Monday, October 24, 2016

Unworthy Worthiness

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.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  (1 Cor 11:27-28)

I have known many Christians who have refrained from the Lord’s Supper because they felt they were not in the right place relationally with the Lord to partake.  If pressed for a reason, they would give vague answers about some recent sin (though it was confessed) or a general malaise about their spiritual condition (not sufficiently attentive to the disciplines, for instance).  In a word, they felt unworthy before the Lord and did not want to eat and drink judgment on themselves.

While such thinking has good intentions, taken to its logical conclusion, nobody should participate, because none are worthy.  Every believer works through the ebb and flow of the old nature as it works in us.  The apostle Paul did not recount the conflict between the law of God and law of sin (Rom 7:21-23) because he was the ultimate overcomer—just the opposite.  The fight is real for all who are alive to God.  And we fail.  If we are all unworthy, how can we come to the meal, which must be eaten worthily?

Look at the situation in Corinth when the epistle was written.  As the body of Christ assembled together, there was division, hunger, drunkenness, and general chaos.  They considered themselves worthy to come together.  The consequence of this attitude was that each person and group served himself rather than allowing the Lord to serve them through His gifts.  Paul pointed out that their attitude garnered God’s judgment and discipline.  The solution came in understanding through examination that they were unworthy in themselves but were made worthy solely by righteousness freely imputed to us through our Lord Jesus.  He has called us into His body to His glory: we add nothing.

Such a paradox—only the unworthy are worthy—but that is the way of our great God, who chooses the foolish, weak, and lowly things of this world
so that no flesh might boast in the presence of God.  And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  (1 Cor 1:29-31)


Stephen Pohl said...

Steve, Good post.

Along that line is the part of the Catholic Mass, when just before Holy Communion, the priest will elevate the Eucharist and say:

“Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

The congregation responds:

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

This response calls to mind the words that were spoken by the Roman centurion to Jesus when he begged the Lord to heal his sick servant in Matthew 8.

Steve Bricker said...

I like that use of Scripture in the Mass. Recently, I finished The Mass: A Study of Roman Liturgy by Adrian Fortescue but didn't remember reading those words. A quick search showed that those words were not mentioned. Thanks for sharing.