The Warning - The Lord's Supper

Paul warns the believers of the importance of the Lord’s Supper. (11:27-34)  

As we continue in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we have examined the rebuke and the reminder. Now let’s examine the warning that the Apostle gives this church. It’s a strong warning.


Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.

Because the Supper encapsulates the gospel, the substitutionary death of Christ. Because the Supper is so sacred. So significant. So colossal. Because of how incredible Christ and his sacrifice is; it’s possible to undermine it. It’s possible to eat the bread and drink the cup in an unworthy manner. It’s possible for our participation to not correspond or match the glory and magnitude of the sacrifice of Christ. It’s possible to eat and drink in an unworthy manner. Don’t miss the connection to Paul’s early reference to the “night he was betrayed.” A subtle reference to Judas. Paul is saying that it’s possible for these Corinthians to be in the same position as Judas.

Paul, in the strongest way possible, warns against a careless approach to the Supper. Now the context is important. The Corinthians were getting drunk and humiliating other members of the Church. This was certainly taking the Lord’ Supper in an “unworthy manner.”

But the principle still applies: It’s possible for us to take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner and so there needs to be examination as we will see in verse 28.

But notice this in verse 27—The Lord’s Supper requires participation in a worthy manner. The word literally means “unworthily.” New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg has noted, “He doesn’t use the adjective “unworthy” which would have referred to a person’s character, rather he highlights the nature of the actions.”

It is not a reference to sinners who feel unworthy and desire forgiveness; it is a reference to those who are making a mockery of the Lord’s Supper by their selfish and destructive behavior.

“His warning was not to those who were leading unworthy lives and longed for forgiveness but to those who were making a mockery of that which should have been most sacred and solemn by their behavior at the meal.” - I. Howard Marshall

This warning raises the question, “Who is fit to come to the Lord’s Supper?” Let’s start with, “Who shouldn’t partake in the Lord’s Supper?”

First of all, unbelievers shouldn’t partake. This is a meal that symbolizes the unity of the Church. It’s a meal specifically for Christians. If an unbeliever is part of a Lord’s Supper service, this is great, because they will be able to observe the gospel in some way, but this is not a meal for unbelievers. In many church settings, the leaders will kindly ask unbelievers who may be present at the Lord’s Supper, to let the elements pass them by. I think that’s a faithful request. As Christians, we want them to be part of the family, but if they have rejected Christ, then they are not yet part of the family. (But hopefully the love of Christ and His Church will compel them! The invitation is open!)

Also, unrepentant believers should not take the Lord’s Supper. This was the problem in Corinth, you had believers who were living in sin, and making a mockery of the gospel. The Lord takes this seriously. And the Church should take this seriously. Steve Timmis and Tim Chester say that, “most Christians love the idea of community— until it begins to infringe upon their decision making.”

But that’s the Church. A lot of people don’t like that. They like their pet sins. But a healthy Church is supposed to get in your kitchen. And if you are in open sin, you are not safe to take the Lord’s Supper. If you have unrepentant and unconfessed sin in your life, you need to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. Every Christian struggles with besetting sins; they acknowledge that and confess it. But a person who is living in direct rebellion against God should not partake.

So, who is fit to come to the Lord’s Supper?

Thankfully, sinners who have confessed their need for Christ. The gospel is for sinners. Jesus died for sinners. We really need grace. All of us. And the Lord’s Supper reinforces that truth. If you happen to be a perfect person, then you will have no need for the Lord’s Supper—just avoid it. Maybe you do?

But if you are a sinner…if you are broken…if you are a screw-up…if you are drop the ball…if you feel like a spiritual loser…if you need grace, then come to the Supper and dine with Jesus. There is room around the table for you.

The Church is for broken people. The Church is for sinners. Have we forgotten this? The essence of the gospel is grace. We never graduate from needing grace. We don’t coddle sin, we confess it, and find relief and mercy in Christ.

But if a person does take the Supper in an unworthy manner, then he or she is guilty of profaning the body of Christ. As George Knight says, “If the person partakes in an unworthy manner he ‘will be guilty of profaning’, in the sense of liable for, the body and blood as if he had committed the deed of death against that one, and thus must give an account of his actions.” (Children and Lord’s Supper—pg. 85)

It might be helpful to quote John Calvin on this verse,

“Some restrict it to the Corinthians, and the abuse that had crept in among them, but I am of opinion that Paul here, according to his usual manner, passed on from the particular case to thew general statement, or from one instance to an entire class. There was one fault that prevailed among the Corinthians. He takes occasion from this to speak of every kind of faulty administration or reception of thew Lord’s Supper…To eat unworthily, then is to pervert the pure and right use of it by our abuse of it. Hence, there are various degrees of unworthiness, so to speak; and some offend more grievously, others less so.” (Calvin commentary —1 Cor. 11:27)

Let’s look at verse 28.


Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

The word examine here means “to look critically. To scrutinize. To look in minute detail. To test.”

As Americans, we don’t do well with slowing down down and examining...especially when we eat. Culturally, we appreciate fast food and multi-tasking. We like to kill two birds with one stone. We might even scroll our phones while we pray, or daydream while we repent. Examining does’t come easily to a generation raised on Netflix.

I recently read an article that said, “An estimated sixty-six percent of Americans watch TV while eating dinner. Sixty-five percent eat lunch at their desk. Twenty percent of meals are eaten in the car. What other things do people do while eating? Walking, riding the subway, talking on the phone, reading a magazine or book, putting on makeup, and walking the dog are common pursuits of those who eat while juggling other tasks. What's the price tag for our insane busyness and constant multitasking? At least two dozen research studies have shown that eating while distracted leads to overindulgence. But according to a recent study (2014) published in a journal called Psychological Science, eating while multitasking also dampens our perception of taste. Food tastes blander, we crave stronger flavors (like salt and sugar), and we end up eating more. The bottom line: when it's time to eat, it's time to eat. Turn off the computer, the iPhone, and the TV. Enjoy the meal, savor every bite, family and friends. Light a candle, put some flowers in a vase and use cloth napkins. Not only will it taste better, you'll eat less.”

In other words, examining enhances and intensifies the experience. Of course, we don’t come to the Lord’s Table to merely to experience something. At the same time, the solution to a mindless and boring Lord’s Supper, might just be more examination.

The Lord’s Supper cannot be multi-tasked. The Lord’s Supper requires thinking. It requires honesty. It requires focus. It requires examination. We need to examine ourselves. “Let a person examine himself...

We don’t examine ourselves and say, “I’ve been perfect this week, whew, now I can take the bread and the cup.” I examine myself and say, “Wow…I need God’s grace.”

The purpose of self-examination is to generate humility and proper perspective and understanding leading to worship and thankfulness. Let’s get practical…you are sitting in the Lord’s Supper…you are commanded to examine yourself…what do you do? Be honest about yourself. Be honest about your sins. Things you’ve done…Things you haven't done…

Examine your motives. Am I trusting in Christ as my substitute? Am I submitting to His Lordship? Meditate on your own unworthiness as a sinner. Think about where you would be without Christ? Focus your mind on the cross. It is a full atonement. Thank Him. Worship Him for His lowliness and obedience in going to the cross.

All of this is taking the Supper in a worthy manner— which is what Paul is teaching.

Ben Witherington tells the story of a seeker-friendly megachurch in a larger northern city and they decided to try an innovative approach to the Lord’s Supper. Everyone present would be invited to partake. And they decided to use unusual elements—after all, this was a service where one came casual and the whole approach to the matter was casual. So they made up a large batch of Kool-Aid and brought in some tasty crackers of one sort or another. And in the middle of the service “communion” was served. At the end of the service one first-time guest came up to the minister, shook his hand, and said, “You know what I liked about the service?” “No,” said the minister, “do tell me.” She said, “I liked that you stopped what you were doing and we all had snacks in the middle. That was very nice.” The minister, a bit taken aback, had the unacceptable image flash through his head—“This is my snack, given for you.”


Look at the rest of this warning verse 29.


For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

Just a couple brief comments on proper examination:

#1—First of all, the Lord’s Supper requires the consideration of others (11:33-34). It should look a lot like heaven. Wait for one another. We consider one another. This is not a meal for consumption. (which is why small portions are ok.) It is a memorial. It symbolizes our unity. Remember what this is all about— Reconciliation with God and with one another.

#2—There is a judgment for not celebrating the Supper in a worthy manner. Paul mentions some people got sick and some people actually died. All because of their hypocrisy and spiritual racism. Just to be clear—all sickness is not the result of personal sin; but some sickness and death might be.

One example of this kind of judgment would be Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. They lied about how much money they had given to the Church, and God gave them a judgment—they died. It was a temporary judgment, not an eternal judgment. But it was a strong warning. Same thing here. God will not sit idly by while the people whom He died for are exploited and maligned. God is a Good Shepherd and He protects His church, and if you are hurting other sheep in God’s fold, then God might cause you to get sick or die. I actually think this is awesome. God does’t tolerate hypocrisy and abuse. As much as this is a warning for all of us to make sure we are not guilty of this, it is also a source of comfort and assurance that God will protect and purify His church. Don’t think you can sin and get away with it. Don’t think that you can sin in private and not be disciplined by God. Heb. 12:5-11 tells us that He disciplines those he loves. He doesn’t want them to further damage others. He is protective of His precious Bride, the Church.

Today, I’m afraid that modern Christianity has lost touch with the fact that God is holy. We like the idea that God is love. But we struggle with the idea that people might get sick and die because of their sin. Not to mention hell. One writer put it like this, “In The Chronicles of Narnia C. S. Lewis emphasized the idea that Aslan was not “a tame lion,” but in much evangelical culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century the Christian God is a tame God, into whose presence people feel free to enter in a trifling or frivolous manner. Paul would have us know that the way we behave in worship and the way we treat other members of God’s holy people are not to be taken lightly, but require the most serious circumspection.”

In 1 Cor. 5 Paul tells the church to not associate with professing Christians living in sin. “To not even eat with such a person.” The natural application of this in the apostles mind, must be the Lord’s Supper. If it meant more than the Supper, it meant at least the Supper.

Take heed. Examine yourself. Look at your life. Confess your sins. Confess you need for Christ.

Heed the rebuke.

Heed the reminder.

Heed the warning.

David Anderson

David Anderson is a pastor/elder at Littleton Bible Chapel in Littleton, CO where he lives with his wife and three kids. David also serves Biblical Eldership Resources in many areas, including hosting their new podcast.