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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 11 - Verse 27
Verse 27. Wherefore. wste. So that; or it follows from what has been said. If this be the origin and intention of the Lord's Supper, then it follows that whoever partakes of it in an improper manner is guilty of his body and blood. The design of Paul is to correct their improper mode of observing this ordinance; and having showed them the true nature and design of the institution, he now states the consequences of partaking of it in an improper manner.
Shall eat this bread. 1 Co 11:26. Paul still calls it bread, and shows thus that he was a stranger to the doctrine that the bread was changed into the very body of the Lord Jesus. Had the papal doctrine of transubstantiation been true, Paul could not have called it bread. The Romanists do not believe that it is bread, nor would they call it such; and this shows how needful it is for them to keep the Scriptures from the people, and how impossible to express their dogmas in the language of the Bible. Let Christians adhere to the simple language of the Bible, and there is no danger of their falling into the errors of the papists.
Unworthily. Perhaps there is no expression in the Bible that has given more trouble to weak and feeble Christians than this. It is certain that there is no one that has operated to deter so many from the communion; or that is so often made use of as an excuse for not making a profession of religion. The excuse is, "I am unworthy to partake of this holy ordinance. I shall only expose myself to condemnation. I must therefore wait until I become more worthy, and better prepared to celebrate it." It is important, therefore, that there should be a correct understanding of this passage. Most persons interpret it as if it were unworthy, and not unworthily; and seem to suppose that it refers to their personal qualifications, to their unfitness to partake of it, rather than to the manner in which it is done. It is to be remembered, therefore, that the word here used is an adverb, and not an adjective, and has reference to the manner of observing the ordinance, and not to their personal qualifications or fitness. It is true that in ourselves we are all unworthy of an approach to the table of the Lord; unworthy to be regarded as his followers; unworthy of a title to everlasting life: but it does not follow that we may not partake of this ordinance in a worthy, i.e., a proper manner, with a deep sense of our sinfulness, our need of a Saviour, and with some just views of the Lord Jesus as our Redeemer. Whatever may be our consciousness of personal unworthiness and unfitness—and that consciousness cannot be too deep—yet we may have such love to Christ, and such a desire to be saved by him, and such a sense of his worthiness, as to make it proper for us to approach and partake of this ordinance. The term unworthily (anaxiwv) means, properly, in an unworthy or improper MANNER; in a manner unsuitable to the purposes for which it was designed or instituted; and may include the following things, viz.:
(1.) Such an irregular and indecent observance as existed in the church of Corinth, where even gluttony and intemperance prevailed under the professed design of celebrating the Supper.
(2.) An observance of the ordinance where there should be no distinction between it and common meals, See Barnes "1 Co 11:29"; where they did not regard it as designed to show forth the death of the Lord Jesus. It is evident that where such views prevailed, there could be no proper qualification for this observance; and it is equally clear that such ignorance can hardly be supposed to prevail now in those lands which are illuminated by Christian truth.
(3.) When it is done for the sake of mockery, and when the purpose is to deride religion, and to show a marked contempt for the ordinances of the gospel. It is a remarkable fact that many infidels have been so full of malignity and bitterness against the Christian religion as to observe a mock celebration of the Lord's Supper. There is no profounder depth of depravity than this; there is nothing that can more conclusively or painfully show the hostility of man to the gospel of God. It is a remarkable fact, also, that not a few such persons have died a most miserable death. Under the horrors of an accusing conscience, and the anticipated destiny of final damnation, they have left the world as frightful monuments of the justice of God. It is also a fact that not a few infidels who have been engaged in such unholy celebrations have been converted to that very gospel which they were thus turning into ridicule and scorn. Their consciences have been alarmed; they have shuddered at the remembrance of the crime; they have been overwhelmed with the consciousness of guilt, and have found no peace until they have found it in that blood whose shedding they were thus profanely celebrating.
Shall be guilty. enocov. This word properly means, obnoxious to punishment for personal crime. It always includes the idea of ill-desert, and of exposure to punishment on account of crime or ill-desert, Mt 5:22; Ex 22:3; 34:7; Nu 14:18; 35:27; Le 20:9.
Of the body and blood of the Lord. Commentators have not been agreed in regard to the meaning of this expression. Doddridge renders it, "Shall be counted guilty of profaning and affronting, in some measure, that which is intended to represent the body and blood of the Lord." Grotius renders it, "He does the same thing as if he should slay Christ." Bretschneider (Lex.) renders it, "Injuring by crime the body of the Lord." Locke renders it, "Shall be guilty of a misuse of the body and blood of the Lord;" and supposes it means that they should be liable to the punishment due to one who made a wrong use of the sacramental body and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper. Rosenmuller renders it, "He shall be punished for such a deed as if he had affected Christ himself with ignominy." Bloomfield renders it, "He shall be guilty respecting the body, i.e., guilty of profaning the symbols of the body and blood of Christ, and consequently shall be amenable to the punishment due to such an abuse of the highest means of grace." But it seems to me that this does not convey the fulness of the meaning of the passage. The obvious and literal sense is, evidently, that they should by such conduct be involved in the sin of putting the Lord Jesus to death. The phrase "the body and blood of the Lord," in this connexion, obviously, I think, refers to his death—to the fact that his body was broken, and his blood shed, of which the bread and wine were symbols; and to be guilty of that, means to be guilty of putting him to death; that is, to be involved in the crime, or to do a thing which should involve the same criminality as that. To see this, we are to remember,
(1.) that the bread and wine were symbols or emblems of that event, and designed to set it forth.
(2.) To treat with irreverence and profaneness the bread which was an emblem of his broken body, was to treat with irreverence and profaneness the body itself; and in like manner the wine, the symbol of his blood.
(3.) Those, therefore, who treated the symbols of his body and blood with profaneness and contempt were united in spirit with those who put him to death. They evinced the same feelings towards the Lord Jesus that his murderers did. They treated him with scorn, profaneness, and derision; and showed that with the same spirit they would have joined in the act of murdering the Son of God. They would evince their hostility to the Saviour himself as far as they could do, by showing contempt for the memorials of his body and blood. The apostle does by no means, however, as I understand him, mean to say that any of the Corinthians had been thus guilty of his body and blood. He does not charge on them this murderous-intention. But he states what is the fair and obvious construction which is to be put on a wanton disrespect for the Lord's Supper. And the design is to guard them, and all others, against this sin. There can be no doubt that those who celebrate his death in mockery and derision are held guilty of his body and blood. They show that they have the spirit of his murderers; they evince it in the most awful way possible; and they who would thus join in a profane celebration of the Lord's Supper would have joined in the cry, "Crucify him, crucify him." For it is a most fearful and solemn act to trifle with sacred things; and especially to hold up to derision and scorn, the bitter sorrows by which the Son of God accomplished the redemption of the world.
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