1 Cor. 11:23-34 – That You Might Not Come Together for Judgment

Translation and Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 21 June 2009


17. But in passing along this message I am not giving praise

            because it is not for the better but rather for the worse that y’all are coming together!

            18. For first, when you are coming together as a church, I am hearing of schisms existing among you, and I believe some extent [of it].

19. for it is also necessary for sects to be among you

in order that the ones who test genuine might be brought to light among you.

            20. When you came together therefore in the same [place], it was not to eat the Lordly supper,

            21. for each is taking first his own supper in the eating,

                        and on one hand there is one which is hungry and on the other hand one which is drunk!

            22. for don’t you even have homes for the purpose of eating and drinking?

            or are you thinking poorly of the church of God and putting down the have-nots?

What can I say? Shall I praise you in this? I am not giving praise!


23. For I myself received from the Lord that which also I delivered to you:

            that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was being betrayed took bread

            24. and after giving thanks He broke [it]

            and said, “My body is this, which is in your behalf.

                        You must keep doing this for the purpose of the remembrance of me.

            25. likewise also the cup after the supper saying “This cup is the new covenant in my blood;          keep doing this – whenever you do drink – for the purpose of the remembrance of me.

                                    26. for whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup,

                                    you are proclaiming the death of the Lord until whenever He comes.

            27. Therefore, whoever shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily

            will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.


28. Man must continue to test himself for genuineness,

and thus he is to continue to eat from the bread and drink out of the cup.

            29. for the one who eats and drinks while not distinguishing the body

                        is eating and drinking judgment into himself.

                        30. on account of this many among you are weak and sickly, and quite enough sleep [in death],

            31. but if we were distinguishing ourselves, we would not have been judged.


32. Now, when we are judged under the Lord, we are being disciplined

            in order that we might not be judged down along with the world.

33. Thus, my brothers, when you come together for the purpose of eating

            you must keep attending to one another.

            34. If someone is hungry, he must continue to eat in the house,

                        in order that it not be into judgment that you come together.

Now, I will arrange the remaining matters whenever I come.


·         Story of Governor Gumpas of the Lone Islands holding government contrary to the wishes of King Caspian, unexpectedly confronted Caspian and being deposed, from C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

·         Governor Gumpas was very good at making rules and following the rules, but he missed the heart of his king and didn’t even recognize the king’s men when they were in his presence. For this reason he was kicked out.

·         What if Jesus were to show up right now and ask you: “Why are you here? Why are you singing like that? Why are you dressed like that? Why are you taking communion that way?” Would you recognize Him? Would you pass the test of upholding what is on His heart? Would He kick you out like He did the moneychangers long ago? Would you just get a stripe from His whip?

·         The truth is that when we come together as a church, Jesus is among us. So every time we come together, we need to be careful that we are assembling for the reasons He calls us together and that we are attending to His people.

·         Oceans of ink have been spilled across acres of pages about the Lord’s Supper over the last two millennia, and I have already delivered one sermon last week on this passage. The thesis of that sermon was that the Lord’s supper was primarily about our union with Christ and our unity with the body of Christ.

·         Therefore, focusing on the controversies surrounding the Lord’s Supper are an attack on the heart of the sacrament. So, although most of the commentaries I read focused on the controversies, and although I am naturally interested in taking positions on all the controversies, I want to use a different exegetical strategy for teaching the rest of this chapter.

·         As I studied the Greek text behind our English translations of this passage, it jumped out at me that some form of the Greek word “judge” (krinw) appears seven times between verses 29-34, and so I have decided to take these seven phrases as my outline:

I)        Eats and drinks judgment into himself (v. 29a - krima) – weak, sick, sleep (v.30)

A)    :Paul opened this section on the Lord’s Supper with the statement that the Corinthian church was worse off for coming together rather than better off. Here in vs. 29-30 he explains that the way they were doing the Lord’s Supper was resulting in God bringing judgment upon them in the form of weakness, sickness, and death!

B)    How many of you are experiencing fatigue? Health problems? Anxiety at work? Financial loss? Untimely deaths in the family? Have you considered that these things might be God’s intervention in your life, a kind of judgment, and not mere chance happenings?

C)    All sickness and death is the result of sin, and ultimately can be traced back to Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the garden of Eden, so we need not fall into the trap of over-analyzing and trying to pin every bad thing to a particular sin we did, but we do need to let every bit of weakness and sickness and death in our lives turn our hearts to Jesus, humbly confess our rebellion against Him and depend upon Him to be the source of our strength and depend upon Him to heal what is broken in our lives and to save us and give us life.

D)    If you are depending upon Jesus to save you, I believe that this “judgment” that can be “eaten and drunk into” yourself is the same as the “chastening/discipline” mentioned in v. 32 – and we’ll look at that more in depth in a bit.
If you are not depending upon Jesus to save you, the “judgment” takes the form of the “condemnation along with the world” apart from Christ – also mentioned in v.32.

E)     Verse 26 says that “as often as you eat the bread and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death” (which, by the way, leaves the question of how often to take the Lord’s Supper open – “however often” you do it) Verse 27 then says that since eating and drinking in the Lord’s Supper is proclaiming the Lord’s death, “therefore eating and drinking unworthily” makes one “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.”

1.      This word “announce/proclaim” the Lord’s death comes from Ex. 13:6-8 where the Passover is instituted: “Eat unleavened bread for seven days, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to Jehovah... and you shall proclaim to your child that day… “It is because of what Jehovah did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.” That Hebrew word for “proclaim” is Haggadah, and to this day, Jews use that word as the title for their Passover programs! (Show examples.)

2.      The Christian fulfillment of the Passover is the Lord’s Supper, and in the Lord’s Supper, we are to proclaim to our children and to all who can see that “it is because of what Jesus did for me that I came out from the bondage of sin!”

3.      If that is not the message you are wanting to broadcast when you take communion, you are taking it unworthily, and here’s why you stand guilty:

4.      The word for “guilty” in v.27 is used 10 times in the New Testament, and every time it has to do with standing condemned by God’s law. The fact is that no one can keep all of God’s law perfectly, and so, if we stand before God on the merits of our own good and bad deeds, we will be forever condemned. The only way to come out from under that condemnation is to stand under the blood of Christ as the payment of the penalty of breaking God’s law. If you refuse to stand under the body and blood of Christ, you are refusing your salvation and you stand guilty of treason before God.

5.      Heb. 10:28-29 “A man that has disregarded the law of Moses will die without compassion upon the testimony of two or three witnesses. Think how much more severe punishment he will be judged worthy of, who has trodden underfoot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has done dishonor unto the Spirit of grace?”

6.      Notice, by the way, that the passage I just quoted from Hebrews doesn’t assume that the bread and juice become Christ’s actual body and blood.

(a)    If it had become Jesus’ actual body and blood at His last supper, there would have been two bodies of Christ there in the upper room! (Arnold)

(b)   Jesus did not say, “This is my flesh;” He said, “This is my body.” “Flesh” and “body” are two different words in Greek just as in English. I was just reading of a missionary to a group of cannibals in Papua New Guinea who had to make a big deal of that distinction! (Anderson) Christ does indeed offer Himself to us, His whole self along with all His humanity in this sacrament, not just some meat off His bones. And it is a spiritual - not a fleshly - offer, transacted by His Holy Spirit who dwells in us and connects us to Christ’s physical body in heaven at the right hand of God. (Calvin)

(c)    Furthermore, Jesus did not say, “This is my blood.” He said, “This cup is the covenant.” Clearly this is symbolic language, since a cup is not equal to a covenant unless there is a larger symbolic context behind it. (Clark)

(d)   The desecration of a symbol can mean the same thing as the desecration of the thing symbolized. Last week was Flag Day. I remember seeing a neighbor driving his fine old Chevy pickup around town with a big American flag planted on a flagpole in the bed of the truck. It lifted my spirits about my country just seeing that truck with the shiny pale yellow paint job, two young men grinning from the cab and that big flag flapping behind them. Conversely, what do you think would have happened to me if I had driven through Ft. Riley in the back of a pickup with a bunch of American flags, burning them, trampling on them, and throwing mud on them? I’d be lucky if I didn’t get shot, because in the minds of patriotic soldiers, desecrating the symbol of our country is practically the same as desecrating the country itself.

F)     So what can we learn from this first occurrence of the word “judgment” in v.29? The fact that we can bring judgment upon ourselves through not trusting and not proclaiming the good news of salvation through Jesus’ death on the cross.

1.      One application of this truth is to treat the things of God with great care and respect. The Lord’s Supper is not the same thing as cookies and juice at recess. Do not let yourself get careless in worshipping God. God examines everything you do and He will hold you accountable for everything. Maintain a healthy fear of taking the Lord’s Supper unworthily and don’t become guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord.

2.      The second application of this truth is that when you do stray and God starts bringing hardship and stress into your life, don’t respond by tightening your belt or pulling harder at your bootstraps to lift yourself up. Respond to the bad things that happen by throwing yourself upon God’s grace, begging His forgiveness, and finding a renewed relationship in Him.

II)      Not distinguishing the body (v.29b -diakrinw) &

III)    If we had been distinguishing/judging (v.31a - diakrinw) cf. examine v.28

A)    The first instance of the word “judgment” spoke of God’s judgment. The second and third speak of a judgment we are called to make. We are to “judge ourselves” (v.31) in order that we “not be judged,” because if we do “not judge rightly the body,” (as we saw in v.29) we will be “eating and drinking judgment into” ourselves.

B)    The Greek word behind “judge ourselves” in v.31 and “judge rightly/recognize/discern the body” is the same. It is the word for “judge” with a preposition in front of it that colors the meaning a little more. It means to make a discriminating choice as a judge, to judge what is out and what is in, to distinguish between things. For this reason, I prefer to translate both phrases with the same English word: “we are to distinguish the body” and we are to “distinguish ourselves.”

C)    What are we to be judging here? v.28 says “judge the body” – no blood mentioned here, just the body. I believe that Paul is doing a play on words, because the word “body” can mean two things, and I believe Paul is using the one word to intentionally carry both meanings:

1.      The first 13 times Paul uses the word “body” in 1 Cor., he is referring to a flesh and blood human body.

(a)    Paul, writing from Ephesus to these people in the city of Corinth said in 5:3 that he was “absent in body but present in spirit.”

(b)   In this sense, the body of Christ is His physical body that was prepared by God and born of the virgin Mary.

(c)    In discerning the body of the Lord Jesus, we remember the man Jesus, His death on the cross and resurrection, and Him now ruling in heaven.

(d)   We make a distinction between the bread and juice and the man symbolized by them.

(e)    We also make a distinction between Jesus as the Bible presents Him to us and all the falsehoods out there about Him as well as other gods from other sources. The Body is about Jesus.

2.      However, in chapters 10-12, a different use for the word “body” appears, starting in 10:17 “you who are many are one body.”

(a)    In this sense, the body of Christ is the church, the people of God.

(b)   I believe that’s one reason why the blood is not mentioned in 11:29, we may be guilty of the body and blood of the person of Christ, but it is because we did not discern the body – the church – of the Lord.

(c)    Actually, the words “of the Lord” do not appear in any of the Greek manuscripts from the first 500 years of Christianity, so it is probable that Paul’s original words were “discern the body” not “discern the body of the Lord” – which lends weight to this second meaning of the body being the church.

(d)   This fits perfectly with the overall theme of I Corinthians - The unity of the Body of Christ and not causing wrong divisions in it. The parallel phrase in v.31 which uses the same verb “judge” with the object being “ourselves,” making “the body” parallel to “ourselves” clinches it. As much as Paul may be speaking of the person of Christ which must be discerned, His meaning certainly includes distinguishing whether we ourselves are part of the body of Christ - the church - or not.

(e)    How do you become part of the body of Christ, a member of the church? It starts with God’s Spirit working in you to bring you to repentance over your offenses against Him and drawing you to trust in Jesus to save you and make things right. You are spiritually part of the body of Christ at that point. This results in the outward things of associating with other Christians to worship God on the Lord’s Day, as well as water baptism, and formalizing your membership in the church with the taking of vows that place you in a covenant relationship with the people of a particular congregation.

D)    How do we discern? Word study on diakrinw

1.      Not ethnic distinctions – Acts 15:6-9 And the apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider of this matter. And when there had been much questioning, Peter rose up, and said unto them, “Brothers, you know that a good while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as He did to us; and He made no distinction between us [Jews] and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.”

2.      Not economic distinctions – James 2:2-4 If a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, comes into your synagogue, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in; and you pay attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothing, and say, “Sit here in a good place;” and you say to the poor man, “Stand there, or sit under my footstool;” Are you not making distinctions among yourselves and becoming judges with evil thoughts?

3.      Church discipline: Who is in and who is out of the church – 1 Cor. 5:11 “I write to y’all not to mix together with anyone if, while called a brother, he is being immoral or greedy or an idol-worshipper… not even to eat together with such… 6:5 Is there not a wise man among you… who would be able to judge rightly…?”

4.      Faith: Trust and obey Christ – Rom. 14:23 “He that doubts [literally discerns for himself, i.e. judges humanisticly without reference to God] has been condemned if he eat, because it is not from faith; and whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

5.      So once again we see these two themes of the person of Christ and the body of Christ emerge in what Christians are to make distinctions about.

E)     There is a related word in v. 28 which also has to do with our action as judges, and that is the verb “examine” – We are to examine ourselves in the process of partaking in the Lord’s Supper.

1.      The Greek word behind this word “examine” is the same word used in v.19 for “approved/genuine” (“It is necessary for sects to be among you in order that the ones who test genuine [or are approved] might be brought to light among you.”)

2.      This word combines the concepts of thinking about something and then also passing approval upon it.

3.      In some of the old Westerns a cowboy would grab a sheriff’s badge and bite down hard on it to see if it was a real badge or not. If it was a real badge it wouldn’t dent, but instead would hurt the cowboy’s teeth, and he’d know he was facing a real law enforcement officer, not a pretender.

4.      The command in this passage is not to stare at our belly buttons for the sake of navel-gazing, but rather we are to search for genuineness in ourselves:

(a)    “Am I here out of a genuine desire to remember Christ, proclaim His death, and receive His salvation?”

(b)   “Am I here because I am part of the church – the body of Christ?”

(c)    If those things are in your heart even in a small and imperfect way, you are not only encouraged, but outright commanded to eat and drink in v.28: “He must eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”

(d)   If, however, those things are not present at all in you, don’t take; you could be eating and drinking judgment upon yourself.

5.      Also notice who does the Bible say should do the examining? The pastor? No, the burden of testing is placed on you, not anybody else.

(a)    If you are a member of the church, take spiritual responsibility for yourself rather than just waiting for your parents or the elders to do things for you.

(b)   If you’re not a member, become a member. Call me this week to make the arrangements!

(c)    If you are a child who has been baptized, you ARE a member of the church, whether or not you are taking communion yet. If you want to take communion, please talk to me after the service – I would love to arrange for you to take communion!

6.      Finally, what is the extent of the self-examination? The Bible is not explicit. I believe that is for a good reason: Different people are capable of different levels of self-examination, and we each just need to do what we are able to do.

(a)    If you have built up a good bit of Bible knowledge over the years, you will be held accountable for that knowledge; your awareness of nuances of sin should be much greater.

(b)   On the other hand, I believe that the leadership of the church should not put excessively high expectations upon less mature people to qualify for communion. I believe that children and mentally handicapped people should not be refused the Lord’s Supper because they can’t explain the difference between transubstantiation and consubstantiation.

(i)     It doesn’t take much I.Q. at all to tell whether you are in or out of a group like the church,

(ii)   and it doesn’t take much I.Q. at all to place trust in Jesus and know that this sacrament has to do with Him.

(iii) The meaning of the Lord’s Supper is to recognize our union with Christ and our unity with the church. This meaning is turned upside down when we use the supper to exclude people who really are part of the church but are not as intelligent as others.

IV)  we would not be judged (v.31b – krinw)

V)    When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined/chastened (v.32a-krinw)

A)    The next two occurrences of the word “judge” are in vs. 31 and 32, referring back to God’s judgment mentioned in the first use of the word in v.29 that we already covered. If we know we are trusting Jesus Christ for our salvation and that the Lord’s Supper is making a statement about His death for us, and if we want to keep being part of the body of Christ, the church, and don’t want to split the church into factions, we will not be judged when we take the Lord’s Supper.

B)    v. 32 introduces the word “discipline/chastisement” to describe God’s judgment when we do mess up (and we will probably mess up from time to time).

C)    I could preach a whole sermon on this, and in fact I did - on September 10, 2006, so I won’t repeat it now, but you can see my notes on Isaiah 9 “Whom the Lord Loves He Disciplines” http://www.ctrchurch-mhk.org/sermons/Isa10Discipline.htm for a refresher.

D)    The reason why God brings judgment upon us in the church is in the last part of v.32 where we find the sixth occurrence of the Greek word for “judge:”

VI)  that we might not be judged down/condemned along w/ the world (v.32b-katakrinw)

A)    God does not bring weakness and sickness and loss upon us because He hates us;

B)    He brings these things upon His children because He loves us and wants to wake us up and protect us from being condemned by our own sin.

C)    Heb. 12:5-8 “My son, regard not lightly the chastening/discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him, for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. It is for chastening that you endure; God is dealing with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But, if you are un-disciplined… then… you are not sons.”

D)    If you find yourself disciplined by God, thank Him for showing concern for your soul and take comfort that you really are His child!

VII)Therefore Wait/attend to each other… eat in house in order that it not be into judgment that you come together (v. 34 - krima)

A)    With the seventh and final occurrence of the word “judgment” we come back full circle to the beginning of the passage about coming together for worse rather than for better because they were not discerning the body of Christ and were eating and drinking judgment upon themselves.

B)    Notice however that the conclusion is NOT to be more restrictive in who partakes of the Lord’s Supper, but rather to be more purposeful in organizing the meal so that it demonstrates the unity of the whole body of Christ. They are all to eat together rather than eating in shifts, and if anybody is too hungry to wait, they can eat at home before they come.

C)    This is why I have us all take the bread and cup together rather than as we are served. No one is in danger of going hungry if we do it the other way, but the way we do it is intended to be symbolic of our unity.

D)    Perhaps there are other more practical ways you can think of that would demonstrate the unity of the body of Christ, such as making corporate worship a priority every Lord’s Day, making contact with others in the church during the week to build community, sharing meals, giving financially, visiting the sick, paying attention to children…

Conclusion: Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, book 4, Ch 10 & 12

“THE VOICE OF CHRIST: … The enemy, knowing the great good and the healing power of Holy Communion, tries as much as he can by every manner and means to hinder and keep away the faithful and the devout. Indeed, there are some who suffer the worst assaults of Satan when disposing themselves to prepare for Holy Communion. As it is written in Job, this wicked spirit comes among the sons of God to trouble them by his wonted malice, to make them unduly fearful and perplexed, that thus he may lessen their devotion or attack their faith to such an extent that they perhaps either forego Communion altogether or receive with little fervor. No attention, however, must be paid to his cunning wiles, no matter how base and horrible -- all his suggestions must be cast back upon his head…

“I AM the Lover of purity, the Giver of all holiness. I seek a pure heart and there is the place of My rest... If you wish that I come to you and remain with you, purge out the old leaven and make clean the dwelling of your heart. Shut out the whole world with all the din of its vices. Sit as the sparrow lonely on the housetop, and think on your transgressions in bitterness of soul. Everyone who loves prepares the best and most beautiful home for his beloved, because the love of the one receiving his lover is recognized thereby.

“But understand that you cannot by any merit of your own make this preparation well enough, though you spend a year in doing it and think of nothing else. It is only by My goodness and grace that you are allowed to approach My table, as though a beggar were invited to dinner by a rich man and he had nothing to offer in return for the gift but to humble himself and give thanks. Do what you can and do that carefully. Receive the Body of the Lord, your beloved God Who deigns to come to you, not out of habit or necessity, but with fear, with reverence, and with love. I am He that called you. I ordered it done. I will supply what you lack. Come and receive Me. When I grant the grace of devotion, give thanks to God, not because you are worthy but because I have had mercy upon you. If you have it not and feel rather dry instead, continue in prayer, sigh and knock, and do not give up until you receive some crumb of grace... You come to be sanctified and united with Me, to receive new grace and to be aroused anew to amend. Do not neglect this grace, but prepare your heart with all care, and bring into it your Beloved.”


Epilogue: What makes for worthy partaking? Word study on anaxioV:

1.      Unstained by sin – Rev. 3:4

2.      Not loving people more than God – Mt. 10:37-38

3.      Recognizing that Christ is worthy, not us – Lk. 15:21, Rev. 4:11

4.      Responding in faith – Mt. 22:8, Acts 13:46

5.      Being thankful to God – 2 Thess. 1:3

6.      Bearing fruit of good works – Mt. 3:8, Lk. 10:7, Acts 26:20