In An Unworthy Manner

A man must examine himself, and in doing so he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

–1 Corinthians 11:28

As important as the Lord’s Supper is, there is not a lot of direction in the Bible about how to do it. There is nothing about the frequency with which we observe the Lord’s Supper, who is to preside over it, or where it needs to happen. But Paul had a lot to say about the manner in which we observe the Lord’s Supper.

Look at 1 Corinthians 11:27: “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.” Some people think, “I am not worthy, so maybe I should not take the Lord’s Supper.” There is a story told about the Scottish minister known as Rabbi Duncan. During communion, he noticed a lady who was not partaking of the cup. Duncan put the cup in her hands and said, “Take it: it’s for sinners.” The whole reason for the Lord’s Supper is that we are unworthy in and of ourselves, but Christ made us worthy through His death. So when Paul used the word “unworthy,” he was not describing the people who take the Lord’s Supper but the manner in which we take it. Today and tomorrow, I want to mention four ways we can partake of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.

First, we do so through unacceptable behavior. For the Corinthians, that included divisiveness, drunkenness, and selfishness. For us today, it might include talking and texting. We need to behave–and we need to train our children to behave–in the right way during the Lord’s Supper.

A second way we partake in an unworthy manner is through unfocused ritualism. By that I mean going through the motions. Counting the light bulbs in the celling. Making your to-do list for the next week. Look at verse 28: “A man must examine himself, and in doing so he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” The Lord’s Supper is a time for reflection. The next time you take the Lord’s Supper, I encourage you to read one of the passages describing Christ’s death on the cross to remind yourself of what Christ did for you. Then express your gratitude to God.

In addition, the Lord’s Supper is a time for us to examine our lives for anything that is not pleasing to God. Let me be clear: there are not conditions to our salvation. But God expects obedience from those of us who live under the new covenant. And the Lord’s Supper is a time to examine our lives to see if there is any way in which we are not living up to our end of the bargain. We should engage in reflection, not in unfocused ritualism.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Sacred Supper” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2011.
Rabbi Duncan story from J. R. P. Sclater, “The Public Worship of God” (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1927), 142-43.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.

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