Communion; Unworthily vs. unworthy…

I discussed the doctrine of transubstantiation in two parts which you can find here; pt. 1 & pt. 2.  I mentioned that I was going to comment on Paul’s injunction about taking communion unworthily, and that we are to examine ourselves.  Throughout different denominations, teachers have been misusing these verses to try to lay a guilt trip on people for their sin when partaking of the bread and wine; however, if one looks at the verses in question, things start becoming clear.  We are indeed to examine ourselves, and we are not to take unworthily, but what exactly does this mean?

1 Corinthians 11:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

I hold that the bread and wine are symbols (not “just” symbols or “mere” symbols, but symbols full of meaning, that serve several purposes), as taught by Christ and Paul (and even James indirectly). However, there is power in the act, or in the taking. Why do I say this? Because one can eat and drink temporary “damnation,” or rather rendered judgment (in the Greek; krima), or sickness on themselves, according to Paul. Eating and drinking without remembering Jesus and His sacrifice leads to this.

Of course, in Paul’s example, there were people eating and drinking the bread and wine after they were drunk, and/or they had come to have a full meal together, and did not set apart the bread and cup, but rather drank and ate hungrily without thinking on Christ. They weren’t taking it worthily…in other words they were partaking in an unworthy manner.

The Greek word used for “unworthily” is anaxious, which is an adverb describing the act (remember, adverbs describe verbs, not nouns), not the person.  Worthiness in this context is not about the person taking the communion, it is about how it is taken. We aren’t to examine ourselves before partaking, we are to remember Christ.  So, from scripture, we are not to examine ourselves, for worthiness, that takes our “eyes” off Christ, and puts them on ourselves. The only way to take unworthily is to take not remembering Christ’s sacrifice, and by so doing, we fail to remember Him and fail to show forth His sacrifice.  So to examine ourselves means to make sure we’re remembering Christ, that we aren’t just eating because we’re hungry (or drunk). None of us are worthy, as far as that goes, so there’s no examination necessary when it comes to our being unworthy.

Anyone who tries to get people to examine themselves for things like sin when partaking of the bread and wine are doing the very thing Paul warned against; taking our “eyes” and minds off of Christ, and neglecting to take in rememberance of Him.  Now, there is a responsibility on the part of the person taking the bread and wine to realize what it is symbolic of…this is why non-Christians should abstain from taking communion; they don’t believe in Jesus as the Son of God, and therefore would not be partaking in remembrance and faith in Him, nor to show forth His body, broken for us, and His blood shed for the remission of our sin.  Again, I look forward to going more in depth about how Passover fits in with communion, and remembering Christ’s sacrifice for us in a later post.

I owe much of this teaching and understanding to the late Dr. Gene “Doc” Scott…his teaching on this idea has helped to refocus believers hearts and minds onto Christ.  If a person’s sins were going to stop us from taking communion, none of us could partake.  Communion, or the taking of the bread and cup is one of the straightforward symbols and acts that Christ Himself instituted, and instructed us as believers to do.

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19 Comments

Filed under Communion, Theology

19 responses to “Communion; Unworthily vs. unworthy…

  1. Sherry

    Ahhh, this was very good!!! It really clarifies and makes sense. I will have to print this off for my father-in-law. He wont take communion because he is afraid of taking it unworthily. Thank you for this article.

  2. Kliska

    Yeah, I have known and heard people who have either refused to partake, or been turned away for some kind of “sin” or that someone deemed them, as a person, as being unworthy…it kind of makes ya sad, because in the case of someone refusing themselves…their hearts are in the right place, but there’s nothing really stopping them from partaking if they look at the verses carefully.

    Grace and Peace

  3. Pingback: Communion; The Bread… « The Christian Scribbler

  4. thrufaithalone

    Great article – I’ve seen far too many protestant views of the Lord’s table taking on a view that leans more towards transubstantiation.

  5. Yeah

    Hey,
    I’m quite a paranoid individual. So I want to know If you go up and receive communion as a family, would that be wrong as that is a kind of division. There’s no families in Christ, right?

    Thank you.

    • Kliska

      I hope you’ll check back in, because I’m confused a bit on your question. If you each go up and receive communion individually, but in a group as a family, I don’t see any problem with that at all. And, there is indeed families in Christ…in fact, without our Christianity as a base, there’s not real logical point for families. Don’t forget, all of us in Christ are one big family and are to respond to each other with that in mind. God lays out very specific ideas for families, and supports the idea of families taking care of one another, esp. members of your own household. For example; 1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

      The only thing with taking as a family at communion, is to make sure each member is old enough to know what they are doing, that they are believers, and also what the wine/juice and bread represent. As always, don’t take my word for it; pray about it and seek guidance.

  6. Hello, how are you? Thank you so much. Our prayer group has been taking communion at our meetings and you have no idea how much this helps…Bless you so much. I will continue to come back to your site; it’s very nice. Very clear explanations…Love Elaine

  7. Ricky

    Hello,

    My parents listened to Dr. Gene Scott their whole lives. As a child i was able to pick up and remember teachings like these which i also believe to be true. I wish Dr. scott was still around as i am now older and hungry for the truth of Gods word. I currently am going to a church that ask’s for everyone to examine themselves, and im just their bitting my lips (This is one of the reason why im there). I know my pastor ok. I know he is a man that loves God and many times i wanted to tell him the truth. Just waiting for the right time (Pastors are busy you know.) But also i don’t want to come off as someone who is trying to cause problems or division in gods body. I know that god will have his way soon because it is heavy on my heart. But not with just my church, but many churches around. God has blessed me to know through Dr. Gene Scott and i want to tell other aswell.

    By His Grace

    • Kliska

      Having been raised under Doc’s teaching, it is easy for us to see the flaw in the “normal” way preachers approach this. The key is talking to them in love and with their own language, but modified. I always say; Paul does say to examine oneself, but what does he day to examine oneself for? To see if one is in the faith. How is one in the faith? By faithing on Jesus Christ. It really is that simple, but as you probably know, many people will react really negatively because that is the way they’ve been raised. Be patient, and pick your moment. I’m always so happy that Doc taught to always keep our eyes on Christ in communion, not on ourselves! I miss him too…

      Grace and Peace,
      Kliska

  8. Pingback: Communion: Unworthily vs. Unworthy « Trinity Press »

  9. Pingback: Communion: Unworthily vs Unworthy « The Truth Foundation

  10. Jino Santos

    The body of Christ had been lied to “focus on themselves” not on Christ–happens everytime we partake of the body & blood of the Lord in communion. Re-examining the text and the context of 1 Cor. 11 reveals the
    essence of partaking the communion. If we live by faith & if we want to please God by faith—then why suddenly we are in communion we start focusing on ourselves & not on the Lord? I hope the Church of Jesus will
    wake up against the wiles of satan and be aware that the enemy of our soul will not stop until we are on the other side of glory, that satan will not stop he will only leave momentarily until he sees another opportunity to attack us in the moments of our weak moments. We know that “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.” The Lord wants His body to be always discerning—- we are in a ‘spiritual war’ and also He wants us to lean on His strength, that we will overcome by His Spirit. Let us stay in Faith by the
    grace of God in which all of us stand.

  11. Ernesto Valencia

    I really enjoyed reading this again. I was taught by Dr. Craig Lampe and Bishop M.L. Moody on this and could not remember the adverb, noun portion. We started going to another church when we moved and I listen to some of the people who are giving communion err on the side of the examining ourselves portion and all though I don’t judge I have to admit that I squirm in my seat and have to redirect some new converts who go with me (my son and his wife) when we come to the house for lunch after church. Thank you for this post.

  12. Marian Wilson

    I appreciate your explanation on this issue and, as with others, it is different from the way I was taught – but I think I get it. My question is about children. We were taught that, simply put, children do not understand the full importance and sanctity of communion and, therefore, should not participate. Our new pastor openly invites ALL children to partake of the bread and the cup – and they do. Can you help me in this dilemma?

    • Kliska

      That’s a really really good question. (I should do a post on that soon!) It is a subject that a lot of people get really emotional about. I think that your current pastor is wrong; only children who can recognize the symbolic nature of the bread and wine should participate; Jesus’ body and blood and the sacrifice it is showing forth. Having said that, my answer is twofold. If you feel strongly about it, I would go to the pastor first. After that, it moves to the parents. The parents are ultimately responsible.

      I’ve seen parents handing the elements to really really young children who could not possible know what they were taking, I admit that I cringe. The children, I believe, will be fine, but the parents may be the ones that are “chastised” for allowing it. So, in short, if you think the pastor will listen, go to him first. If not, I would approach the parents you know, or have a connection to, and maybe talk to them about it?

  13. Reblogged this on Caged No More and commented:
    I thought I was taking Communion in an unworthy manner, but then I read this article. Now I see things clearly, in a new light. 🙂

  14. What a clear clean nice way of understanding part. Taking of lords supper

  15. Sarah

    I disagree, I think it’s more than what you say. The bible says ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling’ (2 Phil. 12) teaches us we need to actively pursue holiness and obedience and have a healthy respect for God in the sense that we are rooting out any sin in our lives continually. I’m always asking Holy Spirit to show me if there is anything I need to put right with Him. This is because we desire that there is nothing that should sadden our Saviour. When you come to take communion I still think you should examine yourself, that if we have sin in our lives that we know about and consciously permit we are insulting our Saviour by taking communion in that state and should repent and get right before we take it. It’s like saying I take you but I also want to partake of this sin too. Jesus said you can’t serve two masters. You have to be whole hearted for Jesus with nothing sharing his place of Lordship or not, there are no grey areas. Yes, we are imperfect and fail but ‘ if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all iniquity.’

    As to children I agree totally, I think the belief that all children can take communion comes from the idea that they are perfect until they become 12?!! There is no biblical evidence for this. In fact I consider Romans 9:11-13 highly interesting on this subject. It speaks about God knowing what is in a person’s heart even before birth!! Better to err on the side of caution than ‘drink damnation’ to yourself or your children.

  16. Pastor Tommy

    Communion in its strictest since is to discern The Body of Christ, not just yourself. That means that communion is never singular but corporate. Paul’s topic for discussing the issue was because there was sin in the church. He gives several examples but the point was that there was divisions, factions in the church. They were not of one mind, one Spirit.
    2 Corinthians 6:14 (NKJV)
    14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
    We must look first upon ourselves and then your congregation, If the congregation as One Body, has even a hint of darkness, we fail to discern “The Body”.
    Communion is symbolic of Passover. Before the Israelites could receive the power of The Blood’s effect on their family, they had to search out every crumb of Levin, sin, from their house.

    Loving Christ’s Body,
    Pastor Tommy

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