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Breaking Bread & The Lords Supper
Sermons on the Lords supper
Let A Man Examine Himself
by Ray Watson
Message on breaking bread at the Lord’s supper and what it really means to examine yourself in a manner that is worthy.
“Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself..” 1 Corinthians 11: 28.29
Christianity is a great burden to some people. Instead of imparting the life-giving joy of knowing our sins are forgiven and our burden of guilt has been lifted from us, in some circles the christian religion has become corrupted and used as the devils bludgeon on poor humanity. Sin-consciousness permeates our hymns and reigns from the pulpit. “If you were tried in court for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Nowhere is the guilt felt more acutely than at communion time where we are told to “examine ourselves” to see if we are worthy of partaking of the Lord’s table. How often do we pass that particular test?
Communion time isn’t the only time we inspect ourselves. We critique ourselves all day long. How is my performance today? How am I doing as a parent? Am I a good wife or husband? How am I performing at work? Am I attractive enough? Am I up to this task? Our insecurities hunt us down and haunt us – ever lurking in the shadows and subconsciously causing us to be always inward looking, always inspecting ourselves, always in need of some sort of affirmation.
Such is the human condition. But God has provided a remedy in the cross. If anyone has been bitten by the snake, let him not look at himself or his own condition, but let him look at the serpent on Moses staff.
In the Old Testament when a sinner came to worship he brought an animal without blemish to be examined by the priest. The priest did not examine the sinner, he examined the sacrificial animal. If the sacrifice was without blemish, both the offering and the sinner were accepted. In the New Testament God does not examine us, He has already examined Jesus and found Him to be a perfect substitute for our examination. This is why we are “accepted in the Beloved.”
At communion time it is no longer a question of my “worthiness” in partaking of the Lord’s table. My personal failure regarding God’s standard for holiness is a fact well established and needs no further analysis. At communion there is no need for examination, as it has already taken place. John the Baptist declared, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And it was on this occasion that God the Father examined His Son and said, “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Pilate said he found no fault in the man. Jesus was tried by the religious court and found guilty, but the secular state found no fault at all. The world will leave you alone, but religion will find you guilty. Jesus came to set us free from the guilt that religion brings.
If you read the full context of the passage where Paul instructs the Corinthians to “examine themselves” he is not talking about worthiness to be called a christian - only faith in Jesus imparts that privilege. It has nothing to do with works, the Bible says it is “apart from our works”. Then what does the expression “examine yourselves” refer to? Paul is referring to their failure to consider one another in eating the Lord’s Supper together. Some believers were being gluttons and getting drunk, while others were going home hungry. (verse 21) This showed complete lack of discernment regarding the purpose of the Lord’s Supper - to remember Christ’s selfless sacrifice on our behalf, and to share this moment corporately with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.
The conclusion of the chapter (verse 33) summarises the emphasis of Pauls intended meaning of the expression “examine yourselves” …“Therefore my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home …” It simply means that if Christ shed His blood so selflessly for us, can we not at least be considerate of our brothers and sisters at the meal table that is supposed to be a celebration of this selfless act? Would it not be dishonouring to Christ to be otherwise?
So when we celebrate communion we will be conscious of the needs of those around us, and so rightly “discern the Lord’s body”. But we are not going to examine ourselves and our performance in a negative introspective way, because Jesus has already been examined, and He is our substitute for the exam.
I don’t know about you but I am not going to take upon myself the burden of failure anymore. I have cast off the religious yoke of bondage. There is only one yoke. Jesus said “take my yoke upon you.” I can’t do this perfection thing, it’s too much for me. I am yoked to Jesus, and together we carry the burden. And He carries the bulk of it. I’m just not doing it myself any more. I’m tired of not being good enough. Perfection is too hard a task master. There is none good but God. Oh Jesus!
For more on this subject go the communion songs page where you can listen to a song especially written for a Sunday morning communion service. The song deals with the subject of a person not needing to “examine themselves” in the way this verse is usually interpreted, but rather points to Jesus as the one who has been examined in our stead, and has been accepted as the perfect sacrifice.
Communion Songs – “Present yourself a glorious church”
Breaking bread & the Lord’s Supper – What it really means to examine yourself
The Passover Lamb – The spiritual significance of the Jewish Passover story