Scripture (1Cor. 11: 24, 25) commands (not an option) born again believers of the Church Age to participate in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. These commands are found in the “do this” phrases in the passage.
The same verses also identify the purposes for celebrating the Lord’s Supper. One of the stated purposes is to “bring into remembrance” (not to reproduce) the Humanity (body/blood) of the Lord Jesus Christ. Another stated purpose is to "bring into remembrance" the atoning Work that He accomplished by the shedding of His blood while on the cross. The final stated purpose for celebrating the Lord's Supper is to, “… proclaim the Lord’s death until He returns 1Cor. 11: 26 NASB mine.” This stated proclamation purpose goes hand in hand with the Great Commission given to the Church, and to each member thereof (Matt. 28: 19, 20).
The New Covenant (contract) between God and Man was activated through the atoning shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 22: 20).
A contract must have two (or more) consenting (free will) parties. Each consenting party is responsible to fulfill all of the terms of the contract that apply to him. Once a contract has been established, neither side can add to, delete from, or alter any of the terms.
The divine side, in part, of the New Covenant (contract) was that He was to provide the means to atone for the world’s sin debt.
God fulfilled the providing the "means” part of the New Covenant (contract) through the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 1:35/John 1: 29) through the Work of God the Holy Spirit.
God fulfilled the atonement part of the New Covenant through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ while on the cross (John 19: 30).
God continues to fulfill His remaining part of the New Covenant by giving eternal life to every soul that enters into the New Covenant (contract) in an act of faith (John 3: 16).
The human side of the New Covenant (contract) requires that each soul believe, that is to place his personal/individual trust and confidence in the The Gospel Message that reveals the necessity (John 3: 5, 7) of salvation and how God fulfilled and continues to fulfill the divine side of the New Covenant (Contract)
Those who enter into the New Covenant are saved from the impending wrath of God to be experienced by all unbelievers in the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15). Those who are saved are forever “in Christ (Romans 8: 1 NASB).”
Never the less, taking part in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a sacred event, and is not to be taken lightly. Salvation can NEVER be lost, but there are serious consequences (1Cor. 11: 30) for receiving the symbolic elements in what Scripture call an “unworthy manner (1Cor. 11: 27 NASB).”
“For this reason (taking the elements in an unworthy manner) many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep (have died) -1Cor. 11: 30 italics mine NASB).”
Scripture (1Cor. 11: 28) makes it perfectly clear that the self-examination it speaks of is a crucial part in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, if the elements are not to be received in "an unworthy manner (1Cor. 11: 25 NASB)."
“But a man must examine himself, and in so doing, he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup (1Cor. 11: 28 NASB).”
Exactly what does this self-examination involve?
The answer is found in such verses as 2Cor. 13: 5/James 1: 22/1John 1: 9/John 8: 11.
Let’s examine the contributing principle(s) that each one of these verses provide.
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves…(2Cor. 13: 5 NASB).”
The key phrase in this verse is “in the faith.” Faith can be a noun and can be a verb. It is a noun when it refers to WHAT one believes. It is a verb when it speaks of a state of being or the action of believing. When "religious" persons find themselves in a corner in which they are unable to provide a plausible explanation, they will often respond with the classical, "It's our faith," answer. Faith in this sense, it referring to WHAT they believe.
"You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matt. 16: 16 NASB)."
Making a confession (an acknowledgment) of faith (what one believes), as did Peter (Matt. 16:16), takes place when one makes a personal acknowledgement as to what he believes, concerning the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who do are "in the faith," as far as salvation is concerned.
It was/and is to be on the basis of this type of confession of faith in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ (and NOT on the person of Peter) that the Church was/is to be built. In Peter's confession (acknowledgment) of faith, he was acknowledging WHO (God the Son) and WHAT (the anointed Savior) that Jesus was/is.
There is a difference between the Gospels (Matthew. Mark, Luke, and John) and the Gospel Message. The "Gospels" record the entire life of Christ, while He was here on Earth. The "Gospel Message" can be summed up in just two verses (John 3: 16, 18 NASB).
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (16). He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (18)." -John 3: 16, 28 NASB.
Many other verses of New Testament Scripture that go on to further explain what it means to "believe in Him." To believe in Him goes beyond acknowledging His existence. It involves putting one's full trust and confidence in what He accomplished on the cross, and not what we do (or have done) in name (authority) of religion, human conduct, of human deeds.
There are many who claim to be Christians that have a good knowledge of the Gospels, but fail to truly understand the Gospel Message. This is evidenced by their perceived need to participate in the products and practices of Man-made religion in order to either obtain (get saved) or retain (remain saved) salvation. Eternal security is NOT dependent on what we do. It is dependent on what God has done and what God had promised to do for all who are born again.
Until one is “in the faith” by being "born again (John 3: 5, 7 NASB)," he/she is as spiritually dead as he/she was on the day he/she came into this world. Spirit death, and not physical death, was the type of death that Adam and the woman (Eve) received "on the day" they sinned. With the exception of the Humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ, every soul since the Fall of Man comes into this world physically alive, but spiritually dead.
This spiritually death status is passed down through the male partner at the moment of conception (Psalms 51: 5). This is why the incarnation of the Lord's humanity could not and did not involve Joseph. See the Doctrine of Hypostatic Union for more detailed information on the important principle of the faith.
Here in the Church Age, one remains spiritually dead until (if) he/she is born again spiritually. One is born again (if) and when he/she is presented with, and choose to believe in, the Gospel Message. The regenerating (Titus 3: 5) and the sealing (Eph. 4: 30) that takes place at the moment of salvation is the Work of God the Holy Spirit.
Just as a physically dead man can do nothing in the physical realm, a spiritually dead man can do nothing in the spiritual realm until he/she is first born again. This is where many "Christian religions" have put the cart before the horse. Eternal life is NOT something that we receive as a reward if/when we arrive in Heaven. The gift of eternal life is received the moment one is born again, here on Earth, and continues on throughout all of eternity.
Being born again and receiving eternal life is the beginning of one's relationship and post salvation spiritual life with God.
The celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a post (after) salvation event, intended for souls that have already been born again. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper is NOT for the purpose of obtaining, retaining, or restoring salvation.
As we have already noted, the purpose of celebrating the Lord’s Supper is to bring into remembrance the Person and the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well then, if the issue of a born again believer's salvation has already been settled, then for what purpose does the self examination (1Cor. 11: 28) before receiving the Communion (Lord's Supper) of serve?
One, it provides the participant with the assurance that he/she is not receiving the elements in an unworthy manner.
Two, it provides to the means for the born again believer to determine if he/she is "in the faith," as far as the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship is concerned.
In addition to being in the faith as far as salvation is concerned, being in the faith also refers identifying and executing the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. Discipleship, that it the study and the application of the Word of God. Discipleship is a post (after) salvation activity.
To be “in the faith” in this sense, one must be involved in the o-n-g-o-i-n-g process of #1 being accurately taught the Word of God (2Pet. 3: 18), and #2 of applying (James 1: 22) the doctrine that one is being taught to the events of his/her daily life. This is evidenced by the increase in the knowledge and the application of that knowledge as one moves forward to the next level of spiritual maturity.
All born again believers are forever "in the faith," as far as salvation is concerned, but not all born again believers are "in the faith" as far as the post salvation spiritual life is concerned.
Taking an 1Cor. 11: 24 exam, but then not addressing the post (after) salvation issues that such examinations disclose, will not advance the born again believer in the post salvation spiritual life. There are no rest areas or plateaus along the road to spiritual maturity. One is either moving upwards, or is sliding backwards at any given time.
There is only ONE way to address any sin (James 2: 10) of commission (what one does) and any sin (James 2: 10) of omission (what one fails to do). Living in or with any sin (James 2: 10) that has not been addressed, takes and keeps the one involved out of fellowship (2Cor. 13: 14) with God.
Accordingly, to receive the Communion elements while out of fellowship with God is to do so in an unworthy manner (1Cor. 11: 27).
Sin is what takes the born again believer out of fellowship with God. Confession (1John 1: 9) to God is what restores fellowship. Forsaking (John 8: 11) that type of sin is how fellowship is maintained.
Being in fellowship (2Cor. 13: 14) with God is what assures the participant that he/she is not receiving the elements in an unworthy manner, having addressed (1John 1: 9/John 8: 11) the sin(s) that the 1Cor. 11: 28 examination will (1John 1: 8) bring to mind.
The ongoing need to confess (and/or to forsake) sin will always be with us as long, as we are here on Earth (Romans 7: 18, 19). It is when a born again believer chooses to make a sin a part of his/her lifestyle that he/she does the most damage.
In the worst case scenario, making any James 2: 10 sin a part of one's lifestyle can result in virtually spending the majority of his/her post salvation spiritual life out of fellowship with God.
I mention the James 2:10 "any" principle, because such sins as refusing to forgive others and/or looking down one's nose at others is just as much a sin and any other of the more than 300+ ways that one sin. It's worth noting that the sin of looking down one's nose at others makes the Proverbs 6: 16, 17 list of the type of sin that God hates. Perhaps there are no other types of sin that take and keep born again, Church going, believers out of fellowship (2Cor. 13: 14) with God.
All to often, those who do participate in these examinations find themselves in a James 1: 23, 24 scenario. By looking into the Word of God they acknowledge the sin, but as soon as they put the mirror (Bible) down, they forget what they have seen, and go right back to the 2Pet. 2: 22 "vomit" and "mire" that takes and keeps them out of fellowship with God.
"For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man that looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediatly forgotten what kind of person he was (James 1: 23, 24 NASB)."
The amount of time one spends (wastes) out of fellowship with God can be as brief as the amount of time it takes to confess a known sin that one has committed, but can also be as long as the rest of one's post salvation spiritual life here on Earth.
Confessing, but then not forsaking the type of sin in the future, results in one being like the proverbial dog that returns to its vomit (Prov. 26: 11), or the pig that returns to the (2Pet. 2: 22) mire. Such a believer goes around and around in a revolving doorway, going in and out of fellowship with God, and never moving forward in the plan of God.
"If we say that we have no sin (to confess or to forsake), we are deceiving ourselves and the truth (concerning ourselves) is not in us (1John 1: 8 NASB italics mine)."
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1John 1: 9 NASB).”
When in the process of preparing ourselves to participate in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we find ourselves confessing the same type of sin(s) over and over again, it is an indication that there is a problem in the (John 8: 11) forsaking department that needs to be addressed.
The 1John 1: 9 forgiveness of God is unlimited. God cannot be untrue to His own Word (1John 1: 9). God can not acknowledge the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ and then require further “payment” for a sin that has been confessed.
Forgiveness does NOT mean that can not still be consequences for the sin(s) we commit. Some of the damage that sin has caused will be with us (and others) for the rest of our/their lives here, on Earth. Forgiveness means that the loss of salvation is one of the consequences that a repentant sinner will not have to endure.
God will and does impose increasing levels, in frequency and intensity, of divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6) to motivate a born again believer to address sin that he/she has not yet confessed or forsaken.
No matter how far a soul wanders into the darkness of the devil world, it will always be the desire of God for any lost soul to be saved (1Tim. 2: 4), and/or for any back-sliding, saved, soul to return to the plan of God. Like the father of the prodigal son, our Father in Heaven looks down the road for the return of His wandering sons and daughters.
Divine discipline that God imposes on born again believers NEVER involves the loss of salvation (Romans 8: 1). It can, however, involve anything from having to live with a guilty conscience, up to and including, physical illness and physical death (Acts 5/1Cor. 11: 30), while here on Earth. As we have seen already, the type of discipline that one can receive for receiving the Communion elements in unworthy manner is of the most severe variety (1Cor. 11: 30).
Until we address (1John 1: 9/John 8: 11) any given sin(s) of commission and omission that God the Holy Spirit has already brought to our attention, we can go no further along the road to spiritual maturity.
What many "Christians" will try to do to make up for an area of sin that they are or have been involved in, is to get over-involved in some area of Christian service. Such involvement may impress people, but one is not in fellowship with God and cannot go further in the post salvation spiritual life until the sin(s) that He has brought to mind is addressed (1John 1: 9/John 8: 11).
Advancing in the post salvation spiritual life is NOT foremost on the minds of many who claim to Christians. Many do not even know what the post salvation spiritual life is all about. Instead, they have entered or re-entered into one of the many alternatives that Man-made “religion” has constructed, with the applause of the devil himself.
Examining one-self to determine if one is “in the faith” will go a long way in learning the difference between Christianity and Christian Religion. If one is “in the faith” (Christianity), he will see the evil in the devil’s counterfeit, Christian Religion.
As in the case of all successful counterfeit operations, the counterfeit must have the appearance of the real thing if it is to be accepted and passed along!
Although religion can appear to be what God desires and requires of Man, it is worthless (Matt. 15: 9).
Christian Religion, as opposed to Christianity, consists of all that Man in the name (authority) of religion has added to, distorted, or deleted from what the Word of God has to say on any given spiritual matter.
If something is of/from God, its roots will be found grounded in the Word of God. By tracing any teaching or practice back to its origin, one can determine if it has come from God, or if it is something that Man has altered or produced in the name of Man-made religion.
This was one of the great errors that the very religious Pharisees had made, rendering their worship of God meaningless (Matt. 15: 9). History has and will (1Tim. 4: 1) continue to repeat itself in this regard, here in the Church Age. Without making the 2Cor. 13:5/1Cor. 11:28 self-examinations, the weak Church Age, born again, believers are “sitting ducks” for the devil whose desire it is to destroy them (1Pet. 5: 8).
One can be a religious herculean, and yet be a spiritual weakling. One is spiritually weak when he/she is not operating from a position of strength that an accurate understanding of Scripture provides, OR when he/she fails to apply what he/she knows to be the truth.
Many, many, groups and individuals have been, are, and will be willing to lay down their lives in order to take an overt stand for their religious beliefs. This is especially true when the forces of religion and politics become bed-fellows.
Sincerely believing with all one’s heart will accomplish nothing in the spiritual realm if one sincerely believes is wrong.
There is no human or diabolical power in the universe that can destroy, undo, or reverse the divine work (Eph. 4: 3/Titus 3:5) and its results (Romans 8: 1) that took place at the moment of salvation.
Never-the-less, there are many things that can impact the experience that one will encounter throughout the course of one's post salvation spiritual life here on Earth. Dealing with All that God allows to take place can be a great test of faith
Just as in the case of the woman that was later named Eve, what is done is often done with the best of intentions, trying to improve what God had established.
Eve had been deceived, and therefore believed the devil’s lie, that by eating of the forbidden fruit, she and Adam would experience an elevated status (Gen. 3: 5) and an improved environment.
To discern truth from error within the Christian Community-at-large, the advancing disciple will ask (#1) from Who/whom (God, the devil, man?) did the concept/proposal come from; (#2) when did the teaching/practice begin, and (#3) rather or not there there is/was any Biblical substantiation to support it. If the teaching or advice being given runs contrary, adds to, or deletes what God has said, it is NEVER the right choice.
When making a spiritual evaluation of any given advice, teaching or activity, the advancing disciple will also examine the “fruit” (results) that advice, teaching/practice is producing. Have those who followed the advice, teaching or practice, become more focused on and appreciative of the Person and the Work of Christ, or has the glory and/or focus of attention been directed elsewhere.
The immediate “fruit” of a 1Cor. 11: 28 examination and response (1John 1:9/John 8: 11/James 1: 22) is the assurance of being in fellowship with God when participating in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, accompanied by the assurance that one is not receiving the elements in an unworthy manner (1Cor. 11: 27 NASB).
The long-term fruit of such an examination and response is that one is moving forward in the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship.
If a born again believer participates in the celebration of the Lord's Supper on a regular basis (as he/she should), yet he/she is no further along the road to spiritual maturity over a period of time, there is something gone wrong. Could it be that the "something gone wrong" is the failure to participate in the required 1Cor. 11: 28 examination, and/or to address the issues that such a self-examination will generate?
In summary, for a born again believer to participate in the celebration of the Lord's Supper when the opportunity presents itself, is a wilful act of disobedience to the "do this" commands of 1Cor. 11: 24, 25). Receiving the symbolic elements (bread/wine) in a unworthy manner opens the door to the most severe forms (1 Cor. 11: 30) of divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6) that a born again believer can receive, here on Earth. Engaging in a 1 Cor. 11: 28 examination is crucial part in the celebration of the Lord's Supper. Such examination and response assures the participant that he/she is in fellowship with God at the moment, and not receiving the elements in an unworthy manner. When the celebration of the Lord's Supper is participated in for the purposes and in the manner that God established, the participant is (#1) reminded of the Person and the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ (1Cor. 11: 24, 25), (#2) reminded of his/her call to participate in the proclaiming the significance of His death (1Cor. 11: 26/Matt.28: 19, 20), and will be moving forward in his/her own individual post salvation spiritual life along the road to spiritual maturity.