A big part of the communion-confusion stems from a misreading of Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians. As I have not found a good translation of 1 Corinthians 11:26-32, I have provided my own paraphrase below. (I looked at the meaning of the original Greek behind some of the words in an earlier post.) Take care when you quote me for I am not a Greek-speaker. I may have missed some things. But I daresay my rough paraphrase is closer to Paul’s original meaning than many of the English translations we have today.
Paul never wrote to condemn Christians. He wrote to free them from sin and all its effects. If you are not being set free when you read his writings, something is wrong.
|NIV Translation||Paul’s Paraphrase|
|1 Cor 11:26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.||For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death and triumphant victory over sin and all its effects until he comes.|
|1 Cor 11:27 Therefore, 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.||Therefore, if you eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord without appreciating what Jesus accomplished, it’s like saying ‘Jesus died for nothing.’ You are not honoring the Lord’s body and blood.|
|1 Cor 11:28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.||So before you take communion, take a look at yourself. Are you sick? Are you battling guilt and condemnation? Are you giving place to things that Jesus carried in his body and paid for with his blood?|
|1 Cor 11:29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.||Because if you eat and drink without understanding all that the Lord did in his body, you’re not going to be free. It’s like saying, “I’m still under judgment.” For instance, if you don’t believe that by his wounds you were healed, then you’re not going to be healed.|
|1 Cor 11:30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.||This is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have died prematurely.|
|1 Cor 11:31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.||But if we judged ourselves in light of the finished work of the cross (forgiven, accepted, healed), then we would not suffer the punishing effects of sin (condemnation, rejection, sickness).|
|1 Cor 11:32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.||When we renew our minds and learn to discern what is from the Lord and what is not, we are trained up and no longer suffer sin’s effects. Unlike those who reject the grace of God revealed in Jesus, we can live free from sickness and condemnation.|
We have looked at what it means to take communion in an unworthy manner and elsewhere I have unpacked what it means to be judged by the Lord. Contrary to what you may have heard, this has nothing to do with examining yourself to see whether you are worthy or not. To take communion in a worthy manner is to honor the body and blood of Jesus that was sacrificed for your salvation.
A proper definition of salvation includes forgiveness, healing, deliverance, indeed, everything that is part of the abundant life that Jesus promised (Jn 10:10). Because of Jesus’ costly sacrifice, you have full rights to every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3), along with healing (1 Pet 2:24), forgiveness (Eph 1:7), a guilt-free conscience (Heb 10:22), and unrestricted access to the throne of grace (Heb 4:16).