Growing up in the Baptist church, I remember the practice of Holy Communion. I remember the Deacons dressed in black with white gloves and the Deaconesses (Deacons Wives) dressed in white. The table containing the communion elements was covered by a white tablecloth meticulously prepared by those ladies in white. The congregation intrigued by what lied beneath or behind the table cloth once the preacher went behind the table to begin distributing the elements to be served by the deacons. Holy Communion was and is held in high regard as a church ordinance, in as much as the table itself was set apart and reverenced. You couldn’t lean on it, sit something on it, or anything.
I also remember the droves of people that came to church late on the first Sunday of each month, the traditional time set aside for Holy Communion, or stayed outside until after it was over because of this verse:
Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 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. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
This is probably one of the most misinterpreted passages in the Bible. On the surface, it seems to suggest that whoever participates in communion unworthy, or as we thought, with sin in their life, would be damned. Nobody wants to be sick or die prematurely if they can prevent it. Now, when one rightly divides the Word of Truth” and use a little common sense, the aforementioned application cannot be true. “For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God”. Well, that disqualifies everybody, so it can’t mean that.
Paul was speaking to the mega church at Corinth who had turned Holy Communion into Sunday dinner at big Mama’s house. They were not “properly discerning the Lord’s body”. Think of it, all that Jesus went through, and they were using communion as a social event. He said “This do in remembrance of me.” Holy Communion is about re-connecting to what Jesus accomplished for us through his death, burial, and resurrection. It’s remembering who we are in Him and recognizing the rights and privileges of being a believer. It’s about recognizing that “in Him” we live, move, and have our being. Examining yourself has nothing to do with looking at your behavior, but making sure you have the proper mindset and focus on the one who paid the price for all sin.
The ordinance of communion was never supposed to be about you. That’s why it doesn’t matter what you have done. It’s all about Jesus. A revelation of who Jesus is, and who you are in Him, will change your behavior to conform to his image.