“Examine Yourself” and the Lord’s Supper
June 29, 2021
In a recent discussion on a Facebook group I’m involved in, a member of the group made the following comment:
“Ya know..at the Reformed church i’ve been attending, this is one of the most dreaded times for my family and I. Feels like there’s always a huge burden placed on us as believing Christians to make sure there is absolutely no sin in our lives before coming. And God forbid, if there is, DO NOT come near the bread and wine.
“It’s so disheartening to see churches use a gift like the Supper as a weapon to beat the laity into submission. Glad to see it’s not all Reformed churches though!”
To me this is a tragic comment. The Lord’s Supper is meant to be healing balm for the souls of weary, sin-burdened pilgrims of Christ, not a time of terror and dread. Does examining yourself in preparation for partaking of the Lord’s Supper mean what the above commenter’s church seems to imply that it means? Hardly! Here was my response to this fellow Reformed believer:
“I’m sorry to hear that. Sometimes confessionally reformed & presbyterian churches are really imbalanced in the way they present the “examine yourself” passage in 1 Cor. 11. In the context of that passage “partaking worthily” certainly does NOT mean “don’t partake unless you’re free from sin.” Rather, the issue in Corinth was disunity in the Body. They were guilty of partaking “unworthily” because they were not recognizing their unity in Christ, as signified in the common bread and common cup they partook of together. They were treating each other like trash and dishonoring the Lord by such antics as getting drunk at the supper (1 Cor. 11:21). So, the “examine yourselves” has a primarily corporate focus on the Body-life (or lack thereof!) of the local church, not a hyper-individualistic focus on one’s spiritual performance. In fact, there is a sense in which the only way that we can partake “worthily” is to recognize our own inherent unworthiness, and thus Christ’s alone worthiness as our all-sufficient Savior.
“The Lord’s Supper is for broken, weary, sin-burdened souls and prodigals who know that Christ is their only hope. It is not for the self-righteous who think they’re crushing it in the Christian life. That’s what the exhortation to individual “self examination,” when it is done biblically, should point you toward. Do you recognize your sin, being contrite for it, and do you rest in Christ’s atonement (His broken Body and shed Blood) as your only ground of salvation? Then you have properly “examined yourself” and Christ welcomes you to come.”