Until He Comes
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Theme: The Lord’s Supper.
This week’s lessons remind us of the privilege and responsibility of partaking in Communion.
We have looked back and considered Christ’s death and resurrection. Now, there are two more time aspects to this passage. There is the future aspect, and that is important because we don’t just look to the past. We don’t look to a Christ who died on the cross for our sin and rose again and that’s the end of it. Rather, that same Jesus who died and ascended to heaven is coming again. He said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there you may be also.” This is the same Jesus. The one whom we look to in the past is the Jesus we look to in the future. This Jesus is coming, and because of that there is the present element as well.
The Apostle John, in his first letter, in the third chapter, is talking about the return of Christ. He says one day we’re going to see him. When we see him, we’re going to be like him because we can’t see Jesus in his glory while we’re in our sin. We have to be changed. To become like him, we have to be holy as he is holy. We have to be filled as he is filled – with love, and wisdom, and mercy, and all of his other attributes. John says, “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (v. 2). Then he makes this conclusion. He says, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (v. 3).
That is what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 11:27 and following. He says there is a way in which a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ can participate in the Lord’s Supper unworthily. He doesn’t mean “being unworthy.” It is not an adjective; it is an adverb. It doesn’t mean we come unworthy. If that were the problem, none of us would come. We are all unworthy. What he is referring to is the manner in which we come to the Communion service. Are we treating the Lord’s Supper flippantly? We can approach it as just another thing that goes on in the Christian church, as just another thing that fills up a little extra time on a Sunday morning and without any real thought about the state of our soul. He says it’s possible to do that and actually take judgment on yourself. He says some have been so wrong in the way they’ve approached the Lord’s Supper that the Lord has actually judged them with sickness, not with the loss of their salvation, but with sickness. And some have actually fallen asleep; some have actually died. God takes this very seriously.
So then, how should we come? We should recognize the Lord’s Supper for what it is–a great gift of God to his people, a great opportunity for growth, a privilege of meeting with Jesus Christ in a special spiritual way. If we understand this, we will search our hearts. We must ask the Spirit of God to reveal to us that which is displeasing in his sight and by his grace. We come confessing that sin and receiving the forgiveness for that sin that we certainly need. Paul says, “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). That is one way of saying that Jesus is most certainly coming. The question is how are we going to meet him when he comes. Are we going to meet him having treated spiritual things lightly? Are we going to meet him as those who have been faithful, who have profited from his gifts, who have fellowshiped with him at this table, and who are, therefore, ready to participate with him in that great fellowship at the great Marriage Supper of the Lamb?
What does it mean to partake of the Lord’s Supper unworthily?
What happened to those who partook unworthily of the Lord’s Supper in Corinth?
How should we approach the Lord’s Supper?
Think of how you have partaken of the Lord’s Supper in the past. Have you taken it too lightly? If you have, ask the Lord for forgiveness, and pray for his grace to deepen your understanding of this Sacrament.
Find out when your church will next be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. That morning, get up a little earlier and read 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. Ask God to prepare your heart to meet him in this special way.