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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 11:27 So-called ‘Open Communion’

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, April 27, 2023

27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

Every Christian, and most especially I myself, must come to these final verses of chapter 11 with humility, and as it were on our knees. We must not come arrogantly as if preparing to pick up a weapon to use against those who teach differently than we do. We must come humbly to ask ourselves about our own unworthiness. Am I treating the Lord’s Supper for what it is? Is this sacrament all about what Christ offers to me? And if someone comes who believes something different, doesn’t God concern himself with that? Doesn’t he ask and command the church to be cautious about that?

Unlike baptism, the Lord’s Supper is intended only for those people who already have faith. Baptism, on the other hand, is available to all people of all nations, including infants (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38). Baptism requires no preparation at all and is very much like circumcision was for Old Testament believers (Colossians 2:11-12). The Lord’s Supper, however, requires that a Christian:
  (1) eats and drinks in a worthy manner, which means he will respect the sacrament, wait for the people who are not there when he wants to begin, and shares the elements rather than gorging himself or getting drunk (this is the sin Paul is talking about in the context, 11:20-22). Also, he will
  (2) examine himself and his sinful life (11:28) and he will
  (3) recognize the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament (11:29).

Does eating and drinking “in an unworthy manner” mean anything else, or were only the Corinthians capable of this sin? First, we are all unworthy, believers and unbelievers alike. No one is worthy of any of the gifts God gives, which he gives only on account of his grace and not on account of any worthiness in us, as the Centurion said: “I do not consider myself worthy to come to you” (Luke 7:7).

Second, anyone who does not believe or who doubts the words, “given for you for the forgiveness of sins,” makes himself unworthy because he refuses the medicine and the healing of the sacrament.

So we do well to remember the words of our confession, the Formula of Concord, which says in part:

1, We believe, teach and confess that in the Holy Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and essentially present and are truly distributed and received with the bread and wine.

2, We believe, teach and confess that the words of the testament of Christ are to be understood in no other way than in their literal sense, and not as though the bread symbolized the absent body and the wine the absent blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, but it is to be ascribed solely and alone to the almighty power of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7, We believe, teach and confess that not only the genuine believers and those who are worthy but also the unworthy and the unbelievers receive the true body and blood of Christ; but if they are not converted and do not repent, they receive them not to life and salvation but to their judgment and condemnation.

8, We believe, teach and confess that there is only one kind of unworthy guest, namely, those who do not believe. Of such it is written, “He who does not believe is condemned already” (John 3:18). The unworthy use of the sacrament increases, magnifies, and aggravates this condemnation (1 Corinthians 11:27,29).

ABOUT OPEN COMMUNION

So called “open communion” was first observed ninety years ago. In 1933 a Presbyterian church tried to force a more “open” atmosphere onto worship by throwing away doctrine, Biblical teaching, and the Bible’s cautions about communion. The result was generations of confusion, false doctrine, and a general misunderstanding of what communion and fellowship are all about, and a denial of the deity of Jesus Christ. It also forced many Christians to sin against their consciences. Churches that practice so-called “open communion” today are often belligerent toward other practices and refer to them as backward, unloving, unchristian, and many other slanderous names.

This has led to an attempt by more traditional churches to try to call their (our) practice “close” or “closed” communion, but these are always done on the defensive, and I feel that it’s better to call the Bible’s practice “communion,” and the other, recently invented practice, “so-called ‘open communion.’”

Remember that even Paul was not invited to the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday—and he was certainly in Jerusalem for the Passover, and about the same age as the younger Apostles like John. Why wasn’t he invited in? Didn’t he believe in the God of the Old Testament? Didn’t he believe that the Savior was coming? He certainly did, but he showed with his fellowship that he rejected Jesus as the Savior, and therefore until a change was made in Paul, he was not invited to the table of the Lord.

Therefore, impenitence and unbelief display unworthiness. You, Christian, you who examine your life and say, “I am a sinner; Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13), you are conscious of your sin and you fear the punishment of hell. Trust in Christ (John 14:1; Jeremiah 49:11), he has paid for your sins with the sacrifice of his body and he has atoned for your guilt with his blood. This is the very same body and blood that he shares with you in the sacrament. Take it, it is for you for the forgiveness of your sins. And trust also the words the minister speaks for your comfort:

May this true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you and keep you in the true faith to life everlasting. Your sins are forgiven. You are at peace with God.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

 

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