Eating and Drinking Unworthily
“Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily. . .” [Notice the word is unworthily, not “unworthy.” It is an adverb which modifies the act, i.e. the verb, not the actor] “. . . shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).
Someone might ask, what’s the difference? They both mean the same thing, don’t they? The answer is, No. The word unworthily places the emphasis on how the supper is to be observed, its purpose, its design, and its message. The word “unworthy” (if it were used here) would be a word that qualified the one partaking of the supper. So, simply put, the subject under discussion is not whether the one partaking of the supper is good enough, clean enough, confessed-up enough. No, the subject of the supper is the believer who partakes understanding the significance and symbolism of the elements, namely the bread and wine.
The idea, in the kind of preaching that emphasizes the worthiness of those who partake is that not everyone is good enough, or right enough with God to be able to come to the table and partake the bread and wine. The result of someone partaking of the Lord’s supper with “unforgiven sin” in their heart is a chastening of the Lord that ranges from sickness even unto death. The verses (they say) that teach this are those that follow immediately after verse 27: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh, unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
The key to rightly dividing this passage of scripture is to understand that verse 29 makes it clear that the sin in question, that brings about the chastening of the Lord, is the sin of not discerning the Lord’s body, not whether you have told a lie, stole something, had an evil thought, and so forth.
A Christian should confess daily his sins, faults, short-comings, failures or anything else that would hinder his fellowship with Christ, or whenever he or she prays, not just a quick spiritual scrub-up ten minutes before the Lord’s Supper so they can then be “worthy”. We can confess every single sin that we can possibly think about and remember for the next ten thousand years and we will not be worthy of a Savior like Jesus Christ, who took upon himself the sins of the world and all of our sins, past , present , and future.