mastering the bible
bte ministries

Can we take the Lord’s communion unworthily?

Question:
Could you please explain what it means in 1 Cor 11:29 to eat and drink the Lord’s communion “unworthily”, and what it means to “discern the Lord’s body”.

Answer:
This is yet another text that has been twisted in the past few years. In context, Paul presents the words of the Lord that He spoke during the Passover Meal that the bread represented His body and the cup represented His blood (1 Cor 11:23-27). [27] Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. (ESV)

In 1 Cor 11:27, Paul says, “So that whoever should eat this bread, or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, will be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.” Notice that in context, the bread represents the “body of the Lord”- His physical body, not the Body of Christ – Christians.

Paul gives commands in 1 Cor 11:28, “But let a man examine himself, and in this way let him eat from the bread, and let him drink from the cup.” In context Paul is dealing with the Christians in Corinth who were eating the bread and drinking the cup as a meal because they were hungry and were not taking the bread and cup in remembrance of the Lord (see 1 Cor 11:20-22).

Now 1 Cor 11:29: “For the one eating and drinking unworthily is eating and drinking judgment to himself, by not discerning the body of the Lord.”
The word “unworthily” is an adverb. Adverbs modify verbs while adjective modify nouns. Because “unworthily” is an adverb, it describes in what manner the bread and drink are being taken. Some believe that Paul is making reference to people taking communion who have un-confessed sin, but “unworthily” does not describe the worth of the people as that would be an adjective. In context (whether from Greek text or English) Paul is stating that they are not discerning the “body of the Lord” (the Lord’s physical body that hung on the cross) and His shed blood, but rather are eating in such a manner as to fill their empty stomachs. There is also a modal clause that describes what Paul means by eating and drinking unworthily: “by not discerning the body of the Lord.” This clause qualifies the word “unworthily” – that is to “not discern the body of the Lord.”