************ Sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:28 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 6, 1998
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
I Examine Yourself
A The Lord willing, we will celebrate the Lord's Supper next Sunday. According to our text, we have to examine ourselves before we partake of the bread and wine: "A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup." The English rendering of this verse softens the Greek considerably. The Greek stresses that every person has to examine him or herself before partaking; there is no choice in the matter; self-examination is a command from the Lord.
Notice, you are not called to examine your neighbor's life; you are called to examine your own life; you are commanded to do self-examination. You may take great delight in examining in considerable detail your neighbor's life but, for this week, God wants you to direct your attention inward. This is not easy to do. It is far too easy to overlook our own failures and sins while criticizing the faults in others! In fact, our judgment may reflect our own flaws, which usually are more serious than those we see in someone else.
A woman named Ruth Knowlton told how she came to see this truth. The building across the alley was only a few feet away, and she could easily look into her neighbor's apartment. Ruth had never met the woman who lived there, but she could see her as she sewed and read each afternoon. After several months, she noticed that the figure by the window had become indistinct. She couldn't understand why the woman didn't wash her windows.
One sunny day Ruth decided to do some housecleaning, including washing her own windows. Later that day, she sat down to rest by the window. To her amazement, she could clearly and distinctly see her neighbor sitting by her window. Ruth said to herself, "Well, finally she washed her windows!" By now you've guessed what really happened: Ruth's own windows were the ones that needed washing.
B This week God wants you to examine your life to determine whether you will partake worthily of the bread and the wine. There is a fine but crucial distinction we must make here: Scripture calls here for worthy partaking not for worthy partakers. If the Biblical requirement for the Lord's Supper is worthy partakers then none of us could dare to partake next week – for we are all unworthy and stained with sin.
C There are churches that fail to make this fine distinction: they wrongly stress worthy partakers. In those churches few members ever dare to partake of the Lord's Supper.
It is wrong to ask for worthy partakers, for this keeps God's people from God's table. You see, for every covenant member a seat is reserved at the Lord's Table. Therefore, when our Lord gives the invitation to come to His Supper, no member of His covenant has the right to refuse to come and occupy the place Christ has reserved for him or her. This principle led the Christian Reformed Synod to declare, in 1904, that no one may be admitted to the membership of the church who does not intend to come to the Lord's Supper.
D On the other hand, there are also churches that have no place for worthy partaking; they practice open communion and anyone can participate in the sacrament.
It is wrong not to ask for worthy partaking, for then the body and blood of the Lord is being profaned.
Congregation, you are called to examine yourself this coming week before you partake of the Lord's Supper next Sunday. You are to examine yourself for three things: first, whether you have faith; second, whether you discern the body; third, whether you remember the Lord's death. You are to examine yourself for worthy partaking.
II Examine: Faith
A First, my brothers and sisters, you are to examine yourself for faith. Worthy partaking is not possible if there is no faith. In other words, when you come to the Lord's Table next week you must make sure you partake in faith.
Scripture promises that all who partake in faith will be nourished at the table of the Lord.
It was because there was no faith that the sacramental signs of the old covenant, such as manna, failed. For this reason Jesus reminded His listeners that life comes not from gathering bread and feeding the body but by coming to Him. In fact, the one who comes to Jesus will never be hungry, and the one who believes in Jesus will never be thirsty (Jn 6:35). Faith and belief are the key to the nourishment Christ brings as the bread of life and living water; it is not enough to simply eat and drink. To get nourishment from the Lord's Supper we must eat the bread and drink the wine in faith.
B The Bible is quite harsh with those who strip the sacraments of the element of faith. The Old Testament, for instance, indicates that when the heaven-sent quail in the desert was eaten it was turned into a deadly plague because the people did not believe (Ps 78:22; 1 Cor 10:5). And, the people of Israel died in the wilderness because they did not partake of God's blessings in faith (Jn 6:49).
In our passage, the Spirit-inspired apostle condemns any treatment of the Lord's Supper which views it as the same as any other meal. It isn't physical eating but faith which is the most important role of the believer in the Lord's Supper.
The Lord's Supper, as a means of grace, gives no blessing unless it is taken in faith. Indeed, apart from faith the means of grace actually becomes the means of judgment. Note the language of our passage: without partaking in faith "you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing" (vs 22); without partaking in faith you are "guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord" (vs 27); without partaking in faith a man "eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep" (vs 30).
Worthy partaking, then, requires faith.
This coming week examine yourself to make sure that you will partake in faith. Partake in faith and you nourish your soul unto everlasting life. Partake without faith and you eat and drink judgment upon yourself.
III Examine: Discerning the Body
A My brothers and sisters, you are to also examine yourself to determine whether you discern the body: "anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself." To partake worthily we have to discern the body of the Lord.
The words "body of the Lord" have a double meaning here. First, they refer to the actual body and blood of the Lord. You know what our passage says: "The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body, which is for you ...' In the same way, after supper he took the cup saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood'" (vs 23-25). Second, the words "body of the Lord" refers to the church, the body of believers. Again, you know what Scripture says: "Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (I Cor 10:17).
B What does it mean to "recognize" the body of the Lord? Corresponding to the two-fold meaning is a two-fold requirement. To recognize the body of the Lord means, first of all, that those who come to the table will need to discern that the Lord's Supper is more than just a Sunday morning or evening snack. It is, in fact, a participation, by faith, in the body and blood of Christ given for the life of His people. To partake without seeing Christ, to partake without recognizing Christ, is an unworthy partaking.
Second, to recognize the body of the Lord means that those who come to the table will recognize that they are part of a body of believers. In fact, we are one body. Those believers who come to the Lord's Table while in a state of enmity or conflict with other believers are not discerning the body and are partaking in an unworthy manner. That's why we insist that if anyone is living in enmity with his neighbor he must reconcile himself to his neighbor before he comes to the Lord's Table.
Worthy partaking, then, requires that we discern the body of the Lord.
This coming week examine yourself to make sure that you will discern the body. Examine yourself to make sure that you will recognize both Christ and the oneness of His body, the Church, in the Lord's Supper. For only then can you worthily partake.
IV Examine: Remembering Christ's Death
A My brothers and sisters, you are to also examine yourself to determine whether you remember Christ in your partaking. God's people will be blessed only if they also remember Christ in their eating and drinking. Christ's command was clear from the start: "do this in remembrance of me" (Lk 22:19: I Cor 11:24,25).
At heart, the Lord's Supper is a memorial of Jesus and any true participation in the sacrament will involve that remembrance.
Topic: Lord's SupperThe Lord's Supper is the memorial instituted by our Lord on the night of His betrayal. Unlike the Great Pyramid, it speaks not of pride, but of love and sacrifice. Its beauty can't be diminished by time, nor its treasures pilfered by thieves. Each time believers share the bread and cup together, they are to do so in remembrance of Jesus.
The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt stands as a monument to the pride of the Pharaoh Khufu (also known as Cheops). The pyramid's base covers 13 acres. This awe-inspiring memorial is estimated to contain 2.3 million blocks of stone, each weighing from 2 to 15 tons. Some 100,000 men spent 20 years building the Great Pyramid, but the sands of time have worn away its surface and thieves have stolen its treasures.
B What is it that we are to remember if we are to partake worthily? We are to remember that Jesus, as the very Son of God, took on flesh and lived among us. We are to remember that Jesus is the promised Messiah and Redeemer. We are to remember Jesus' mission of salvation. We are to remember Jesus' obedience. We are to remember Jesus' teaching. Especially, though, we are to remember Jesus' death.
Jesus' death. We are to remember the how of Jesus' death: that He willingly set His face towards Jerusalem and the cross; that He willingly accepted the shame and scorn of the cross; that He willingly gave up His Spirit; that He willingly endured the wrath, anger, and curse of God.
Jesus' death. We are to remember the why of Jesus' death: that He shouldered the curse which lay on you and me because of sin; that He died in order to pay for our sin and to set us free from the domain of Satan.
Worthy partaking, then, requires that we remember Christ's death.
This coming week examine yourself to make sure that you will remember Christ's death as you partake of the bread and the wine. For only then can you worthily partake of the Supper.
My brothers and sisters, to worthily partake of the Lord's Supper we are to engage in self-examination. We are to examine whether we will partake in faith, discern the body, and remember Christ's death.
To partake without faith, to partake without discerning the body, to partake without remembering Christ's death is unworthy partaking.
We would do well to listen carefully to Scripture's warning regarding unworthy partaking: "Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord" (vs 27). To do this is to heap sin upon sin, judgment upon judgment, wrath upon wrath.
To prevent this from happening, to make sure that we all worthily partake of the Lord's Supper, the Spirit of the Lord says, "A man has to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup."
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