Robert Wurtz II
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:26–32 NKJV).
We learn from Ephesians 1:22-23 that the Church is the Lord’s body. Failing to discern between all other secular entities and the Lord’s body (the Church) is a dangerous misstep. The Greek word for discerning in 1 Cor. 11:29 above is used in many different ways. However, in Acts 15:9 it is used to express the difference between Jew and Gentile. This concept of “difference” hearkens back to Leviticus and Deuteronomy when God taught Israel the difference between clean and unclean, and holy and profane. That which is holy unto the Lord must be treated precisely as God prescribes.
A cursory reading of the Old Covenant scriptures reveals that many people were smitten dead, plagued with hemorrhoids, judged with leprosy, and other such things when they treated holy things as commonplace. Because they didn’t discern between the holy and the profane (common), God made an example of them so that we would know His estimate of such treatment of holy things (1 Cor. 10:11). To violate these principals is an invitation to experience the judgment/chastening Paul spoke of in 1 Cor. 11:32.
Earlier in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, Paul explained that the saints must approach the church like the Jews treated their houses leading up to Passover. They went through their homes and swept out every trace of leaven. Paul takes these truths and gives them a church application. “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:8 KJV). Jesus is our Passover, and the leaven represents malice and wickedness. Malice comes from the Greek word kakia, and it means to be unafraid to break laws or any behavior that destroys fellowship.
As we revert to 1 Cor. 11 with these things in mind, it becomes evident that the people were behaving in ways that are typical of carnality or even unrepentant sinners. In modern times there will be people who get angry if their song isn’t played or will sit down on the music leader if things don’t go their way. Others may wish to give a prophecy and it’s the wrong time. Corinth had all of this and much more. In fact, in 1 Cor. 5 Paul gives a list of sins that if being practiced warrants excommunication. He stated clearly, “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person” (1 Corinthians 5:11 NKJV). So it should come as no surprise that in the meeting (church service) and during the communion service they were not discerning the Lord’s body.
At the core of their problem was selfishness. The people were pushing their own will in the church meeting without regard for what the body (church) needed or what the Lord was saying to them. The example of Hophni and Phinehas comes to mind. These boys were committing sexual immorality with the women servants who attended the service of God. If that were not enough, they enriched themselves with the fat of the offerings that belong to God only. Their behavior was so bad that the people despised the service of God and the offerings. They were Eli’s sons and he would not deal with them. God had to take matters into his own hands.
Such was the case at Corinth. Paul told them that, “For this reason, many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” This is a profound verse of scripture. People within the church were sick, weak and dead because they did not take the difference between God’s house and every other house seriously. They didn’t take the needs of the body itself seriously. To a greater or lesser degree, they were only interested in doing what they wanted to do — even if it was flagrant sin.
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. (Ecclesiastes 5:1 ESV)
What makes these type sins exceedingly wicked in the church is that the church is supposed to be a place where people can safely go without the trappings of this evil world. They did not find that at Corinth. Paul said “Put the unrepentant wicked person away from you” in the same sense that the Jews swept the leaven out the front door of their homes. If they repent, lovingly invite them back. If they do not, keep them clear of God’s people.
As sad as it is, we still find what we may call “Corinthianism” in the churches today. People refuse to discern the Lord’s body. They are sick with all kinds of sickness, and some have died as a result. It probably never crossed their minds that they were experiencing judgment from God because of the way they treated the church. Granted not all sickness among the saints is for these reasons. But some are. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:32 NKJV).