins, should live to righteousness:  by  whose stripes you were healed" (1.Pet.2:24 KJV).

A person to whom the sacrifice of Christ is applied is healed of their  spiritual  sin. It was for the forgiveness of  sin  that Jesus  was  beaten, crucified, and bled to death.  Truly  by  his stripes we are healed of our spiritual sickness, which is sin.

Perfect in Mind and Body

In the form of a man, the Creator God was totally human in  every aspect.  Although he had the same pulls and desires of the  flesh that  all  men have, he had a perfect unity of  spirit  with  the Father, and by utilizing the power of the holy spirit that was within him, Jesus  overcame the pulls of the flesh, was  without spiritual sin and was found righteous before the Father. Therefore, his perfect spiritual character could be the perfect sacrifice for the spiritual sins of humanity.

Physically,  Jesus  was  a perfect human. Not only  was  his  mind perfect  before God but also his body was perfect.  Jesus experienced life as a human within  a  strong, vibrant,  and healthy body, which lacked any  physical  imperfection. He was physically perfect before the Father; therefore, he was the perfect physical sacrifice for the sins of humanity. He was the prophetic Passover lamb without blemish.

Jesus Christ experienced and overcame intense mental and emotional  pain as well the  physical  pain and agony  of the torturous beating and  crucifixion in order to  qualify as a perfect spiritual and physical sacrifice for our sins.

SUMMARY

It  is extremely important for each person who is called by the  Father to  understand  the tremendous love that Jesus  Christ  has  for humanity and the enormous risk that he took when he gave up  his immortal life to dwell in a physical human body:

"But  we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than  the  angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by  the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Heb. 2:9 KJV). See Lk.24:1-7; Acts 2:24-32; 3:15,26; Rom.6:8-10; Phil.2:6-8, 1.Pet.3:18; Rev.2:8; 1:4,17-18.

The Creator God who made all that exists voluntarily gave up his immortality  to  come to earth in human form to live  a  sinless life  as  an example for us to follow; then, he allowed  his  perfect body to be destroyed and his life to be taken from him.  He  did all  of  this so that you and I could be saved  from  eternal death  because  of  our  violation  of  God's  perfect  law.  See 1.Cor.6:19-20; 7:23.

Without  some  understanding of the enormity of what  Christ  did through his sacrifice and the personal responsibility that  each person bears for his death, it would be difficult to  understand the seriousness of the symbolism that  is pictured  in  the bread and wine of the Passover.  Without  this understanding,  it would also be extremely difficult to  have  the proper respect  for the symbols of bread and  wine   and for  Jesus Christ who these symbols represent.

A Lesson for Today

It  behooves each person who has been called by the Father to  salvation through the body and blood of his Son to heed the  words of Paul concerning a serious self examination before  observing the Passover.  Any who seriously examine  themselves with a proper  attitude  and resolve to change that which is  in  error will  be found worthy to partake of the body and blood  of  Jesus Christ.

By B.L. Cocherell, file b5w26