The Old Testament Passover
The night the children of Israel left Egypt out of the land of bondage and slavery, God gave them some specific directions to follow. They were to kill a lamb, apply the blood to the doors, roast its flesh, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. God told them how, when, and where to apply the blood of the sacrificial lamb. God’s instructions were, “And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat itAnd they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it”(Exodus 12:7-8).
They were also informed, “…none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning” (Exodus 12:22). If they had gone out of the house when the destroyer came through, they would not have been protected by the blood. They knew the life of a family member was in danger if they didn’t do according to ALL the Lord commanded. The blood was their protection from the destroyer that was to pass through that night and destroy the firstborn. In verse 13, the Lord said, “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” Notice, when the blood was applied correctly, the people were safe from the destroyer.
Christ Our Passover
The Old Testament saints had a tangible lamb and blood. God has given us the bread and wine as a symbol of the broken body and shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ when we partake of communion. In the New Testament, the Lord refers to the commemoration of communion as “Christ our Passover” (I Corinthians 5:7). As the children of Israel were given instructions concerning how to prepare the Passover, God has also given us some specific instructions to examine ourselves in preparation for this very important Passover ordinance. We are to make certain our lives are in agreement with God’s Word and that we have peace with God and man before partaking of communion (Passover): “…let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (I Corinthians 11:28). The Bible plainly tells us that it is not our responsibility to judge our fellowmen, but to judge ourselves: “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (I Corinthians 11:31).
Preparing for the Passover
Now let’s look at I Corinthians 11:27: “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.” This word “unworthily” means “to be irreverent” or “not worthy” to take communion under the present conditions. We may ask the question, “What makes us unworthy?” In the earlier part of I Corinthians 11, Paul informed the people that there were divisions, heresies, and, in some cases, drunkenness among them which had brought them to a dangerous position. Some sins may seem small, but they could disqualify us to take communion. Habitual strife, envy, contention, slander, talebearing, lying, division, unforgiveness, disobedience or hypocrisy could cause us to be unworthy. It is important that we judge ourselves honestly and repent of any sin and renounce it. Just to say “I was wrong” or “I’m sorry” is like trying to wash a dirt floor with a wet mop. We must renounce and forsake sin.
The Consequences of Taking Communion Unworthily
As the Israelites were aware that they were not safe from the destroyer if they disobeyed God’s instructions, it is just as important for us to partake of the communion service reverently and in godly fear, or we will not be protected from the destroyer. Perhaps many Christians do not realize what could happen to them if they take communion in a state of unworthiness. The last part of I Corinthians 11:27 says, “…[he] shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” Then verses 29 and 30 read, “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.” Let’s analyze the words “damnation,” “weak,” “sickly,” and “sleep.” The word “damnation” means “being sentenced, judged, or damned.” “Weak” means “to be impotent, feeble, or weak.” “Sickly” means “to be infirmed or sick.” And the word “sleep” means “to be dead or deceased.”
Taking communion unworthily could cause a person to experience one or more of the following:
1. They will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
2. They will be condemned.
3. They may become weak.
4. They may become sickly.
5. They could die prematurely.
It is doubtful if the Corinthians who were sick, weak or dying were aware that their problem could be traced back to the communion table. Maybe they didn’t know why so many of them were sick or dying.
In my travels across nations of the world over the years preaching the Gospel, training church leaders, speaking in conferences and conventions and holding healing crusades, I often pray for people who have been suffering guilt and condemnation in their lives for no apparent reason. Some of these people are suffering guilt and condemnation because they have taken communion unworthily. They may not even be aware that they have done this. Someone asked me, “If you took communion ignorantly and were not aware of the danger involved, wouldn’t God overlook that?” The answer to that question is found in Acts 17:30: “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” The word “winked” in this verse means “to overlook” or “not punish,” but the Lord said clearly that He commands all men in the New Testament dispensation to repent of any wrongdoing or to suffer chastisement (disciplinary correction) from His hand. “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (I Corinthians 11:32). Why would God be so harsh with people who partake of His communion service unworthily? I believe the answer is found in the fact that the body and blood of Christ are spiritual, sacred and precious. Because of this, we must partake of His body and blood reverently and in godly fear. The Lord brings chastisement upon us by means of correction that we should not be condemned with the world.
To eat unleavened bread and to drink grape juice is not dangerous in itself, when taken in the natural. Communion is not a natural ordinance, but a spiritual ordinance. When we take communion, we are commemorating the broken body and the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ who is our Passover. There is great power in the body and blood of Jesus, and I believe that we have yet to learn the true value of them.
I believe there is deliverance and pardon for those who may have taken communion in a state of unworthiness. I’m not suggesting that everyone has taken communion with the wrong motive or with sin in their life, nor am I suggesting that you, the reader, take a guilt trip if you may have taken communion unworthily. Certainly not all weakness, sickness or death comes because of misuse of communion or because of sin. If there is a question, however, I believe it would be wise to examine ourselves to see if somewhere along the way we may have taken communion unworthily. If so, thank God, there is a way to be restored.