1 Corinthians 11:29 MEANING

1 Corinthians 11:29
(29) Unworthily.--This word is not in the best Greek MSS.

Damnation to himself.--The Greek word hero does not imply final condemnation. On the contrary, it only means such temporal judgments as the sickness and weakness subsequently mentioned, and which are to save the man from sharing the final damnation of the heathen.

Not discerning the Lord's body.--The words "the Lord's" are to be omitted, the weight of MS. evidence being altogether against their authenticity. 1 Corinthians 11:30 is a parenthesis, and 1 Corinthians 11:31 re-opens with this same verb. The force of the passage is, "He who eats and drinks without discerning the Body (i.e., the Church) in that assembly, eats and drinks a judgment to himself; for if we would discern ourselves we should not be judged."

There are some important points to be borne in mind regarding this interpretation of the passage. (1) The Greek word, which we render "discerning," "discern," signifies to arrive at a right estimate of the character or quality of a thing. (2) The fault which St. Paul was condemning was the practice which the Corinthians had fallen into of regarding these gatherings as opportunities for individual indulgence, and not as Church assemblies. They did not rightly estimate such gatherings as being corporate meetings; they did not rightly estimate themselves as not now isolated individuals, but members of the common Body. They ought to discern in these meetings of the Church a body; they ought to discern in themselves parts of a body. Not only is this interpretation, I venture to think, the most accurate and literal interpretation of the Greek, but it is the only view which seems to me to make the passage bear intelligibly on the point which St. Paul is considering, and the real evil which he seeks to counteract. (3) To refer these words directly or indirectly to the question of a physical presence in the Lord's Supper, is to divorce them violently from their surroundings, and to make them allude to some evil for which the explicit and practical remedy commended in 1 Corinthians 11:33-34 would be no remedy at all. Moreover. if the word "body" means the Lord's physical body, surely the word "Lord's" would have been added, and the words, "and the blood," for the non-recognition of the blood would be just as great an offence. (4) St. Paul never uses the word "body" in reference to our Lord's physical body, without some clear indication that such is meant. (See Romans 7:4; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 1:22.) On the other hand, the use of the word "Body," or "Body of Christ," meaning the Church, is frequent. We have had it but a few verses before, in reference to this very subject (1 Corinthians 10:16). It is also to be found in Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 5:23; Ephesians 5:30. (In this last passage, "of His flesh and of His bones," are not in the best MSS., and destroy the real force of the "Body," which means "Church.")

Verse 29. - Unworthily. The word is not genuine here, being repeated from ver. 27; it is omitted by א, A, B, C. Eateth and drinketh damnation to himself; rather, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself There is reason to believe that the word "damnation" once had a much milder meaning in English than that which it now popularly bears. In King James's time it probably did not of necessity mean more than "an unfavourable verdict." Otherwise this would be the most unfortunate mistranslation in the whole Bible. It has probably kept thousands, as it kept Goethe, from Holy Communion. We see from ver. 32 that this "judgment" had a purely merciful and disciplinary character. Not discerning; rather, if he discern not, the Lord's body, Any one who approach? the Lord's Supper in a spirit of levity or defiance, not discriminating between it and common food, draws on himself, by so eating and drinking, a judgment which is defined in the next verse.

11:23-34 The apostle describes the sacred ordinance, of which he had the knowledge by revelation from Christ. As to the visible signs, these are the bread and wine. What is eaten is called bread, though at the same time it is said to be the body of the Lord, plainly showing that the apostle did not mean that the bread was changed into flesh. St. Matthew tells us, our Lord bid them all drink of the cup, ch. Mt 26:27, as if he would, by this expression, provide against any believer being deprived of the cup. The things signified by these outward signs, are Christ's body and blood, his body broken, his blood shed, together with all the benefits which flow from his death and sacrifice. Our Saviour's actions were, taking the bread and cup, giving thanks, breaking the bread, and giving both the one and the other. The actions of the communicants were, to take the bread and eat, to take the cup and drink, and to do both in remembrance of Christ. But the outward acts are not the whole, or the principal part, of what is to be done at this holy ordinance. Those who partake of it, are to take him as their Lord and Life, yield themselves up to him, and live upon him. Here is an account of the ends of this ordinance. It is to be done in remembrance of Christ, to keep fresh in our minds his dying for us, as well as to remember Christ pleading for us, in virtue of his death, at God's right hand. It is not merely in remembrance of Christ, of what he has done and suffered; but to celebrate his grace in our redemption. We declare his death to be our life, the spring of all our comforts and hopes. And we glory in such a declaration; we show forth his death, and plead it as our accepted sacrifice and ransom. The Lord's supper is not an ordinance to be observed merely for a time, but to be continued. The apostle lays before the Corinthians the danger of receiving it with an unsuitable temper of mind; or keeping up the covenant with sin and death, while professing to renew and confirm the covenant with God. No doubt such incur great guilt, and so render themselves liable to spiritual judgements. But fearful believers should not be discouraged from attending at this holy ordinance. The Holy Spirit never caused this scripture to be written to deter serious Christians from their duty, though the devil has often made this use of it. The apostle was addressing Christians, and warning them to beware of the temporal judgements with which God chastised his offending servants. And in the midst of judgement, God remembers mercy: he many times punishes those whom he loves. It is better to bear trouble in this world, than to be miserable for ever. The apostle points our the duty of those who come to the Lord's table. Self-examination is necessary to right attendance at this holy ordinance. If we would thoroughly search ourselves, to condemn and set right what we find wrong, we should stop Divine judgements. The apostle closes all with a caution against the irregularities of which the Corinthians were guilty at the Lord's table. Let all look to it, that they do not come together to God's worship, so as to provoke him, and bring down vengeance on themselves.For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily,.... As before explained, 1 Corinthians 11:27 "eateth and drinketh damnation to himself"; or guilt, or judgment, or condemnation; for by either may the word be rendered; nor is eternal damnation here meant; but with respect to the Lord's own people, who may through unbelief, the weakness of grace, and strength of corruption, behave unworthily at this supper, temporal chastisement, which is distinguished from condemnation with the world, and is inflicted in order to prevent it, 1 Corinthians 11:32 and with respect to others it intends temporal punishment, as afflictions and diseases of body, or corporeal death, as it is explained in 1 Corinthians 11:30. This they may be said to eat and drink, because their unworthy eating and drinking are the cause and means of it. Just as Adam and Eve might be said to eat condemnation to themselves and posterity, because their eating of the forbidden fruit was the cause of it. So the phrase, "does not eat condemnation", is used in the Persic version of John 3:18 for "is not condemned". And let it be observed, that such an one is said to eat and drink this judgment or condemnation to himself, and not another; he is injurious to nobody but himself: this may serve to make the minds of such easy, who are not so entirely satisfied with some persons who sit down with them at the Lord's table, when they consider that it is to their own injury, and not to the hurt of others they eat and drink:

not discerning the Lord's body. This is an instance of their eating and drinking unworthily, and a reason why they eat and drink condemnation to themselves, or contract guilt, or expose themselves either to chastisement or punishment; because they distinguish not the Lord's supper from an ordinary and common meal, but confound them together, as did many of the Corinthians, who also did not distinguish the body of Christ in it from the body of the paschal lamb; or discern not the body of Christ, and distinguish it from the bread, the sign or symbol of it; or discern not the dignity, excellency, and usefulness of Christ's body, as broken and offered for us, in which he bore our sins on the tree, and made satisfaction for them; a commemoration of which is made in this ordinance.

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