Unworthy Table Manners

I Corinthians 11:29
       He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): There is one scripture, I believe, discourages many from partaking of the Lord’s table―I Corinthians 11:27-29: “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―or judgment―to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” I am indeed of the opinion, that the want of a right understanding this scripture, has been a stumbling-block to many.

C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): It is usual to apply the term “unworthily” in this passage to persons doing the act, whereas it really refers to their manner of doing it. The apostle never thought of calling into question the Christianity of the Corinthians; nay, in the opening address of his Epistle, he looks at them as “the Church of God which is at Corinth, sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints”―or saints by calling. How could he use this language in the first chapter, and in the eleventh call into question the worthiness of these saints to take their seat at the Lord’s Supper? Impossible. He looked upon them as saints, and as such he exhorted them to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner. The question of any but true Christians being there, is never raised; so that it is utterly impossible that the word “unworthily” could apply to persons. Its application is entirely to the manner.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): He saith not unworthy―for so we are all―but unworthily.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): The unworthiness here spoken of respecteth not the person of the receiver so much as the manner of the receiving; in which sense, a person that is worthy may receive this ordinance unworthily.

JOHN FLAVEL: It seems clear, by the occasions and circumstances of [Paul’s] discourse, that he does not intend we should examine our state of grace―whether we are true believers or no, and sincerely resolved to continue so; but he speaks of the actual fitness and worthiness of the Corinthians at that time, when they came to receive the Lord’s Supper.

JOHN TRAPP: A good work may be spoiled in the doing, as many a good tale is marred in the telling.

JOHN FLAVEL: And therefore, [in] verse 20, he sharply reproves their irreverent and unsuitable carriage at the Lord’s table. This the apostle condemns as a great profanation of that solemn institution, for behaving themselves with as little reverence, as if it were a common supper, or feast: and this he calls not discerning the Lord’s body; making no difference between the sacrament and a common meal; which contemptuous carriage, he calls eating and drinking unworthily; for which he pronounceth them guilty of the body and blood of Christ; by which he tells them, they did incur the judgment of God, which he calls eating and drinking their own judgment―for so the word signifies in the Greek, and not eternal condemnation. It is meant of some temporal judgment and chastisement, in order to the preventing of eternal damnation: Which is evident from what follows: “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself.” And then he says, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” That is, for this irreverence of theirs, God sent among them several diseases, of which many had died.
      And then he adds, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” That is, if we would censure and examine ourselves, so as to be more careful for the future, we should escape the judgment of God in these temporal punishments. “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” That is, when by neglecting thus to judge ourselves, we provoke God to judge us; He inflicts these temporal judgments upon us, to prevent our eternal damnation.

C. H. MACKINTOSH: And they were called, as saints, to judge themselves as to their ways, else the Lord might judge them…In a word, it was as true Christians they were called to judge themselves. If they were in doubt as to that, they were utterly unable to judge anything. I never think of setting my child to judge whether he is my child or not; but I expect him to judge himself as to his habits, else, if he do not, I may have to do, by chastening, what he ought to do by self-judgment. It is because I look upon him as my child, that I will not allow him to sit at my table with soiled garments and disorderly manners.

JOHN FLAVEL: The apostle here truly represents, and very much aggravates the danger of unworthily receiving this holy sacrament: but he does not deter the Corinthians from it, because they had sometimes come to it without due reverence; but exhorts them to amend what had been amiss, and to come better prepared and disposed for the future.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): If you aspire for the righteousness of God with an earnest mind, and if humbled by a knowledge of your misery, you lean wholly on Christ’s grace and rest upon it, then be assured that you are a guest worthy to approach that table. By worthy I mean that the Lord does not exclude you, though in another point of view there is something in you that is not as it ought to be. Faith, even when just beginning, makes worthy those who were unworthy.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): A sense of our own utter unworthiness is the best worthiness we can bring.


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