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1 Corinthians 11:27

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Whosoever shall eat - and drink - unworthily - To put a final end to controversies and perplexities relative to these words and the context, let the reader observe, that to eat and drink the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper unworthily, is to eat and drink as the Corinthians did, who ate it not in reference to Jesus Christ's sacrificial death; but rather in such a way as the Israelites did the passover, which they celebrated in remembrance of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. Likewise, these mongrel Christians at Corinth used it as a kind of historical commemoration of the death of Christ; and did not, in the whole institution, discern the Lord's body and blood as a sacrificial offering for sin: and besides, in their celebration of it they acted in a way utterly unbecoming the gravity of a sacred ordinance. Those who acknowledge it as a sacrificial offering, and receive it in remembrance of God's love to them in sending his Son into the world, can neither bring damnation upon themselves by so doing, nor eat nor drink unworthily. See our translation of this verse vindicated at the end of the chapter, ( 1 Corinthians 11:34;).

Shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. If he use it irreverently, if he deny that Christ suffered unjustly, (for of some such persons the apostle must be understood to speak), then he in effect joins issue with the Jews in their condemnation and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, and renders himself guilty of the death of our blessed Lord. Some, however, understand the passage thus: is guilty, i.e. eats and drinks unworthily, and brings on himself that punishment mentioned 1 Corinthians 11:30.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Wherefore - ( ὥστε hōste). So that, or it follows from what has been said. If this be the origin and intention of the Lord‘s Supper, then it follows that whoever partakes of it in an improper manner is guilty of his body and blood. The design of Paul is to correct their improper mode of observing this ordinance; and having showed them the true nature and design of the institution, he now states the consequences of partaking of it in an improper manner.

Shall eat this bread - See 1 Corinthians 11:26. Paul still calls it bread, and shows thus that he was a stranger to the doctrine that the bread was changed into the very body of the Lord Jesus. If the papal doctrine of transubstantiation had been true, Paul could not have called it bread. The Romanists do not believe that it is bread, nor would they call it such; and this shows how needful it is for them to keep the Scriptures from the people, and how impossible to express their dogmas in the language of the Bible. Let Christians adhere to the simple language of the Bible, and there is no danger of their falling into the errors of the papists.

Unworthily - Perhaps there is no expression in the Bible that has given more trouble to weak and feeble Christians than this. It is certain that there is no one that has operated to deter so many from the communion; or that is so often made use of as an excuse for not making a profession of religion. The excuse is, “I am unworthy to partake of this holy ordinance. I shall only expose myself to condemnation. I must therefore wait until I become more worthy, and better prepared to celebrate it.” It is important, therefore, that there should he a correct understanding of this passage. Most persons interpret it as if it were “unworthy,” and not “unworthily,” and seem to suppose that it refers to their personal qualifications, to their “unfitness” to partake of it, rather than to the manner in which it is done. It is to be remembered, therefore. that the word used here is an “adverb,” and not an “adjective,” and has reference to the manner of observing the ordinance, and not to their personal qualifications or fitness. It is true that in ourselves we are all “unworthy” of an approach to the table of the Lord; “unworthy” to be regarded as his followers; “unworthy” of a title to everlasting life: but it does not follow that we may not partake of this ordinance in a worthy, that is, a proper manner, with a deep sense of our sinfulness, our need of a Saviour, and with some just views of the Lord Jesus as our Redeemer. Whatever may be our consciousness of personal unworthiness and unfitness - and that consciousness cannot be too deep - yet we may have such love to Christ, and such a desire to be saved by him, and such a sense of his worthiness, as to make it proper for us to approach and partake of this ordinance. The term “unworthily” ( ἀναξίως anaxiōs) means properly “in an unworthy or improper” manner “in a manner unsuitable to the purposes for which it was designed or instituted;” and may include the following things, namely:

(1) Such an irregular and indecent observance as existed in the church of Corinth, where even gluttony and intemperance prevailed under the professed design of celebrating the Lord‘s Supper.

(2) an observance of the ordinance where there should be no distinction between it and common meals (Note on 1 Corinthians 11:29); where they did not regard it as designed to show forth the death of the Lord Jesus. It is evident that where such views prevailed, there could be no proper qualification for this observance; and it is equally clear that such ignorance can hardly be supposed to prevail now in those lands which are illuminated by Christian truth.

(3) when it is done for the sake of mockery, and when the purpose is to deride religion, and to show a marked contempt for the ordinances of the gospel. It is a remarkable fact that many infidels have been so full of malignity and bitterness against the Christian religion as to observe a mock celebration of the Lord‘s Supper. There is no profounder depth of depravity than this; there is nothing that can more conclusively or painfully show the hostility of man to the gospel of God. It is a remarkable fact, also, that not a few such persons have died a most miserable death. Under the horrors of an accusing conscience, and the anticipated destiny of final damnation, they have left the world as frightful monuments of the justice of God. It is also a fact that not a few infidels who have been engaged in such unholy celebrations have been converted to that very gospel which they were thus turning into ridicule and scorn. Their consciences have been alarmed; they have shuddered at the remembrance of the crime; they have been overwhelmed with the consciousness of guilt, and have found no peace until they have found it in that blood whose shedding they were thus profanely celebrating.

Shall be guilty - ( ἔνοχοι enochoi). This word properly means obnoxious to punishment for personal crime. It always includes the idea of ill-desert, and of exposure to punishment on account of crime or ill-desert; Matthew 5:22; compare Exodus 22:3; Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Numbers 35:27; Leviticus 20:9; see also Deuteronomy 19:10; Matthew 26:66. “Of the body and blood of the Lord.” Commentators have not been agreed in regard to the meaning of this expression. Doddridge renders it, “Shall be counted guilty of profaning and affronting in some measure that which is intended to represent the body and blood of the Lord.” Grotius renders it, “He does the same thing as if he should slay Christ.” Bretschneider (Lexicon) renders it, “Injuring by crime the body of the Lord.” Locke renders it, “Shall be guilty of a misuse of the body and blood of the Lord;” and supposes it means that they should be liable to the punishment due to one who made a wrong use of the sacramental body and blood of Christ in the Lord‘s Supper. Rosenmuller renders it, “He shall be punished for such a deed as if he had affected Christ himself with ignominy.”

Bloomfield renders it, “He shall be guilty respecting the body, that is, guilty of profaning the symbols of the body and blood of Christ, and consequently shall be amenable to the punishment due to such an abuse of the highest means of grace.” But it seems to me that this does not convey the fulness of the meaning of the passage. The obvious and literal sense is evidently that they should by such conduct be involved in the sin of putting the Lord Jesus to death. The phrase “the body and blood of the Lord,” in this connection, obviously, I think, refers to his death, to the fact that his body was broken, and his blood shed, of which the bread and wine were symbols; and to be guilty of that, means to be guilty of putting him to death; that is, to be involved in the crime, or to do a thing which should involve the same criminality as that. To see this, we are to remember:

(1) That the bread and wine were symbols or emblems of that event, and designed to set it forth.

(2) to treat with irreverence and profaneness the bread which was an emblem of his broken body, was to treat with irreverence and profaneness the body itself; and in like manner the wine, the symbol of his blood.

(3) those, therefore who treated the symbols of his body and blood with profaneness and contempt were “united in spirit” with those who put him to death. They evinced the same feelings toward the Lord Jesus that his murderers did. They treated him with scorn, profaneness, and derision; and showed that with the same spirit they would have joined in the act of murdering the Son of God. They would evince their hostility to the Saviour himself as far as they could do, by showing contempt for the memorials of his body and blood. The apostle does by no means, however, as I understand him, mean to say that any of the Corinthians had been thus guilty of his body and blood. He does not charge on them this murderous intention. But he states what is the fair and obvious construction which is to be put on a wanton disrespect for the Lord‘s supper. And the design is to guard them, and all others, against this sin. There can be no doubt that those who celebrate his death in mockery and derision are held guilty of his body and blood. They show that they have the spirit of his murderers; they evince it in the most awful way possible; and they who would thus join in a profane celebration of the Lord‘s Supper would have joined in the cry, “Crucify him, crucify him,” For it is a most fearful and solemn act to trifle with sacred things; and especially to hold up to derision and scorn, the bitter sorrows by which the Son of God accomplished the redemption of the world.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The apostle describes the sacred ordinance, of which he had the knowledge by revelation from Christ. As to the visible signs, these are the bread and wine. What is eaten is called bread, though at the same time it is said to be the body of the Lord, plainly showing that the apostle did not mean that the bread was changed into flesh. St. Matthew tells us, our Lord bid them all drink of the cup, ch. Mt 26:27, as if he would, by this expression, provide against any believer being deprived of the cup. The things signified by these outward signs, are Christ's body and blood, his body broken, his blood shed, together with all the benefits which flow from his death and sacrifice. Our Saviour's actions were, taking the bread and cup, giving thanks, breaking the bread, and giving both the one and the other. The actions of the communicants were, to take the bread and eat, to take the cup and drink, and to do both in remembrance of Christ. But the outward acts are not the whole, or the principal part, of what is to be done at this holy ordinance. Those who partake of it, are to take him as their Lord and Life, yield themselves up to him, and live upon him. Here is an account of the ends of this ordinance. It is to be done in remembrance of Christ, to keep fresh in our minds his dying for us, as well as to remember Christ pleading for us, in virtue of his death, at God's right hand. It is not merely in remembrance of Christ, of what he has done and suffered; but to celebrate his grace in our redemption. We declare his death to be our life, the spring of all our comforts and hopes. And we glory in such a declaration; we show forth his death, and plead it as our accepted sacrifice and ransom. The Lord's supper is not an ordinance to be observed merely for a time, but to be continued. The apostle lays before the Corinthians the danger of receiving it with an unsuitable temper of mind; or keeping up the covenant with sin and death, while professing to renew and confirm the covenant with God. No doubt such incur great guilt, and so render themselves liable to spiritual judgements. But fearful believers should not be discouraged from attending at this holy ordinance. The Holy Spirit never caused this scripture to be written to deter serious Christians from their duty, though the devil has often made this use of it. The apostle was addressing Christians, and warning them to beware of the temporal judgements with which God chastised his offending servants. And in the midst of judgement, God remembers mercy: he many times punishes those whom he loves. It is better to bear trouble in this world, than to be miserable for ever. The apostle points our the duty of those who come to the Lord's table. Self-examination is necessary to right attendance at this holy ordinance. If we would thoroughly search ourselves, to condemn and set right what we find wrong, we should stop Divine judgements. The apostle closes all with a caution against the irregularities of which the Corinthians were guilty at the Lord's table. Let all look to it, that they do not come together to God's worship, so as to provoke him, and bring down vengeance on themselves.
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