Today I want to zero in on a couple of verses that have been key to our misunderstandings of both the form and the function of the Lord’s Supper. The verses come from the end of 1 Corinthians 11, the only passage in the New Testament that tells us how to eat the communion meal.

“Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A person ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:27-29

The phrase “unworthy manner” is an English translation of the original Greek word “anaxios.” It is an adverb, not an adjective. This word describes the verb in the sentence, not the noun. This is a really boring detail to build this blog post around, but it’s so profound. It’s so significant to the meaning of Scripture’s instructions. “Unworthy” does not describe you. This isn’t about the state of your soul. “Unworthy” is not about your life this week or for the past month, it’s about the way you’re eating right now. Is the manner in which you are eating and drinking this meal with your church family worthy of the Lord?

It’s not, “Are you worthy to eat and drink with the risen Christ and his holy people?” That question has already been answered. No, you are not worthy! None of us is worthy. We are all unholy sinners who have no right to be in God’s presence, eating with him at his feast. Or, yes, we are all worthy! By the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we are all made worthy. All of us are equally worthy by grace through faith in Christ. You see what I’m saying? The question of your worthiness is not the issue here.

It’s more like, “Now that you are made righteous by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, how are you eating and drinking this meal?” Are you only concerned about yourself? Are you paying attention to the people around you? As you eat and drink, are you recognizing the body? Not “body of the Lord.” Some of the Bible translations add “of the Lord” in verse 29, but that’s not in the original text. It’s just “recognize the body,” the group. Every time Paul uses the word “body” in 1 Corinthians, especially in this immediate context, he’s referring to the congregation (10:16-17, 12:12-13). Discern the body, the community. Not the bloody, mangled, dying or dead body of Jesus on the cross. Pay attention to the community, the people. The main point of the Lord’s Supper is to share with one another, not to satisfy your own needs. That’s the core of Paul’s instructions here. This is how he sums it up.

“So, then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:33

If you’re concerned about filling your belly and getting drunk, stay home. This meal is not as much about the food and drink as it is about sharing and serving one another as a community in Christ. Wait for each other, he says. Be considerate. Think about one another. Do this together. Communion.