In the Q&A Update #237 the statement is made, "Otherwise, we would be eating and drinking 'judgment' to ourselves, which might result in sickness and death ([1 Corinthians 11] verses 29-30)." Does this mean that by taking the Lord's Sacrifice in an unworthy manner, the consequences might result in physical sickness and death? Are we not all unworthy?


It is true that we are all “unworthy” in comparison with God the
Father and the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but this is not what Paul is
addressing. Rather, Paul speaks about the manner in which we partake of
the Passover–and yes, if we partake of the Passover in an unworthy
manner, and if we, especially, fail to discern the Body of Christ which
was beaten for our healing from our sicknesses, then prolonged sickness
and even death might be the consequence.

It is important to study
the context of these verses as found in 1 Corinthians 11:17 through 34.
Paul very emphatically corrected those in Corinth who had been treating
the Passover in an irreverent and self-centered manner. He mentions
that there were divisions within the Church (verses 18-19). Beginning
with the early chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul strongly warns against
the divisions that were arising–especially those that were created by
some members who focused on the personalities of various ministers
(Compare 1 Corinthians 1:11-13; 3:1-23).

Paul took issue with the
conduct of those who were assembling for what should have been the
observance commanded by Jesus Christ through the symbols He instituted
surrounding Passover. Note what Paul had already written to the
Corinthians regarding their allowance of sexual immorality. He
illustrates their problem through the Days of Unleavened Bread: “Your
glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the
whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new
lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover,
was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old
leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the
unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

is what Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11:20: “Therefore when you come
together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.” We
understand this verse to say that they could not and should not try to
eat the Lord’s Supper, as the Passover is not the Lord’s Supper. Paul
was chastising them for trying to eat a supper or a meal, rather than
just partaking of the symbols of bread and wine in a worthy manner. (We
address this issue in Update #88 in the Q&A, pointing out that we
are not to partake of the Lord’s Supper or a meal, but of the Passover
symbols. Also, we explain this distinction again in Update #189,
under “Feasts,” titled, “Is Passover the Lord’s Supper?”) He plainly
chastises the Church for assembling in a way that nullified the intent
and example of observing the New Testament Passover as instituted by
Jesus Christ. Paul challenges their practice of using this time for a
common meal; of getting drunk; and of adding to the division between
members who were wealthy and poor because of their degenerated
observance of the Passover.

In verses 23 through 26 of 1
Corinthians 11, Paul carefully reminds the Church of the correct way to
observe this time–not as a riotous, self-indulgent meal, but as a
meaningful reminder of the glorious sacrifice made by Jesus on behalf
of mankind. In verse 26, Paul states: “For as often as you eat this
bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”
The correct observance of these symbols, along with observing the time
established by God for the Passover, is to be faithfully followed by
the New Testament Church (Compare Exodus 12; Leviticus 23). As we see
from verse 23, Jesus instituted the symbols at this same specified time
as an example for the Church (Compare John 13).

Next, Paul gives
a powerful warning that no Christian should take lightly: “Therefore
whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy
manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians
11:27); continuing in verses 29-30: “For he who eats and drinks in an
unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the
Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many
sleep [are dead].”

Although the application is much broader, we
may, nonetheless, apply what is stated in Hebrews concerning those who
take for granted the inestimable sacrifice of Jesus Christ: “For if we
sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there
no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful
expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the
adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on
the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment,
do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of
God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was
sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews

Paul warned the Church at Corinth that their actions
were seriously and dangerously wrong! Like the message in Hebrews, the
people in Corinth were treating the Passover as a “common thing”–that
is, just another meal, and, even worse, as an activity of the Church in
which rebellious actions were taking place. We find an Old Testament
parallel in the story of the golden calf. In their idolatry, the
children of Israel made a proclamation that their observance was “a
feast to the LORD” (Exodus 32:5). They brought upon themselves both an
immediate penalty of death for some (Verse 28) and a future punishment
for their sin (Verses 34-35).

Disobeying God will lead to death.
The only exception is through repentance and forgiveness, and our
repentance and God’s forgiveness are only possible because of the death
of Jesus Christ in our place. He paid the ultimate penalty, and His
sacrifice is not a meaningless ritual. The Passover must not be taken
lightly–rather, we are to approach this observance carefully through a
personal reflection and self-examination.

In another letter to
the Corinthians, Paul states: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are
in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus
Christ is in you?–unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians
13:5). This is essentially what he had told them to do regarding the
Passover Christ established: “But let a man examine himself, and so let
him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28);
Continuing in verses 31-32: “For if we would judge ourselves, we would
not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord,
that we may not be condemned with the world.”

Being “chastened by
the Lord” is exactly the purpose that was accomplished through Paul’s
writing. It applied to the members in Corinth, and it applies to us,
today. We are to examine ourselves in order to properly take the
Passover–to do as Jesus Christ commanded. Indeed, some, both then and
even now, have failed to properly discern the Lord’s body–which was
beaten for our healing–and they might thereby have suffered the
consequence of physical sickness and perhaps even death. They,
like Israel of old, have brought upon themselves penalties for their
sins. We can avoid these consequences if we seek to zealously obey what
God has commanded!

This is not to say–by any means–that every
Church member who is suffering from an illness is being punished by God
because of a lack of discernment of Christ’s body. As we explain in our
booklet, “Sickness and Healing–What the Bible Tells Us,”
the reasons for sickness and disease are manifold, and they might have
nothing to do at all with any ungodly conduct of the sick person. All
Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 11 is that sickness COULD be the result
of partaking of the Passover in an unworthy manner, by not discerning
the beaten body of Christ and the fact that we are healed “by His
stripes” (Isaiah 53:5; compare Matthew 8:16-17).

Even though we
are asked to examine ourselves, Paul also says that we ARE to take the
Passover, if we are baptized members of the Church of God. When we
examine ourselves and when we hear sermons telling us of our ongoing
need to overcome, we must not become so discouraged that we don’t want
to take the Passover! Rather, examining ourselves should serve as the
preparation God wants for us. Once we do, we are to focus on Jesus
Christ–He is our Passover! Just as He set us an example, let us also
keep the Passover in the manner that is truly pleasing to God!

Lead Writers: Dave Harris and Norbert Link

©2024 Church of the Eternal God